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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:28 pm on 24th March 2011.

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Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Labour, Streatham 5:28 pm, 24th March 2011

I will give way shortly.

I have come to the Chamber from this morning’s Treasury Committee sitting, where I asked Jonathan Portes, who until February was chief economist at the Cabinet Office, about this issue. I asked him whether abolishing the right to request flexible working for the parents of 17-year-olds would make a big difference in increasing GDP or growth. He made it very clear that scrapping the extension will “do nothing for growth”. I then asked HSBC’s chief economist whether he would be revising his GDP figures as a result of the scrapping of the measure, and he told me that he would not.

This measure seems to be a gimmick, which tends to suggest that the Government think that watering down employee rights is a substitute for a properly thought out growth strategy. All the figures I have just presented and all the arguments I have just made for the introduction of the extension, which was planned for April, are in the Government’s own impact assessment of the measure. Will the Government think again about it? I grant that they do not and will not accept our arguments to revise their plan for fiscal consolidation, but I suggest that it would be very wise for them to think again on this small measure.