A trade union has called on the Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom to give guarantees on workers’ rights post-Brexit in the wake of a speech she made calling for people who work in small businesses to have no employee protection at all.
In a Commons debate in May 2012, Leadsom, the Conservative Treasury minister who has been picking up momentum in the race to succeed David Cameron, proposed scrapping all regulations for businesses with three employees or fewer.
“I envisage there being absolutely no regulation whatsoever – no minimum wage, no maternity or paternity rights, no unfair dismissal rights, no pension rights – for the smallest companies that are trying to get off the ground, in order to give them a chance,” she suggested.
Steve Turner, the assistant general secretary of Unite, said Leadsom should say whether or not she still stood by her 2012 comments. “Ms Leadsom must now make her position unequivocally clear – state now that she supports basic rights for the UK’s workers and will fight to protect these in the Brexit negotiations,” he said.
“To betray millions of voters like this adds yet another layer of distrust to the broken relationship between the public and politicians. It will also plunge already vulnerable people in miserable, precarious employment.”
Louise Haigh, a Labour MP who drew attention to the 2012 speech as Leadsom’s support surged, said remain campaigners had always feared workers’ rights would be a casualty of a vote to leave the EU. “Now we could face an emboldened Tory party, led by Brexiters, with workers’ protection watered down at the very least,” she said.
Leadsom’s staff were not available for comment on whether or not she stood by the speech.
It is the latest in a series of utterances by Leadsom to attract attention amid her new prominence in the leadership race. Earlier on Tuesday, her campaign team denied she intentionally retweeted somebody saying the UK was “overrun with foreigners”, though websites that track posts deleted by MPs show that the retweet did appear on her account a fortnight ago.
Leadsom’s personal blog reveals some other forthright views on immigration. One post from 2006, before she became an MP, criticises the Home Office for its position on the subject, which she calls “a massive crisis”.
“They talk about all the wonderful young professionals arriving here to teach our children, care for our elderly, and drive our buses, as if somehow this was Toy Town and Noddy has just introduced his friends, the Pixies,” she wrote.
In another 2006 entry, Leadsom says she is “sick and tired of political correctness”, saying she wants to be called “chairman” of her charity rather than “chair”. She added: “I want to live in a Britain whose residents are determined to speak English.”
Elsewhere, Leadsom’s blogposts become slightly niche, for example a suggestion that rioters be sprayed with indelible dye, that film censors vet sex education materials and a post titled, A Tory mum’s recipe for a perfect British society. This begins: “Take one cup of Anglo Saxon determination; mix with a jugful of Muslim respect for the family; stir in a pinch of traditional Asian modesty; whisk with two tablespoonsful of military respect for authority; serve on a bed of East European work ethic.”
Much of Leadsom’s blog is taken up with material connected to her interest in promoting better early years care and attached parenting for babies and infants, the focus of a charity she established.
This was a subject she moved on to in the 2012 Commons speech about business regulation, telling MPs about the crucial period in which babies’ frontal cortex begins to develop quickly.
“That growth spurt occurs as a result of loving attention – the peek-a-boo games, people saying, ‘Aren’t you gorgeous, I love you,’ and so on,” she said, adding: “I am not talking about you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I am merely giving you an example.”
This article was written by Jessica Elgot and Peter Walker, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 6th July 2016 09.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010