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Cable condemns labour rights reform

Plans to cut employment red tape by stripping down labour rights and making it easier for firms to sack under-performing staff have been blasted as "complete nonsense" by Business Secretary Vince Cable.

In a direct attack on rival MPs who are expected to throw their weight behind the proposals, the Liberal Democrat said he was opposed to the "ideological zealots who want to encourage British firms to fire at will".

His outburst, which is set to increase tensions within the Coalition, comes as venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft prepares to publish a far-reaching study recommending a raft of radical employment reforms.

Writing in The Sun, Mr Cable said: "Some people think that if labour rights were stripped down to the most basic minimum, employers would start hiring and the economy would soar again. This is complete nonsense."

He added: "British workers are an asset, not just a cost for company bosses. That is why I am opposed to the ideological zealots who want to encourage British firms to fire at will."

The study, which was commissioned by David Cameron, is expected to call for firms to be given more flexibility to make redundancies, and an easing of equality rules to boost job creation. Some of the proposals will be warmly welcomed by Tories, and there is speculation that the Prime Minister could signal his support for changes.

But Mr Cable make his stance clear, adding: "Those who want to shake up the law need to realise that the days in the 70s and 80s when the unions ruled the roost have long since gone.

"I talk to businesses every day and none of them tell me that their biggest obstacle to employment and growth is troublesome workers who they can't get rid of."

Mr Cameron said the Government is committed to making it easier for businesses to take on people and grow, although he was not tied to any one plan.

"I am not particularly wedded to one set of proposals or another, but as part of our growth and enterprise agenda we should be open to all thinking about what can make that process easier, to which this is clearly a contribution," he said on Sunday.

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