A Liberal Democrat minister has branded recommendations to restrict maternity and paternity rights as “hideous” amid rumours of a Cabinet split on the issue.
Lynne Featherstone, LibDem equalities minister, made it clear to the Observer newspaper yesterday that her party would not tolerate any watering down of parental rights, lashing out at private equity firm boss, Adrian Beecroft, in the process.
Beecroft was commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron to explore which regulations could be cut as part of the Coalition Government’s so-called war on red tape. It is understood that his report, which is due to be published next month, will propose reversing plans to give couples greater freedom when co-ordinating their maternity and paternity leave.
But Featherstone, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and other Cabinet members are lining up to resist the recommendations, which are expected to be warmly embraced by the Treasury.
Featherstone said: “Whatever is in this Beecroft report, I think, will be swiftly swept away. These are hideous suggestions…What I would say about them is that it would be absolutely extraordinary if we were to abandon our commitment to those flagship policies.”
It was “absolutely critical” to deliver on the rhetoric around family-friendly issues and David Cameron himself had been campaigning last year about being the most family-friendly Government ever. This meant that she “would be very surprised if he supported” such a stance.
Featherstone was also scathing about Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s policy guru, who has criticised maternity pay, however. “Well, I might talk about scrapping Steve Hilton,” she said.
According to the Financial Times, Hilton had suggested in June that maternity rights did not work in favour of women as companies were reluctant to hire them as a result.