Energy crisis: Boris Johnson 'rules out' four-day working week

·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech at the Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester, Britain, on Oct. 6, 2021. Johnson on Wednesday vowed to change the direction of the British economy, shifting away from its reliance on cheap imported labor, as he shrugged off the ongoing fuel, food and industry crises as
Boris Johnson has no plans to cut the working week. (Getty)

A minister has ruled out the government introducing a 1970s-style shortening of the working week amid the continuing energy crisis

Damian Hinds, minister for security and borders, said Boris Johnson was not considering bringing in a four-day week to ration energy supplies.

"We live in a country where the government doesn't set the pattern of the working week," he said. "Thank God we don't live in the 1970s." 

In 1974 industrial action and strikes triggered a three-day working week as the government rationed electricity usage except in essential industries. 

Hinds did not completely dismiss fears that factories could close for an extra day a week amid energy shortages, however, saying the possibility was "of concern".

Education Secretary Damian Hinds arrives in Downing Street, London, for a meeting of the Cabinet.
Damian Hinds, a Home Office minister, said there would be no return to a four-day week (PA Images)

He also defended the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng from allegations of lying, after Treasury officials dramatically slapped down comments by Kwarteng that he was working with the chancellor's department to support energy firms. 

Hinds also said it was important that government considers the impact of the energy crisis on the consumer.

He said: "It's really, really important that we think about the consumer in this, and the price cap is part of protection for consumers along with programmes like the warm homes discount."

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Trades unions have increasingly been floating the notion of a four-day week in recent years, and the Trades Union Congress passed a motion on introducing such a system in September.

It passed without opposition, and argued that the British working day was among the longest in Europe.

Scotland announced it would be trialing a four-day week earlier this year, and polls have consistently shown that the public support the idea. 

Elsewhere, Hinds sought to emphasise what he called the UK's "underlying strong economy" amid the energy crisis as a reason to be positive. 

"The way the economy has been coming back has been truly impressive, actually," he said.

"Unemployment hasn't reached nearly the levels people were predicting 12 or 18 months ago."

While the UK had the deepest recession of any G7 economy at the beginning of the pandemic, it grew by a record 5.5% in the second quarter of 2021 and has enjoyed a faster-than-expected recovery.

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