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Business secretary and employment minister both pledge 'concerted attack' on EU employment regulations

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Business secretary Vince Cable (pictured) yesterday said he was willing to take a “more confrontational approach” to intrusive EU regulations including employment legislation.

Speaking at the first EEF Manufacturing Conference in London, Cable said he and employment minister Norman Lamb would be making a "concerted attack" on regulations that were damaging to growth.

He singled out the Working Time Directive as one such regulation. An extension to the directive, to be introduced in October, means workers will be able to gain extra time off if they are sick while on annual leave. It results from European Court of Justice rulings and will cost employers more than £100 million a year, according to government.

"We are seeking to keep EU regulations at bay," Cable said, by working with likeminded governments at the "upstream stage". But he was not afraid to take "every possible opportunity to delay, consult further and water down directives" that are damaging to the UK.

Responding to union comment that the Working Time Directive was about health and safety and therefore to be welcomed, Cable retorted: "This is not the view of the last or this government. Bits of the Working Time Directive are in place but a lot is completely disproportionate and we really have to combat it."

Cable told a packed audience of UK manufacturers that the Government had a "good story to tell" on regulation.

"The one in, one out regime is stemming the flow of new regulations and through the Red Tape Challenge we are identifying a substantial numbers of regulations for repeal or consolidation," he said.

Cable was speaking immediately after returning from Geneva Motor Show for Nissan's announcement of a £125 million investment in the UK, creating 2,000 jobs directly and in the supply chain. He said that, together with investments from other automotive companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota and BMW, there had been £4 billion commitment to the UK in the past 18 months. This was a "clear vote of confidence in Britain's manufacturing industry," Cable said.

Labour leader Ed Miliband stole the show with his call for a standard Made in Britain mark that "is backed, not just by industry, but by government". He said that the CEO of oven maker Stoves introduced the idea and it already has the backing of 350 British manufacturers.

Miliband added that Government should introduce a "patriotic economic policy".

"Patriotism is not about protectionism. We need to back those who invest, invent, sell, make - the producers of this country," he said.