Business secretary Vince Cable has used his keynote speech to the Liberal Democrat conference to announce an inquiry into employment rights.

Cable said up to one million people employed in the UK are unrepresented by current legislation and accused the Tories of a ‘ruthless hire and fire’ agenda.

The current government has introduced tribunal fees, reduced the cap on awards for unfair dismissal and extended the minimum time needed in a job for a worker to make an employment tribunal claim.

Cable claimed the Liberal Democrats had curbed their coalition partner’s ambitions to reform employment law and said it is now time to re-assess employees’ rights.

‘I believe we should be a pro-business party but we should also be a pro-worker party,’ he said. ‘Today I am launching a wide-ranging enquiry into one million workers who don’t have full employment rights.’

Labour last month pledged to reform the employment tribunal system - in which the number of claims has dropped by around 70% since fees were introduced - but has yet to give a firm commitment to cutting fees. The Conservatives have also hinted at a review. 

Cable’s speech also included an attack on Conservative immigration policy and attempts to limit migration into Britain.

‘They say they want Britain to be "open for business", "to win the global race"; then, they try to close the borders to skills and talents that Britain needs, by pursuing an absurd net migration target – plucked out of the air and totally unenforceable,’ he said. 

The legal profession has argued against migration targets, labelling them as unfair and a restriction on law firms recruiting and keeping the best talent available.