HC Deb 21 February 1966 vol 725 cc9-10
17. Mrs. Shirley Williams

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will introduce legislation establishing a national minimum wage.

Mr. Gunter

I have no present proposals for such legislation.

Mrs. Williams

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that Answer, may I point out to him that there are 150,000 families whose heads earn less than the National Assistance Board's subsistence rate, and does he not agree that our incomes policy will succeed only if we can bring justice to the lowest-paid workers in the community?

Mr. Gunter

Yes, indeed, and provision was made in the White Paper for consideration of the lower-paid workers. On the first part of her supplementary question, I am not quite so sure that the way to deal with the point that she raises is by a national minimum wage. One of the studies which I think she has recently been reading, "The Poor and the Poorest," reveals that it is the low-wage earner with a large family who is living below the National Assistance Board level. I do not know that a national minimum wage affects that proposition.

Sir K. Joseph

Can the Minister tell the House that the point behind the question of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) is being taken seriously and considered urgently by the Government, if not by a national minimum wage, which we know would have many implications for differentials and industrial-costs, then by some other means?

Mr. Gunter

Yes, indeed.