HC Deb 16 November 1976 vol 919 cc1098-100
14. Mr. David Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will conduct a survey to discover the number of workers who will be made unemployed as a result of the drive to compel employers to increase wages in accordance with statutory obligations.

Mr. John Grant

No, Sir.

Mr. Mitchell

Without in any way condoning low wages, may I ask whether the Minister does not think that he ought to know whether his activities are adding to the number of unemployed and, if so, by how many?

Mr. Grant

I think that that would be a waste of scarce resources. Although the hon. Gentleman says that he is not condoning the payment of low wages, he must take on board that the argument that there is a threat to jobs is the kind of argument that has been used by bad employers through the ages.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is it not humbug to suggest that employers should be encouraged not to pay proper wages and that there should be no statutory minimum wages?

Mr. Grant

It is certainly humbug to. suggest that employees should not be paid the proper statutory minimum. Successive Governments have supported that position. As so many Opposition Members seem to be concerned about the level of unemployment benefit, perhaps it is worth commenting that it is hardly surprising that some people might be better off out of work when one thinks of the low wages that some of these employers seek to pay.

Mr. Henderson

Reverting to the original Question, will the Minister tell us whether there is any evidence that women are being discriminated against as a result of the Equal Pay Act? Is any evidence of that available to the Department?

Mr. Grant

Although that is not directly related to the Question, the evidence is to the contrary. The situation concerning discrimination against women has been considerably improved as a result of the Equal Pay Act.

Mr. Hayhoe

Will the Minister consider extending or postponing the introduction of Schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act, which will make new statutory provisions concerning wages which, in the opinion of many, will add a great deal to inflation?

Mr. Grant

No, Sir. We are committed to that, and we shall certainly want to proceed, as we have made clear we shall.