HC Deb 20 March 1984 vol 56 cc893-4
3. Mr. Haynes

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied that jobcentres have ceased advertising jobs at illegally low rates of pay.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. John Selwyn Gummer)

I am satisfied that jobcentres take all reasonable steps to avoid advertising jobs at levels of pay below wages council minimum rates.

Mr. Haynes

How can the Minister be so confident that jobcentres are not advertising jobs at illegally low rates of pay? He knows very well that the Government deliberately stopped the document, "Times, Rates of Wages and Hours of Work" which informs people of wages councils' rates. Why does the Minister not answer that question instead of the one that he answered just now?

Mr. Gummer

I did not answer that question because it was not the question that was tabled. The hon. Gentleman asks why I am confident. The reason is that the long-standing instructions to our staffs in jobcentres state quite clearly that if they are in any doubt whether a vacancy offers at least the legal minimum rate they should seek advice from a wages inspector. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the range of wages levels that wages councils give is substantial and that the right person from whom to get that information is the wages inspector.

Mr. Thurnham

Does my hon. Friend consider that wages councils do anything to help the unemployed?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend will accept that the Government are carefully examining wages councils, as we believe that, if it is shown that wages councils reduce opportunities for people, the Government ought to take action. We are seeing whether that is so.

Mr. Evans

Does the Minister agree that the best way to stop some sweatshop employers paying their employees illegally low rates of pay is substantially to increase the number of wages inspectors? Does he agree that the Government should instruct them to prosecute every case of wilful neglect of the law that they discover?

Mr. Gummer

The fact remains that the work of the wages councils inspectorate, the number of cases followed up and general activity on this front are similar to that which obtained under the Labour Government. If what they were doing was insufficient, why on earth is the hon. Gentleman complaining about us now?