HC Deb 22 May 1990 vol 173 c157
4. Ms. Mowlam

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy on low pay.

Mr. Eggar

The best way to help the lower paid is through continuing economic and employment growth and greater prosperity for all.

Ms. Mowlam

What action has the Department taken on the 5,528 establishments that underpaid in 1989? How many of them have the Department prosecuted, and is it a record of which he is proud?

Mr. Eggar

About 30,000 inspections were carried out by the inspectorate last year. About 97 per cent. of all the inspections revealed that proper payment was being made under the terms of the orders and that the ratio of pbhzcutions to establishments underpaying is higher now than it was in 1979.

Mr. Budgen

Will my hon. Friend confirm that proposals for a national minimum wage will lead either to an ineffectual gesture or, if they are effective and enforced, to the pricing out of work of people from the weakest section of the community?

Mr. Eggar

I agree completely with my hon. Friend. If one accepted the Opposition proposal that the national minimum wage should be set at half male average earnings, an estimated 750,000 people would lose their jobs.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why does not the Minister answer the question that he was asked? How many were prosecuted?

Mr. Eggar

The inspectorate must take into account all the facts revealed, following the reviews that it makes after visits to premises. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman with the details.

Mr. Butterfill

Does my hon. Friend agree that a minimum wage would be even more damaging if it were as proposed by the European Community in the social charter, which is supported by the Opposition? Would not that damage not just British but Community interests?

Mr. Eggar

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. We in Britain have been extremely successful in creating jobs—a great deal more successful than our European partners. The major reason for that is that we have followed a deliberate policy of deregulation which has led to more jobs than elsewhere.

Ms. Short

Is not the truth that the Government are positively in favour of low pay? They have deliberately removed a whole series of protection and there has been an enormous growth in low pay in Britain. Low-paid work goes with low investment, poor training, high labour turnover and low technology and carries a large part of the responsibility for Britain's poor economic performance. Will the Minister confirm that every other country in Europe has a national minimum wage and that Britain would do better to have one?

Mr. Eggar

In so far as I was able to count the number of questions that the hon. Lady asked, I am confident that the answer to all of them is no.