§ 2. .Mr. St. Aubyn
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate his Department has made of the number of manual jobs in the Welsh clothing industry that would be lost as a result of the introduction of a minimum wage of £4 an hour. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain)
We will ask the Low Pay Commission, before it reaches a recommendation on the level at which the national minimum wage might be set, to take into account all the economic circumstances, including its likely impact on jobs in the Welsh clothing industry. I do not expect any jobs to be lost.
§ Mr. St. Aubyn
Is it not clear that the Government have rushed into a commitment to a minimum wage without any clear idea of what the consequences might be? More than 200,000 people in Wales earn less than 294 £4 an hour. In, for example, the clothing industry, the likely result of a minimum wage is that businesses will either close or invest in automation, so that, far from there being a minimum wage, there will be no wage at all.
§ Mr. Hain
On the contrary, more and more businesses are coming out in support of the principle of a minimum wage. The hon. Gentleman probably has not read this morning's Western Mail, as he is not a Welsh Member of Parliament, but it reports that the Federation of Small Businesses, which I am meeting tomorrow, has welcomed a minimum wage and is willing to discuss how it should be implemented.
§ Mr. Wigley
Further to the Minister's comment a moment ago, does he accept that when the Federation of Small Businesses met in Llandudno in March, it voted in favour of a minimum wage order? It wants the minimum wage to be introduced in a coherent manner. Does the Minister accept that no Member of Parliament representing Wales would want people to earn £2 or £2.50 an hour as a means of competing with sweatshops in third-world countries? What we need to do in Wales, in the clothing industry and elsewhere, is to compete on quality, as we do with shops and businesses such as Laura Ashley and as we can do in a range of businesses, given a fair opportunity?
§ Mr. Hain
I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman, who makes the crucial point that Wales's only future as a world-beating economy is to be the best and not to go down the sweatshop economy route. I do not think that any Conservative Member would dare—perhaps some Conservatives would—pay someone in his employment just £2.50 an hour, yet that is what almost 60,000 workers in Wales earn. It is an absolute disgrace. A low pay strategy, through the minimum wage that the new Labour Government will implement, is designed to tackle that.