HC Deb 22 March 2001 vol 365 cc478-9
11. Mr. Chris Pond (Gravesham)

What assessment he has made of the effects of raising the national minimum wage; and if he will make a statement. [153641]

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Stephen. Byers)

The Low Pay Commission has made a thorough assessment of the likely impact of raising the minimum wage to £4.10 an hour. Its report shows just how successful the policy has been, with nearly 1.5 million workers taken out of poverty pay, and no adverse impact on levels of employment.

Mr. Pond

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he confirm that he and the Low Pay Commission will be looking at the youth rate before this latest increase Comes into effect? Does he agree that although some propose that all small firms should be exempted from having to pay the minimum wage, most firms consider that the minimum wage makes good business sense? Could that be one of the reasons why the Confederation of British Industry said this week that most businesses would take their hat off to this Government", and warned against the effect of another Tory Government, a view that I am sure is shared by most low-paid workers?

Mr. Byers

I think that the fact that we have been able to create economic stability which allows business to plan ahead with confidence is the motive behind the CBI's warm endorsement. On the national minimum wage, the Low Pay Commission will be recommending the youth rate later in May. We expect it to report on that issue then.

Many Conservative Members opposed the national minimum wage and continue to do so. The right hon. Member for Bexley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) is a good example—[HON. MEMBERS: "Bromley".] The right hon. Gentleman changes his constituency so often that I have difficulty keeping track. He, however, is a true believer. Conservative Front Benchers do not believe in the national minimum wage, either. The public know that, because the Conservatives have continually opposed it. The Government are committed to it; we are proud to have introduced it. That is why it is going up to £4.10 in October and to £4.20 in October the following year.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Has the right hon. Gentleman been spending any of his March advertising budget on promoting the national minimum wage? Can he confirm that more than £8 million has been spent in March by his Department? Can he also confirm that the information in the advertisement on the four weeks' minimum holiday is incorrect, because the person featured in that advertisement is a partner in a firm, so the minimum wage and the four weeks' minimum holiday do not apply?

Mr. Byers

I am not sure that we are spending any money advertising the national minimum wage in March. If the hon. Gentleman is recommending that we should, I would be more than happy to consider it.

We are, of course, advertising the fact that as a result of measures introduced by this Government, everybody is now entitled to four weeks' paid holiday a year. That would be taken away by the Conservative party. We make no apology for advertising the fact that people in work now have decent minimum standards as a result of the measures that we have introduced.

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