HC Deb 07 January 2003 vol 397 cc3-4
2. Mrs. Irene Adams (Paisley, North)

How many people in Scotland benefit from the national minimum wage. [89137]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire)

Some 110,000 people in Scotland have benefited from the national minimum wage since it was introduced in 1999.

Mrs. Adams

What further action is being taken by the Government to ensure that there is high awareness of the national minimum wage among employers and employees? Will my hon. Friend undertake to meet the Scottish Low Pay Unit, Citizens Advice Scotland and the Inland Revenue to ensure that all that can be done is being done?

Mrs. McGuire

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. I know that the Scottish Affairs Committee, which she chairs, is looking to investigate home working and the minimum wage. Both the Department for Trade and Industry and the Inland Revenue are being evangelical about the minimum wage. My hon. Friend will be delighted, as I hope will the House, to hear that at the end of this month a pilot project will be launched in Scotland, in partnership with Citizens Advice Scotland, the Scottish Low Pay Unit and the Inland Revenue, to make sure not only that there is compliance but that individual workers know what their rights are.

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

Is the Minister aware that one in 15 Scots workers who benefit from the minimum wage are under 21 and consequently on a lower rate? Given the success of the minimum wage, is it not now time to end that discrimination and give those 7,000 young Scots workers equal pay for an equal job?

Mrs. McGuire

If I recollect the Liberal Democrats' position on the national minimum wage correctly, they were not particularly in favour of it at the time. I welcome their conversion. On younger workers, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, there is a clear direction that they should be looking at training and educational opportunities. We have gone along with the widely held view that to introduce an adult rate before the age of 21 would be counter-productive, given the other priorities that young people have to pursue.

Mr. Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw)

While I recognise that the national minimum wage has done enormous good for Scottish workers, is the Minister aware that a report published this week says that those same workers have faced assaults and threats in a third of Scottish work places? When she next meets trade unions and employers, will she undertake to bring up that very serious subject? Surely it is not right that people should feel threatened and intimidated while they strive to earn a living.

Mrs. McGuire

I thank my hon. Friend for making that particularly important point. He is quite right—no worker should feel threatened and intimidated either going to work or while at work. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will seek to raise the matter when we next meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress and employers' organisations.

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