HC Deb 24 November 2000 vol 357 cc346-7W
Mr. Edwards

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what impact a minimum wage of £5.10 would have on closing the gender pay gap. [140216]

Mr. Alan Johnson

There are insufficient data and too many variables to enable such a calculation to be carried out. The independent Low Pay Commission is monitoring the impact of the national minimum wage on the labour market and the economy and is currently gathering evidence. They will be making recommendations in their next report on any increase to the minimum wage rate, and the gender gap is an issue that they will examine in coming to their conclusions.

Mr. David Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the enforcement procedures for the(a) minimum wage and (b) Working Time Directive indicating the number of prosecutions secured to date. [140091]

Mr. Alan Johnson

(a) The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 provides both civil and criminal powers of enforcement. Inland Revenue officers enforce the national minimum wage issuing notices against employers as appropriate and representing workers at employment tribunals where necessary. There have been no criminal prosecutions for underpayment of the national minimum wage. Officers have issued 308 enforcement notices, 41 penalty notices and taken 24 cases to tribunals since April 1999. They have also recovered almost £3 million in back pay for workers. In addition, under the provisions of the 1998 Act, workers are able to take their own cases of underpayment to an employment tribunal or to a civil court.

(b) The health and safety enforcing authorities (the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities) enforce the provisions of the Working Time Regulations (WTR), related to working time limits, limits on night-working and health assessments for night-workers. The entitlements to rest and leave are enforced through employment tribunals; 3,408 applications to tribunals were made in the financial year 1999–2000 where the primary complaint related to breach of WTR entitlements.

Enforcement of the limits is in line with the Health and Safety Commission's Enforcement Policy Statement: that is, proportionate to any risk to health and safety, targeted at those in control, transparent in what is required and consistent in approach. In practice this means that the WTR are enforced in response to complaints. The HSE have handled 416 such complaints and served 13 Improvement Notices. The HSE have not initiated any prosecutions to date. There are currently no central records of local authority enforcement, but at least one case brought by a local authority has led to a prosecution for breach of the provisions on health assessment for night-workers.

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