asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to improve the enforcement of Wages Regulation Orders, in view of the fact that over 15 per cent. of the firms affected by these Orders, which have been visited by his inspectors during the last three years, have been found to be paying wages below the statutory minimum.
New arrangements have been made to increase the effectiveness of inspection. For this purpose, revised instructions have been issued, and routine visits have been spread out more evenly over the country.
Would the Minister agree that the workers covered by the Wages Council Orders are, in any case, very low-paid workers; and that the increases that many of them merit have been postponed because of the wage pause? That being so, is it not rather scandalous that 15 per cent. or 16 per cent. of firms are still paying less than the statutory minimum, and could not the right hon. Gentleman do much more to increase the number of inspectors and the effectiveness of the inspection system?
The hon. Gentleman has the mistaken idea that merely to increase the number of inspectors gets the desired results. I do not agree. I am convinced that we have an adequate number of people to carry out the job, but I shall certainly not be satisfied as long as any workers are paid less than the statutory minimum to which they are entitled. Most underpayments are not deliberate, but are due to misunderstanding, but we shall keep on with the job of bringing them to light, as we are doing at the moment.