asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has received any representations on the effect upon Welsh workers of the Government's proposed abolition of wages councils; and if he will make a statement.
My Department has received eight letters direct and a further 19 have been passed on by hon. Members. I have also received a petition with 96 signatures. In the light of the views expressed during the consultation exercise about wages councils, the Government announced on 17 July that they were to be retained but reformed. Legislation will shortly be brought before the House.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for being good enough to write to me on this matter. Does he think that the people of Wales will swallow his explanation and accept that new jobs will be created if we remove the minimal protection that is enjoyed by low-paid workers? Does this mean that the Welsh unemployed can look forward to jobs that are low paid without regulated protection?
No. There is clear evidence from this and many other countries that high initial rates of pay as employees enter industry without skills result in more unemployed youngsters. Labour Members have expressed concern in previous supplementary questions about unemployed youngsters. They should take serious note of the fact that these youngsters are more likely to get jobs if they start at lower rates. They will then have better prospects for the future. To discount the overwhelming evidence of that fact is not to do any service for those of whom Labour Members speak.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Germany young workers start at rates between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent. of an adult wage and ultimately secure far higher paid jobs than British workers?
That is true. There is no doubt that high basic rates for youngsters in relation to rates for adults are a key factor in deciding whether firms take on young people. There is no doubt also that the rates that have been paid to youngsters have been a factor in discouraging their employment. We should do everything that we can to bring them into work where they can be trained and where they can earn much higher rates in future.
Does the Secretary of State realise that the wages councils protect about 500,000 employees and that one out of five of those who are protected are young people? Does he understand that they have suffered enough under this Government and that they do not want to return to sweatshops? I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to reconsider their decision to recommend the abolition of the wages councils.
If the hon. Gentleman had listened he would have heard me say that we shall not abolish the wages councils. If he wishes to talk about the protection of young people, I must put it to him that those who do not have jobs are not being protected by the wages councils. Indeed, their prospects of employment are being threatened by many of the actions of the councils. That is what we are seeking to change.