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Low Pay

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 26 June 1990

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8.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many representations he has received concerning low pay for people under the age of 25 years following the publication of the last edition of the new earnings survey.

Since 1989, my right hon. and learned Friend has received 11 representations on that subject.

Is the Minister aware that since the Wages Act 1986 the United Kingdom has stood alone in not protecting young people on low wages, in contrast to our EEC counterparts? Is he further aware that young people are paid scandalously low wages in many parts of the United Kingdom? The Low Pay Unit has found some youngsters working for hairdressers earning less than half what they would if protected by the wages councils. When will the Government adopt the social charter to prevent young people being exploited in that way?

The hon. Gentleman has achieved a first today in managing to craft a question in which every single judgment that he made is precisely wrong. If he examines the evidence, he will find that the structure of wages councils, minimum wages, and all the other apparatus that Opposition Members like so well has the effect not of creating jobs but of destroying them.

Does my hon. Friend agree not only that a minimum wage would increase unemployment among the low-paid but that the best way of helping those people is to ensure that they do not pay national insurance contributions, as under the present Government? But they will if, by some mischance, a Labour Government are elected.

My hon. Friend is right to remind us that one of the effects of the draft directive on temporary work would be to ensure that 1·75 million low wage earners who do not pay national insurance contributions now would have to pay them. Apparently, that policy has the support of the Opposition—but it does not have the support of the Government.