Skip to main content

Minimum Wage

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 17 January 2008

The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
(Mr. John Hutton)

We are running a new national campaign to raise awareness of the minimum wage. The campaign includes national and regional advertising and an online campaign for young workers, in addition to our targeted enforcement campaigns aimed at the hotel sector. The Government are absolutely determined to ensure full, effective enforcement of the national minimum wage legislation that the House has passed.

I support the Government’s campaign, which I have seen on television and in the press. However, as my right hon. Friend knows, thousands of workers, mostly part-time and female, are still being caught in the middle. Will the campaign include explaining to employers the penalties that they will incur if they are found to be underpaying their workers?

Yes, the campaign will deal with all those issues. It will not just provide information, education and advice, but explain how to make and proceed with a complaint. As my hon. Friend will know, we have acted to increase the penalties for violation of the minimum wage legislation, but although we can and should always seek to improve enforcement, I trust that those of us who have always supported the concept of a national minimum wage will draw some comfort from the fact that this year it will be 20 per cent. higher in real terms than it was at the time of its introduction in 1999, without the negative impact on jobs that all Conservative Members confidently predicted.

Is the Secretary of State satisfied that all the migrant workers from eastern Europe who are in East Anglia are being paid the minimum wage?

No, I am not, and addressing that issue will be part of our campaign. Anyone who is working legally in the United Kingdom is entitled to the full and proper protection of UK legislation, and that should and will apply irrespective of a worker’s nationality.

I welcome the campaign, and in particular the minimum wage campaign bus, which I believe will come to the west midlands tomorrow. However, does the Secretary of State agree that advertising the minimum wage is one thing, but enforcing it is another? Will he outline just how this bus will help some of the most vulnerable workers get their rights in terms of wages and conditions?

As a former bus driver myself, I am keen to see buses employed in this helpful way, and the point of the bus campaign and service is to make sure that, as my hon. Friend says, we reach parts of the country where we know there are potential problems. The bus can do that; it will tour across the United Kingdom with expert advice available on board to help those who want and need it.