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Minimum Wage: Evasion

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2013

6. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Crown Prosecution Service as a prosecutor of employers who evade the minimum wage. (149750)

The Crown Prosecution Service decides whether to prosecute national minimum wage cases, but the cases are investigated by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Since 2010, three cases have been referred to the CPS by HMRC, two of which resulted in convictions, most recently in February 2013, where the defendant was fined £1,000.

Shockingly, there were no prosecutions for minimum wage evasion in 2011 or 2012. If the Government are really serious about dealing with low-skilled immigration and its causes, why have they not been enforcing the minimum wage legislation properly?

It is important to bear in mind that HMRC has two sorts of powers that it can use: criminal investigation, which we have already discussed, and the civil powers that enable it to look at the books and then to impose penalties and recover arrears. It is for HMRC to decide on the best way forward. The hon. Lady is right that these are important matters.

Is the Solicitor-General aware that the number of relevant inspections by HMRC has been falling for the past two or three years? Does that not make the sort of convictions that he is talking about less likely in the future?

These are important matters and I will pass the hon. Gentleman’s comments on to Treasury Ministers. It is important that this matter is taken seriously and that there is proper enforcement. The Government certainly consider it to be an important matter.