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Wage Trends

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 10 December 2013

Last year, UK take-home pay was the highest in the G7 and the third highest in the OECD. The best way of raising living standards is to deal with the economic crisis so that families can find work in a growing economy.

The United Kingdom now has the highest rate of inflation in the European Union, and has suffered the second largest fall in wages in the G20 since the Government took office. In my constituency, women’s gross average weekly wages have fallen by £12.30 a week since May 2010. Is this a deliberate attack on wages by the Government, or is the Chancellor simply incompetent?

I find it unbelievable that the hon. Gentleman really has the gall to stand up and ask that question. I wonder whether he agrees with his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne), who said:

“From 2004 onwards, beneath the miraculous arc of rising average incomes, families on ‘median incomes’—millions of workers grafting as small employers, sales assistants, cashiers, construction and factory workers—were feeling the strain...people were working just as hard as ever—but were not getting on”.

That was happening under a Labour Government.

Does the Minister agree that the real achievement of this Government has been the improvement in education, skills and the provision of engineers—among others—so that we can raise wages as a result of real growth in the economy?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. As the Office for Budget Responsibility has said,

“Productivity growth is the only sustainable source of real income growth in the long term”.

If we do not have a skilled work force, employers will not come here and therefore will not be employing people, which means that we will not experience the increase in productivity that would feed through into higher wages.

22. I am bitterly disappointed by the Chief Secretary’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore). He basically said that people on low wages were being written off. [Interruption.] If the Chief Secretary checks Hansard tomorrow, he will see that. In my area, wages are 24% lower than the national average. These people do not qualify for the— (901535)

My apologies, Mr Speaker. The question to the Minister is this: what additional support can her Government give people in low-wage economy areas?

I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s description of the Chief Secretary, who would never say such a thing. Coming from a member of the party that abolished the 10p tax rate, which most benefited low-paid workers, that is a real nerve. I repeat that people on the minimum wage have already seen their income tax halved under this Government. With our policies of free school meals, fuel duty and council tax freezes, and increases in child care allowance and the personal allowance threshold, we are doing all that we can to help people on low incomes. However, the most important thing is to get the economy growing so that wages can rise.