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In-work Poverty

Volume 587: debated on Monday 3 November 2014

The number of people in in-work poverty fell by 300,000, according to the latest figures. The rate is flat in general terms since the election, despite there being more people in work than ever before, and there are almost a million more people in working families and above the poverty line.

Tomorrow is equal pay day, which marks the day on which women effectively start working for free because they earn on average only 80p for every £1 a man earns. Does the Secretary of State agree that addressing the gender pay gap, which has got worse under his Government, is key to tackling in-work poverty, and what does he intend to do about it?

First, let us start from where we are: more women are now in work than ever before, which is a huge start. I also accept—[Interruption.] The rate is even better: it is a record rate. Of course, it is absolutely vital and right to ensure that women who go to work get paid a decent salary. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Employment has been leading the charge for the Department, doing a lot of campaigning. Universal credit, as it rolls out nationally, delivers for working women a far better deal, with higher wages, than they would get under the present system.

Given that 20% of workers are struggling on the minimum wage alone, when was the last time the Secretary of State spoke to employers about adopting a living wage for their workers?

I have talked to employers endlessly about making sure that they pay a decent wage—first, making sure that people pay the minimum wage, which the last Government were rather slack about but we have done a lot on. My own Department pays our employees in London the London living wage, and we negotiated with the contractor to make sure everybody gets it, including all the cleaners.

I am sure that the House is aware—but if not, I can inform Members—that the House of Commons is itself an accredited living wage employer.