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Living Wage

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 26 November 2014

The Government support businesses that choose to pay the living wage, where it is affordable and does not cost jobs. Decisions on what wages to set, above the national minimum wage, are for employers and workers. However, we encourage employers to pay the living wage where possible.

Last week, Glasgow Celtic, the football club that I support—indeed, I am a season ticket holder—announced that anyone working there who was not on the living wage would be put on to it. That will mean a major increase for many of the club’s employees. Where Celtic leads, many others follow. We have only to look back to 1967 when Celtic became the first British club to win the European cup. They were followed, famously, by Manchester United in 1968—

What can the Minister do to ensure that more organisations and major employers in Scotland pay the living wage?

On this occasion, I share the hon. Gentleman’s view that where Celtic football club has led, others should follow. We want to encourage all employers who are in a position to do so to pay the living wage.

Pay is one of the most important tools in helping to fight poverty, but it also makes perfect business sense. The Government appear to have absolutely no plans to encourage employers to pay the living wage. The Minister will also be aware that the Scottish National party Government have just refused to put the living wage into Government contracts. Should not the Government be supporting Labour’s “make work pay” contracts, which would share tax benefits with employers, thereby encouraging them to pay the living wage?

I completely refute the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that the Government are not encouraging employers to pay the minimum wage where they are in a position to do so and it does not cost jobs. This Government’s commitment to those on low pay is clear from the way in which we have raised the personal allowance. His party’s position is far from clear—Labour claimed that it would reduce the national minimum wage to a level that is actually lower than it is projected to be in 2020.

As we approach the first anniversary of the tragedy, I am sure the whole House will join me in remembering the victims of the Clutha helicopter crash that happened in my own city. Our thoughts will be with the victims and their families this Saturday.

Does the Minister agree that the living wage is a means of addressing the scandal of low pay in Scotland, and that tackling low pay should be a higher priority for this Government? In the light of that, can he tell the House how many people in Scotland were paid below the minimum wage in the past year?

I join the hon. Lady in highlighting the first anniversary of the terrible Clutha tragedy. It is a credit to all Members of this House and particularly to the people of Glasgow that not just at the time but throughout the past year they have responded to that.

The hon. Lady will know that unlike the Labour Government, this Government have been keen to ease the procedures whereby those who pay below the minimum wage are named and shamed. Earlier this year 25 employers that had not paid the minimum wage were named, three of which were in Scotland.

That is a most disappointing answer. In fact, 11,000 people in Scotland are paid below the minimum wage, and it is shameful that neither the Minister nor the Government know that figure. In the past two years there has not been a single prosecution, and only two companies in Scotland have been named and shamed. Eleven thousand people in Scotland are not paid what they are entitled to. Given the gross failure of this Government properly to enforce the national minimum wage, should not the Minister apologise to those 11,000 people who have been failed by this Government? He does not even know who they are.

It is the hon. Lady who needs to apologise. Anyone watching this exchange would think that there had been were prosecutions under the previous Government. There were absolutely none. If she wants to get her facts right, I can tell her that three companies have been named and shamed in Scotland. They are Sun Shack Ltd in Hamilton, Cargilfield School Ltd in Edinburgh and Perth Hotels Ltd in Perth. If she has the details of additional people who are not receiving the minimum wage, rather than political point-scoring in this House, she should take their details to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs so that their employers can be dealt with.