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Living Wage

Volume 593: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2015

3. What discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on practical steps to encourage employers to pay the living wage. (907629)

I have regular discussions with the Scottish Government on a range of employment issues. The UK Government support businesses that choose to pay the living wage, where that is affordable and does not cost jobs.

I thank the Minister for that response, which seems somewhat aspirational rather than ambitious. He will be aware that the Scottish Government at Holyrood refused to support the call for a living wage that was put forward by Labour in Scotland. Will he follow the example set by my local Labour-controlled Renfrewshire council, which has not only introduced a living wage, but used the procurement process to encourage its suppliers to pay the living wage?

There are excellent examples of local authorities taking forward initiatives with the living wage, and South Lanarkshire council is one. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman heard the speech that my colleague, Ruth Davidson, made to the Scottish Conservative conference on Friday in which she called for help and support for businesses that promoted the living wage. I hope Scottish Labour and the Scottish Government will support her in that regard.

A Labour Government will ban the use of exploitative zero-hours contracts, which leave people not only not making the living wage, but unable to make a living on the minimum wage. Why will this Government not do the same?

The hon. Lady forgets that there was actually a Labour Government up until five years ago who took no action whatever on zero-hours contracts. This Government have banned exclusivity in zero-hours contracts, which is what leads to exploitation.

This Government are constantly making claims about new jobs that have been created in Scotland since the last election. Of those new jobs, what proportion have been in low-paying industries?

Since this Government came to power, 107 jobs a day have been created in Scotland. I am afraid that the hon. Lady has had a memory lapse, because she cannot remember the position on employment when this Government came to power and she cannot accept the good news of the creation of new jobs.

What I do remember is that the Labour Government implemented the minimum wage in the face of opposition from the Conservative party. According to new research from the House of Commons Library, 82% of these new jobs are in the low-paying sectors. That news comes days after the TUC revealed that one in five workers in Scotland is paid below the minimum wage. Just this morning, the Office for National Statistics revealed that 28% of workers are on zero-hours contracts. This Government stand up for the wrong people: they help out their friends who have been avoiding their taxes, yet they do not help those who work hard and play by the rules, but do not even get a decent wage in return. Will the Minister take any action in what remains of the last days of this Government to help ordinary working people to get a decent wage, or is the only hope is that in 71 days’ time, we get rid of this out of touch Government and get a Labour Government who will put working people first?

The hon. Lady could start by endorsing Ruth Davidson’s proposal to incentivise the paying of the minimum wage, and that is actually a fact, not rhetoric. As I have told the hon. Lady on numerous occasions, if she has evidence of people not being paid the minimum wage, she should bring that forward. Yesterday, the Government did something the Labour Government never did: we named and shamed 70 companies, including some in Scotland, that do not pay the minimum wage. What she should be celebrating is the fact that this Government have delivered 107 jobs a day in Scotland, 1,645 of which are in her constituency, as can be seen from the drop in jobseeker’s allowance claimants.