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National Living Wage

Volume 745: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2024

The Government are committed to ending low pay. From 1 April 2024, the national living wage will increase by 9.8%, to £11.44. That represents an increase of more than £1,800 to the annual earnings of a full-time national living wage worker and it is expected to benefit about 2.7 million workers.

I congratulate the Government on increasing the national living wage, because that will make a huge difference. However, after speaking to not only those in the public sector, at the likes of my local Leicestershire County Council and Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, but small businesses in the private sector, I know that there is a trade-off, because they have to foot that wage bill. What steps can the Government take to make sure that those businesses and the public sector have the money to pass on to those who are earning so well?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I will take the two parts of it in turn. The Government continue to support businesses with the higher costs through a generous package of support. At the autumn statement, we showed our commitment to supporting small businesses by extending the 75% retail, hospitality and leisure relief, and by freezing the small business multiplier, which will protect more than 1 million properties from the multiplier increase. Yesterday, we announced a wide-ranging package of support worth £600 million for local councils, including £500 million of new funding for social care.

I understand that concerns were expressed some years ago about how a significant increase in the minimum wage may well have a knock-on effect, particularly on the hospitality sector. Given that that did not come about with previous living wage increases, will the Chief Secretary commit her Government to ensuring that future increases will be monitored closely to enable and assist small businesses to increase wage levels systematically and sustainably over the longer term?

I can commit to the hon. Gentleman that we are absolutely monitoring the effects, but, as I said, a good package of support is in place for businesses.