Often I’m asked as a Labour Party supporter and campaigner which of Labour’s achievements I am most proud. Sometimes I struggle with this question simply from the vast number of achievements. Is it the improvements in the NHS, which saw my mum’s breast cancer treated so soon after diagnosis? Was it the increase of 14,000 police over the 13 years, cutting crime by 32%? Or our proud record on LGBT rights, which I saw most vividly when my sister had her Civil Partnership ceremony 3 years ago? These are but a few, but the one which I believe we all can agree on is the introduction of the minimum wage.
It was a shining example of the unions and the Labour Party working together to produce something so tangible and progressive to so many working people.
Today it was announced that minimum wage would be rising to £6.31 for adults, £5.03 for 18-20 year olds and £2.68 for apprentices. It is fantastic that the Government, for all their many faults, have adopted this Labour Party ideal.
Last year we saw the Tory MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, present the abominable policy that people with disabilities and those with mental health problems should work for less than the minimum wage. At this point I was afraid that this Tory-LibDem Government would begin to dismantle the minimum wage as they have with so many other British institutions. So while the increase announced is less that I would have hoped, it isn’t the doomsday scenario possible from the Tories.
But we must be indubitable about this, the minimum wage is exactly that, a minimum.
That is why Ed Miliband has been leading calls for a living wage. People would become less reliant on benefits and gain financial independence from receiving a wage they have rightly earned.
Labour will continue to press the Government to do more, not only to keep the minimum wage rising, but to monitor and get tough on those employers who break the law and fail to respect minimum wage laws. Rare cases where employees are laid off and replaced with different workers on a lower wage are never acceptable.
I will never believe that the minimum wage is safe under the Tories and LibDems as I simply do not believe that this Government has the interests of working people at heart. This slight raise is welcome but I look forward to a day when Labour can one day make the minimum wage a living wage.