As we reported last Wednesday, Labour forced a debate and vote on increasing the minimum wage as part of the discussion of the Queen’s speech.
Labour’s amendment called for a rapid increase in the minimum wage, faster than the rise in average earnings.
No-one should work for less than they can live on – and in-work poverty is a scandal of modern Britain.
So such an increase is not just fair – it makes sense. A huge chunk of the Welfare Budget goes in supporting working people who are paid too little – it goes in subsidizing low wages employers.
Labour’s amendment was lost – LibDems and Tories combined to vote it down.
You can read the debate here
Chuka Umunna led the debate for Labour. Here is an excerpt from his speech:
‘[The minimum wage] is currently £6.31 and is due to increase to £6.50 in October, but that is just 53% of median hourly earnings.
We want to set a more stretching target for the minimum wage for each Parliament, within the Low Pay Commission framework, to increase it faster than average earnings, while retaining capacity to take account of shocks to the economy.
We would also give local authorities new powers of inspection and enforcement of the minimum wage, alongside central Government, to ensure it is enforced properly.
We would also increase fines for non-payment to £50,000.
The minimum wage is important. It is set with an eye to the impact on jobs.
But we want employers to pay a living wage.
Record numbers are currently paid less than the living wage.
It is estimated that we have 5.2 million people earning less than the living wage, which is costing the Treasury, at the very least, £750 million in tax credits and £370 million in means-tested benefits.
We want to do all we can to ensure that anyone who puts in a hard day’s work gets a decent reward for doing so.
That is why it is disappointing to see nothing, not just in this Queen’s Speech but in all four to date, to incentivise employers to pay a living wage.
If elected next year, we would introduce “make work pay” contracts to encourage employers to pay a living wage and help businesses to raise the wages of millions of low-paid workers. This is fully costed and will be entirely funded from the increased tax and national insurance revenue that the Treasury would receive.’
Leeds West’s Rachel Reeves wound up for Labour, reminding people that Labour set up the low Pay Commission and brought in the minimum wage – against Tory opposition
‘The debate and amendment are based on the values and ideals that brought the Labour party into being. They are about securing for all people in this country the dignity of a decent day’s pay for a hard day’s work, so that people can both provide for their family and spend time with them, sharing in the wealth and prosperity that we all help to create.
‘ Since this Government took office we have seen the national minimum wage fall by 5% in real terms in just four years and the number of workers stuck on low pay has soared to well over five million. That is more than one in five workers, and one in four women, who are paid less than a living wage.’
Labour moved an amendment and forced a vote
‘to bring forward measures setting the Low Pay Commission a five year target to raise the National Minimum Wage faster than average earnings while retaining the capacity to take account of shocks to the economy.”
The Coalition’s forces rolled out to defeat it – LibDems and Tories trooping through the lobby together, as they always do.
Greg Mulholland was present at Westminster on that day; he is not recorded as having spoken in the debate – but he was there for the vote.
He voted along with his LibDem and Tory friends against these guarantees for the minimum wage.
Labour will continue to press for real increases to the minimum wage.
But it looks as if you’ll have to vote this lot out next May to get them.
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