Prescott’s defence of the minimum wage draws support from MPs

May 12, 2009 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment


A former Deputy Prime Minister has called on the Conservative party to distance itself from a bill that would abolish the minimum wage.

John Prescott tabled an Early Day Motion yesterday on the issue that has already attracted more than 100 signatures from fellow MPs.

Today the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform announced that the minimum wage, which was introduced in 1999, will be increased from October those over the age of 22 by seven pence an hour to £5.80.

In February Tory MP Christopher Chope introduced a private members bill, the Employment Opportunities Bill 2008-09, under the Ten Minute Rule.

It will be given its second reading on Friday.

Mr Prescott’s EDM reads:

“That this House, in celebrating 10 years of the minimum wage, welcomes the above-inflation overall increase in its value over that time; notes with concern the proposal to give the Employment Opportunities Bill, which would abolish the minimum wage, a second reading; calls on the Leader of the Opposition to distance his party from attempts seeking to impoverish low paid workers by this means; and welcomes the Wage Concern campaign to protect the minimum wage.”

In February, Mr Chope said the bill would help those willing to work for less than the legal minimum.

“The first group that would be helped would be refugees who have sought refuge in this country by reason of persecution and are waiting for the Home Office to determine their applications for asylum,” he said.

“Why should those people not have the right to take employment opportunities that have not been taken up by British citizens and thereby enjoy the dignity of having a job?

“Although it might cause some raised eyebrows among colleagues to hear this, I am pleased to report that the Trades Union Congress is of the same view.

“The second and much larger group who will be helped by my Bill are those who are currently out of work but would be willing to work for less than the minimum wage, which is £5.73 an hour or £11,918 a year based on a 40-hour week.

“Our Government make it illegal for an employer and an employee freely to negotiate the level of remuneration if it is less than £5.73 an hour for an adult, unless, of course, the work involved is unpaid voluntary work.

“Before anybody accuses me of wanting to impose poverty wages, let me emphasise that I am talking about arrangements for freely consenting adults.

“The Government regard an income of £11,918 per year as much in excess of an employee’s personal needs.

“That is why a single person on that salary is required to pay no less than £1,887 in tax and national insurance, thereby effectively reducing their take-home pay to £4.82 an hour instead of the £5.73 that it is nominally.

“Why should it be illegal for someone voluntarily to accept pay of £4.82 an hour? After all, that is all that is left in their pocket if they are paid the minimum wage of £5.73.

“Giving people the freedom to opt out of the minimum wage would help not only those who are out of work but those in the hard-pressed retail and hospitality sectors where businesses are going down like ninepins.

“How many such small businesses could be saved if those working in them had the freedom, in conjunction with their employers, to agree to reduce their wages?”


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