Earnings Top-up

Part of Petition – in the House of Commons at 10:24 am on 24th November 1995.

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Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane , Rotherham 10:24 am, 24th November 1995

This has been a very interesting debate on a very important subject. Yesterday, the Prime Minister told the House that wage earners' incomes and employment had increased substantially under his stewardship. Yet this morning—how can I put it—the acceptable, human face of the Department for Social Security has told us that we have a great national crisis and taxpayers' money has to be shelled out, on a pilot scheme to begin with, to subsidise low pay. There is therefore a fundamental contradiction between the fantasies that we heard yesterday and the ginger exploration of the truth that we have heard this morning.

I am fascinated that although the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt)—the hon. Member for marathon running—is with us this morning, not one Back-Bench Member is behind him, despite the fact that this is supposed to be a five-hour debate on social security called in Government time. Sitting on the Labour Front Bench are our shadow spokesmen Nos. 1, 2 and 3—or Nos. 1, 3 and 2; I am not sure of the running order.

The Secretary of State for Social Security is not present. When he is in the House, he spends most of the time decrying Europe, the minimum wage and social security systems over there, and when he is not in the House, he spends most of his time living in his chateau in France. I find some contradiction in a man who continually rubbishes France when he is sitting on the Government Front Bench, yet loves the country so much—its minimum wage and its social security and health systems—that he likes to spend as many weekends, as much of his holidays and perhaps his retirement there, which of course will not be long coming.