National Minimum Wage

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th January 2001.

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Photo of Stephen Byers Stephen Byers Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry 12:00 am, 18th January 2001

My hon. Friend should not underestimate the positive effect that the introduction of the minimum wage, even at its present level, has achieved. The figures that the Government submitted to the Low Pay Commission in our evidence show clearly that, for the first time in many years, the bottom 10 per cent. of income earners have had a higher increase in their average earnings than the top 10 per cent. Earnings in the north-east and Wales—traditionally low-paid areas—have increased by a larger amount than those anywhere else in the country, so real benefits are coming through.

I ask my hon. Friend to consider the remit that I have given the Low Pay Commission for this year, which makes it clear that when the commission considers an increase, it is not restricted to considering inflation. This year, it will also be able to take into account the increase in earnings.