National Minimum Wage

Part of Opposition Day — [6th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:33 pm on 15th October 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Shadow Minister (Scotland) 2:33 pm, 15th October 2014

I refer to the coalition Government in that regard—credit where credit is due—and I will come to that point later.

With regard to the reduced levels of unemployment, we need to look at the figures from the Office for National Statistics for the weekly average number of hours worked across the country and compare them with the number of people working over the past 12 to 18 months. Although more people are working, we have not seen an increase in the number of hours being worked on a pro-rata basis. What we are seeing—this relates to the point about zero-hours contracts—is that more people are in part-time work or working shorter hours. Some people are desperate to grab four or six hours in order to supplement a job they are doing elsewhere. The unemployment figures might be falling, but the overall number of hours being worked across the country is not increasing at the level we would have expected for the number of people now in employment.

People need job security, but we are seeing a scale of job insecurity in this country that we have not seen for many years, so I challenge Government Members to say that we have not gone backwards in some respects. I hate to say it, but there are some unscrupulous employers who are prepared to exploit zero-hours contracts and short-term working for people who are prepared to do a hard day’s work if given the chance. I also want to mention migrant workers, because I was talking about that with three or four guys I met five or six weeks ago. They were very angry, and not about the migrant workers they were working with, but about the fact that their employer was exploiting the situation in order to keep wages low, with local indigenous workers paying the price.

I want to mention the personal tax allowance again, because it is a big issue. I applaud the aim of taking people out of tax. I have challenged Treasury Ministers on this, as has my hon. Friend Sheila Gilmore, because many people are not working enough hours to come anywhere close to paying tax. The fact is that it is the rich, or those in well-paid jobs, who reap the benefits of the personal allowance changes. I also recognise that there is always a narrow band of people who benefit, and if we shift or change tax bands and tax rates, some people will be more heavily penalised than others.