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National Minimum Wage

Part of Opposition Day — [6th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:51 pm on 15th October 2014.

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Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans 2:51 pm, 15th October 2014

I think I have made myself very clear. I have never had an intern work for me whom I have not paid, and I will not do so. Sometimes I am constrained as to the numbers of staff I can have, and I budget accordingly. Unless the hon. Gentleman condemns any Labour Member who does not do the same, I am not interested in auctioning internships. I believe I have made it very clear that young people should be paid if they work for Members of the House of Commons.

I should like to turn to zero-hours contracts. Other Members have said that zero-hours contracts should be abolished because they are awful and appalling, and are sometimes not proper jobs. There are examples of all those things, but, as I said in an intervention, let us be aware that zero-hours contracts do not always provide a dreadful solution. They sometimes provide a very necessary solution for bank nurses, supply teachers, and other people filling gaps where suddenly there arises a vacancy. I speak as someone who has been in that situation myself. When my husband died and I was a single parent, I was glad to work as a supply teacher so that I could work around the needs of my young children—for example, sometimes they were ill and could not go to school. Opposition Members condemn all zero-hours contracts, but if we were to get rid of them, our health and education services, to name but two, would probably grind to a halt within a few days or weeks. It is very necessary to have contracts that give flexibility in the delivery of these services.

The most crucial thing that will come out of this Opposition day debate is the fact that Labour has declared that it does not have a promise or a guarantee of a “greater than £8 an hour” minimum wage but a flexible target of £8 an hour that can be abandoned at any moment. I hope that the electorate out there will take note of that when its leaflets come through their doors.