Finance (No. 3) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:16 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 8:16 pm, 12th November 2018

Not at the moment.

We have heard warm words about rising wages from those on the Government Benches, but there has been no mention whatever of the fact that 4 million people are in insecure work. There has been complete silence about the Taylor review and what measures the Government will introduce as a result. The reality is that low pay and poorer living standards are on the rise.

As I said, there are 400 people dealing with telephone calls in the Department for Work and Pensions, but 4,504 chasing DWP social security fraud. There are also 400 people employed across the UK by the national minimum wage compliance unit. How are we going to chase these rogue employers if there are only 400 staff chasing up compliance with the minimum wage?

That brings us nicely to the issue of public sector pay and whether there is a public sector pay cap. Earlier, I made an intervention on the Minister. I did not really get an answer, and I do not think that anyone who has raised this issue in the last few weeks has got an answer. The reality is that the public sector pay cap is still in place across UK Government Departments. Why is it still in place? Under freedom of information, we now know that the departmental permanent secretaries got together in February this year and agreed the joint position across all UK Government Departments that there would be a pay rise of 1% to 1.5% for public sector workers. I find that extraordinary, because there are 200 separate pay negotiations across UK Government Departments, so how about a bit of efficiency and small Government from those on the Conservative Benches? Let us reduce the number of pay negotiations from 200. If the departmental permanent secretaries can agree one negotiation, there can surely be one negotiation with the trade unions.

Those on the Scottish Conservative Benches have made a number of, shall we say, interesting observations today. I was interested in the elaborate tax avoidance scheme suggested by Colin Clark: if someone is a higher rate taxpayer in Scotland, they should consider registering themselves somewhere else in the United Kingdom. That is tax avoidance by any description.