In the Labour party’s long history of standing up for working people, the introduction of the national minimum wage in 1998 was a particularly proud moment, and let us never forget that Conservative Members unanimously opposed that introduction.
I want to start by saying that we will not oppose this increase in the minimum wage for working people; any increase in pay for those on the lowest pay is to be welcomed. However, this small rise is entirely insufficient, and is emblematic of a Government who will only do the very barest minimum for working people, and often not even that.
There is a crisis in our country. Millions are struggling to make ends meet. Work is no longer a guarantor of a decent standard of living; indeed, work and poverty are no longer contradictory under this Government. The failed policy of austerity has had a terrible impact on our communities. Years of austerity have bred wage stagnation, which in turn has meant that 4 million workers across the country are living in poverty. Real wages are still almost £15 a week lower than 10 years ago, and they will not recover to those levels until the mid-2020s.
But at the same time, the rich are getting richer and our country gets even more unequal. Top executives are now paid 133 times more than the average worker, which means the salary of the average FTSE chief executive is the same as that of 386 workers on the minimum wage combined.