Terms and Conditions of Employment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy) 4:26 pm, 19th February 2019

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The burden of debt has been shifted. We still have our public debt, but the burden has been shifted on to our poorest families. The national figures for debt are a matter of great concern for our future economic stability. As a consequence, food bank use has skyrocketed, with wages no longer covering basic living costs. In my constituency, Newcastle’s West End food bank is the largest in the country. That is not an achievement of which we are proud, but we are proud of the generous Geordies who take on the role that this Government have abandoned in feeding the most vulnerable among us.

We know that 5.2 million people are trapped in low pay, and small single-figure percentage increases in the legal minimum wage will not put an end to this misery. Shockingly, one in four employees earning the minimum wage for five years have been unable to move out of that low pay, which is the highest figure since records began. Low pay is becoming a trap, and the workers least likely to escape the low pay trap are those in the north-east and women. They are being trapped by the lack of action from this Government. Will the Minister admit that, under the Tories, low pay means that work is not a protection against poverty? I want to make it clear that, despite its name, the Government’s minimum living wage is not a real living wage. The small increase that this statutory instrument introduces will not make it a real living wage. More than 5 million people are paid less than the living wage—a huge increase from the 3.4 million people in 2009.