I thank my hon. Friend Stephanie Peacock for securing this important urgent question. One of the proudest achievements of the last Labour Government was the introduction of the national minimum wage, safeguarding workers from exploitative pay practices. Sadly, from the Trade Union Act 2016 to their failure to address exploitation through zero-hours contracts or bogus self-employment, this Conservative Government cannot be proud of their record on workers’ rights. The admission today that the naming and shaming scheme has been effectively shelved only adds to that woeful record.
The national minimum wage is effective only if it is adequately enforced. The Government have stated that the naming and shaming element of minimum wage enforcement is vital, alongside other measures such as fines. Has the Minister made any assessment of the impact of the scheme’s suspension on minimum wage avoidance in the last year? Has the Department continued to identify those employers underpaying during that period, and what action has been taken?
The Minister will also be aware that the director of labour market enforcement also criticised the Government not so long ago in respect of their utilisation of the enforcement mechanisms available to them. The director also asked about additional resource, so it would be helpful if the Minister could identify what funding has been made available to enhance enforcement capacity at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Not only is enforcement of the minimum wage important, but the level at which it is set is crucial. I know the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks that poverty is a figment of our imagination, but the fact is that in 2017 more than 1.5 million people had less than £10 a day to live on, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Labour is committed to ending the scourge of low pay. We will introduce a real living wage of £10 an hour and end the unfairness of lower rates for those under 18. Will the Minister take this opportunity to improve her Government’s record on poverty and workers’ rights and commit to doing the same?