It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I congratulate my right hon. Friend Mr Smith on bringing the debate to the House today. A number of colleagues have already spoken about the minimum wage, so I will try not to dwell on those issues too long, and will address some of the other significant and worrying challenges that care staff face.
Too many care workers are underpaid for the work that they do. Unison estimates that, altogether, 220,000 are not paid the minimum wage. HMRC found that half of care providers fail to pay the minimum wage and, despite the consequences of that for care workers, their families, the overall quality of the care work force and the standard of care that people receive, the Government have continued to fail to act.
The failure to pay for travel time is a common tactic and should not be difficult to fix. Earlier this year, during the passage of the Bill that became the Care Act 2014, I and Opposition colleagues raised the minimum wage issue time and again. We tabled amendments on Report asking Ministers to look specifically at travel time and travel costs. We were told that that would be addressed in the guidance that was published at the end of last month. I think that it is fair to say that the guidance is nowhere near strong enough. It says:
“Remuneration should be at least sufficient to comply with the national minimum wage legislation”.
To me, that says that it should be, but it does not have to be. It says that it would be nice if providers paid their staff a decent wage, but that there is no requirement for them to do so.