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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We cannot have prolonged conversations in the House while someone is addressing hon. Members. The House must come to order.

Mr. McCartney: I do not expect to receive respect from Opposition Members, but I expect them to respect the low paid.

The minimum wage is vital to ending the scandal of poverty pay; it is not only social justice, but it makes good economic sense. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade set out eloquently the economic case for the introduction of a national minimum wage.

It has been said that setting up the Low Pay Commission without consultation was arrogant. The policy was in our manifesto and was overwhelmingly endorsed by the British people. The commission's members were selected by the Nolan public appointments procedure; advertisements were placed in the national press. They have been appointed for their knowledge, skills, business backgrounds and understanding of labour market activity. I strongly object to Opposition Members impugning the character of many of those people who have given their time to the Low Pay Commission for the public good, at the expense of their own time and companies to ensure the successful launch of a national minimum wage.

The commission is an independent organisation which will report on the initial rate for the minimum wage; it will consider exemptions for young people who are in training, the methods of calculation, the economic circumstances at the time and the impact on small and medium-sized businesses.

We have been consulting nationwide and have received more than 500 responses, which are overwhelmingly in favour of the principle of a national minimum wage. When the commission has concluded its report, we shall report back to the House, which will debate the regulations. This Government are happy not only to consult, but to carry out their election promises at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Redwood: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McCartney: No, I shall not give way.

16 Dec 1997 : Column 235

After 18 years of Tory control in this country, low pay is everywhere--in rural areas, in urban areas, in the north, south, east and west. That is the Tories' legacy. In London, 87,000 people earn less than £2.50 an hour. In the south-west, 87,000 people earn less than £2.50 an hour. In London, 55,000 families require in-work benefits at the end of the week. The figure is the same for the south-west. It is not regional rates that we need, but the quick introduction of a national minimum wage to help end poverty in the workplace.

The hon. Member for Sevenoaks said that there was no support among business for the minimum wage--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr. McCartney: It is okay--I am standing.

The hon. Member for Sevenoaks kept trying to say that the Federation of Small Businesses did not vote in support of the minimum wage, but I am pleased to give him the result of the ballot. There were 23,757 in favour of the motion; there were 18,473 against--a majority of 57 per cent. over 43 per cent. The problem is that Opposition Members are not good at democracy and cannot accept the decision.

Yesterday, I received a letter from the head of Bass, which stated:


It is interesting to note why it says that. It has admitted that in certain parts of its business it has a staff turnover of 100 per cent. a year. That means that 50,000 people a year leave the company's employment. The purpose of the national minimum wage is to ensure quality investment in training and education and the ability for people to earn a good wage so that they can remain in employment.

The Rank organisation wrote to me yesterday and said:


Tesco wrote to me this morning and said:


    "Tesco has stated for several years that it does not see any problems with a National Minimum Wage."

As an example of good employment, employers and trade unions can work together in a modern, progressive and evolving way to further the interests of staff and shareholders.

There is one company that has not written: Asda, the company of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman). It is no wonder, as he is the man who says that the minimum wage will cost 350,000 jobs. As chairman of Asda, last year he received £2.2 million, made up of a £551,000 salary, plus performance-related bonuses. The Asda group's pre-tax profit was just over £400 million. There is hypocrisy and double standards. Business survey after business survey supports the minimum wage.

The right hon. Member for Wokingham is isolated. Few businesses support him; they have all deserted the Tories. Businesses want to get on and succeed, and to produce quality goods and services. They are sick and tired of being undercut by the cowboys. I ask my hon. Friends to go into the Lobby tonight on behalf on low-paid workers and to make sure that the Tories do not get away for even another hour with the concept that employers should pay people £1 an hour. My hon. Friends should support the Bill.

16 Dec 1997 : Column 236

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 387, Noes 145.

Division No. 120
[10 pm


AYES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon
(Dunfermline E)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
(Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
(Perth)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Graham, Thomas
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr Evan
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McCartney, Robert (N Down)
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swinney, John
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Wallace, James
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
Welsh, Andrew
White, Brian
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. David Jamieson and
Mr. Graham Allen.


NOES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. John M. Taylor and
Mr. James Cran.

Question accordingly agreed to.

16 Dec 1997 : Column 239

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).


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