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Lord Clinton-Davis: From what the noble Lord said in relation to this matter and others, I have identified that we have many common denominators in relation to the Bill. We both support the Government's objectives. I thank him for that. His concern is to ensure that the Bill, when enacted, works well. I choose to differ from some of the prescriptions that he offers, without closing off all the routes.
The Government see the commission as continuing to play an important role, particularly in the early stages of the operation of the minimum wage. Clearly, the Secretary of State should have the valid option of being able to consult the Low Pay Commission before she uses the powers under Clause 3. That is a likely situation. We have already set up the consultation process. That is a good indication of how things will work in the future.
As this is a novel form of legislation, we need to keep open certain options for the future. I am not sure that one of those options will necessarily be the appointment of a permanent body within one year of the Act being passed. How do we know that there will be any task for it to carry out then? The minimum wage may have been in place for a few months only by then. There may be a degree of impracticability there.
Amendment No. 64 prescribes particular issues which must be covered in the Low Pay Commission's report. It is to be made annually, but it does not limit the commission to looking at those issues only. Thus the amendment is over-prescriptive and open-ended.
The noble Lord identified some important areas which any review of the Bill would need to examine: different sizes of business, different areas, gender, race, and so on. But we do not need to spell it out in this way on the face of the Bill. The commission is already obliged to look at economic and competitiveness factors in coming to its recommendations. In addition, under Clause 6(5)(b) the Government may specify other factors for the commission to consider.
I think that that is a rather more sensible and less prescriptive approach to the answers that the noble Lord seeks. I hope that he will agree with that and will not press the amendment to a Division tonight.
Lord Razzall: I have listened to the Minister with interest. He is right that we share the Government's objectives as regards the Bill to ensure that the slave wage rates prevalent in certain parts of this country should be a thing of the past. To that extent, we are arguing about methods rather than about principle.
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