Minister falsely claims Labour never introduced the minimum wage

Labour introduced it despite Tory opposition

The Minister for Energy and Clean Growth Claire Perry was forced to backtrack yesterday after claiming that Labour never introduced the minimum wage.

Labour MP Laura Pidcock asked Perry why her party “refuse to join the Labour party in advocating a real minimum wage of at least £10 an hour and a return to serious collective bargaining for workers in the UK?”

The minimum wage is currently £7.83 for those over 25 years of age, lower than the living wage which is £9 outside of London and £10.55 within it.

In Perry’s reply, she said:

Once again, I am proud to stand here and represent the Government who finally did what the hon. Lady’s Government had 13 years and did not do—introduce a national minimum wage and ensure that it goes up well ahead of inflation

Pidcock later asked Perry to correct the record, pointing out that Labour introduced the minimum wage in 1998, just a year after coming to power.

Perry replied:

I am blaming the excitement. Of course I am happy to correct the record. The hon. Lady is absolutely correct: the Labour party introduced the national minimum wage.

The Conservative Party opposed the introduction of the minimum wage in 1998.

Its spokesperson John Redwood, who has just been knighted, warned at the time that the Labour Party’s minimum wage was taking the country back to the 1960’s.

Many businesses also opposed the introduction of the minimum wage, claiming it would lead to unemployment.

Although Conservative leaders like David Cameron later accepted the party had been wrong about the minimum wage, some of his backbenchers never did.

In 2009, 12 Tory backbenchers led by Christopher Chope tried unsuccefully to water down the legislation so that employees could opt out of minimum wage.

While the principle of the minimum wage has been a success, campaigners have argued that it is not set at a high enough level.

In its 2017 manifesto, Labour promised to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour.

The Conservative Party has introduced what it calls a “national living wage”, set at £7.88 for over-25s.

This is less than the living wage calculated by the Living Wage foundation.

The real living wage, enough to live on, they say is £9 an hour or £10.55 in London.

Joe Lo is a freelance journalist and a reporter for Left Foot Forward

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