Minimum wage may be limited to over-24s

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The Government is considering exempting young people up to 25 from the national minimum wage, it emerged last night.

Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade, has asked for the "wider economic and social implications" of the minimum wage to be taken into account when its level is set. In a letter to the chairman of the Low Pay Commission, Professor George Bain, Mrs Beckett asked for a range of matters to be considered before the commission reports to the Prime Minister at the end of next May.

She asked him to recommend the "initial level" only at which the minimum wage might be introduced and asked for recommendations on "lower rates or exemptions for those aged 16 to 25". A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said this was based on fears that the minimum would "provide a disincentive for young people to stay in education and training or restrict employment opportunities for those looking for jobs".