Politics: Blair pledge on the minimum wage

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The Independent Online
The Prime Minister last night pledged that his government would be the first to bring in a national minimum wage, making a real difference to individuals and providing a foundation for welfare reform.

In the second of his roadshows for Labour activists to sell the need for welfare reforms , he told a Luton meeting: "Believe me, this will be the first government in our history to implement a national minimum wage ... Nobody will be prouder than I when the consultation is over, the laws are passed, and the people of Britain get that extra protection and security the minimum wage will provide.

"And I want to make sure the minimum wage makes a real difference to people ... struggling on levels of pay that no Member of Parliament would consider fit for a member of their own family." Mr Blair's attack on "sweatshop" economics was a calculated switch from Westminster and media obsession with the private lives of ministers like Robin Cook, and the Government's hospitality, travel and accommodations bills, to what he calls the "big picture".

A government submission to the official Low Pay Commission is imminent, with a cash figure being put on the hourly pay ministers believe would form a sustainable start to the programme, thought to be about pounds 3,50 rather than the pounds 4 sought by the TUC.

In an all-night session of a Commons committee that ended yesterday, the Government made progress on the line-by-line consideration of the National Minimum Wage Bill - the first time the new government had found it necessary to hold an all-night session since it won its landslide majority in May. Stressing the Government's determination to see the policy through, Mr Blair said last night that the arguments for it were not only based on common decency, but economics, too.