Labour to make pledge to raise minimum wage

Election manifesto may include latest drive to tackle inequality

A pledge to raise the minimum wage sharply may be included in Labour's general election manifesto as part of a drive to tackle inequality.

Ministers have been stung by a series of reports in recent weeks showing that, while Labour has reduced poverty since taking power in 1997, the gap between rich and poor has widened because the incomes of the top 10 per cent of earners have soared.

One senior Labour figure said: "One of the ways to close the gap is to lift up the people at the bottom. And one of the ways a government can do that is to ensure or guarantee future rises in the minimum wage."

Such a pledge could help to enhance Labour's appeal among its traditional supporters and improve the prospects of the bottom DE social group voting in the expected May election.

Although the opinion polls suggest that some of them are returning to the Labour fold, party officials fear that many may abstain from voting or desert Labour as they feel disillusioned with its record after 13 years in power.

The Labour manifesto is also likely to include measures to boost social mobility. "It's not just about more money for those at the bottom but giving those with aspirations hope that they can move up the ladder," one minister said.

A minimum wage of £3.60 an hour was introduced in 1999 and has risen to £5.80 an hour. Although it has increased by more than average earnings, ministers admit the starting rate was low and this has limited its impact on the "inequality gap."

However, business groups are likely to oppose any future automatic rise in the minimum wage, saying that it should be considered annually by the Low Pay Commission to take account of the state of the economy.

Richard Lambert, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), warned yesterday that a hike in the minimum wage could harm the job prospects of young workers. He said: "Although the overall impact of the minimum wage has been positive, trade-offs clearly do exist in terms of employment prospects. That has clear implications for how the minimum rate for young people should be set in the future," he said.

Trade unions hit back at the CBI boss. Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said: "The CBI is wrong to blame the minimum wage for fuelling youth unemployment during the recession. In fact, young workers' employment has held up better in the low-paying sectors than it has in much of the broader economy.

"Today's youngsters are the most highly qualified, IT-literate and geographically mobile generation the UK has ever seen but the harsh economic climate is preventing most employers from taking on new workers of any age. And for those employers who are able to recruit, it's not wage levels that are making them choose between younger and older workers. A lack of work experience is often a crucial factor."

The TUC has proposed a 3.5 per cent rise in the minimum wage to £6 an hour from October, saying this is "both sensible and affordable". It says an increase is needed to ensure the earnings of low-paid workers do not fall behind the rest of the country. Average earnings are expected to increase during the period that will be covered by the next recommendation of the Low Pay Commission, so too small a rise would leave working families in poverty, it said.

A government-ordered report published yesterday called for a new minimum income to narrow the differences in life chances between rich and poor and stated that the minimum wage was not enough to live on healthily. Some ministers want the Labour manifesto to include plans to rein in top earners, saying the party has been slow to react to public anger about them – notably over the huge bonuses paid to bankers.

Around 130 MPs, mostly Labour, have signed a Commons motion calling for the creation of a High Pay Commission to complement the Low Pay Commission by investigating pay at the top of the earnings scale.

News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
people

Tennis star is set to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Marketing Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading Renewable Energy compa...

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?