Letter: Minimum wage

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leader of 28 November rightly recognised that the "principle of the minimum wage is simple and it is right". All sectors of business also support the principle of the minimum wage.

However it is wrong to think that the Low Pay Commission can come up with a figure by Christmas and the Government can introduce it in the New Year.

A minimum wage was a manifesto promise. We have set up the Low Pay Commission within 90 days of the election and legislation is in the first session of this Labour government. This will enable the minimum wage to be introduced as quickly as practicable.

But the Commission need time to consult widely with business and workers. They have written to over 600 organisations and are nearly half way through a national fact-finding tour. The commissioners must then consider all the evidence to reach informed recommendations on the rate, components and scope of the minimum wage.

That is why the Bill we have introduced doesn't contain a figure for the wage or spell out whether there will be different rates for those aged 16-25. To do so would prejudge the decisions of the commission. They are not "loopholes".

What we have made clear in the legislation is that there will be a single rate which will apply to all regions, sectors and size of firms. This will make the minimum wage as simple and as universal as possible.

For almost 30 years there has been a campaign for a national minimum wage and within six months of the return of a Labour government that wait is almost over.

IAN McCARTNEY

Minister of State

Department of Trade and Industry

London SW1

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