Letter:What employment figures prove

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your expose of the fiddles of unemployment figures is extremely timely. The fact that the source for the details of Department of Employment statistical manipulation comes from within Whitehall and is not an opposition allegation makes them all the stronger.

All this autumn I have been sitting in the Commons listening to the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Employment Secretary and sundry MPs denounce a statutory minimum wage as a job killer. So I wrote asking for details of countries which had one and their record of job creation. In the reply from the junior Employment Minister, Philip Oppenheim, a clear table listed major countries around the world that had statutory minimum wage systems and which had better job creation records, since 1980, than Britain.

But when you published these figures, Mr Oppenheim wrote to you (letter, 21 December) to say that he had been wrong last week, and this week's statistical line from the DoE is that a statutory minimum wage does not help job creation. I could (but won't, for the sake of reader boredom) go through each of Mr Oppenheim's highly selective statistics, but I would like to focus on just one. He refers to America's £3 an hour minimum wage as being set at an "extremely low level". Given the pay rates of £l.80 anhour in my constituency of Rotherham, let me assure him that even a £3 an hour minimum wage would provide a floor to stop unfair exploitation. It would also stop taxpayers - corporate and individual - from having to subsidise such low-pay firms through the benefit system.

Only in the two-nation Britain created by today's Tories can a massive taxpayers' subsidy to low-wage firms be considered sensible economics.

Yours, DENIS MacSHANE MP for Rotherham (Lab)

House of Commons London, SW1

21 December