Poll: Rise in minimum wage hailed by MP - but is it enough?

Soaring living costs are crippling family finances

Soaring living costs are crippling family finances - Credit: PA

SKILLS minister Matthew Hancock hailed yesterday’s 1.9% rise in the national minimum wage as an important step in helping to make work pay.

The Suffolk MP said the move, which will see the rate for 18 to 20-year-olds rise by 5p to £5.03, and by 4p to £3.72 for 16 and 17-year-olds, was an important step for the Conservative Party.

The rise was announced as the government launched a trial cap on the amount of benefits people can receive in London.

Mr Hancock said: “For Tories it is important because we are on the side of people who want to work hard, not only because they need support, but also because it is needed for Britain to compete in the global race. I think benefit reforms, like the cap that is coming in today, are critical to the future of the country.

“People in Norfolk and Suffolk are not particularly well paid and transport costs are much higher with the cost of fuel and there is no alternative to driving for most people and the costs of getting to work are a big factor, so this will help.”

Yesterday’s announcement comes after Mr Hancock told the Resolution Foundation think tank last month that the minimum wage should be strengthened and local councils should be given greater powers to make sure it is enforced correctly.

He also said yesterday that he was delighted, as minister for apprenticeships, that the government rejected the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation that the rate for apprentices should be frozen, announcing a 3p an increase to £2.68 an hour.

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He said: “We are driving an improvement in the quality of apprenticeships. So it’s right the minimum wage should be increased in line with public sector pay and benefits.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady also welcomed the increase in apprenticeships rates, but said the overall rise had not gone far enough.

He said: “Boosting the incomes of the low paid goes straight into the economy and wage-led growth must be part of the recovery so we would have liked to have seen minimum wage rates go up further today, even if the Government has rightly rejected calls for a freeze.

“We will continue to press ministers for more action to ensure the minimum wage is properly enforced - particularly for apprentices where there is considerable evidence that many miss out. It is time to get tough with wage-cheat employers who break this law.

Mr Hancock rejected criticism of the minimum wage increase from the British Chambers of Commerce, which said the scale of the rise added significantly to business costs, most of all by contributing to broader pay inflation, and would make some employers less inclined to hire additional members of staff.

Mr Hancock said: Employment is rising. We have a record number of jobs. It is a good news story and shows that people are recruiting.”

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