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Celebrating Ten Years of the Minimum Wage

Bristol’s Labour MPs have today celebrated the tenth anniversary of the minimum wage.  The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 was given Royal Assent on 31 July 1998, benefiting thousands of people in Bristol and the south-west.  Today, the Government has announced that it intends to extend the law, so that tips can not be used to top-up salaries to minimum wage level for waiting staff, hairdressers, and other workers in the service industry.

Dawn Primarolo, Labour MP for Bristol South, said:

“The National Minimum Wage was a crucial moment for British politics.  Ten years on, it is almost inconceivable to think that people in Bristol South were working for as little as £2 an hour in an attempt to support their families.  In these difficult economic times, it is certainly worth remembering what life was like for so many Bristolians before the minimum wage and tax credits were introduced to help those on low and middle incomes.  Of course, there is still more to do, but given David Cameron’s recent pronouncements that poor people are to blame for the position they find themselves in, it is clear that only the Labour Party can deliver for our communities. 

Today’s announcement will see the law strengthened.  If you receive good service – say at a restaurant or in the hairdressers – it’s natural to want to tip.  But customers rightly expect that these tips will be in addition to, and not instead of, a salary of at least minimum wage.  These changes will benefit customers and staff, as well as making the responsibilities of employers very clear. ”

Doug Naysmith, Labour MP for Bristol North-West, made his maiden speech on the minimum wage.  In 1997, he told the House of Commons:

“I support the introduction of a national minimum wage because it is essential to create a "floor" to the labour market to tackle the exploitation of people with least bargaining power. The Trades Union Congress has produced figures that show that one in five employees earn less than £4 an hour and that nearly 1 million employees earn less than £2.50 an hour.” 

Speaking today, he said:

“It is disgraceful that people were forced to live like that.  The minimum wage brought dignity to some of Britain’s poorest people particularly in the south-west.  It established the principle that a decent days’ work should ensure a decent wage enshrined in legislation.  We were told that the minimum wage would cost jobs but, of course, it did not and we have more people in work than ever before in the UK.”

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, added:

“The National Minimum Wage has become universally accepted in British society.  But it’s worth remembering that the Tories bitterly opposed its introduction, and the Lib Dems thought it was dangerous.  Along with measures like tax credits, the minimum wage has made sure that work pays.  Year on year increases have followed, often above inflation.  We need to make sure that these increases continue in order to help people on lower incomes.”   

Roger Berry, Labour’s MP in Kingswood, concluded:

“Shortly after the Labour Party was formed, it began to look at the idea of a minimum wage.  After many, many years of hard-work, we got there in 1999.  Unfortunately, a very small minority of unscrupulous employers try to get away with not paying the minimum wage.  The Government has stepped up its enforcement in recent years so, if you know anyone who’s not getting the minimum wage, please telephone the hotline on 0845 6000 678.”  

[31 July 32008]

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