Thank you for your e-mail on the national minimum wage.
Liberal Democrats believe that the success of our growing UK economy must be shared among all workers including those on low wages. We’re proud of our achievements with record numbers of people in work; wages pulling ahead of inflation and a more balanced economy emerging.
Helping low paid workers has been a priority for Liberal Democrats in Government. We fought hard to cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes. Going even further than our manifesto pledge to let people earn £10,000 tax free, we have increased the personal allowance to £10,600. We plan to do even more if in government again raising the personal allowance to at least £12,500, cutting taxes for those on low and middle incomes by around a further £400.
We’ve also ensured above inflation increases in the National Minimum Wage (NMW), with the adult rate due to increase by 20p to 6.70 per hour in October this year. In doing so we’ve worked with the Low Pay Commission to ensure that rises in the NMW don’t risk jobs. But we’ve also been clear that we expect the NMW to rise faster than inflation as the economy grows.
Liberal Democrats want to do even more for low paid workers. We want to see further increases in the National Minimum Wage, see more employers who can afford to do so pay at the Living Wage and put the Living Wage on a stronger footing. To achieve this we would again ask the Low Pay Commission to look at ways of raising the National Minimum Wage, without damaging employment opportunities. We would continue with this approach, rather than committing to raise the NMW to any set amount.
While all of us wish to see people paid well for their work, many of the nation's small employers simply would not be able to afford the extra pay burden that a £10 minimum wage would impose upon them. The economy is made up of far more than just international corporations and government public services.
We would also improve enforcement action and clamp down on abuses by employers seeking to avoid paying the minimum wage, reviewing practices such as unpaid internships. It is important that if a person works, that they are fairly and legally paid for their efforts.
To promote the Living Wage, we would establish an independent review to consult on how to set a fair Living Wage across all sectors. We will pay this Living Wage in all central government departments and their agencies from April 2016, and encourage other public sector employers to do likewise. In particular we would work with local government to promote paying a Living Wage.
It is interesting to note that while the SNP are campaigning to end austerity at Westminster, their ministers at Holyrood want to change public workers' contracts to end weekend pay. This led to the recent strikes at the National Museum of Scotland. The change would cut wages of low-paid workers by £7million. Meanwhile last year, the Scottish Government underspent on our national budget by £440million.
If you have any further issues or questions you would like to raise, I will be glad to hear from you.
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Edinburgh North and Leith.