National minimum wage: What the 2010 general election manifestos promise

The main political parties have now published their manifestos for the 2010 general election (which takes place in less than one month’s time, on Thursday 6 May 2010). Here we round up their promises on the national minimum wage.

Update: National minimum wage: What are the new rates for 2010/2011? and National minimum wage: Increases for 2010/2011 effective today Full details of the national minimum wage rates for 2010 and 2011, which came into effect from 1 October 2010.

Labour manifesto

The Labour party manifesto (PDF format, 2.3MB) meanwhile includes a promise that the remit of the Low Pay Commission (LPC) in will include a goal of “the national minimum wage rising at least in line with average earnings” in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The manifesto goes on to promise that the LPC will be accorded additional responsibilities “to report on productivity and career progression in low-skilled, low-paid sectors, bringing together representatives from the business community and social partners.”

Labour’s manifesto promises on the national minimum wage met with a cool reception from the CBI (external website). CBI Deputy Director-General John Cridland commented that “The setting of a national minimum wage is a matter best left to the independent Low Pay Commission.”

The TUC, in contrast, welcomed the manifesto promises (external website). TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said:

While the Commission must continue to make its recommendations on the evidence available, it is good to rule out letting the minimum wage fall behind the growth of average earnings. The minimum wage must never be allowed to ‘wither on the vine’ otherwise low-paying employers will be allowed to shirk their responsibilities and needlessly abandon low-paid workers to poverty pay.

Last month, the Government announced that the national minimum wage adult rate will rise from its current level of £5.80 per hour to £5.93 per hour with effect from 1 October 2010, an increase of 2.2%.

Conservative manifesto

The Conservative party manifesto (PDF format, 77.5MB) (external website) includes only a brief mention of the national minimum wage. It states:

We need to make work pay, so we will keep the minimum wage and work to reduce the very high marginal tax rates faced by many people on low incomes who want to return to work or increase their earnings.

Liberal Democrats’ manifesto

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto (PDF format, 865.9K) (external website) includes a promise to extend the coverage of national minimum wage adult rate to workers aged 16 and over.

Its list of promises on “helping families stay strong” includes the following:

Set the minimum wage at the same level for all workers over 16 (except for those on apprenticeships).

The CBI was extremely critical of these proposals (external website). CBI Deputy Director-General John Cridland said:

Increasing the young person’s minimum wage by over 20% would cause even higher levels of youth unemployment, and this would have long-term scarring effects on people as they move to the world of work. Such a policy is also contrary to the advice of the independent Low Pay Commission.

The national minimum wage adult rate is currently paid to workers aged 22 and over (subscription required). However, the Government announced last month that it will be extended to 21 year-old workers from October 2010.

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