HC Deb 18 December 1984 vol 70 cc152-3
13. Mr. Dixon

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many inspections by the wages councils have taken place in the last 12 months; and how many prosecutions there have been as a result of such inspections.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

In the 12 months ending 31 October, the Wages Inspectorate checked the pay of workers at 43,079 establishments. One of the employers was prosecuted.

Mr. Dixon

Is it not a disgrace that all these inspections resulted in the prosecution of only one employer of the many who are robbing the lowest paid, while in the miners' strike hundreds of miners are arrested, handcuffed and put into gaol, simply for standing on the pavement, or simply for shouting "scabs"?

Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman will realise that the level of prosecution is roughly the same as in the early years of the last Labour Government. I prefer to leave the rest of his question to a different debate.

Mr. Fallon

Does my hon. Friend know that the arrears paid in wages as a result of these visits was £1.8 million, whereas the Wages Inspectorate costs £3 million to run? Would it not be better if, instead of fussing about regulating wages and conditions, we allowed young people in the north to price themselves into work?

Mr. Bottomley

As my hon. Friend knows, the Government are considering the future of the wages councils system. The point about young people will be taken on board, but even my hon. Friend will recognise that not every young person in every region will get a job, at whatever level of wages.

Dr. McDonald

Why are the Government so keen to listen to their hon. Friends who suggest that they should abolish the wages councils on the pretence that this would greatly increase the number of jobs available, particularly for young people? Is the Minister not aware that even if the wages councils were abolished, at best only 8,000 more jobs would be created—a tiny proportion of the number of jobs needed to deal with the 3 million unemployed?

Mr. Bottomley

I fear that the hon. Lady was not listening to my other answers. The position of young people now is rather different from what it was 10 years ago, and the rise in the relative wages of young people has been associated with a reduction in job opportunities for them.