Ed Miliband Sets Out 'New Plan' For Britain With £8 Minimum Wage Pledge

Ed Miliband Promises £8 Minimum Wage

Ed Miliband has kick-started Labour's final conference before the general election with a pledge to hike the minimum wage to at least £8.

The party leader said the rise over the next parliament - from the £6.50 level it will hit next month - was needed to stop ordinary workers being left behind.

The increase would add around £3,000 a year to the pay packets of those earning the minimum wage.

The announcement by Mr Miliband, in interviews with the Sunday Mirror and Observer, is thought to be the first of a series of interventions during the gathering in Manchester to focus on stagnating living standards under the coalition.

Striking a pose: Labour leader Ed Miliband and his wife Justine before the Labour Party's annual conference

The Labour leader has already declared that his focus is now fully back on the election contest after the decisive No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

However, he is likely to face more pressure over David Cameron's demand for a solution to the so-called West Lothian Question - the ability of Scots MPs to vote on measures that only affect England.

The Prime Minister has sought to tether reforms at Westminster with the extra devolution promised to Scotland during the referendum campaign.

But Labour, which has around 40 MPs north of the border, insists the issues should be addressed separately.

It has called for a constitutional convention to consider the English situation over a number of years.

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, Mr Miliband said: "Too many working people have made big sacrifices but in this recovery they're not seeing the rewards for their hard work because, under the Tories' failing plan, the recovery is benefiting a privileged few far more than most families.

"One in five of the men and women employed in Britain today do the hours, make their contribution, but find themselves on low pay.

"But if you work hard, you should be able to bring up your family with dignity."

Labour leader Ed Miliband and his wife Justine at their hotel in Manchester ahead of the Labour Party's annual conference in the city

Mr Miliband added: "This week Labour's Plan for Britain's Future will show how we can change and how we can become a country that rewards hard work once again. Because Labour is the party of hard work, fairly paid."

The planned increase, which would affect around 1.4 million jobs, would be introduced in annual stages by the Low Pay Commission before October 2019.

The promised rate is said to be similar to that in force in Australia and EU countries such as Belgium and Germany, but still lower than in France and New Zealand.

Mr Miliband attacked Mr Cameron for calling for "English votes for English laws" immediately after the Scottish referendum result.

"He didn't talk to me before he made his announcement. I don't think he rose to the moment," he said. "Constitutional change has got to be done by the people, not in the corridors of Westminster."

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt and shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn are among those addressing Labour activists tomorrow.

Earlier today equalities minister Gloria De Piero announced proposals to force large firms to publish the average salary of men and women across every level of their organisation as part of efforts to deliver equal pay.

Meanwhile, Deputy Leader Harriet Harman delivered an impassioned defence of all-women shortlists, insisting no other measures were effective in promoting gender balance in parliament.

The party also revealed plans to set up New Homes Corporations to boost the number of properties being built.

The corporations could take responsibility for areas prioritised for development, and set out the timetable over which construction will take place.

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Labour annual conference 2014

Ed Miliband Does Blue Steel At The Labour Conference

In an interview with the Guardian, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the party will seek to fight the election on the twin issues of stagnant living standards and safeguarding the NHS.

But he stressed that Labour would only pursue changes that are "credible and costed", ruling out free universal child care in the next parliament, as well as free bus passes for 16- to 18-year-olds.

Labour would set up New Homes Corporations to increase the number of properties being built.

The corporations will take responsibility for areas prioritised for development, and set out the timetable over which construction will take place.

The plan is one of the recommendations of the commission chaired by Sir Michael Lyons which Labour established to tackle the housing shortage.

The corporations will be set up by local authorities, working with private sector developers and housing associations.

Labour claims the policy will tackle the problem of developers holding back land because they do not have certainty it will be built on, give better strategic planning and increase competition in house building.

Mr Miliband's party will also commit to cutting business rates for small firms in 2015 if they win the election, funded by not going ahead with the Government's plan to cut corporation tax.

A Tory spokesman dismissed the housing plan as "an empty promise from Ed Miliband".

He said: "The last Labour government also promised to build over 200,000 homes a year - but in reality housebuilding collapsed to its lowest level since the 1920s. Labour left our housing market and economy on its knees - and would do it all over again."

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