The Blog

The Minimum Wage Is Worthless Unless It's a Living One

We need to make people want to work in this country and as far as I'm concerned we should abolish the National Minimum Wage, and replace it with a National Living Wage.

If you ask me we ought to get rid of the National Minimum Wage. If a man or woman puts in a decent week's graft and still doesn't have enough money to pay for a decent, basic standard of living, then the country that person lives in needs to look long and hard at itself.

What argument can there possibly be against paying people who are prepared to pull their weight, to put in the hours, for not paying them enough to live on? The answer is - there isn't one, but there's a hell of a lot of sound reasons why people should get a fair and decent wage, and they are all economic.

As I said on BBC Radio Kent & also on BBC Radio Three Counties this morning I am 100% in agreement with The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who is also the chairman of the Living Wage Commission, when he says the minimum wage need to be increased, and increased a lot. His definition of a living wage is "an hourly rate of income calculated according to a basic cost of living in the UK and defined as the minimum amount of money needed to enjoy a basic, but socially acceptable standard of living".

The Archbishop has come up with a living wage figure of £7.65 an hour for the UK, with a special rate of £8.80 for London, and the frightening thing is that they are 20% and 40% higher than the current legal minimum in the UK. We're not talking about the Third World here, this is the 6th largest economy in the world.

In our country there are millions who are officially in poverty, and what making it even more shocking is that more than half of those people are in work. For me if you go to work every day you deserve a decent reward, no exceptions! And a society that can't manage to give that to all its people is no society at all.

Bringing in a National Living Wage would cut the numbers of those reliant on benefits - some of whom choose not to work simply because it's the more lucrative option - which seems crazy to me.

This is no namby-pamby argument either; people who are paid well are better, more productive workers. They want to go to work, to work harder and better, and to learn new skills to improve their earning potential and self-esteem even more. It's a vicious circle, and a good one, as wages and feelings of self-worth rise up, so once again does the desire to do better.

To those who say that such a policy will send inflation through the roof, I say that's a load of complete rubbish! Such inflationary doom was predicted with the initial minimum wage, but it never came true. No, the answer is through increased productivity, and a National Living Wage makes great sense, ethically and commercially.

I don't pay the minimum wage at Pimlico Plumbers for two reasons. Firstly, because £6.31 an hour doesn't get anyone anywhere in London. Therefore we've had to pay a version of the living wage for some time - it's a consequence of doing business in the Capital that I accept. Secondly, paying more attracts better and more productive workers who want to get up in the morning to put in a hard day's work for a more than fair day's wage. They are motivated people that I probably, for each one of them, get more productivity from than two low paid workers.

We need to make people want to work in this country and as far as I'm concerned we should abolish the National Minimum Wage, and replace it with a National Living Wage.