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Mr. Oppenheim: In the meantime, let us refresh our memory about the Labour Government's record on equality and fairness. Under Labour, while real earnings for the majority stagnated, one group did very well indeed.

Several hon. Members rose --

Mr. Graham: He is a fearty.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. It is fairly obvious that the Minister is not giving way.

Mr. Oppenheim: I am not sure what a fearty is, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it a parliamentary expression or not? I seek your guidance. One group did very well under the last Labour Government--those able to exploit their industrial muscle to secure the largest possible pay increases, while weaker groups, such as pensioners, looked on helplessly as the resulting inflationary binge destroyed their savings.

Let us not forget that, in the 1970s, pensioners formed a far higher proportion of the bottom 10 per cent. of households than they now do, and although two thirds of unemployed people now get a job within six months and can move out of that bottom group, once those pensioners, under Labour, were in that bottom 10 per cent., they were stuck there, watching doomed as Labour's policies ate into their life savings.

We all agree that unemployment is one of the main problems that we face. Regardless of party, we all want to see people enjoying a better standard of living. The question is how to achieve that. We say improve training, boost productivity, so that employers can afford to pay people more on a sustainable basis. Labour says put up wages regardless of productivity. That would simply replace low pay with no pay. Since our economy is so much more productive now than it was in 1979, real pay has risen at all levels in contrast to the record under Labour, when both pay and productivity stagnated. That was the time when Britain risked becoming a low-wage skivvy economy--not under this Government, but under the last Labour Government.

We have heard a great deal of loose talk from Labour Members and there has been much use of the word "obscenity". I shall tell the House what is obscene. It is obscene for politicians to pretend to the less well-off that there is some easy, painless route to higher pay. It is obscene for the Opposition to have spent three years since the last election without telling people at what level they would introduce the minimum wage, what they would do about differentials and whether they would have a differential rate for young workers or for trainees. It is obscene for the Opposition to pretend that the minimum wage in other countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium and France, has not resulted in unemployment levels that are two or three times the UK level. It is obscene for them

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to deny that a minimum wage would cost jobs. I urge the House to support the Government amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question: --

The House divided: Ayes 252, Noes 291.

Division No. 72] [9.58 pm


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Abbott, Ms Diane

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashton, Joe

Austin-Walker, John

Barnes, Harry

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret

Beggs, Roy

Beith, Rt Hon A J

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, Andrew F

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Roger

Betts, Clive

Blair, Rt Hon Tony

Blunkett, David

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)

Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D N

Cann, Jamie

Chidgey, David

Chisholm, Malcolm

Church, Judith

Clapham, Michael

Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Coffey, Ann

Cohen, Harry

Connarty, Michael

Corbett, Robin

Corston, Jean

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)

Denham, John

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

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Dobson, Frank

Dowd, Jim

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eastham, Ken

Enright, Derek

Etherington, Bill

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret

Fatchett, Derek

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foster, Don (Bath)

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galbraith, Sam

Galloway, George

George, Bruce

Gerrard, Neil

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Godman, Dr Norman A

Godsiff, Roger

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Gunnell, John

Hall, Mike

Hanson, David

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Harvey, Nick

Henderson, Doug

Heppell, John

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

Hinchliffe, David

Hodge, Margaret

Hoey, Kate

Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Hoon, Geoffrey

Howarth, George (Knowsley North)

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hoyle, Doug

Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Hutton, John

Illsley, Eric

Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)

Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)

Jamieson, David

Janner, Greville

Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)

Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)

Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)

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