STROUD MP Neil Carmichael has refused to rule out voting for a future freeze or cut in the national minimum wage, despite saying a reduction would be a move in the wrong direction.
Media reports last week suggested the Government might consider reducing the minimum amount that can legally be paid to workers if it is judged to be having a negative impact on the economy.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the Coalition had formally instructed the Low Pay Commission, which sets the minimum wage, to assess its effects on ‘employment and the economy’.
Speaking to the SNJ, Stroud’s Conservative MP Neil Carmichael said he would be ‘reluctant’ to support a reduction but he did not exclude the possibility of voting in favour of one, saying he would have to examine any proposals brought forward by the Government before making up his mind.
"I don’t think a low-wage economy is what we want. A high-wage economy is what we should be aspiring for and that is the overall direction of travel I think we should be going in," he said.
Mr Carmichael also defended the Coalition’s controversial welfare reforms, describing them as fair, and when asked he echoed the work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith’s claim that he could live on £53 a week.
"At the end of the day yes I could, but I would be doing all I could to get a job," he said.
Stroud Labour Party issued a press release condemning the suggestion that the Government was thinking about cutting the minimum wage.
The party’s secretary Miranda Clifton said: "The minimum wage makes work pay and it took millions of people out of crushing poverty, two-thirds of whom were women."
She said greater efforts should be made to encourage employers to pay the living wage of £7.45 an hour, while former Stroud MP and Labour’s parliamentary candidate David Drew said: "I can’t work out why the Government believes taking money out of the pockets of the poorest in society will help the economy.
"We need to be creating more jobs, putting money in people’s pockets to spend so that they can support our local businesses and shops."
Green Party district councillor Martin Whiteside, who represents Thrupp, said he was ‘horrified’ by the proposal, adding that he also supported paying a living wage.
"Our Coalition Government seems to think you make the rich work harder by cutting their taxes and make the poor work harder by cutting their wages. That is not economics, it is waging war on the poor," he said.
Cllr Dennis Andrewartha, who leads the Liberal Democrats at Stroud District Council, said: "The minimum wage is an issue the Lib Dems have fought for over many decades and we supported it when Labour adopted our policy and introduced it.
"I cannot imagine any circumstances which could allow our parliamentary party to support any reduction in the wage. In fact, I would hope that as a nation we would be moving to a living wage."