Business secretary Vince Cable has asked the Low Pay Commission to consider how the national minimum wage may be raised at a higher rate than current conditions allow.

Cable also announced today that he would launch a consultation on zero-hour contracts in order to tackle abuses in the system.

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, he said: “The national minimum wage is a vital safety net in protecting the low paid. However, as signs of an economic recovery start to emerge, we need to do more to make sure that the benefits of  growth are shared fairly across the board.

“I am asking [the Low Pay Commission] to help the government and business understand how we can deal with the issue of low wages in the economy. In particular I have asked them to look at what economic conditions would be needed to allow the national minimum wage to rise by more than current conditions allow.”

But Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said the national minimum wage at current levels was affecting jobs and growth among local shops.

“As the national minimum wage rate has increased, we have seen pay structures squeezed, investment decisions delayed and independent retailers taking on more hours themselves,” he said

“The business secretary should not lose sight of the impact of increased employment costs on the everyday entrepreneurs who can drive the recovery by investing in communities up and down the country.”

Cable added that zero hour contracts were much more widely used than the government had previously thought.

“It is also clear that there are abuses in the system, especially around the issue of exclusivity which some employers are demanding from workers on these contracts,” he said.