The Prime Minister and Chancellor have reportedly added their voices to calls within the Cabinet for a rise in the national minimum wage.
David Cameron and George Osborne believe a 50p rise in the minimum wage would outfox Labour in the living standards debate, while Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is also believed to be behind a rise, according to reports in The Times and The Guardian.
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, announced in September that he would ask the Low Pay Commission to consider how the minimum wage could be raised at a higher rate than current conditions allowed.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman urged ministers not to use the national minimum wage for political motives.
“I sincerely hope ministers don’t just consider the politics on an issue this serious. There is a reason why there is an independent expert body created to decide what should happen in the minimum wage, it is to take the political manoeuvring out of the equation,” he said. “Certainly when it comes to retail such a sizeable increase in the minimum wage would have a significant and damaging impact.”
ACS surveys have repeatedly shown that retailers struggle to absorb increases in the national minimum wage, with the impact often resulting in a reduction in staff working hours and a delay in retailers’ business investment plans.
The Low Pay Commission is due to make its recommendation on the national minimum wage early this year.