UK's Javid to raise National Living Wage, lower age threshold

Sajid Javid also said the UK was ready to 'draw on the full armoury of economic policy' to ensure post-Brexit stability.

    The opposition Labour Party dismissed Javid's plans as rehashed versions of old ideas [Phil Noble/Reuters]
    The opposition Labour Party dismissed Javid's plans as rehashed versions of old ideas [Phil Noble/Reuters]

    Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has said he would raise the United Kingdom's National Living Wage, a mandatory minimum wage, and expand its reach to cover all workers over the age of 21.

    "Over the next five years, we will make the UK the first major economy in the world to end low pay altogether," Javid told those gathered at the annual Conservative Party conference on Monday.

    The government would set a target to raise the National Living Wage to match two-thirds of median earnings, taking it to 10.50 pounds ($12.93) an hour, based on current forecasts, Javid said, up from the current 8.21 pounds ($10.10) an hour. Javid estimated the move would benefit four million people. 

    The National Living Wage currently applies to those over the age of 25.

    The opposition Labour Party dismissed the pledge as a "pathetic attempt at catch-up," with John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, saying his party would go one step further should they be elected. 

    Speaking on the second day of the conference in Manchester, England Javid reiterated his commitment to public services, which were the focus of his spending review announced earlier this month.

    "For me, like so many others around the country ... public services were my lifelines ... These aren't just numbers on a spreadsheet - they are the beating heart of the country," he said.

    A "new infrastructure revolution" was promised, with Javid saying that previous governments had "failed to invest for the long term". 

    His plans, which Labour has criticised as a rehashing of old ideas, included investment in hospitals and transport.

    Some 220 million pounds ($270.6m) would be allocated to expanding the number of low-emission buses and rolling out new "superbus" networks, Javid said. 

    'We will be ready'

    During his speech, the chancellor reiterated Prime Minister Boris Johnson's promise to pull the UK out of the European Union by the October 31 deadline with or without a deal, saying that preparing to leave without a deal is the responsible thing to do. 

    "I've tasked the Treasury with preparing a comprehensive economic response to support the economy, working closely with the Bank of England," he said. "We're ready to draw on the full armoury of economic policy if needed.

    "Deal or no deal, we will be ready".

    Javid also committed five billion pounds ($6bn) to improving fast broadband access in harder-to-reach parts of the country, and laid out how billions already set aside for road improvements will be spent.

    After nearly a decade of deficit-reducing spending cuts under a Conservative-led government, the recently appointed Javid, a 49-year-old free markets advocate, has promised to rewrite the rules that underpin spending.

    The new mechanism to define spending and borrowing limits has not yet been agreed, but it is expected to allow higher levels of state-funded infrastructure investment.

    "We will be smart and responsible in the way we invest for the long term," he said. "We can do this by taking advantage of incredibly low interest rates and borrowing to build, not borrowing to waste."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies