Summer Budget (Supplementary) [3]

Session date: 
July 15, 2015
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.  I am delighted that you think a National Living Wage is an idea whose time has come, but we have to be honest that this is not a genuine Living Wage.  In November last year, GLA Economics suggested in the paperwork around the new rate for the Living Wage that without the tax credits the rate for London would be around £11.65 and so we can already see that it is well short of what the Government is proposing.

I want to go back and just ask you a little bit more about the comments you made about the loss of impetus because this is a genuine worry and, from our side, we will do anything we can to help keep that impetus going.  If I heard you correctly, you stated that we are on the brink of a breakthrough with a major retailer.  This is one of the real issues we have been facing: getting people who employ large numbers of low-paid workers to sign up.  It is absolutely tragic if, because of this announcement, we have lost the impetus and potentially lost a major retailer announcing later in the year that it will adopt the voluntary Living Wage rate, which in London, as you said, is £9.15 but should, as GLA Economics said, be around £11.65 without the tax credits being included.

What are you going to do and what can we do to make sure that this impetus is not lost?  I am genuinely concerned about this.

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for Summer Budget (Supplementary) [3]

Answer for Summer Budget (Supplementary) [3]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I warmly welcome what you are saying there, Fiona.  There are several things we can do.

The first is that there has to be a campaign to remind Londoners what the London Living Wage is.  I have already talked, as you can imagine, to London Citizens, who originated this whole thing, about the impacts of the new policy on our campaign.  Yes, they are worried that the wind is going to be taken out of their sails a bit here, but the answer is to get politicians and get everybody to put this higher up the agenda and talk about it.

As you know, we have the Living Wage mark that you give to companies that pay it.  We should be doing events to publicise and to congratulate the businesses that do pay it.  More and more are still coming forward to do it.  I cannot give you the details off the top of my head now, but I am sure there will be further such events to celebrate the businesses that do pay it and to draw attention to what they are doing.

We should make it absolutely clear to London businesses that it is not going to be good enough just to say that they are paying the National Living Wage.  That does not reflect, as you say, the costs of living in London and we want to step up our campaign.

Fiona Twycross AM:  Good.  Has the Chancellor effectively firebombed the campaign with his use of the terminology, the ‘Living Wage’?  Has he effectively firebombed the London Citizens’ and Living Wage Foundation’s campaigns and the work that people have been doing to encourage employers to take up the London Living Wage?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Did you say ‘firebombed’?

Fiona Twycross AM:  Basically, he has completely undermined the impetus behind the campaign.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Undermined or firebombed in some way?  All right.  To try to subtract some of these metaphors: there is a risk of confusion.  Let me put it that way.  There is a risk of confusion.  I want that confusion to be dispelled.   I want everybody to be going for the London Living Wage. 

This body and politicians across this place have played a big role in the last few years of expanding it.  Kit [Kit Malthouse AM MP] when he was Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise ran endless campaigns to get companies to take it up.  We are still running campaigns to do that and we mean to intensify that work.

Fiona Twycross AM:  As also has been mentioned, the so-called National Living Wage has been linked to the proposition to cut tax credits for working families.  Do you agree with the tax credits being removed before wages are increased significantly?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I noticed that this is something on which the acting Labour Leader, Harriet Harman, has said she is in agreement.  I do not know whether it is the position of Members of the London Assembly to disagree already with their Leader, but she ‑‑

Fiona Twycross AM:  I am asking for your view on this, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I agree with Harriet.  It is time for Labour to wake up and smell the coffee.  She is right and you should listen to her.

Fiona Twycross AM:  We are having a very public internal debate on the issue at the moment.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I do not know whether you agree.  I have told you that I agree with Harriet Harman.  Do you agree with Harriet Harman?

Fiona Twycross AM:  Can you tell me how many of the 3 million families whom the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said will be hit by this change live in London?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I cannot give you that.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  You should know.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I would be happy to write to you with the details.  I do not have that figure off the top of my head.

Fiona Twycross AM:  If you could establish it?  Obviously, we know that previous changes to welfare disproportionately hit Londoners and about half of those affected lived in London.  Can we conclude ‑‑

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Let me give you an example.  The withdrawal of the Child Tax Credit for families with more than two children does not affect those who are already in receipt of the Child Tax Credit.  It would affect families who choose, 18 months from now, to have more than two children.  They have a very clear option.

It seems to me that the Labour Party needs to work out what it really thinks about this.  Harriet Harman has spoken for common sense and has spoken with large numbers of people in this country who think that £23,000 on benefits is quite a lot of money.  I would like to hear, really, from you whether you agree with the Leader of the Labour Party.

Fiona Twycross AM:  I am a third child.  By definition, welfare cuts that affect working families affect children.  Can I just ask you a little bit about child poverty?  Can we talk seriously about child poverty for a moment?

London still has the highest rate of child poverty in the country and we recently heard that the level of child poverty has remained unchanged since you took office.  Given this, can I ask in my concluding question why you have refused my colleague Joanne McCartney’s [Joanne McCartney AM] request that you introduce a child poverty strategy to tackle this very serious issue?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Actually, since I have been Mayor, 400,000 people in this city have been taken out of poverty.  The number of people in poverty has gone down since I have been Mayor.

Fiona Twycross AM:  Will you introduce a child poverty strategy, bearing in mind that we still have child poverty in London?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  As I have just said, since I have been Mayor, 400,000 people have been taken out of poverty - and Onkar [Dr Onkar Sahota AM] has a question later on about health inequalities - which shows that there are some very progressive changes happening in our city.  Poverty is actually diminishing.  Yes, insofar as you want a strategy on child poverty, you shall certainly have it.  We have one already.

Fiona Twycross AM:  Four in ten children living in London are living in poverty.  It is well time in your final year that you introduce a strategy on child poverty.  Thank you.