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CAM'S PLAN FOR MINIMUM WAGE FREEZE; EXCLUSIVE We can't afford to pay more, moan Tories.

Byline: By VINCENT MOSS Political Editor

DAVID Cameron would allow the minimum wage to "melt away" if he became PM, senior Tories have disclosed.

The national set rate for adults was raised by 3.8 per cent from pounds 5.52 to pounds 5.73 an hour on October 1 - the ninth increase since Labour introduced the measure in April 1998 to help millions of people on low wages.

But the Tory leader believes the rate cannot be allowed to continue to rise annually in line with the rate of inflation. Mr Cameron will not scrap the minimum wage, as he's aware such a move would infuriate unions, low-paid workers and politicians.

A senior Tory source revealed: "It would be foolish to continue hiking up the minimum hourly rate by the rate of inflation every year. We need to find ways of helping British business to remain competitive.

"The minimum wage won't be scrapped but it will be allowed to wither on the vine. A series of smaller, more affordable increases will mean it will just melt away."

Labour MPs fear a Tory-led government will be able to engineer "tiny" increases to the hourly rate by changing the personnel on the Low Pay Commission - the body which oversees the increases.

Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson said last night: "The Tories would allow the minimum wage to die out, condemning thousands of workers to a life on poverty pay."

Another Government source said: "There's no doubt that Cameron and his multi-millionaire pals in the City are no friends of the minimum wage. It will just dwindle away under the Tories."

Since the minimum wage was introduced in 1998, it has increased by 59.2 per cent, compared with a rise of just 44.2 per cent in average earnings. Despite grim warnings from the Tories, it has not led to any significant job losses.

Revenue and Customs officials enforce the hourly rate and bosses can be fined up to pounds 5,000 per offence for breaking the rules.

DAVID Cameron won't sack his embattled party chairman Caroline Spelman. The Tory leader will delay a decision on her fate until a sleaze probe is over, Tory sources said. Ms Spelman is facing allegations she used taxpayers-funded parliamentary allowances to pay for her nanny.

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'We must stay competitive'... Cameron
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 5, 2008
Words:388
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