Autumn Statement 2014: Lord Heseltine calls for minimum wage hike

 
Emma Haslett
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Heseltine argued raising the minimum wage will help solve the government's "productivity puzzle" (Source: Getty)

Former Tory deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has called for a hike in minimum wages, saying there is no argument for the government to keep wages low.

At an event held by Management Today magazine at Claridge's on the eve of George Osborne's Autumn Statement, Heseltine said the "great thing about being a government adviser, rather than a minister, is that I can say mad things".

He added that hiking the minimum wage would "raise billions" for the Treasury, and help to solve the government's "productivity puzzle" by working to close the productivity gap.

Coming so close to one of the coalition's final opportunities to make an impression on voters before campaigning for next year's election begins in earnest, the Tory grandee's message packed a strong punch.

Although the government has taken steps to enforce payment of the minimum wage over recent weeks, it has shied away from committing to a hike, arguing that it would put thousands of people out of work. But Heseltine said workers would still be needed, whatever their wage - and by increasing the minimum wage, the government would benefit from higher tax payments.

It emerged earlier this week that Heseltine had overseen efforts to broker devolution of government powers to regions. Last night, he praised the plans, calling them a "revolution".

Devolution [will recreate] the economic powerhouses that made this country what it is

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