All thanks to a Labour Government.
For as well as the much-publicised and long overdue anti-age laws which came into force this weekend, the National Minimum Wage rose today from £5.05 an hour to £5.35.
The minimum wage will be one of the lasting legacies of the Blair Government - for not even the Tories could reverse it now. And it has made a huge difference to the lives of millions, particularly those living and working in rural economies like Lincolnshire's.
Without a minimum wage,
"the good employers are undercut by the bad, and the bad are undercut by the worst".
Not Blair’s words. But Winston Churchill speaking in 1909.
A minimum wage was one of the demands of the forerunner of the Labour Party, the Labour Representation Committee at the turn of the century.
But it wasn’t Churchill who brought in the minimum wage. And it wasn’t Labour leaders Kier Hardy, Ramsey MacDonald, Clem Atlee, Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan either.
It was Tony Blair.
I remember the Conservative outcry when Labour made a national minimum wage a manifesto pledge for the 1997 General Election.
Tight-arsed Tories like Peter Bone – now MP for Wellingborough – claimed it was an outrage for Government to force employers to pay decent wages. He boasted he paid his staff at a travel agency less than £1 an hour.
The official Tory line in the 1997 General Election was that a minimum wage would destroy a million jobs.
In fact, at the same time as putting a floor under wages, the Blair Government has created more than a million new jobs. Today, there are more people in work in this country than ever before - after a generation of hoplessness in many East Midlands communities.
Across the East Midlands, well over 100,000 new jobs have been created. At the same time, long term youth unemployment has been virtually eradicated.
With four million on the dole in the nineties under a Tory Government, Labour would have been laughed out of court if they had promised in 1997 to eradicate long term youth unemployment.
But that’s exactly what the Blair Government has achieved.