What Boris Johnson will say in speech from Universal Credit to levelling up - and will the minimum wage rise?

The speech comes against the backdrop of a supply chain crisis, labour shortage and warning of empty shelves at Christmas

Boris Johnson will deliver a major speech to the Conservative party conference where he will defend his administration cutting Universal Credit and set-out his “levelling-up” agenda.

The Prime Minister will declare that he has the “guts” to reshape the British economy and solve major domestic issues in his speech on Wednesday (6 October).

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Reports also suggest that the Prime Minister is only weeks away from signing-off on a minimum wage rise. The Times said the lowest earners on the so-called national living wage – the minimum wage paid to those over the age of 23 – could receive about £9.42 an hour, an increase of more than 5%.
  • The Prime Minister was pressed on ITV News about a possible hike in the hourly floor rate but left the matter open ended, saying on Tuesday: “We will take guidance from the low pay commission, and we will see where we get to.”
  • Elsewhere, Mr Johnson will defend his restrictions on foreign workers despite consumer and industry concerns, he is expected to tell activists that the Government is “embarking now on the change of direction that has been long overdue in the UK economy”.
  • He will attempt to define his “levelling-up” agenda, arguing that by boosting “left behind” parts of the country it will ease pressure on the “overheating” south-east of England.
  • The Prime Minister will also highlight adult social care, which the Tories have promised to reform using money raised from a manifesto-busting 1.25 percentage-point rise in National Insurance.

What the Prime Minister will say

Social care

“After decades of drift and dither, this reforming government, this can-do government that got Brexit done, is getting the vaccine rollout done and is going to get social care done.”

“We are dealing with the biggest underlying issues of our economy and society.

“The problems that no government has had the guts to tackle before.”

Foreign worker restrictions

“We are not going back to the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration.

“The answer is to control immigration, to allow people of talent to come to this country but not to use immigration as an excuse for failure to invest in people, in skills and in the equipment or machinery they need to do their jobs.”

‘Levelling-up’

“There is no reason why the inhabitants of one part of the country should be geographically fated to be poorer than others.

“Or why people should feel they have to move away from their loved ones or communities to reach their potential.”

Background

Labour has criticised that the Prime Minister’s speech comes on the same day that his Government will carry out its cut to the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift, which was brought in at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Opposition party plans to drive a van around the perimeter of conference venue Manchester Central during Mr Johnson’s speech, displaying a poster urging ministers to “cancel the cut” to the household incomes of millions of people.

As well as the furore around the benefits reduction, the closing speech on Wednesday comes against the backdrop of a supply chain crisis, a labour shortage that has seen military drivers drafted in to deliver petrol, warnings of empty shelves in shops at Christmas and pigs culled due to a lack of abattoir staff.

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