• MPs berated retailers during parliamentary debate
  • B&Q in particular comes under fire
  • Osborne says afterwards retailers were being “shamed into doing right thing”

MPs have attacked retailers during a parliamentary debate on the living wage, with the Chancellor saying they were being “shamed into doing the right thing”. 

George Osborne, speaking on ITV’s The Agenda, following the debate on the national living wage, said retailers that cut staff perks to pay for the costs of the living wage made him “angry”.

He said: “I think that companies these days should be much more careful about their reputation and much more aware of their social responsibility to their workforce as well as to their community.

“I think they are being outed. That is all a way of shaming these companies. They are being shamed into doing the right thing.”

MPs singled out retailers such as B&Q, Morrisons and Waitrose for trimming staff benefits to pay for the increase in wages. Coffee shop chain Caffé Nero cancelled workers’ free lunches last week, in a bid to reduce the cost of the hike.

B&Q has faced particular scrutiny for its policy after an online petition attracted nearly 140,000 signatures.

During the debate, business, innovation and skills minister Nick Boles called for MPs to share with his office instances of profitable companies acting against the spirit of the national living wage so that his department could “use the full force of our office to encourage them to live up to their moral obligations”.

A British Retail Consortium spokesman said the industry is supportive in principle of the living wage, but its effects on employment have been “underestimated”.

He added: “In order for companies to invest in the future, securing jobs for the longer term, reviewing total reward packages will be just one of a number of things retailers will be looking at. This approach is an inescapable consequence of government policy in this area.”