I thank Deputies Owen, Stanton, Rabbitte and Higgins and the other Deputies who contributed to the debate on the Bill. Both the Minister and I agree that we had a fair, open and lengthy debate on the Bill which we believe has been improved as a result of the amendments made to it. The manner is which the House dealt with the Bill is a credit to the democratic process. I also thank the National Minimum Wage Commission and the many other organisations who participated in the intensive consultative process which resulted in publication of this Bill. The process could be described as representing partnership in action. I thank the departmental officials, Maurice Cashell, Ciarán Ó Cuinnegán and Maurice Nagle.
The Bill adopts a balanced approach which achieves its objectives of protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation and which also ensures that the price for that protection will not result in job losses. The Bill will result in tens of thousands of workers, particularly vulnerable groups such as women and young people, receiving a pay rise which will reflect our concern that they should share in the economic benefits achieved in recent years. The Government is fully honouring its commitment to introduce a national minimum wage, the introduction of which marks an important step in recognising the contribution made by the low paid to our economic development. Together with the tax changes which will come into effect next week, the introduction of the minimum wage represents the Government's determination to have a caring as well as a modern economy.