A FORMER Southampton MP has been likened to a “19th-century mill owner” for calling for the abolition of the national minimum wage.

Tory, Christopher Chope, who represented Southampton Itchen from 1983 to 1992, when he was ousted by Labour’s John Denham, said that “freely consenting adults” should be able to choose to take jobs that paid less than the £5.73 per hour legal minimum.

Mr Chope, who now represents the Dorset constituency of Christchurch, told the House of Commons that allowing bosses to slash workers’ wages would save small businesses by reducing overheads in the retail and hospitality sectors, where firms were “going down like ninepins”.

Alan Whitehead, Labour MP for Southampton Test, said it was “sad” to hear a former city MP proposing such action: “It was like hearing a 19th-century mill owner telling us why child labour was such a good thing for family budgets,” he added. “The minimum wage has protected and helped millions. Not many people remember now that it was people like Chris Chope who said at the time it came in that it would be the ruin of the economy. It wasn’t then and isn’t now.

“It is very sad to hear these arguments rerun and very worrying when a senior Conservative puts them forward as possible future policy.”