1909 — Wages had always been regulated by municipalities, but in 1909 the Liberal government's Trade Boards Act created the first national system of wage regulation. The act created four Trade Boards that set minimum wages which varied between industries.

1945 — After the war, the Trade Boards, now known as 'Wages Councils' extend their influence. Formerly only applicable to industries where collective bargaining was weak, they were now broader in scope.

1986 — The Wage Council system had grown during the mid 20th century — by the late 1980s there were 26 councils, covering some two million employees, mainly in low paid jobs like retailing. In 1986 the Conservative government reduces the power of the councils and prevents new ones from being set up, through the Wages Act.

1993 — Wage Councils are abolished, in part due to opposition from trade unions, who preferred to practice collective bargaining

1998 — The Labour government introduces the National Minimum Wage Act. Trade unions, who in 1979 had represented 55% of the workforce, had been capable of negotiating wages through collective bargaining. But by 1999 less than one in four workers were unionised, and a national solution was proposed. The policy is opposed by Conservatives, who vote against its introduction.

1999 — The national minimum wage comes into force. The newly created Low Pay Commission judges the optimal rate to be £3.60 an hour for workers aged 22 and over.

2009 — Conservative backbencher Christopher Chope puts forward a private members' bill that proposes to allow employees to "opt out" of the minimum wage. It is signed by ten other Conservative MPs but does not move past the first reading.

2010 — On 1 October 2010 the wage rises to £5.93, and the age at which one can qualify for the top rate becomes 21 for the first time. A minimum wage for apprentices is also introduced, at £2.50 an hour.