HC Deb 02 August 1951 vol 491 cc1702-24

3.45 p.m.

Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I do not propose this afternoon to argue the merits of equal pay. The principle has been accepted by all the political parties in the country. I prefer to confine myself to dealing with the Chancellor's speech when he rejected the claim for equal pay put forward by the Civil Service. His statement on that matter was both unfair and inaccurate and has caused great resentment and bitterness among the Civil Service, the local government service and. I notice from Press reports, the T.U.C. itself.

I do not propose to discuss his statement from the point of view of the gradual scheme which has been put forward to the Chancellor by the Civil Service. I prefer to deal with the implications of the full scheme on the estimated cost of£25 million a year, because I believe the case can stand on that basis and it does not complicate the issue if I deal with it in that way. I shall deal with the Chancellor's speech from the point of view of the so-called inflationary tendencies, from the point of view of repercussions and from the point of view of the effect on the married community. That more or less covers the reasons for the Chancellor's rejection of the scheme.

I begin with the first point relating to the cost and the inflationary tendencies. I observe that between 1946 and 1950 wages in this country have risen by£1,790 million per annum. I also observe that in the first six months of this year the weekly aggregate increase amounts to£2,700,000, running at an annual rate of£1,350 million.

Sir Arthur Salter (Ormskirk)

For the sake of the accuracy of the record, I believe my hon. Friend gave as the total wages earned in a year what was really the increase in the wages. The figure was much too small for the actual wages.

Miss Ward

I am sorry if I gave that impression to my right hon. Friend. I certainly meant the wage increase. If one looks at these very considerable figures the sum of£25 million is a very small amount to put into operation a principle which has been accepted as just and fair.

I want to come to my next point. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, really based his claim on evidence that had been submitted to the Royal Commission. He made very effective use of one particular quotation. On this question of higher cost, I want to quote the evidence of the Treasury to the Royal Commission. These are not my own words, but the evidence given to the Royal Commission. Under the heading "The Civil Service," paragraph 420, it is stated: …as in other fields, equal pay would entail as an economic consequence, a transfer of purchasing power, in this case from the general body of taxpayers to the special class of women civil servants. The amounts so transferred would be, of course, not the gross cost of equal pay but that cost less the fraction of it recoverable by taxation from the women civil servants themselves. In the Budget, the Chancellor—and everyone was glad of it—made a contribution in relief of taxation to married families amounting to£32 million. If we can afford to put£32 million on to the national expenditure for a certain section of the community, then I believe that it ought to be possible to accept the implementation of the principle on which we have all taken a stand. That is all that I have to say with regard to the cost of the implementation of equal pay.

Now I return to the repercussions, with which the Chancellor made great play. He allowed us to believe that if the Civil Service claim alone was met, it would have a very great effect over a very wide field. I came to the conclusion, after listening to the Chancellor, that he had not either read the evidence or examined the case as it ought to have been examined by a responsible Chancellor of the Exchequer. I give, again, the evidence which the Treasury, in the first instance, gave to the Royal Commission. That was what they said in Appendix II paragraph 18: The Treasury believe the Commission will find that outside the public services men and women are normally segregated in employment, and 'equal work' is not common. Therefore, a decision that equal pay must be given for equal work would be unlikely to have much effect on wages outside the public services, and might indeed well have the effect of increasing the segregation of men and women, so that wages could find their market level unhampered by this artificial principle. The equal pay received by men and women in the public services would then be an anomaly in the general wages system, and could not provide justification for a substantial extension of the family allowance scheme. Curiously enough, I find that employers, who certainly have not been forthcoming in supporting the principle of equal pay, gave this very interesting piece of evidence in paragraph 142: As the Trades Union Congress have put it in evidence, 'apart from the special circumstances which arise in war-time, there has been a fairly, clear and well-established demarcation between men's and women's work throughout the greater part of manufacturing industry.' The British Employers' Confederation expressed the same view when they said: 'the field in which men and women are employed in precisely the same work and under identical conditions is very limited.' Therefore it is fair to argue that if one looks at the evidence which was given before the Royal Commission, equal pay in the public services was regarded as being of assistance, rather than a hindrance, to industry. I am completely at a loss to understand why the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have developed his argument as he did.

There is one other point I want to make. When the pressure of the British Medical Association on the Government in relation to doctors had its effect on the Government, and inside the Civil Service the medical profession attained equal pay as between men and women, the field of equality within the Civil Service was not extended. In fact, the granting of equal pay to the doctors had little effect, for, to take a comparable service—that of the legal profession—the women. employed on legal work inside the Civil Service still get the lower rate. Therefore, it was quite inaccurate to argue that necessarily wide repercussions would follow from the acceptance of the principle.

My third point, which, I agree, is very important, is the question of the Chancellor's statement on the effect which the granting of equal pay would have upon the married community. The Chancellor made it very clear that this was a major point, and, of course, he was quite right. This is what he said: The majority of men employees have families dependent upon them; the majority of women employees have not. The introduction of equal pay would mean that the standard of living of a married man with a wife and children to support would compare unfavourably with that of an unmarried woman with no dependants. This would give rise to demands for much larger family allowances, either by an extension of the national scheme or through special arrangements in particular occupations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June. 1951; Vol. 489, c. 532.] The Chancellor, of course, was not quite accurate, because the majority of workers do not have dependent children.

Again, I wish to quote from the evidence before the Royal Commission. This is a very important point and it comes from paragraph 405: There can be no doubt that in the case of a man with a wife and two or three children the standard of living under equal pay would be definitely lower than that of the spinster. I notice that even before the Royal Commission, the Treasury did not insert "or bachelor." The whole of the emphasis is put upon the women, and that is one of the main causes of general resentment. If we were to argue on a question of married versus single, even I could put up a very good argument. But the fact that the argument is aways on the married versus the spinster—that, of course, very often includes also the widow—with no mention whatever of the bachelor, arouses very great resentment and is not an accurate picture of the situation.

I wondered, when I heard the Chancellor's statement, whether he is now, in order to relieve the pressure upon the cost of living, going to make an attack on the wages of single men. That would be an attack which would be resisted by my party. I am bound to say that if the Chancellor places his argument entirely on the case of the spinster and the widow, the only logical conclusion is that he is now going to launch a campaign to bring bachelors' wages into line with those of spinsters and widows. To continue the evidence before the Royal Commission: On the other hand, we must not ignore the more favourable position of the considerable body of men who, at any time, are not married or who, being married, have no dependent children. At income levels at which the wife is an 'asset' rather than a dependant, a man who is married but without dependent children may enjoy a definite financial advantage over the spinster earning 20 per cent. less than himself; and this advantage would probably in many cases not be altogether lost under equal pay. I then want to quote what was the inaccuracy in the statement of the Chancellor. He assumed that the majority of workers had dependent children, but it will be recalled that of some 30 per cent. of employed men 20 per cent. are not married and that of married men under 65, only just over a half have dependent children. That means that roughly 40 per cent. of men have dependent children. 30 per cent. are married without dependent children, and 30 per cent. are unmarried. So, in fact, the problem of the man married and with a family is 40 per cent. in relation to 60 per cent. and the fairer figure for the Chancellor to have given would have been the 40 per cent. and the majority.

I am bound to say that I think the Chancellor was inclined to try to get his very difficult case across—because we all noticed how uncomfortable he was—by trying to drive a wedge between the married and the single.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Douglas Jay)

The hon. Lady is accusing the Chancellor of inaccuracy, or I would not have intervened, but I think that on this point she is quoting him rather inaccurately. He did not say that the majority of men had children dependent on them. He said that the majority of men employees have families dependent upon them.

Miss Ward

Wait a moment. Let us get it right: The majority of men employees have families dependent upon them.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Miss Ward

But wait a moment; in reply to the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) he went on to quote: The main significant effect of the change to equal pay would be to leave the married man with a family, whose case is in any event not notably easy, economically worse off than any other member of the community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June, 1951; Vol. 489, c. 532–534.] So, in fact, the impression he created—and he is very keen on talking about psychology—was that the married man with a family was going to be very much worse off, where, in effect, the evidence of the Royal Commission was that in this relatively limited field a married man with two or three children might find himself worse off. We all agree, everyone of us, that it is very right and proper that we should do everything we can in this country to ease the position of the married man with a family. I think the country have accepted that very faithfully.

I want to point out again what we have done in support of those people. It is not usual for me to speak with so many notes, but on this issue I think it most important. Through our financial policy, in relation to married men and their families, we disregard, for taxation purposes,£718 million. That, of course, is gross income. It is very difficult to find, in effect, how much of that amount the Treasury loses, but we disregard, for the married men, in order to help them and their families,£718 million. In respect of children we disregard£380 million, and in respect of married women's earnings we disregard£99 million.

Not only does the married man get the benefit of his own Income Tax relief but, if she is working, his wife also gets relief on her own account. That is an important matter. In addition, this is what the Budget provides annually to the 40 per cent, of married men with families: for education,£251 million; for family allowances,£63 million; for meals in schools,£32,500,000; for milk in schools,£8 million; and for housing subsidies,£60 million. Houses, in the main, rightly go to married men with families.

In other words, we make a very large contribution. I feel a little regretful that the Government should have fallen into the error of always assuming that spinsters and widows are in the position that they are in for certain reasons—the spinsters either by choice or because they could not marry—when, in many cases, both spinsters and widows lost their men in either the First or the Second World War so that other people might live in happiness and freedom to rear their families, which of course, is for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

The Chancellor would be well advised to cease driving this wedge, because it has repercussions in the country. Many people's postbags indicate the effect of the Chancellor's statement disregarding the privileged position of bachelors and laying the whole of his attack on spinsters. This has made the unmarried women of the community and the widows wonder whether the Government are interested in their problems at all.

That, in the main, is my answer to the Chancellor's speech. He had not in fact examined the evidence before the Royal Commission. He certainly gave us an inaccurate picture of the repercussions and, as far as I can see, he did no service towards creating a feeling of unity in the country, a feeling that we are all working together for justice irrespective of whether we are married or single.

I should like to take one other point which I think is of great importance. Over the years the justice of the cause of equal pay has made its inroads into wages and salaries both in public and in private service. There is no doubt about that. Even since this Government came into power, we have had equal pay in the hospital services for technical and administrative officers. We have had a negotiated wage agreement in the British Electricity undertaking. I gather that that is also the case with the Metropolitan Water Board, and now we have equal pay in the transport service, so far as conductresses are concerned, because the men would not agree to women conductors unless there was equal pay. It is always the emphasis on expediency rather than on justice. This has been a definite inroad into the Government's attempt to stop the introduction of equal pay, but there is something even more interesting than that.

I am sorry to have to raise a personal case, because I do not like doing 'so. Dame Evelyn Sharp, who is a Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Planning, without any alteration in administration or of the regulations, was suddenly permitted to come within the category of the payment of the man's rate, and the Government then —and this, of course, is the Chancellor's own story, because it was after Dame Evelyn Sharp's appointment that this happened so carefully drew the regulations that they made only the first and second jobs in the major Government Departments jobs in which equal pay was to be applicable, and only the first job in the minor Government Departments, thereby putting a ring round Dame Evelyn Sharp, and eliminating any other woman.

We all admire Dame Evelyn for her ability, and we are delighted that she has received this signal honour, but it is not fair, because the No. 2 appointment in the Ministry of Pensions—and I sometimes wonder whether the Ministry of Pensions is not a more important Department than the old Ministry of Town and Country Planning—the second job is held by Dame Marjorie Cox, who is Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Pensions, and who has spent in that Department nearly all her Civil Service life. She has been denied by the Chancellor the rate for the job. Dame Marjorie, naturally, being a good civil servant, kept silent, and I have no doubt that she sent a note of congratulation to Dame Evelyn.

There are, connected with the Ministry of Pensions, a large number of voluntary workers through the organisations which are in very close touch with the Ministry of Pensions, and many members of these voluntary organisations, who know the work which Dame Marjorie has done in the Ministry of Pensions, have written to me asking why the Chancellor should have made this artificial delineation.

I do not know, but it is very significant —and very funny things can happen in Government Departments—that when Dame Evelyn's first salary came to be paid after the arrangements had been made, she still did not receive the man's rate. That was subsequently put right, and, as the Chancellor himself explained in a letter to me, it was a slip, because the accounts department of the Ministry of Local Government and Planning had not been informed of the change in the position, so far as Dame Evelyn was concerned.

I think that is a monstrous position for the Government to have taken up. It is unfair, it is discouraging and it is unjust, and I am very glad to have had this chance of putting that position clearly on the record.

Now I want to come to another point, and, again, I am very sorry to have to raise it here. The House of Commons is run on the basis of equal pay. Both Ministers and hon. Members have equal pay. The Press Gallery has equal pay, but there is one woman on the HANSARD staff in the Gallery, Mrs. Winder, who has not got equal pay, in spite of the fact that Mr. Speaker has made a strong recommendation to the Treasury that she should receive equal pay. He has made that recommendation twice, and on both occasions the Chancellor has turned it down.

It has been put to me as nicely as possible that it might be very distasteful to Mrs. Winder if I were to raise her case in the House of Commons. But fortunately we still have women and men in the country who can stand up for principle, and I have got Mrs. Winder's permission to draw the attention of the House to what I consider is an intolerable constitutional position, in which we have servants of the House who have no protection whatever refused a salary which has been specifically recommended by Mr. Speaker.

When I hear Ministers of the Crown get up and talk about how employers ought to behave and what the responsibilities of negotiating machinery ought to be, and the like, and I think that the Chancellor has on his own initiative—a little dictator —repudiated Mr. Speaker's recommendation, and that there is no other means of making a protest except for me to take this rather difficult line and raise the matter in the House of Commons, I find myself really wondering whether we in this country understand what fighting for principle really means.

I want to know what authority the Chancellor has over Mr. Speaker. I understood that Mr. Speaker had the right to protect minorities. Mrs. Winder is the only woman HANSARD writer. I also want to know what control the House of Commons has over its own finance. I shall not raise the question of our Messengers here, but I also want to put on record that I think that Mr. Speaker's recommendation should stand against the Chancellor. I hope that in future some action will be taken to remedy the action of a dictator over Mr. Speaker.

I will not take up any more time of the House today other than to say that the Chancellor got up and repudiated the claim of the Civil Servants for equal pay, and that after all the professions of equality, the demand for equal sacrifices for everyone and fair shares for all, I really hope that the Chancellor will reconsider his decision. If he believes, as is the policy of his party, the policy of the Conservative Party and the policy of the Liberal Party, that this claim for equal pay is sound, practical and just, I hope that he will reconsider the decision.

I hope he will stand for what we have always believed in this country to be right—that the rate for the job should run, and that if we have to make, as needed, fit and proper contributions in respect of sections of the community such as our married men, their wives and families, that should be done by the nation as a whole, that the burden should be borne by the nation as a whole, and that we should cease discriminating against women who have great difficulty in speaking up for themselves.

4.19 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) said a moment ago, "Thank goodness we still have men and women who will stick up for principle." I am sure that all Members will agree that the hon. Lady is one of them. She has made a very courageous speech this afternoon, and we are all grateful to her for having raised this matter, albeit in the last hour of the last day of a very long and exhausting Session. Some of us, I am sure, would have preferred a more ample opportunity for discussing the Chancellor's reply of 20th June and of having the advantage of more hon. and right hon. Members present in the Chamber to discuss what is so clearly an important matter affecting conditions in our public services.

I must at once declare that I am, and have been for many years, a member of the Staff Side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council, and that is my special interest in this matter apart from its general political and social significance. In that capacity I have, unfortunately, had the experience of hearing at least half a dozen Chancellors accept the principle of equal pay and then explain why they could do nothing about it, and we have recently had another experience of that kind. I am not going to make any party point in the remarks that I have to make, because both sides of the House are equally to blame.

Miss Ward

Hear, hear.

Mr. Houghton

Labour Governments, Conservative Governments and Coalition Governments have accepted the principle of equal pay, but have made excuses for not even beginning to apply it in practice. I suppose that the Liberal Party in the House is the only one with a clean sheet and a clear conscience, because although it has accepted the principle of equal pay, its electoral misfortunes have deprived it of the opportunity of postponing its practical application. We must, therefore, absolve them from any responsibility in the criticisms that we make this afternoon.

It would be inconsiderate of me to detain the House very long because I have, as I have just explained, other opportunities of expressing my point of view to Chancellors and others on this question, and other hon. Members have, at considerable inconvenience, arranged to be present this afternoon and I am anxious that they should be able to follow me in this debate. What I have to say this afternoon is really contained in Motion No. 85 which is on the Order Paper in my name and in the names of about 70 other hon. Members of all parties, including, I may say, the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth. As an example of her courage she was, I believe, the first hon. Member on the opposite side of the House to append her signature to a Motion put down by a Member on this side of the House, and I very much appreciate that action on her part.

Many hon. Members have had their attention drawn to this Motion in the course of correspondence from their constituents in the last few weeks. I apologise for any exceptional burden that may have been placed on hon. Members recently because of the terms of the Motion that I put down, but this is what my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary has to answer this afternoon: That…further delay in making a start with the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work for women in the public services will weaken the authority of Parliament and undermine public confidence in the repeated affirmations by this House of the acceptance of the principle of equal pay made during the past thirty years. We will ignore the disappointing past history of this matter and come to what is really the starting point of the present phase of this question of equal pay in the public services. On 24th February, 1948, Sir Stafford Cripps, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a statement to a representative body of civil servants who met him to discuss this matter. It was published by the Civil Service at the time, so I am not quoting from a document which is in any sense confidential. He said: I can say this quite definitely so far as I am concerned that if the economic situation alters for the better—that is to say, if the stringency of the White Paper can be removed "— that was the White Paper on wages, prices and costs— as soon as that situation arises I am perfectly prepared to re-discuss this matter with you because I believe in this personally and I always have, and it is a thing I would like to do and like to accomplish, and I think it is quite time some definite step was taken to initiate it. He added: If there is, in fact, an alleviation of the situation, and as a result of that one does not have to be so forcible as regards the imposition of these restrictions, then, of course, there is a different set of circumstances altogether. If the economic situation improves so that the White Paper policy does not have to be applied either at all or with the same rigidity, I am prepared to discuss this matter with you again and to see whether we cannot do something about it. That is what the Civil Service relied on when the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave those assurances on equal pay in February, 1948. Naturally, following upon the period of aggravated economic difficulty and devaluation, the rigidity of the White Paper policy was enforced, and no one in the Civil Service thought to trouble the Chancellor of the Exchequer during those difficult times on the question of equal pay.

It was left from that day until the early days of January this year—long after there had been a relaxation of the rigidity of the enforcement of the policy in the White Paper. As the hon. Lady has mentioned, many millions of pounds in increases in wages were paid out between the relaxation of the rigid policy of wage restraint and the date upon which the representation of the Civil Service was made to the Chancellor.

Then a further approach was made to him and the question was asked, "Can you now begin to do something about it?" My right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer took five months to reply. There are some proposals which are made in one's life in which, if one has to wait for anything like five months for a reply, one's heart sinks. One's hopes of getting any favourable reply fade away. But when a proposal is made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and five months pass in waiting for a reply, hopes rise as time passes, rather than the reverse. Thus, the disappointment from the nature of his reply was aggravated by the length of time he took to give it and there is no doubt, as the hon. Lady has said, that much disappointment has been accompanied by much indignation in the Civil Service.

I shall not take more than two minutes longer. The crux of this issue is that when Sir Stafford Cripps on behalf of His Majesty's Government—this Government —gave those assurances in 1948 he did not introduce these many matters which my right hon. Friend introduced in giving his unfavourable reply in the House on 20th June, and to which the hon. Lady has devoted such a large part of her speech, ably, if I may say so.

These were the question of raising industrial costs, the suggestion that it would necessitate an appreciable increase in family allowances, that it would involve very heavy cost to the public funds and that there would be a very considerable burden on industry. The issue raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1948 was the one I have read out to the House; and, naturally, the Civil Service expected, when they put this matter before my right hon. Friend early this year, that it would be dealt with on this basis. Instead, as the hon. Lady has mentioned, matters were introduced of such a nature that they appeared to begin to challenge the acceptance of the principle itself.

That is what created such disturbance in the Civil Service. Delay itself, if it goes on too long—and it has gone on for 30 years—might imperil the validity and the sincerity of the acceptance of the principle, but when, added to delay, there is the beginning of an argument that equal pay as a principle is probably doubtful, then, naturally, there is a good deal of resentment that the whole issue has been thrown into the melting pot. I do say to my hon. Friend that it is no good giving excuse after excuse for not doing something about the principle, if there is to be any confidence left in the acceptance of it. The partial beginning of the application of this principle would have required a modest expenditure only, and it would have had the minimum repercussions outside.

The hon. Lady has drawn our attention to the very much more modified statement on these matters made by the Royal Commission appointed to go into this matter, and has also drawn attention to the marked contrast between the evidence given by the Treasury to the Royal Commission four or five years ago and the gloomy nature of the references that are now made to the very same matters upon which they gave very different evidence indeed in 1945. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to assure the House that the door is not closed and that further consideration to this matter will be given, so that when we come back in the autumn a modified and more favourable statement will be able to be made on behalf of the Government.

4.31 p.m.

Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)

It falls to all of us to observe economy in time and words today, so I shall concentrate upon three or four of the points I want to make. First, I should like to explain to the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) that I did not support his Motion, not because I did not agree with its content, but because I did not feel that he had the slightest hope of its ever being called, and I thought that it would be wiser for me to support my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward), in her request that she should be allowed to raise this matter today.

I am very glad that my analysis of the probabilities has proved to be correct. I want to wish her luck in the campaign which she and her friends are waging, and to assure her that I, at any rate, support her 100 per cent. If she does not meet with the success for which she hopes in the lifetime of this Parliament, I hope that she will continue her campaign in the lifetime of the next Parliament, whatever its political complexion; and, irrespective of its political complexion, I pledge my support to her.

However, I want to make a qualification. It is not a qualification of my support, but it is, nevertheless, a qualification. Whenever I have discussed this matter with the champions of equal pay for equal work I have always made this point: I think that, in the long run, some of them, if they get their way, will rue it, because I feel that the time may come, when industry is free to choose between a man and a woman to do the same job and has to pay the same rate, when the bias will be towards the man. When that situation arises women and the champions of equal pay may regret it. Subject to that proviso, and having pointed out that proviso, I pledge my support wholeheartedly.

I want to support my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth in what she said about the lack of validity in the arguments that have been used anent the position of the single woman vis-à-vis the married man. I cannot see that such an argument has any place whatever in any discussion upon the wage structure. It must be admitted, of course, that the responsibilities of a married man with a family—and I cannot see much difference between a married man with a family and a married man with children—need special care, but they are given special care within our taxation structure, and it does not seem to me that there is any argument whatever that they should also be cared for within the wages structure.

If such an argument is held then I ask those who hold it to be logical, and to carry it to its logical conclusion, which is this: if we are to have variations within our wages structure in accordance with the domestic responsibilities of the employed, we must have one wage for a single man, one for a married man with no children, one for a married man with one child, one for a married man with two children, and so on. Obviously, that is complete nonsense.

This argument has no validity whatever. If it is felt that such arguments must be considered at all, then they must be considered within the range of the social services and the structure of our taxation system, not within our wages structure. The only thing that matters there is that there should be equal pay for equal work. It is a moral argument against which I can see no counter-argument except that of expediency. I am particularly interested in education. With a male school teacher in one classroom teaching a class of pupils and a female school teacher in the next classroom of the same school teaching another class of pupils, possibly with greater success, how can it be argued that the woman should be paid only 80 per cent. of the salary of the man. I can see no moral argument for that. Obviously, they should have equal pay for equal work.

This subject has been argued again and again, and this afternoon there is no time to go over all the arguments, so I will leave the matter there, adding only two points, one moral and one political. The moral point is this. We praised women all of us, myself included—for their service to the nation in time of war. Their service to the nation then was not dependent upon whether they were married or single. That did not matter a rap. Our praise for them was not qualified according to whether they were married or single, so let our praise be shown to be not merely lip-service; let them have what is their just and due reward, and that is a successful conclusion to the campaign they have been waging for 30 years, which has complete moral justification.

The other point is, I admit quite frankly, political, and it is one which I am quite prepared to use in a just cause. Last week I heard a right hon. Gentleman opposite say that we on this side of the House had talked about things while the Socialist Party had done them. He was referring to the increased retirement pensions for members of the Forces. Here is another opportunity for His Majesty's Government to make that boast if they wish.

For 30 years Governments have been talking about this. Let the Socialist Government do it and provide themselves with another argument in the forthcoming election. But let them beware that if they do not it will be an argument against them, and an opportunity for the next Government, which, in my opinion, will be a Tory Government, to do it and to have the credit for themselves. If no other argument appeals to the Financial Secretary I hope that the one of political expediency will.

4.38 p.m.

Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton, Itchen)

The teachers of this country were extremely disappointed when the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently announced that he was unable to give effect to the principle of equal pay in the Civil Service. As long ago as 1919, the chief teachers' organisation of this country, the National Union of Teachers, held a referendum of its members on the question of equal pay, and the result of that referendum was a big majority in favour of equal pay for men and women teachers. It is perhaps significant to note that a good many of those who voted in that referendum were men still serving overseas as soldiers and sailors in His Majesty's Forces.

Since 1919, at every annual conference of the National Union of Teachers the question of equal pay for men and women has been raised, and at every annual conference the principle has been accepted by an overwhelming majority—I might almost say nemine contradicente. It is a very large conference, comprising over 2,000 delegates, the majority of whom are men, yet year after year that principle has been adopted by an overwhelming majority.

Every time, since 1919, that the teachers' representatives have gone to the Burnham Committee to negotiate salary scales the leader of the teachers' representatives has, at the very commencement of the salary negotiations, asked that the salary scales should be based upon equal pay for men and women teachers. On every occasion during these negotiations, of which there have been a number since 1919—and I myself took part in two salary negotiations as a member of the Burnham Committee in 1944 and 1948—the leader of the Authorities' Panel has replied to the demand of the leader of the Teachers' Panel for the principal of equal pay to be recognised by the local education authorities: "The Government do not recognise the principle of equal pay. The Government do not give equal pay to their civil servants. Therefore, we in the local authorities cannot do what the Government are not doing. If we agree to equal pay for men and women teachers, His Majesty's Government must first set the example." That is why teachers throughout the country were so disappointed when the Chancellor said that he could not apply the principle to men and women in the Civil Service.

So far as women teachers are concerned, there is an overwhelming case for equal pay. Men and women go to the same or similar colleges and universities. They take the same degrees or the same certificate: they both have jobs of equal responsibility. It is just as big a responsibility to teach girls as it is to teach boys. In fact, the majority of women class teachers are teaching both boys and girls in mixed classes and a considerable minority of the men class teachers are teaching girls with boys also in mixed classes. Therefore, so far as their work is concerned, men and women teachers are completely interchangeable.

Whatever canon may be adopted, on every count there is an overwhelming case for equal pay for men and women teachers, and the announcement of the Chancellor a few weeks' ago seems to have postponed the adoption of that desirable principle for a considerable time. This difference in pay between men and women teachers gives rise to a number of fairly considerable anomalies. For example, in many mixed schools the head is a woman, and in that case she does not get so high a salary as the deputy head who is, in most cases, a man. It is also keenly felt by women teachers that we are behind other nations in this recognition. It is recognised in France, and the French men teachers do not complain because the women get equal pay. It is recognised in most of the States of the United States of America.

The Chancellor says that he agrees with the principle of equal pay and I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will also say that he agrees with it. We all agree with the principle on both sides of the House, and in all three parties, but the Chancellor says that he cannot implement it because it would have inflationary effects. Would it not be possible to implement it by degrees? Would it not be possible to give to the women civil servants and the women teachers the same increments as the men receive while they are on the incremental portion of the scales? Could they not proceed to their maximum by the same increments of the men and then, when they arrive at their maximum, proceed by further increments to the present men's maximum? It would mean that the principle would be implemented, but it would take a number of years to do that—

Mr. Price


Mr. Morley

A little less now, because the increments are a bit bigger. I think it would take 14 years to implement. It must also be remembered that on those increased increments most of the women receiving them would be paying Income Tax at the rate of 9s. 6d. in the£, so nearly half would go back to the Treasury. Surely the inflationary effect would be very small indeed if equal pay were given in that way. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give that suggestion sympathetic consideration.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Black (Wimbledon)

I promise to be extremely brief, and I only want to raise one narrow point- the cost to the public purse of implementing the policy of equal pay. The Chancellor, in his statement, said that the cost of the full implementation would be£25 million a year. The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley), put a point I wanted to make, that the amount must be reduced by Income Tax. I would remind the House that it would be reduced by at least one-third, so that the net cost would not be more than£17 million a year.

If the policy were implemented over a period of six years, in equal stages, that would be rather less than£3 million a year. Is the Financial Secretary to the Treasury going to tell us that with a national expenditure of£4,197 million a year during the current financial year, it would be utterly impossible to increase that expenditure in a single year by rather less than£3 million? That is really what the problem resolves itself into when the figures are looked at and considered simply as a cold financial problem.

4.47 p.m.

Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow, East)

I do not propose to take more than three minutes. I want to ask my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary if he will answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), does the recent estimate by the Chancellor of the Exchequer repudiate, modify or qualify the statement made by Sir Stafford Cripps?

The Government are committed to this principle. One hon. Member has suggested that we may not get another chance for discussion in this Parliament. Believe me, in the country no Government will escape this discussion. If I be wrong in my estimate of the life of this Government and there should be a General Election, there is not one political candidate who will not say that he does not believe in this principle. This is a principle accepted by all. When are we to start? We believe that a start can be made immediately, and if there is any help wanted as to the application of the principle there are dozens of men and women in this Parliament who will give the necessary advice.

Every trade union is ready to co-operate in devising practical schemes of application. The Trades Union Congress will co-operate. I beg my hon. Friend and the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to destroy the good will which exists today. People are prepared to he reasonable and are in the mood to be reasonable as they appreciate the country's difficulty, but the Government can make a sign.

I do not accept for one moment that a start on equal pay need have an inflationary effect. Further, when a woman has reached her maximum, she should, if she remains in the Service and gives additional service, gain additional increments until she achieves the maximum rate of the job.

I do not accept any reference to any other points which have been made about this matter in regard to equal pay for equal work, It is the rate for the job which is the issue. In all my experience in the Post Office, as a Post Office trade union official and as vice-chairman of the Government Negotiating Councils on the industrial side, I have never secured increased pay because of a man's responsibility. I was always reminded of the value of the work and the comparable value of the job. I hope that the Government will reverse their decision, accept the principle of the rate for the job and make a start with its application immediately.

4.50 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Douglas Jay)

First and foremost I would like to affirm again what I think everybody today recognises, that the Government, just as much as hon. Members who have spoken, believe that equal pay for equal work is desirable and right and is an objective, alongside other social objectives, to be attained as soon as the national resources allow.

I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) that, in that sense, of course, the door is still open. The only issue between us, I think, as the last speaker and the hon. Lady opposite said, is whether this particular objective should have an overriding priority this year. I can assure the hon. Lady that it is quite wrong to say that the Government rejected or repudiated the claim from the Civil Service. They did not do that. They merely came to the conclusion that that was not the first priority this year.

What we had to decide this year was which of the various claimants had the strongest case, on the ground of social need, for the improvement of their relative position. Beside this claim we had, for instance, those of the old-age pensioners, those receiving National Assistance, war pensioners, ex-employees of public authorities who have a claim for higher pensions, the claims for better holidays for Government industrial employees, better family allowances, and a number of others.

In all the circumstances, we decided—and I am still convinced that we decided rightly—that, on the test of need and in this year's circumstances, the first priority had to go, by way of increased expenditure, to the old age pensioners, to National Assistance, to some of the war pensioners, to some sections of the health services, and by way of tax relief, as the hon. Lady recognised, to those with families. In deciding that issue of comparative need, the Government had clearly, I should have thought, to take into account the real economic consequences of granting equal pay.

The hon. Lady said that there had been a change of view about the repercussions of this decision, but our view, in the light of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on that subject—the hon. Lady quoted some of the evidence, but she did not quote the conclusions of the Report—and of experience, is that there certainly would be repercussions. I think what my hon. Friend said about the teachers showed that the action of the Government would be taken as an example by other bodies.

I was asked about the possibility of action by degrees. I can only say briefly that, as my right hon. Friend stated in his statement, we came to the conclusion, in the light of all the advice and information that we had, that any procedure of that kind would, in fact, just like the immediate decision to carry the full scheme out, be followed at once by repercussions of that kind.

Mr. H. Wallacerose

Mr. Jay

I must go on now. There would be consequences on private employers. We must agree that any such decision by the Government would improve the position of the employed woman generally as compared with that of the employed man, or, in other words, of the employed woman in the community in relation to that of the whole of the rest of the community, which, let us remember, includes most of the women and practically all the children.

We must accept, in all honesty, the fact that, in the words of my right hon. Friend—if I may quote him again, accurately—the majority of men employees have families dependent upon them. The majority of women employees have not. If hon. Members do not accept what my right hon. Friend said, we can put it in the words of the Royal Commission Report, which said—I am quoting here: The average male earner is a husband and father. The average woman in employment is not a wife and mother, and even the wives and mothers who are in employment are not normally the sole support of their families. The Report went on: It is manifest… In my opinion this is highly relevant, and the Commission thought so: …that the welfare of many more persons depends on the level of the man's rate of pay than on that of the woman's rate.…

Miss Ward


Mr. Jay

I have quoted the Commission's Report precisely. It follows from that that the grant of equal pay by itself would tend relatively to depress the standards of a very large number of people whose needs must very often be greater—in the majority of cases, I should think—than those benefiting by the change. The hon. Lady quoted the various social services and tax reliefs which are enjoyed by married persons by virtue of children and so on; but, even taking that into account, I have little doubt that, if we look at the situation as it now exists, those most in need are the single income earners who have families to support. If we face these facts, we are surely driven towards the conclusion that, on the test of need—

Miss Ward


Mr. Jay

—resulting claims for larger family allowances would, as the Chancellor said in his statement, be a logical accompaniment to equal pay. I think that hon. Members agree with that; but, clearly, we must admit that any introduction now of both those desirable reforms over large sections of the community, coming on top of all the other claims on our resources, would require far steeper increases in taxation this year than the House, the country, or perhaps even the hon. Lady would be willing to accept. So we came to the conclusion—

Miss Ward

I am waiting for a reply about bachelors.

Mr. Jay

I know that the hon. Lady has always taken a great interest in bachelors, but they really are a minority in this argument. If we are to be fair to all sections of the community, there can be no escape from the conclusion which we reached that the introduction of equal pay together with any logical accompaniment in the way of family allowances, highly desirable as both are as social objectives, could not this year have a priority over-riding all the other deserving claims on our resources.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Two Minutes to Five o'Clock, till Tuesday, 16th October, pursuant to the Resolution of the House yesterday.