HC Deb 19 February 1953 vol 511 cc1438-9
37. Miss Ward

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in refusing to introduce equal pay, he has taken into account the rise in the cost of living bearing on women earning lower wages and salaries as compared with men with comparable jobs; and whether he will circulate a table showing how the rise in the cost of living affects women's and men's wages, respectively.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have nothing to add to previous replies on the subject of Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards equal pay in the Civil Service. I am not clear what sort of table my hon. Friend has in mind, but between December, 1951, and December, 1952, wage rates for women in industry rose by 6.2 per cent. or eight points. Wage rates for men rose by 5.8 per cent., or seven points and the Retail Price Index by 6.3 per cent., or eight points. These figures are taken from the Ministry of Labour Gazette.

Miss Ward

May I ask my hon. Friend if he is aware that the increased price of bananas bears more heavily on working women drawing lower wages than on working men? May I ask him to explain why bananas should be allowed to indulge in sex discrimination?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The question of equal pay in the public service is too important a matter to be decided solely on the basis of the current price of bananas.

Miss Lee

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that these Questions are being treated rather too flippantly? While in all parts of the House we appreciate the need for priorities, in view of the rising cost of living is it not now time we had concrete advances in this matter?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

We have said again and again that we treat this issue seriously and desire to proceed with this matter as soon as it is economically possible so to do. But my answer was directed to a particular and, it seems to me, a somewhat unsound argument upon the figures with which I had to deal.

Mrs. Castle

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that as long ago as last May he accepted a Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) in which the Government undertook to announce an early and definite date for the introduction of equal pay? Will he now give the House the Government's definition of the word "early"?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

On that point I have nothing to add to the answer which my right hon. Friend gave last week.