HC Deb 20 February 1968 vol 759 cc230-1
Q3. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Prime Minister what special legislative and administrative action with regard to equality of rights for women he will propose to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the enfranchisement of women and Human Rights Year.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady will know that following my reply to her supplementary question on 13th February she has sent me a number of suggestions which I have in turn brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Lady will also know that as her suggestions mainly involve fiscal matters I cannot comment at this season of the year.

Dame Irene Ward

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, but there are a number of things which are not necessarily the Chancellor's responsibility. Is not policy mainly in the hands of the Prime Minister? I have sent him constructive proposals, some of which have emanated from the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, so may I hope for results before long?

The Prime Minister

I am most grateful to the hon. Lady, of course, for responding to my request for specific proposals. Most of them are fiscal, and she will understand why I cannot comment on them, but we shall certainly study any others which she sends us.

Mrs. Lena Jeger

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we were able to sign the U.N. Covenant about the political rights of women only with the longest list of reservations ever submitted to the U.N., many of them relating to the position of women in the dependent territories? Will he consider this, especially in Human Rights Year?

The Prime Minister

Certainly, but this country, when it signs these Conventions, intends its signature to mean something. That is why we make it very plain if there are matters on which, for one reason or another, particularly independent territories, the Convention cannot be carried out to the full letter.

Mrs. Ewing

Have the Government investigated the cost of enforcing—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."]—has the right hon. Gentleman investigated the cost—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is women's rights year.

Mrs. Ewing

—of enforcing the principle of equal pay for women? If so, when, and what findings have the investigations produced?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady will probably be aware of the statements of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on this question. Some estimates have been made of this, and my right hon. Friend is consulting industry on the whole question of equal pay for equal work. I should be glad to send the hon. Lady a copy of the statement made by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour on this question.