HC Deb 03 July 1968 vol 767 cc1487-9
23. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the lack of female representation on the various ad hoc com- mittees appointed by him to serve in Scotland; and if he will make a statement indicating his policy on the matter.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies given to the hon. Members for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) on 11th June, to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) on 12th June, and to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) on 26th June. —[Vol. 766, c. 32; Vol. 766 c. 238–9; Vol. 767, c. 82–3.]

Mr. Rankin

Is it true that the number of women appointed to Ministerial posts in this Government has been greater than in any previous Parliament? Is that also true of the posts which lie in the preference of the Secretary of State for Scotland? Is my hon. Friend aware that many women's organisations in Scotland believe that the tendency which has been shown in Government appointments is not recognised in appointments made by the Secretary of State to ad hoc committees?

Dr. Mabon

I believe that what my hon. Friend suggests about Government appointments is true, although I could not be certain. I should have to look it up. I take this opportunity, as I have done on previous occasions and in letters to individual hon. Members, to say that there is no discrimination against women in appointments referred to by my hon. Friend. We accept suggestions for appointments on the basis of equality of the sexes and without discrimination. But I take the point that some women's organisations feel that there is discrimination and I should like to do all I can to relieve them of that misunderstanding.

Mr. Noble

Will the Minister of State make it clear that he does not accept the imputation in the supplementary question of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) that the disaster of this Government is due to the number of women members of it?

Dr. Mabon

I deeply resent that suggestion.

Mr. Russell Johnston

While accepting that there is probably need to evaluate female representation better, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he will assure us that he cannot accept the suggestion of a fixed proportion of female representation on ad hoc committees and that appointments will be purely on merit?

Dr. Mabon

Exactly. There is no question of fixed proportions. People are judged on their merits. That is the real meaning of true equality of the sexes.