HC Deb 24 February 1969 vol 778 cc1055-7
11. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what progress is being made towards the phased introduction of equal pay for women; and if she will make a statement.

12. Mr. Speed

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will make a statement on the progress of her discussions with the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress on the implementation of equal pay.

49. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she has received the report of the joint study group set up to consider the costs of implementing equal pay; and whether she will make a statement.

70. Mr. Padley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity when she now expects to announce proposals to secure equal pay for men and women as defined in the International Labour Organisation Convention 100.

Mrs. Castle

There is nothing I can, as yet, usefully add to the statement I made on 20th January in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers).—[Vol. 776, c. 3.]

Dr. Summerskill

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that talks, studies, discussions and inquiries on equal pay have been held by the Government ever since January, 1965? Is she aware that women comprise the majority of the low-paid workers who should be receiving urgent priority under the Government's income policy?

Mrs. Castle

As my hon. Friend knows, we have now entered into an entirely new phase of the discussions in an attempt to work out the programme for implementation. The inquiry currently taking place is being held with the full agreement of the C.B.I. and the T.U.C., who agree that it is necessary to know the effect of introducing equal pay into particular industries.

Mr. Speed

Is the Minister now in favour of equal pay for equal work agreements, like the current Ford agreement, but which nevertheless fall outside the scope of the Government's prices and incomes criteria?

Mrs. Castle

I always welcome progress towards equal pay, within the prices and incomes policy.

Mr. Hunt

Is the Minister prepared to modify the Government's view, that the implementation of equal pay would raise the national wages bill by 4 per cent. or so, in view of the estimate which has been made by the C.B.I. of something more in the region of 6 per cent.?

Mrs. Castle

It is this disagreement about the cost implications which is one of the reasons why we are having these very detailed consultations with the T.U.C. and C.B.I. A particular problem is the effect in specific industries where it may be very much greater than the average.

Mr. Eddie Griffiths

Would my right hon. Friend remember that in industry and commerce, female labour, together with its male counterpart, is undergoing a process of job evaluation, which is a sophisticated exercise, comparing job content, without any reference to the sex of the job holder? Under such circumstances, would she direct that people who are assessed in equal grades are paid equal salaries or wages?

Mrs. Castle

I entirely agree that job evaluation is a very useful process on the way to securing equal pay for work of equal value. This is why I was hoping to see it decided that progress should be made with job evalution on women's work in the engineering industry.

Mr. R. Carr

Has the right hon. Lady given any indication to the management and unions at Ford's about her attitude to the equal pay aspect of that agreement, if, as we all hope, it comes into being?

Mrs. Castle

No, Sir. That is under consideration.