HC Deb 23 April 1970 vol 800 cc746-72
Mrs. Renee Short

I beg to move Amendment No. 31, in line 6 leave out from ' order ' to ' provide ' in line 7.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment we are to take the following:

Amendment No. 32, in line 9 leave out from ' require ' to end of line 10.

Amendment No. 33, in line 19 at end insert:

(3) Any order under subsection (2) above shall provide, in respect of rates of pay, that the rate to be paid to a person in accordance with the term referred to in section 1(2) or (3) above shall be not less than nine-tenths of the rate paid to those with whom comparison is required by that term; but the fraction specified by the order may be greater than nine-tenths.

As Amendments to the proposed Amendment No. 33:

In line 1, leave out ' Any' and insert ' An '.

In line 1, after order ', insert shall be made '.

In line 1, after above ', insert:

' to come into operation on 31st December 1973 '.

The only Amendment selected for Division, other than the Government Amendment, is No. 31.

Mrs. Renée Short

This Amendment and No. 32 are similar to Amendments which I moved in Committee. They would give more power to my right hon. Friend to make Orders at any time, instead of being tied to the time limit written into the Clause as it stands. If the Amendments in Committee had been carried—which, unfortunately, they were not—they would have had the effect of bringing the operative date forward to 1972 from 1975.

An Amendment to that effect, No. 30, stands inviolate upon the Notice Paper. Unfortunately, it was not selected by Mr. Speaker, and we cannot discuss it. I suppose, therefore, that I am out of order in mentioning it, but I regret that we are not to have an opportunity to discuss it.

Regretting, as I do, that it is not possible to bring the date forward to 1972—unless this part of the Bill is amended in the other place—and that the operative date is to remain at December, 1975, I consider it essential that my right hon. Friend should have the power to make these Orders as and when she feels they are necessary, instead of being tied to the time-table in the Clause.

We know that millions of women will benefit when the Bill becomes an Act. I give three cheers for the fact that this Measure is soon to pass into law. The fact that we are making good progress with the Bill will provide a spur and encouragement to both trade unions and employers to see that orderly progress is made towards the implementation of equal pay even before the due date. Nevertheless, there is always the risk that some employers will not implement equal pay in the spirit intended by the House, but will drag their feet and create difficulties and obstacles. It is for this reason that my right hon. Friend should have the power to make these Orders if she feels that it is essential to do so.

We know that many trade unions have had their minds concentrated in an interesting way on the need to implement equal pay. We know that the T.U.C. passed a magic resolution in 1888, but it has taken us a darned long time to get to where we are tonight. However, we know that some trade unions are concentrating on the need to implement equal pay, and that the tobacco workers' union, U.S.D.A.W., the General and Municipal Workers Union, and the A.E.F., to mention only a few, intend to discuss equal pay at their annual conferences this year. That is splendid. I hope that the unions will get a move on and will include in the collective agreements which they negotiate the principles enshrined in the Bill; that is, the abolition of the women's rate and the need to bring it up to the equivalent men's rate. There is nothing to prevent the trade unions from going forward on these lines.

If my right hon. Friend will accept Amendments No. 31 and 32 she will have the power to survey the land as it lies and be able to take such action as she thinks fit when she feels it is necessary to do so. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be as nice to me as he was to the hon. Member for Peters-field (Miss Quennell), so as to show no discrimination between lady Members on opposite sides of the House, and that he will make a short speech saying that he accepts the Amendments.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Harold Walker

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) knows that I would never be other than nice to her. I have tried to be nice to her throughout our proceedings, and I have made some nice concessions to her. She referred to hon. Ladies sitting on opposite sides of the House, and I am glad that she has taken to heart the point I made on Second Reading about the distinction between skirts and trousers. I compliment her on her appealing attire this evening.

My hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear that my arguments tonight will not be very different from those I used in Committee, and that our attitude has not substantially changed over the intent that lay behind the Amendments which she moved in Committee. The effect of those Amendments would not have been what she sought to achieve, whereas Amendment No. 33 gives effect to those intentions.

We resisted the provision of an intermediate stage because we took the view that employers, in conjunction with the unions, should have freedom in working out arrangements for introducing equal pay which are suited to the circumstances of the particular industries and firms. This flexibility will be lost if an intermediate stage is laid down in the Bill as firm and mandatory. The major objection to prescribing a definite intermediate stage is that it would result in the tribunals and the Industrial Court having to shoulder an additional load of work concerned with the marginal question of whether an intermediate target had been achieved in a particular situation.

As drafted, the Bill provides that the Secretary of State can introduce an intermediate stage by Order if orderly progress is not being made towards equal treatment. This achieves the best of both worlds. The possibility of flexibility between industries and between firms is retained, whilst, at the same time, arbitrary progress across the whole field must be achieved. For these reasons we cannot accept my hon. Friend's Amendments.

Amendment No. 33 is our response to the undertaking which I gave in Committee—an undertaking without commitment. The Amendment applies only to rates of pay and not to all terms and conditions of employment. It would not have been feasible, for example, to provide for nine-tenths of a company car, and it would be unduly complicated to provide for nine-tenths of such matters as holiday entitlement. Women's rates at present average about 80 per cent. of men's rates, and raising the proportion to 90 per cent. seems to be a reasonable objective if any order is needed by the end of 1973. The Amendment provides for the possibility of a figure higher than 90 per cent. by the end of 1973.

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the final words of Amendment No. 33: but the fraction specified by the Order may be greater than nine-tenths. While my hon. Friend may be disappointed that we cannot accept her Amendments, I hope that she will derive satisfaction from the response which we have made in tabling an Amendment which gives effect to the Amendment which she tabled in Committee.

Mr. Dudley Smith

One of our most interesting discussions in Committee was on the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short), when we heard various opinions on implementation. I am pleased to be in a position to support the Under-Secretary of State on this occasion, as he has been kind to us on Report.

We feel that flexibility is important in the implementation and time scale of the Bill. Circumstances vary enormously throughout industry, and no one pretends that equal pay will not be very expensive and inflationary. This is not to say that it is not the right thing. We support the Bill and we believe that equal pay must come, but it would be nonsense to say that it will not add substantially to costs and will not increase prices.

Many opinions have been expressed on when the Bill should be implemented and on whether there should be an interim stage. As I said in Committee, I think that the time scale of 1975 is about right. I know that the hon. Lady and some of her hon. Friends are anxious that it should be implemented sooner, and I appreciate her feelings. Certain sections of industry think that we are hurrying on too quickly in saying 1975. Sensible firms, once the Bill becomes law, will quickly begin to implement equal pay. Those who realise that they have to absorb the costs and make provision for the extra expense involved will start putting their houses in order. Those who do not will be in for a severe shock if they leave it to the eleventh hour. It is important to protect those who will be acting sensibly, and they will in the vast majority. If these things happen too quickly, some organisations will be ruined financially by the sudden application of these provisions.

Most of these provisions are permissible for the Minister, and I am sure that she and her successor will use them intelligently and will weigh the effect on both sides of industry. We support the Under-Secretary of State's view and we are in favour of the time scale which has been laid down.

Mr. Booth

In the atmosphere of harmony, sweetness and light which has reigned in the Chamber tonight, I find it difficult to speak against my own Front Bench. But my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State's argument that flexibility is required is no answer to the Amendment which has been moved since the Amendment itself enables greater flexibility to be exercised by the Secretary of State in Clause 8 in dealing with equal pay.

Orderly progress towards equal pay will be as dependent on the way trade unions advance claims as on the way the Secretary of State uses her powers under the Clause. Some unions have already pressed successful claims for equal pay. My own union at Harland and Wolff succeeded in a complete equal pay claim for a particular grade of work. Other unions have not even made a start, and should be ashamed of themselves.

If the Secretary of State wants to use her powers under Clause 8 to achieve orderly progress, she must have maximum flexibility. But to achieve that the Government should at least be able to accept Amendment No. 31, so that where no progress at all has been made the Secretary of State may intervene at the most appropriate point between now and 31st December 1973. I hope that the Government will be prepared to think again on this matter.

Mr. Harold Walker

My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) must recognise that the Amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) hang together. Their effect is to make it mandatory for my right hon. Friend, whether she likes it or not, to introduce an Order in 1973 requiring a minimum of nine-tenths progress towards equal pay. That is not flexibility.

Mr. Booth

Why cannot Amendment No. 31 be taken and the other Amendments be dealt with separately?

Mr. Walker

There are, in addition, major defects of drafting which would make the Amendment unacceptable, but far from achieving the flexibility which we are seeking the Amendment would have the reverse effect.

What we are saying in Clause 8 is that if it appears to the Secretary of State expedient to do so—and she will have to have regard to the circumstances and factors operating at that particular time—my right hon. Friend will have the power to make the nine-tenths requirement if circumstances permit it, or even more if it appears to her in the circumstances appropriate to do so. This gives the maximum flexibility and provides us with the best of both worlds.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: No. 33, in page 9, line 19 at end insert: (3) Any order under subsection (2) above shall provide, in respect of rates of pay, that the rate to be paid to a person in accordance with the term referred to in section 1(2) or (3) above shall be not be less than nine-tenths of the rate paid to those with whom comparison is required by that term; but the fraction specified by the order may be greater than nine-tenths.—[Mr. Harold Walker.]

Mr. Harold Walker

I beg to move Amendment No. 34, in page 9, line 23 at end add: (4) Before laying before Parliament a draft of an order under subsection (2) above the Secretary of State shall consult such bodies appearing to him to represent the interests of employers or of employees as he considers appropriate. I am happy to leave the Amendments in the same spirit as we began our proceedings on Report by making a concession in response to points made in Committee. The hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman) asked us to enter into an obligation to have consultations before the Secretary of State makes the Order. That is the effect of this Amendment. I hope it will be felt that we have dealt adequately with the points made in Committee.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Again we welcome the hon Gentleman's attitude. This is probably the last word I shall say on the Bill, and I would stress that this Bill will be brought about by co-operation, under standing and consultation. The more that this can be achieved, the better will be the provisions of the Bill. We Welcome that attitude as embodied in the Amendment, and we believe that the Bill is improved by it.

Amendment agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Harold Walker

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I think it entirely appropriate that we should have a short debate before we dispatch this historic Measure to another place for its final touches. Whilst it may be that we are not bidding a final farewell to the Bill, none the less I think that we have reached the end of the beginning.

In some ways the Bill is different, but, I think, a stronger and healthier creature than that which the House welcomed. almost universally, on 9th February. I think that the improvements reflect the constructive efforts, let me readily acknowledge, of both sides of the House and both sides of the Committee. Inevitably, at times sectional or political interests intruded in our discussions and perhaps divided us, but, on the whole, our work has been carried out in a general atmosphere of good will and often good humour. I pay tribute to those who have contributed to our efforts and to the accomplishment of our task.

As is often the case with Measures before the House, there have been those, often on the Government benches, who have felt that we were not going far enough nor fast enough with our timetable.

Mrs. Renee Short

Hear, hear.

Mr. Walker

But at the same time there have been some who would have preferred a less radical, slower moving set of proposals, and again, as is so often the case, this reinforces the view that we probably have the balance about right.

There have been those who have felt that the adoption of different definitions would have more effectively implemented the principle of equal pay, which is supported by most hon. Members. To those I must say that, far from seeking a half-hearted compromise, it is my belief that in legislative terms the Bill translates the principle of equal pay into action in a more soundly based far reaching and effective way than the legislation of any other country has attempted to do, whilst properly and responsibly taking into account the economic consequences and the capacity of industry to absorb the effects of the Bill.

To those of my hon. Friends who have sought to bring forward the date of implementation, I emphasise what we have said so frequently—that there is no reason, where the circumstances permit the earlier introduction of equal pay, why the machinery of collective bargaining should not seek to anticipate 1975.

I said that we are at the end of the beginning. We shall not be at the end of the road until all women have the social, moral, and economic justice which, in so many areas of employment, is long overdue.

I share the view of the signatories of the Royal Commission's note of dissent —the Royal Commission on Equal Pay in 1946—that equal pay will not only redress the inequities in financial terms, but will also give women the wider opportunities of employment that have been too long denied them.

Certainly the Bill will not, and we all recognise cannot, remove all the problems. Many will remain. Indeed, some will arise from the legislation—problems of interpretation, enforcement, prejudice, convention, and the preservation of sex privileges—but these difficulties have been for too long an excuse for inaction.

I hope that the courage and determination shown by the Government, and in particular by my right hon. Friend, in bringing off this formidable legislative task, will find ready response from those on both sides of industry whose task it will be to make the legislation a reality both in fact and in spirit.

Mr. R. Carr

One of the features about the Bill is the number of Amendments which have been made to it in Committee. I should like to pay tribute particularly—and I am sure the right hon. Lady will understand this—to the Under-Secretary who has played a leading part in Committee and whose great care and courtesy and constructive response to Amendments were so much appreciated. He has contributed much to the good shape in which the Bill now stands. I hope that, in passing, I may take a little credit for my colleagues on the Opposition benches for the fact that we have thought of, put forward and argued persuasively so many constructive Amendments. However, it is no good proposing them unless they are accepted.

I have one general criticism of the Bill which, to be fair, applies to other Bills. We think that it is a particular pity in this Bill, and it has to do with the incomprehensibility to the ordinary layman of so much of its language. All of us throughout the House really should resolve to try to learn how to legislate in a more intelligible manner. I had to say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General last night that sometimes the approach of lawyers makes me despair of the law. We must somehow persuade, and also help, parliamentary draftsmen to learn how to draft our Bills in plainer language. I am sure that we do not match up to other countries in this respect.

Mr. Speaker

Order. With respect, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not attack people who cannot defend themselves. Both sides of the House are alone responsible for this Bill as it appears on Third Reading.

Mr. Carr

I accept that. Of course. I was not wishing to attack anyone and if, inadvertently, my words conveyed that, I am grateful to you for calling me to order. I certainly do not want to do that. The will to do this must start with us, with the instructions and the help which we are prepared to give. It is a great pity that this Bill has not been in plainer language and more intelligible to those whose lives it will affect.

My main point is that we welcome the Bill, we wish it well and would like to congratulate the right hon. Lady on presenting it, and now, on having almost got it through. Its main principle, the idea of a broad comparison between work, is right. Of course the theory of equal pay for work of equal value is unassailable in theory. There was a time when I felt that was right but I am sure that what we have in the Bill is right, because the difficulty of the equal value definition is to convert theory into practice. It is no good unless it can be converted into practice with reasonable accuracy and consistency. That would require a period of job evaluation and it would be a very long time before any real effect could come about. What is said in the Bill about broad comparability is, on the whole, right. Similarly, we would agree that, on the whole, timing is about right too.

When we consider the effects of the Bill on women in employment we must realise that there are difficulties, but those probably will be overcome, and there are also dangers. We should realise those dangers. If we are to do what we want about women's employment in the years ahead we must recognise that we have to advance on two fronts, the front of equal pay and also the front of equal opportunity. This Bill advances only on the first front. While in some cases, of course, advancing on the front of equal pay may automatically involve advance on the front of equal opportunity, there are other cases where it may not. There are cases where advancing on one front only may be a positive danger.

I am referring to the danger of a ring fence round women's employment. That, traditionally, is one of the problems of women's employment. Certain jobs and industries have become almost marked out as women's employment. They become also low-paid employment. If by advancing, as the Bill does, only on the front of equal pay it were to have the effect of raising that ring fence and isolating more sharply special women's employment, where through lack of comparability the Bill would not bite, we might be putting back the opportunities for women rather than advancing them.

I say this not in any grudging sense. We should all realise that with the opportunities and good effects for women in employment there is also this danger, which we ought to bear in mind and which we think it is a pity that it has not been dealt with in the Bill.

I would of course be out of order to go further into that tonight. The main obstacle which women have to overcome, as I said on Second Reading, is the obstacle which arises from a combination of convention and male prejudice. I believe we shall find that we shall have to do more than legislate on equal pay before we overcome that combined obstacle.

Nevertheless, this Bill is an advance. We genuinely welcome it and wish it well. We hope that it will lead to better opportunities for women in industry in the years to come.

9.27 p.m.

Mrs. Renee Short

This is an auspicious occasion. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary are to be congratulated on the fact that we have reached this stage and are now debating the Third Reading of the Bill.

I have served on several Standing Committees since I came into the House, but this was the most exciting for me. Obviously I am prejudiced because I am a woman. It was also one of the pleasantest Committees I have been on. Not only are my right hon. and hon. Friends Ito be congratulated, but the Opposition right hon. and hon. Members on the Committee also played a great part and it was a real pleasure to be with them on that Committee. I hope that all Bills which go through the House will have such a pleasant and amicable passage. That is something we might aim for, but probably will not achieve.

Millions of women will benefit from this Bill. I hope that the benefits they will get will not be delayed until 31st December, 1975, but, because of pressure from the unions, they will come earlier rather than later. The period in which we have had to wait for the Bill has been far too long. Had there been more militancy among women workers, had there been better organised unions and had the unions been more militant, we would have had the Bill long before this. However, we have it now and we should be glad about that. I hope it will have an effect on public opinion, on women's opportunities generally and on women's chances to get better educational opportunities and training opportunities in industry, and that there will be more appreciation of what women can bring to jobs, to professions and industry. If given the opportunity and responsibility, women can carry out jobs very effectively and well, often bringing more to a job than does a man because of a woman's particular characteristics.

There are important principles enshrined in the Bill which will have a valuable effect on women's opportunities and women's employment. The Bill establishes the principle of equal pay for broadly similar work, not the principle enshrined in I.L.O. Resolution No. 100 which has been supported, but not implemented, by many countries. We have taken a broader definition. At the beginning I was not sure that I was with my right hon. Friend on this, because I thought that the I.L.O. definition was better, but my right hon. Friend has won me over. I think that the Bill's interpretation is broader and better, because it provides more leeway. We do not have to pinpoint the similarities job for job with a man's job. There is the possibility of certain dissimilarities existing but of its being agreed that overall the job is broadly similar in many of its characteristics and, therefore, that the woman qualifies for equal pay.

The second principle is that the woman's rate will disappear and, where the work is broadly similar, the woman will spring off from the lowest rung of the pay ladder on to the lowest man's rate. This valuable principle will mean that trade unions will no longer negotiate for a woman's rate in the collective agreements they make.

Yesterday my right hon. Friend conceded the further valuable principle that trade unions are to be consulted when job evaluation exercises are to be carried out. She is to have further discussions with the T.U.C. and, if she can reach agreement, this part of the Bill will be looked at in another place.

In Committee my right hon. Friend made another very important and valuable concession for which I am especially grateful—that additional woman members will be appointed from the employers' side and the employees' side to the tribunals dealing with problems of equal pay. I bless my right hon. Friend for this concession. Tribunals are male-dominated. They are worthy bodies doing a valuable job, but it is essential that when equal pay problems arise a woman should know that there are women on the tribunal helping to adjudicate on her case.

This concession means that trade unions will have a job to do. They will have to find suitable women shop stewards, suitable women union officials, suitable women members, whom they can put forward to my right hon. Friend as panel members from whom she can appoint trade union representatives. This is a very important concession. My right hon. Friend is to embody it in the Regulations she will issue after the Bill becomes law. It has also been agreed to limit the arbitrary power of the tribunals. The Bill is better and stronger as a result of all the Amendments made.

The only part that I do not like is that laying down the date. I am much disappointed that we were not able to improve on this, and that it stands as it did on Second Reading—December, 1975. I still hope that when the Bill goes to another place it will be possible for an amendment to be made—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot discuss Amendments on Third Reading.

Mrs. Short

I am just putting out hints to my noble Friends, Mr. Speaker. I hope that when they read these proceedings they will take note of it. There is a genuine difficulty owing to the introduction of the National Superannuation and Social Insurance Bill, the due date of which is April, 1972—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady did not understand what I said. We cannot amend the date on Third Reading.

Mrs. Short

Perhaps although we cannot amend the date we can note the difficulty that many women workers will be in. I do not want to get too far out of order, Mr. Speaker, because I do not want to cause you too much difficulty.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The difficulty is not mine; it is the hon. Lady's.

Mrs. Short

I do not feel in any difficulty, Mr. Speaker, but still—

I hope very much that because we have had a good deal of publicity about the Bill since it was introduced both trade unions and employers will concentrate on trying to beat the date in the Bill. It is a challenge to both sides of industry to get on with the job and see that equal pay is achieved before December, 1975. I hope that with good will on both sides of industry this will be done. Progress has already been made, and I hope that it will be speeded up.

This is a historic occasion, and 1 should like it to be possible to mark the passage of the Bill by some kind of celebration, because it deserves it. We have waited a long time. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State deserve great credit for steering the Bill through. This is an important landmark in women's emancipation.

I welcome the Bill. I wish it well and hope that we shall achieve its object long before December, 1975.

9.38 p.m.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

On this very historic day I should like to add my congratulations to all those who have played such a notable part in putting the Bill on the Statute Book. I especially congratulate the right hon. Lady and the Under-Secretary of State, but more especially the right hon. Lady because I know that for a very long time she has had at the back of her mind the desire for an opportunity to make this great step forward in the cause of women's participation in the life of the country.

I am very sorry that I have not played any part in the passage of the Bill. As the House knows only too well, one cannot be on everything or do all the work or be associated with all the various aspects of parliamentary life that one would like. But the Bill is a remarkable achievement, and I am very proud of the part the Opposition have played in conjunction with the Government in promoting equal pay for equal work.

I want to refer to something my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) said about equal opportunity. I remember the campaign started during the war by the Women Power Committee and all the women M.P.s and others interested in the contribution of women to the war effort. I remember well that medical women in the Services obtained equal pay at once, which was only just and right. But it is rather odd —and this went through my mind when my right hon. Friend referred to equal pay—that today women and girls who want to join the medical profession have so much difficulty in finding places in the medical schools. This emphasises the fact that, although we have won this great battle today, much more work remains to be done. Everyone associated with the Bill will want to see equal opportunity associated with equal pay.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will not mind my saying something in reply to the point raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) about a celebration. If I remember rightly, the Fawcett Society, which has played a great part over the years in supporting the principle of equal pay, has already invited the right hon. Lady to a celebration dinner and she has been graciously pleased to accept. We look forward to 20th July, which will be the great occasion.

On historic occasions like this one's mind goes back. During the war, in a Cabinet minute, Sir Winston Churchill —who was not, I regret to say, in favour of equal pay—asserted that in the build up of resistance movements women could play a very important part. He said that this was because in carrying out their work in the building up of resistance they could pass unnoticed more easily than men in the tasks they would have to carry out. We know that as a result during the war many women sacrificed their lives in an heroic way. Ever since those days there has been a great deal of support and action among both men and women in the country so that we should all, men and women together, be able to co-operate in trying to go forward to the greatest achievement that this country can attain—the promotion of happiness, prosperity, hard work and the build-up of freedom not only in our own country but throughout the world for which so much sacrifice was made.

Today is a very great occasion for me and for all those women who both now and in the past have taken part in achieving the final result which has been brought about by the present Government supported by the Opposition. I hope that what has now been achieved will help women as well as men in the country in the way we all want them to be helped. I express my enormous congratulations, and I am delighted to have been here on this auspicious occasion.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Lee

When I had been about three months in this House I was certain that I knew how it would react to any given situation. After nearly 25 years in the House, one realises that one can never know how it will react until the event occurs. I have seen during that period issues which have crammed the Chamber to capacity and have provoked the greatest possible excitement. The newspapers have looked upon them as crises of one kind or other. Yet, within a few hours those events have been forgotten.

Here we have a momentous Bill which can transform the position of 8½ million women in industry and also the whole conception of how the nation looks upon the dignity of women. Yet the Bill has gone through practically without a ripple. The Press did not even deign to mention its Committee proceedings and it has, therefore, received a completely disproportionate national reaction. One sometimes wonders whether we get our priorities right.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) said that one of the things to be applauded is that we shall see women getting the minimum rate for men. She is a great champion of women and i hope that she will set her sights rather higher than that. If I believed that that was all that was in the Bill, I should not be half as interested as I am. I believe that one of the developments industrially which will emerge from this Measure is that a great deal of the soul-destroying type of work which so many women have had to do will disappear. Let us be frank. Had it not been for their cheap labour, many of these jobs would long ago have been taken out of human effort and geared to automation and mechanisation. Much of such work will now probably be more speedily mechanised.

That being so, I believe that there will be nothing like the amount of that kind of work available—and thank God for it. But it does mean, surely, that, instead of seeing women workers in terms of being able to get the lower rate—in other words, the lowest rate paid to men—they will get the proper rate for the job. The nation would be squandering a great asset if 8 million women in industry were to be looked upon merely as glorified labourers, or whatever term we wish to use. There are stick-in-the-muds on both sides of industry who think more of the prestige of their craft or skill and who will oppose what this Bill does. I would say to my colleagues in the trade union movement that, even looking at this from a protectionist angle, the coming of equal pay will end the danger of cheap labour taking over from them. Even from that narrow, selfish angle, the time has come for them to widen their scope.

I have disagreed with the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) about opportunity. I believe the Bill gives great opportunity if only people will interpret it generously and imaginatively. After this good job of work by the House, a great deal of responsibility devolves upon those in industry who will interpret it. On Second Reading I said that, in this period, the amount of work which could be done by unskilled labour would diminish rapidly. If I am right about that and right in believing that the shortages of skilled labour which we now have will become even more desperate as the economy expands, it is vital that the processes of training concomitant with the contents of the Bill should now go ahead far more rapidly than ever before.

I should like my colleagues in the trade union movement to take this opportunity to ensure that production of that type of thing which is attractive in the export markets can best be multiplied by getting more and more of our women trained for skilled work. I am not particular who disagrees with me about this: I shall go on advocating it, because the dignity of women is affronted so long as we look upon them as unskilled or semiskilled labour. Economically, it is an utter waste that one-third of our labour force should be treated in that way.

The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, mentioned the need for celebration. To me, as a product of the trade union movement, it is astounding that they have not yet taken the Albert Hall for a huge demonstration attended by the leaders of the movement, and the Secretary of State, who deserves great credit for this—a national celebration of a momentous occasion.

The aim of the Trade Union and Labour Movement is not merely to ensure improvement of a certain type or to look at the rather dull proposition of giving women merely the lowest rate given to men. It should be to bring a more joyous, healthy and happy life to all those who labour. My hon. Friend mentioned 1888, when the T.U.C. passed its first resolution, and the hon. Member for Tynemouth reminded us of the war. She will agree that, 25 years ago, far more women got equal pay than now, so not much progress has been made in the last quarter of a century.

The House has given a great lead, for which I hope the Trade Union Movement will be grateful, and which it will pick up. I hope that it will enter into the generous spirit which has pervaded these debates. If that happens, we will have done a great job of work, not only to the benefit of all the women workers in our community but also for the prosperity and future of this great nation.

9.52 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

The House accepts, I think, that the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) is not unskilled in choosing an opportunity for saying something he wants to say, but I have been waiting 18 years to say what I want to say now. The right hon. Lady the First Secretary and I were political opponents in 1945 and she swept me out of sight in a magnificent victory. The electorate were probably quite right: the right hon. Lady was a far more experienced politician then than 1 was. She has risen to great heights as a right hon. Lady and I am a poor, simple back bencher. As this is my last Parliament, I fear that that is the highest that I am likely to rise.

But I should like to say to the right hon. Lady that in the intervening years we have had a good many rows across the Floor of the House. I remember using the machinery of the House to talk out the Transport Bill and I have never seen anyone so white with fury as the right hon. Lady. That is the only time I have understood the phrase " white with fury ". But we gave the right hon. Lady her Bill the next day without debate.

We have had our controversies. But this is a great day in the House of Commons. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) have probably done more for the cause of women than anyone else, though not just through this Bill on equal pay. There is one characterictic in both of them which I have always admired. Of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth was here long before I came to the House, but they have been the first two women Members who would have been insulted if they had been approached specially as women Members They were Members of Parliament, and their sex did not matter. They would have been insulted if one had withdrawn one's animosity or relaxed one's vituperation because they were women Members. They have done enormous good for the cause of women and women's equality.

This Bill is only a step on the road. When we talk about equal pay, we are talking, really, about equality between the sexes, though a good deal of the movement for equality between the sexes has come because of the approach to the question of equal pay.

The whole House welcomes the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) has made clear our welcome on this side. I was not a member of the Standing Committee, but I notice that the Bill went through Committee with a great measure of unanimity between both sides. One cannot help noting, however—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) commented on this—that we are debating tonight a historic occasion in the life of the nation and the arrangements between the sexes, yet the House is almost empty. It is an extraordinary feature of political controversy and the changing relationships within society that when the pie, as it were, is ready for eating there is no argument about taking it out of the oven. We are addressing ourselves to an open door today. The great feeling of the nation is that this ought to be done, and there is no party-political controversy about it. I shall not take the moment of glory from the right hon. Lady, but in the life of the nation now there is not much political controversy about it.

It is one of the glories of Britain that when these things happen and the mood is right, the fundamental agreement with in society manifests itself. We sometimes forget—perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves of it—that despite all the dreadful rows we have across the Floor, there is far more fundamental agreement on what sort of society we want and what we want to do in the country than there is division between the parties. If it were not so, we could not run our democracy.

I give the right hon. Lady full credit for having had the privilege to pilot the Bill through, and I pay tribute also to the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State. I should have said more about him had I not wanted to pay particular tribute to the right hon. Lady herself, for he also has done a great deal.

The Bill will receive wide respect and support in the nation, but I add one word not to the right hon. Lady or to any Member of Parliament but, so to speak, to people outside. There is still a difference of view in the country, and if men and women are to be equal, the Bill is only a step on the road. A good deal depends on the reaction of both sides.

There are a good many women, I think, who, given the opportunity, would for some strange reason vote against the Bill because of their attitude of mind. We have now provided the machinery. It is up to the women of this country to seize the opportunity and obtain the equality for which we have provided. I warmly welcome the Bill and congratulate the right hon. Lady on it. This is probably the last time that I shall say anything kind to her.

9.59 p.m.

Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South)

I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) was right to chide the Press for a lack of publicity about the Bill. Nevertheless, while speaking of the wonderful occasion this is in the House and how historic the Bill is, we note the empty benches and wonder why we are not celebrating in a much forthright manner.

It is perhaps right that I, of all hon. Members, should pay my tribute to the Bill because it was in my constituency, nearly 1,000 years ago, that Lady Godiva undertook her famous ride. It is because of that that in Coventry, South we can say that 1,000 years ago we recognised the importance and value of women, and therefore—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.


That the Proceedings on the Equal Pay (No. 2) Bill may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Hamling.]

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Mr. Speaker

I regret having had to interrupt the hon. Gentleman to put the Motion. I did not know that Lady Godiva was demonstrating for equal pay.

Mr. Wilson

Mr. Speaker, you would be amazed if you really knew what Lady Godiva is said to have been demonstrating about on that immortal ride.

Hon. Members have said time and again tonight what a wonderful occasion this is, and how remarkable the achievement that we are giving eight and a half million women equal pay. I want to pour a drop of cold water on the elation. I suggest that instead of being so elated and proud, we ought to be a little humble and concern ourselves with the thought that all that we are doing is remedying an injustice which has existed for far too long. For centuries women in this country have been in an inferior position. If we can take joy out of merely remedying an injustice which has gone on for far too long, the passing of this Measure is an occasion for joy, but I think that we ought to ask ourselves whether this injustice ought not to have been remedied a long time ago.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said that he was never backward in finding an opportunity to say what he wanted to say. From time to time I have heard you, Mr. Speaker, saying that the House is a place where one must take one's opportunities when they come. I therefore take this opportunity, because I have not had an opportunity on any other occasion, to say a word about one group of women who, unfortunately, have not been referred to during the passage of the Bill, I refer to policewomen, in whom I have a special interest which I now declare.

The Clause which deals with equal pay for policewomen was not discussed at all during the Second Reading. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) asked a number of questions about it, to which he received no answers, and in Committee there was no discussion at all on the Clause; it stood part of the Bill without comment. I am sure that it would be wholly out of order for me to deal in detail with the Clause point, but I do wish to say a few words.

Policewomen generally welcome the Bill But it is only fair to tell the right hon. Lady that they have not always felt this way. They felt differently for two reasons. First, there are some kinds of police work which women cannot do. They cannot deal with riots, as in Grosvenor Square. They cannot go out alone at night in rough areas after the public houses close.

On the other hand, as the right hon. Lady will recognise, there are some police jobs which women, and women alone, can do effectively. Only women can search women prisoners. Only women can do certain kinds of criminal investigation work, and women, I think, are best in dealing with children. Indeed, it was precisely because of the special needs of women and young persons that women police were first recruited, not because they were equal, not because they were the same, but precisely because they were unique and they were different. So their work is by no means equal; it is different. It is, however, work of equal value, and that is why on their behalf I welcome the Bill.

I want now to say a word about the practical application of the Bill because I hope the right hon. Lady will see that this is discussed in another place. In many police forces women work fewer hours; they work seven and half hours instead of eight hours as men do, and there are good reasons for this. Equally, they take longer time for refreshments, and there is a good reason for that, too. On numerous occasions when police women have discussed the principle of equal pay, they have concluded that they would rather continue with less pay on the condition that they could continue to work fewer hours and have longer periods for refreshment. I understand their feelings very well. When it comes to implementing the Bill, it will therefore be necessary for the right hon. Lady or the Home Secretary to consider how precisely to increase the hours of work and decrease the length of time given for refreshments in return for police women having equal pay.

I am glad to say that there is a change of opinion in the police service on this matter, very largely because women increasingly are doing the same kinds of work as men.

The right hon. Lady has suggested that equal pay should be introduced in phases. There are two phases in which she could do this most practically for the police force. I suggest that she should move first in this year's pay review and make an increase, or ask her right hon. Friend to make an increase, in return for an equivalence in refreshments. The second phase might be done in 1972 in return perhaps for an increase in the working week. I do not think it will be difficult to apply the Bill to the police service, but 1 ask the right hon. Lady to consult her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary so that these matters are dealt with carefully and practically.

I have said what I wanted to say. I very much regret I have had to do so at the very end of the Bill instead of at the beginning or in Committee, but one has to deal with these points when one can.

I conclude by saying that I generally welcome the Bill. I am sure that it will help women, and help women in my constituency. As many hon. Members have said, we are passing an historic Bill. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman who wondered why the Albert Hall had not been hired so that the Bill might be celebrated in a fuller House than we have here, I would say that my impression is that women are practical people. They will judge the Bill when they get the practical rewards, and not before.

10.9 p.m.

Mrs. Castle

It is perhaps appropriate that a woman should have the last word on the Bill. In doing so, I want to thank very sincerely all those who have made such encouraging and kindly speeches during Third Reading for the congratulations that they have expressed. I was particularly glad that the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) singled out my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who, as he rightly said, bore so effectively the heat and burden of the day in the detailed work in Committee.

We are all agreed that this has been a remarkable occasion in the sense that we had an exceptionally harmonious Committee stage. There has been no blood and thunder, no great clashes, no filibustering, just constructive points, many of which we have met. This shows how successful a Committee stage can be when we cut out the political blood and thunder and really get down to constructive points. By doing so we can cover a lot of ground in a remarkably short time.

This is an historic moment, which starts now. The timetable of the Bill is 1975, but it is already beginning to have a marked effect. Unions are giving equal pay much higher priority in their negotiations. I am delighted that the unions have a new hobby; they take pride in " beating Barbara's deadline ". Good luck to them if they can do it as part of constructive wage negotiations.

The T.U.C. has taken up my hint and decided to set up an advisory service to help women to take full advantage of the Bill and, as it said, " to get equal pay without tears." The T.U.C. has realised that the effectiveness of the law will depend on the attitudes of both men and women and, not least, of the women themselves. How can women expect equal rights when only about a quarter of the working women belong to trade unions? I agree with Mrs. Marie Patterson who said in her speech today at the Women's Conference of the T.U.C. that equal pay for work of equal value can be achieved only through strong trade unionism. I hope this message will go out to the women of this country tonight.

My Department will back up the effort of the T.U.C. in getting the facts about the Bill across to the people, and particularly to those who will be most concerned. The National Labour Women's Advisory Committee asked me some time ago if we could issue circulars to employers and unions giving them a layman's guide to the Bill. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham that there are parts of the Bill which are not particularly easy for a lay reader to understand. It is, therefore, our intention when the Bill reaches the Statute Book to prepare detailed comments of guidance on it for use of employers and employees. These will explain in detail the meaning and purpose of each part of the Bill.

I am sure that this guide will be necessary because I still hear people who have studied the Bill making misleading statements about it, such as to the effect that it provides only for equal pay for the same work or broadly similar work, whereas, of course, it does far more. This is why it is important to have this detailed analysis. These notes of guidance will be free, and we intend to send copies to all trade unions and employees on the register.; of the Department's local offices. Copies will be available at my Department's local offices throughout the country so that there will be no excuse for anybody to misunderstand the Bill.

My final word is this. The Bill is, of course, not the last word in the fight for equality, but I believe that it was the most difficult hurdle to overcome for the simple reason that it involves money. The Government have many things they want to do and there are a number of competing causes on which they want to spend money. It is difficult to choose the priorities. The historic thing today is that at a time still of economic stringency we have chosen to give priority to the principle of nondiscrimination against women in rates of pay. I am sure that this is a priority which the country will endorse as being the fulfillment of a long-overdue piece of justice.

The Bill is not, as some people believe, concerned only with rates of pay and I should like to put this clearly on the record. It is concerned with something far more far-reaching. It is concerned with terms and conditions of employment. Anything provided for men must be provided for women doing the same or equally evaluated work whether it be in the form of wages or any kind of emolument.

It is necessary to get this on record, because I have before me the agenda of the Women's Conference of the T.U.C. which is being held today and tomorrow. I was astonished to see a resolution in the name of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers calling on the Government to amend the present equal pay proposals in order to adopt a wider definition of remuneration. It goes on to say: To include"— and it quotes the I.L.O. Convention Number 100: the ordinary basic or minimum wage or salary and any additional emoluments whatsoever payable directly or indirectly whether in cash or in kind by employers to workers and arising out of the workers' employment. They are asking us to amend the legislation to include the I.L.O. definition of remuneration. There is no need. It is already in the Bill. It is this kind of misunderstanding about the scope of the Bill that it is imperative we clear up.

Some have said—and I agree with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) —that this will be an opportunity for training, but the Bill will not give women the opportunity unless they are given equality in both training and promotion. This is exactly what the Bill does. I want again to put on record that if the man's contract of employment contains anything about promotion or training, then so must the contract of any of the women entitled to equal treatment with the men. Therefore, the scope for the Bill is more far-reaching than many people have yet realised.

As we celebrate the passing of this stage tonight we can say that we have started something which will have a profound and far-reaching effect on society. I wish to thank every hon. Member of the House who has helped us to put this great Measure on the Statute Book.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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