HC Deb 14 February 1973 vol 850 cc1367-416

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [2nd February], That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question again proposed.

7.24 p.m.

Mr. Martin Maddan (Hove)

I make no apology for having risen on Friday, 10 days ago, to ensure that further consideration be given to the Bill. I believed that to be entirely necessary if only to show that a vociferious lobby cannot stampede the House.

I find it astonishing that the advocates of rushing through the Bill made no more than glancing reference in all they said to the different problems arising from the different positions of women in employment. First, there are single women and those yet without children. Their position is different from that of women with dependent children. The position of both those groups is different from those of women who have grown up.

The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) took non-discrimination too far by lumping all these groups together in his cascade of largely irrelevant statistics.

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

Are women who have married and who have children not grown up?

Mr. Maddan

I meant that the children are grown up. We all grow up at differing speeds. I assure my lion. Friend that in everything I say I am against unfair discrimination against women. However, I have the gravest reservations about the Bill and I hope to show why. It is no wonder that there are doubts about it.

The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), who is not here now but who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench on Friday 2nd February, noted that legislation already passed in this House was inadequate and ineffective. We want to take care not to fall into the same trap twice. The Bill is too blunt an instrument in principle, never mind its details, to deal with deep and difficult situations. It is also largely irrelevant. It is like trying to use a tin-opener to extract oil from the North Sea. It is not relevant to the main problems.

I shall describe to those hon. Members who support the Bill some of the situations which arise. We may not all agree upon the solutions to those situations but they will illustrate the need for deep thought. First, there are single women and those married women yet without children. They are not the main problem. They are not the root of it, though they may be those who are most vociferous in support of the Bill. The proportion of these women in employment is at nearly the same rate as for men. That was shown by Viola Klein in one of her books.

The total number of single women and those married yet without children in relation to the total working population is small. Their problem comes because most women have children, which interrupts the careers of those who have embarked on one. That interruption has its effect on the cost-benefit to the nation of training them. The hon. Member for Fife, West gave some examples, and the cost of training in those cases is high. One cannot ignore the subsequent comparative rate of fall-out between the sexes. If we invest highly in the training of all women, will there then be pressure on those women to continue their careers rather than to have children? Nobody addresses themselves to that.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Maddan

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I wonder why he is so sure. That aspect is worth considering. The Bill goes nowhere even to acknowledge the extent of that problem.

I now turn to the mothers whose children have grown up. Such a mother will have gaps in her experience as a result of having brought up her children—[Laughter.] Everybody laughs. Such a mother will have a gap in her career experience as a result of having brought up her children.

Mr. Hamilton

Tell us about your gaps?

Mr. Maddan

I prefer to stick to the Bill. I think that the hon. Gentleman might prefer me to do so as well. In Clause 2(a) the Bill talks about what a person is "qualified" for. The board proposed in the Bill has to enforce the Bill's provisions, but its provisions evade all the important questions including what "qualified" means in the context of somebody who has had a substantial gap in her career.

I turn next to the women with dependent children. Of this aspect virtually nothing was said. The dual rôle of the worker and mother also gives rise to genuine difficulties which cannot be removed by a quick stroke of the parliamentary pen. The first fact of the situation is that two-thirds of women with dependent children do not work.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

Surely the hon. Gentleman does not really mean that they do not work.

Mr. Maddan

When I say that they do not work——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have a very long list of speakers on both sides of the House. Interventions prolong speeches.

Mr. Maddan

I am talking, of course, about working in a career. What I have said underlines the fact that the more women who will have children go out to work at professional careers, the bigger is the problem which this practice poses for those professions. We should note what Political and Economic Planning said, in a study called "Sex, Career and Family", about those women who work at home. It was concerned mostly with graduates and drew attention to the high degree of satisfaction shown by those married women who have committed themselves definitely and in principle to the role of a full-time housewife". In that context I welcome Lord Denning's judgment last week that the wife who looks after the home contributes as much to the family assets as the wife who goes out to work.

I want now to look at the implications of the Bill for the one-third of women with dependent children who work, and I do so from three aspects—that of the woman herself, that of her employer and the trade unions, and that of her children. There are many subjective views on these matters, so I intend to base myself on academic sources and research findings. I will quote what those sources are and I hope in this way to start off on an objective path.

I begin with the point of view of the working mother herself. What is the nature of her economic contribution? This has been well defined by the National Manpower Council of Columbia University, and what it says applies here just as much as in the United States. It says that women …constitute a distinctive manpower resource"— [Laughter.] We all know, as Sir Winston Churchill said, that "man" comprehends "woman" in parliamentary terms. The National Manpower Council says that women constitute a distinctive manpower resource because the structure and the substance of the lives of most women are fundamentally determined by their functions as wives, mothers and home makers. Why do one-third of women with dependent children go out to work? Viola Klein in her book, "Britain's Married Women Workers", written when she was a lecturer in sociology at Reading University, reported thus on a survey by Mass Observation: The growth in the number of married women going out to work is the result of the smaller size of their families and the general reduction in housework…combined with a striving to improve their standards of living. It is not due to an urge for 'emancipation'. There is no trace of feminist egalitarianism.…Isolated references to the 'equality of the sexes' were made by men, not women. Mr. E. Leach, when he addressed the British Humanist Association a couple of years ago, seems to have hit the nail on the head perhaps more truly than I really like a humanist to do when he referred to the curious assumption that men and women are socially interchangeable. He said: Instead of training our women to be imitation second-class males, we should recognise the basic facts of existence and make a clear distinction between male and female roles, concentrating our attention on raising the social status of the female rôle. So much for working mothers' motives and how they see themselves. We in Parliament too ought to give more attention than we do to the importance and, indeed, the honour of motherhood. The significance of Lord Denning's judgment is very relevant here.

I now want to look at the matter from the starting point of employers and trade unions. Concessions to women which are not granted to men have to be made to women employees to enable them to fulfil their dual rôle at work and at home because, of course, of absence due to family responsibilities. A point here which goes to the hollow centre of the Bill, which ignores the whole topic, is one that I can best make by using the measured words of Viola Klein from the same book I have already quoted from. She says: The onus of carrying out the adjustments necessary to absorb into the labour market employees whose major responsibilities lie outside their field of employment cannot be put on the employers alone. I will say more about that in a moment, when I come to taxation.

Mr. William Hamilton

Hurry up.

Mr. Maddan

We all thought that there was need for serious debate of the Bill, and now we are having it.

I turn now to the children themselves. Modern psychology has given support and justification to a belief which at one time may have been thought old-fashioned': the view that the future happy development of infants is dependent on the loving care of their mother. That is a quotation from a book by Alva Myrdal and Viola Klein called "Women's Two Roles".

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Maddan

No, I will not give way because, as Mr. Speaker has pointed out——

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

I merely wished to ask my hon. Friend whether he thinks that the working mothers are less loving than those who do not go out to work.

Mr. Maddan

I am coming to that. My hon. Friend's intervention fortifies me in my resolve to take Mr. Speaker's hint in future, and I hope that I shall not detain the House. The very point I was going to make is this: how is the working mother to be able to exercise her loving care for her children? What provision does the Bill make for that? It makes none.

I will not myself describe this problem but will quote three sentences taken from the conclusions of a pioneering book by Simon Yudkin and Anthea Holme called "Mothers and Their Children", based on research by London University. The first sentence is: A large percentage of school children had to eat their breakfast after their mother had' gone to work, especially full-time work. The second sentence is: One-third of the children whose mothers worked full-time, and nearly one-fifth of those mothers worked part-time, came home to an empty house for an hour or two. My third quotation refers to arrangements made during school holidays for children of mothers at work. It is: A large number still had to manage for themselves. This included nearly 20 per cent. of children between five and 11 years old, though two-thirds of those children had older brothers and sisters. Of the older children between 12 and 15, more than 40 per cent. looked after themselves during the holidays. I observe that Women's Lib and its champions here who ignore these problems, as the Bill does, prove themselves to be completely out of touch with the realities faced by so many women and children—[Interruption.]—in our society today.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock) rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Clapping or hissing or anything of that sort is disorderly and anyone who engages in it will be requested to leave the Floor of the House, or elsewhere. If the Public Galleries have to be cleared, that will involve a suspension of the Sitting and may endanger the future of the measure.

Mr. Maddan

There is evidence that working mothers, especially those working full-time, may become less sensitive to the emotional and psychological, as well as the physical, needs of their children. This situation may well get worse as was foreshadowed by Audrey Hunt in her Government Social Survey report. She explained that today granny is the main substitute for mum while mum is working. Today's grandmothers are used to looking after children all day. What will be the position with tomorrow's grannies who have not devoted themselves to looking after children?

Mr. Molloy

You tell us.

Mr. Maddan

I will leave that. What plans have we which recognise the severe drop in family income which can take place when a wife who has been working stops doing so as her children begin to arrive? It may be said that Government policies in other areas should look after all these things. I want to take one such area—taxation—and see what is happening. This is my last point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen may not like this but they had better listen.

One might suppose, as more single women without dependants take up careers and thus compete for jobs with fathers who have dependants, that the bias and trend of the tax system would move in favour of those with dependants, particularly when we consider that the time when parents are starting a family is a very expensive one for them. It is just at that moment that the wife, if she has been working, is likely to give up work. Yet the bias and trend is in exactly the opposite direction.

I will take as an example a single woman and compare her with a married man with two dependent children and imagine that they both have an income of £3,000 a year. Let us assume—it is a modest assumption—that the man spends on his wife and children the exact amount that is allowed for tax purposes. In 1938–39 these allowances totalled £200: today they are £550. That is not much to spend on a wife and two children.

The amount of net income available to the single woman in 1938–39 was 6½ per cent. greater than that remaining in the hands of the father after that assumed level of expenditure on his wife and children. Today the differential in favour of the single woman is not 6½ per cent.; it is 18 per cent. The bias has been moving the wrong way for more than a generation and it is getting worse. I have ignored family allowances because in most professional families these are wholly or mostly clawed back by the taxation system.

Discrimination is most important in the instance of the single woman and the married woman without dependent children. It arises basically from the consequences of the fact that most women become married and have children. This is the heart of the matter. Discrimination as described in the Bill is far from being the basic issue and the Bill diverts attention from the heart of the matter. That is why I am sure that this whole issue requires much wider and deeper consideration before we rush further legislation on to the statute book.

7.44 p.m.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

I never cease to be amazed at the rubbish that men talk about women——

Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

Some men.

Mrs. Short

All right, some men—on the other side of the House. If the Hove Daily Courier or whatever it is called prints the speech of the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan) there will be some angry women meeting him at his next surgery or however it is he meets his constituents.

The fact that we hear that kind of speech indicates how necessary the Bill is. I am honoured to be the sponsor of it and I hope it will receive a speedy passage. At the moment I am engaged on an investigation, in the Expenditure Committee, of the whole question of women's employment, training opportunities and related subjects, including something which the hon. Member mentioned, the kind of support we give to working mothers, married and unmarried. The report will be published in a few weeks and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make a special effort to read it and instruct himself about some of the inequalities that exist and the discrimination that goes on as between married and single women and as between men and women.

The hon. Member began by talking about the House being stampeded into passing this Bill. If we remember that it is about 100 years since people began trying in various ways, through the TUC, women's organisations, and through this House on many occasions, to get something like this Bill, I do not think that anyone can call that stampeding—even at the rate at which this House works.

If we look first at the industrial sector I am sure that everyone will agree that women come out very badly. Today about 50 per cent. of women earn less than £15 a week, whereas the equivalent figure for men is 1 per cent. Although we have the Equal Pay Act on the statute book, I am disturbed at the effort which is being made to dodge the provisions of that Act. The TUC is concerned about the kind of advice being given to employers about how to dodge the implications of implementing the Act. Advice has been given about job evaluation exercises aimed at creating jobs for women which are apparently not equal to jobs carried out by men. This has been put forward as a means of enabling women to be paid less than men for work of equal value.

Obviously we have a long way to go and many or us were concerned that the Secretary of State for Employment was not prepared to take the opportunity provided by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). She introduced her Bill which would have given the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity to lay an order requiring a certain level of equal pay to be reached by 1974.

Let us look at the opportunities for boys and girls when they leave school and enter industry. There is enormous discrimination. Only a tiny percentage of girls, 7 per cent., enter any kind of apprenticeship for skilled work. Most of those are apprenticeships in the hairdressing trade. About three-quarters of them go to hairdressing. About 42 per cent. of boys leaving school go into skilled apprenticeships. Of the rest, most of the girls go into clerical or secretarial jobs. Girl school leavers and indeed graduates tend to have to follow a clerical or secretarial line if they want promotion. This is particularly true of the BBC. It is particularly true of the top jobs in management. The girls have to start off as secretaries.

We do not ask the young men to begin as secretaries. They get on to the managerial ladder at the beginning if they are qualified to do so, if they are graduates and have done the kind of training which equips them for a managerial post. Girls who want to follow that kind of profession have to take secretarial work and hope that by some stroke of luck they will be noticed and be given the opportunity to get on the management ladder. Therefore, at every level there is discrimination in promotion against girls.

The career patterns for girls are largely dependent on their educational background and families, but I am concerned that, although progress has been made in industrial training, little progress has been made by the industrial training boards. In 1968 the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions found that the boards had not increased the range of jobs done by women. In our inquiry we found that precisely the same position exists today, five years later. The boards are not concerned with opportunities for women. They are not concerned with giving women what we might regard as unusual jobs. Women are supposed to go into the ordinary routine jobs which women have done for centuries. Any suggestion that women should be trained to do jobs which they would be anxious to do if they had the opportunity does not enter into the consideration.

Let us look beyond the school leaving age and the apprenticeship stage and consider the discrimination in day release between boys and girls. Only about 10 per cent. of girls get day release, often for clerical work, whereas 40 per cent. of boys get it. There are very poor figures for day release in industries in which many women are employed and in which the unions are concerned about the position of women. In the distributive trade only 2.3 per cent. of girls and women get day release. The percentage is the same in banking and insurance. In the textile industry it is 3.4 per cent. These are very low percentages for training after school life.

We need only to consider the situation in the House to realise that there is discrimination against women. There is a large number of women in the Chamber tonight, but in total they are a very small minority in a man's world. I do not complain that we are in a man's world. I complain that there are so few women Members. There should be more of us. There is tremendous discrimination against women in both political parties. It is difficult for women to be selected and adopted for safe Labour or Conservative seats. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Liberals?"] We do not consider them. Women have great difficulty in being selected for seats which they are likely to win, but it is all right for them to fight the difficult seats with large Conservative or Labour majorities against them. They can fight the marginal seats if they are lucky.

There is equal difficulty in the professions. We see how discrimination works in the appointment of boards and corn-missions. We have the "statutory woman", and that is about it. She is supposed to hold the fort and to put forward the case with very little support.

The main problem is the support which we give to women who want jobs. The hon. Member for Hove said that the Bill does not deal with support for women. But it is not intended to do so. Some women Members, and I am glad to say some men Members, have been working together to do precisely that. We have won over the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science to our views about nursery education. We hope that we shall win her over to our plea for much more provision to help working women with young children who need to be cared for so that they do not have to come home to empty houses. New thinking in the provision of nursery centres, in the hours which they are open and flexible hours for women workers will help to overcome these problems.

The difficulty lies with the kind of brainwashing exercise which takes place when little girls are little girls. Girls of two or three years of age are depicted in the picture books as being that part of the community which plays with dolls and prams. The boys in the picture books play with machinery and trains and do the exciting things. They are the doers while the girls are brainwashed into becoming supine and passive.

That situation permeates through the education system. A tremendous change in attitude is needed in the way in which we educate girls. When girls and boys are doing crafts at school we segregate them. We teach the girls domestic science, and the boys do woodwork and metalwork. Why should we not teach both sexes the same things? Why should they be taught in separate schools? Why should they be segregated in different groups of different subjects? It is nonsense to discriminate in this way. All the time we inculcate the view that girls are not able to do the same things and cannot tackle the same activities as boys. I hope that the Secretary of State for Education and Science will take up some of these ideas. It would be sensible for her to do so.

In addition to being concerned about the discrimination which exists in education, I am concerned about the question of different rates of pay for mature women undergoing training in order to return to industry. There are different rates of training pay for them.

There are many anomalies which I hope the Bill will help to remove. I support the Bill. I do not believe that if we give it a Second Reading and it reaches the statute book it will eliminate all discrimination against women. That will not happen overnight. It will be a fairly long process, and it must happen in many different directions. But the Bill will create the right climate. Just as the Race Relations Board has helped to improve the climate, so the provisions of this Bill will help to improve the climate. It will make discrimination against women unpopular and anti-social. It will make it something which reasonable and decent people do not do. It will make a valuable contribution to bringing about the equality of women which I hope will be pursued throughout our national life.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

Many hon. Members wish to speak. Therefore, the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) will forgive me if I do not take up her remarks but go straight to the point of what I want to say.

I shall support the Second Reading of the Bill. I believe that there are areas of discrimination which should be carefully considered and eliminated for the sake of the betterment of our way of life. However, the Bill, in its terms, is very unsatisfactory in many respects—and that has been agreed. I invite the House to do two things—to pass the Bill without opposition on Second Reading and to send it to a Select Committee so that it can be carefully considered. There is a large queue of Bills awaiting to go to Standing Committee. It would therefore be a long time before a Standing Committee could consider it. It might jeopardise the entire Bill unless the alternative procedure is adopted.

I recognise that there are many male and some female colleagues in the House who are opposed to this Anti-Discrimination Bill. The title is a strange misnomer. If I say to a person, "Sir, you are a most discriminating person", that person will say, "Thank you very much; you have done me a great honour." At the same time, "anti-discrimination" takes on an unpleasant taste.

Those who drew the Bill—a desperately difficult one to draw—were faced at the outset with an impossible task. Let us consider the difficulty of that task. The advertising clause is a nonsense. We do not want to be in a position in which we cannot advertise for an au pair girl or a daily woman without being guilty of discrimination. We do not want to be in a position in which we cannot discriminate with regard to housekeepers, cooks, daily women and the like. Yet, as the Bill is drawn, all these matters could be regarded as discriminatory because one has to maintain equality of opportunity for males and females.

In the police service, in hostels and in the fire services we surely do not want women to have to face the difficult task of handling violent criminals. Obviously, there must be a balance. Equally, certain aspects of the fire services are highly dangerous. I can well understand firemen properly putting forward a case that a large part of their work is properly a man's task.

The Factories Act is designed to protect women. In the police force there are arrangements whereby the hours of duty are less for certain women than they are for men and, properly so, because often they are married women who have domestic duties to perform. It is not in those fields that alterations have to be made.

Although there is no one more discriminating than dear old medieval, Luddite Mr. Briginshaw, if one asks the members of his National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants whether they are willing to let in any women, they will say, "No women at any price". That is a matter of discrimination that should be looked at.

The Women's Advisory Committee of the Trades Union Congress has given evidence before the Select Committee in the House of Lords. In that evidence it was said: The TUC Women's Advisory Committee consider that in a number of respects the Anti-Discrimination (No. 2) Bill would not be satisfactory as the basis for legislation to outlaw discrimination against women. The advisory committee goes on to point out what is obvious, that Clause 1 cannot stand. Clause 1 is not a definition of discrimination. Whoever comes to consider it will have to decide whether "discrimination" is the right word and, if it be the right word, what is the proper definition of it. The evidence of the advisory committee goes on to say that Clause 2(a) is not effectively worded, nor is Clause 2(b).

On the setting up of a board, the advisory committee pointed out that the powers of enforcement are quite ineffective, and that is right. Therefore, the Bill, not merely in terms of drafting but in the way in which it sets about the task, does not cover the whole field under the one word "discrimination". Instead, it should seek to pick out certain areas of known discriminatory misconduct which should be rendered unlawful. That is a task which will require the combined brains of men and also of ladies.

Furthermore, there is a constitutional difficulty. From 13th June 1972 until the present time, a Select Committee of the House of Lords has been sitting. It has already sat 14 times and has taken a lot of evidence. It is an able committee, but it has turned into a doughty battle between three eminent ladies, Lady Summerskill, Lady Seear and Lady Macleod, who have dominated the proceedings in another place. The Select Committee has listened to evidence from societies. So far, the male side of the trade union movement has not given evidence, with the exception of the engineers.

If this House is to consider this matter, it is essential that we should play the game by the rules. If the unions—and they may have a proper case—say that they will not have women at any price, they must justify it. It may be justifiable. I do not argue that the firemen may not have a case for saying that all the dangerous work they do should be for men only. It may be; it may not be. It is a matter for evidence.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East spoke of girls not participating in certain work. For the last three years almost every polytechnic has tried to get girls to join the engineering and science courses. They have not got one. Girls do not go in for engineering. There is no discriminatory action; it is just that girls do not want to go in for those courses.

Mrs. Renée Short

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that, although this may not be discrimination, it is part of the conditioning that girls undergo at school? Should not he look at the advice given to girls by careers teachers?

Mr. Rees-Davies

Yes, but all the guidance in the world does not make girls go in for engineering and scientific subjects, and it will be a long time before they will. I am merely quoting the evidence which was given in another place. I can quote chapter and verse of that evidence and the answers given by the Department of Education and Science and Lady Macleod relating to the polytechnics and engineering and science courses.

It is plain that Clause 1 has to be amended. With Clause 4 as it stands the Department of Education and Science would be in an impossible situation. Under the Education Act, the Department is entitled to be consulted on radical changes. The Bill provides for the end of all single-sex schools—Roedean out of the window for girls only, Eton out of the window, for boys only. To be precise, the construction is that nothing in the Education Acts requires that any school or institution should be exclusively for one sex. Clause 4 would not require single-sex schools to become co-ed, but they would be in breach of the Bill if they refused admission to a pupil of the opposite sex or refused to appoint a teacher of the opposite sex.

The result will be a conflict between the Education Acts and the Bill, in particular Section 13 of the 1944 Act which provides that there can be a change only after public notice has been given so that objections may be submitted. All institutions set up by charities or by trust deed which provide for only one sex would be abolished, and the whole system of Roman Catholicism and its education would be rocked to the roots. Those are some of the things that have to be looked at.

It is no good saying that I am opposed to the Bill. I am not. I am pointing out that the whole Roman Catholic community will be at our heads if we pass the Bill. All the independent schools will be at our heads, and many trusts and others. We shall find that we shall have to alter the Factories Acts and the Education Acts, and that will be an immense task.

I invite the House to treat this matter with good will in a fair and honest way and to give the Bill a Second Reading. We must bear in mind that the House of Lords is also considering legislation on this subject. We shall have the opportunity to catch up on the other place when we consider the recommendations of our own Select Committee, with a result which in the long run may turn out to be of very great benefit to women.

8.10 p.m.

Miss John Lestor (Eton and Slough)

When people question the equality of opportunity between the sexes, they often advance arguments about the difficulties that would face women if they were expected to deal with violent criminals, or to fight fires in the Fire Service, and all the rest of it. However, we only have to look at the history of working-class women over the last century or so to realise that for many years they carried out work in the mines, in factories, and on munitions.

I accept that protective legislation must always be carefully examined—and I speak as a woman who does a good deal of night work in this House and who afterwards goes home without protection. And so far I have not suffered unduly from this sort of life.

It is not strictly true that the Bill is concerned solely with abolishing discrimination against women. The Bill is concerned with abolishing discrimination "on grounds of sex" and therefore includes men as well as women. I cannot over-emphasise this point for many professions and occupations would gain a great deal of benefit if men were involved in them. I have in mind work in nursery schools, day nurseries and similar occupations in which children work and play in an entirely feminine society.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Does the hon. Lady agree that male nurses should be included within the provisions of the Midwives Act?

Miss Lestor

Certainly. The whole point of legislation to outlaw discrimination is that it should equalise opportunities for men and for women—in other words, the Bill would emancipate men as well as women. Since women have been discriminated against in so many ways for such a long period of time, and still are discriminated against, there will need at the beginning to be a greater amount of equalisation in relation to them because they are the people who are in greater need.

The subject of employment for women in the engineering profession has been mentioned, and this whole topic is bound up with much of the fantasy and conditioning which takes place in our society about the woman's role. This conditioning process begins at birth, and it is as applicable to men as it is to women. One of the best toys which has ever been invented is a doll called Action Man. This gives boys the opportunity to have a doll of their own and to dress and undress it and when so doing they are not called cissies. We must guard against the sort of attitude that comes from pushing a child in one direction and expecting that child to conform to a certain mode of behaviour, without any regard to differences in emotional behaviour in both boys and girls.

I do not deny that the Bill has defects, but I believe that as a measure it is as perfect as much of the legislation which has passed through this House since June 1970. Certain areas covered by the Bill must be carefully examined—such as insurance, hire purchase, mortgage and credit facilities in which women are actively discriminated against. It is clear that the provisions of the Equal Pay Act will not contribute very much to equal opportunities among men and women unless these other important areas are dealt with. It is practically useless to have the Equal Pay Act on the Statute Book unless at the same time we also seek to equalise opportunities for women in the professions and in industry.

On Tuesday the Under-Secretary of State replied to a Question about opportunities for women wishing to enter medical schools. The hon. Gentleman said that he was not particularly well informed on the question of discrimination in entrance to medical schools, but he said that he found the subject interesting. We have only to look at some of the evidence submitted to the Select Committee in another place to see that large numbers of medical schools operate a quota system for women. The figure in St. Bartholomew's Hospital is 20 per cent., at Charing Cross Hospital it is 25 per cent. and at the Midlesex Hospital the figure, again, is 20 per cent. King's College Hospital takes in 120 women medical students per year. What is important is that certain medical schools require higher qualifications from women than they do from male candidates. There is no justification for that sort of requirement. This is the sort of discrimination with which equal pay provisions will not be able to deal. It is a discrimination in terms of attitude.

It has also been said that there are too few women Members of this House, and again that is true—though I am not sure that this is a question of discrimination. Again we must examine the sort of conditioning process which operates to give women the impression that they should not try to stand for election to local or national government. The number of women who come forward to play an active part in public life is nothing like as great as it should be, because from the moment they enter school they are discouraged from assuming that sort of role. We must look more closely at legislation to try to bring about equal opportunities and to combat the early conditioning of women.

Anybody who has been in the minority situation and who has been active in a world which hitherto has been dominated by men, and certainly somebody who has been moderately successful in that world, always has to face the comment "Yes, but she has the mind of a man". This appears to provide great comfort to large numbers of men and women who do not believe in equal opportunity or equal ability. But those of us who for most of our lives have to grapple with the minds of men are quite happy to retain our own minds intact and to argue from our own standpoint.

I promised to be brief and I conclude by welcoming the Bill and by hoping that, with all its defects, it will be given a Second Reading. I believe that many people who seek to question the provisions in the Bill, and who perhaps see its deficiencies, may themselves have been the victims of the most abject conditioning in their own lives, just as many women have been conditioned about their own role in society.

I believe that many men—and women too—have to try to understand that they have been part of the conditioning process and that in history the roles of men and women in our society have been one enormous "kid" or confidence trick from beginning to end. In terms of ability, confidence and intelligence there are great differences between men and women but they are differences between men and men, between women and women and between men and women. They are not differences dependent on the sexes of the people involved.

Society has assumed a sexual inferiority in women and has then set out to prove that inferiority by denying women equal opportunities. That is what this Bill is about. In extending opportunities to women so that they may compete and play a fuller rôle in society, men will be freed from many of the strictures and confines which they face in having to fulfil a role which someone thought up for them and which does not relate in any way to the facts.

8.20 p.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Michael Havers)

I hope that this is a convenient moment for me to intervene in the debate.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) on his good fortune in the Ballot for the second year running and on his tenacity of purpose. I commiserate with him that the opportunism shown by the noble Lady in another place has meant that his Bill has had to be called the No. 2 Bill. In spite of that it deserves the closest attention and respect.

In my remarks I shall have to criticise certain aspects of the drafting. I do that as part of my duty as a Law Officer. But I am very conscious of the difficulties involved in the drafting of a Private Member's Bill as I am of the principle which it is sought by the promoters to establish. What I have to say is no criticism of that principle. It is one which is accepted by the Government as it has been by the Conservative Party since the publication of the Cripps Committee's Report.

It is not only in the interests of women but of the community as a whole that women should play a full part in the economic life of the country. This Bill, quite rightly, has provoked a great deal of emotion since discrimination against women is a subject on which we all have strong views. However, the time has come to take a cool look at the Bill and to be constructive.

A great deal of shot and shell has been expended in the general direction of the quarry. If we do not pause for a moment to see what is happening there is a very serious danger that the quarry will slip away in the confusion and, when the smoke clears, we shall be left merely with one or two unexpected and certainly unintended casualties for all our efforts.

It is important to examine dispassionately what the Bill does and what it does not do. It is perhaps best to see what it does not do first so that we may see what we are talking about. Here the fundamental point to appreciate is that the Bill does not outlaw discrimination against women generally although its Long Title says it is a Bill To make illegal, and provide for the prevention of, discrimination on grounds of sex.… In fact it does not do that. Its provisions relate to discrimination in employment and in newspaper advertisements relating to employment, to discrimination in training and in education, and to discrimination by professional bodies, trade unions and the like.

Before expanding on what the Bill does and does not do, it is worth noting that there is something in the Bill for men. It is not a discrimination against women Bill. Its prohibitions apply equally to discrimination against men. As has been pointed out already, if it became law institutions such as the Royal College of Midwives, rightly or wrongly, would be compelled to accept men. The Bill is not a charter of woman's rights in the context of the family—her rights in relation to her children or her husband. It does not affect her position as a citizen and taxpayer or in the context of social security. These important matters are not dealt with.

The Bill is not defective because of that—far from it. It is an advantage because this is not an area in which one can make sweeping changes without very careful consideration of their implications and consequences. This must take time. In Canada the Ontario Women's Equal Employment Opportunity Act 1970 and other legislation was preceded by a Royal Commission on the status of women which was set up in February 1967 and which reported in September 1970. I am not advocating a Royal Commission in this case. I am merely emphasising the need for careful consideration if we are to achieve our purpose.

The Bill is already dangerously overloaded, and we shall be hard put, however it may be amended, to ensure that it receives proper consideration. It is important to appreciate at this stage that it is concerned only with education and training, business, employment and the professions and unions. I have to point out that there are unions which are practising this discrimination at the moment. I had thought that there were certain institutions in the City, and to a lesser degree in my own profession, wholly or mainly dominated by men. But I was surprised when I read the proceedings before the Select Committee in another place to learn that there are one or two unions which impose restrictions upon the employment of women. In one case they are the first to go on redundancy even though they may have had longer periods of employment. Another union will not have women employed at any price.

That leads one to an important aspect which has been pointed out already by a number of hon. Members. Whatever the ultimate fate of this Bill it is clear that a great deal of education will be needed in many walks of life so that the various points which have been made can be dealt with and so that there is not a feeling of being channelled along one line from the early years of life. That is why I am so impressed by the American system where great emphasis is placed upon the conciliation procedure. It is only where that breaks down that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests or allows litigation to follow and then the Commission intervenes in the litigation as an amicus curiae in order that the relevant facts on both sides which it has learned in its attempts at conciliation may become known to the court.

It is said that the Bill applies especially to the woman who goes out to work and is discriminated against. One gets the impression that it will now be unlawful for an employer or anyone else concerned with the employment of others to discriminate on grounds of sex in certain specific situations. The wording is reminiscent of Sections 1 and 3 of the Race Relations Act 1968——

Mr. William Hamilton indicated assent.

The Solicitor-General

One has that precedent, and I suspect that the draftsman carried a great deal of the wording of that Act into the Bill. But the precedent that one gets from that falls down when one comes to a definition of the word "discriminate". In the Race Relations Act one discriminates against somebody if in certain situations one treats him less favourably than others. Although the sphere is the same, the definition of discrimination is different in the Bill. One has to say what is meant by discrimination. This in a sense will open the way to legal argument. If one is not careful, again the quarry will escape.

I am sure that the draftsman of the Bill was troubled by this, because in Clause 5 we find that the meaning "to exclude" is not the same as "to discriminate". The definition of discriminate certainly at some stage or other will require some attention.

Having settled the difficult question of what discrimination may mean, it will be necessary to apply that definition across the board in the sphere of employment. Will it be right across the board? We must provide for the possibility that the sex of an applicant may be a perfectly proper qualification or, indeed, in certain cases, disqualification for a post. Leaving aside such unlikely contingencies as women professional footballers—we have an all-England women's cricket team which seems to do very well—we must make special provision for the armed forces, the police and the prison service. The list of candidates for exclusion that we shall have in across the board antidiscrimination will require careful scrutiny.

I think it is essential that interested bodies must be given the opportunity to make representations if we are not to have legislation that, after it is passed, can be made to look ridiculous because some enterprising litigant of either sex, on the one hand or on the other, tries to create or close a loophole through which discriminators may slip.

A special study has been set up to discover the areas in which discrimination occurs and the reasons for it. That study has as its principal objective to determine the kind of measures which are most likely to have a real impact on discriminatory activity and will lead—this is more important—to a real improvement in employment opportunities.

When considering discrimination relating to employment we must remember that we are not merely dealing with a refusal to employ persons, but with their employment and dismissal. Unfortunately we do not have a clean start when we come to consider the proposals in the Bill because, as has already been pointed out, there is a body of law in existence which regulates the employment of women. I am sure that no one would wish to sweep that aside without working out the consequences.

There are a number of enactments which deal with safety, health and welfare at work. The Factories Acts, the Hours of Employment (Conventions) Act and the Public Health Act provide special rights—I will not call them privileges—for women in employment. The Bill is silent whether all or some of that existing legislation is to be repealed.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I have been following the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument very closely. Does he agree that most of the Acts to which he referred arose because women were being used as cheap labour? It was precisely because it was necessary to protect women in that sense that such legislation was brought in. With equal pay there is obviously an argument for looking at the whole of this type of legislation which is there historically because women were used as cheap labour.

The Solicitor-General

I do not accept that statement in its entirety. There will be other reasons—for example, the very fact that they were women. That intervention underlines what I was saying about the need for careful consideration in future about how much of that legislation is to remain. The Bill is silent about that matter.

These and other enactments must be looked at to see how far they must be preserved. There may be those who would scorn any protection, but few would dismiss the need to consider, for example, maternity leave, or possibly leave to look after sick children, without going into it with some care. All these may he very controversial matters, but the Bill does not attempt to grapple with them.

I must emphasise that, however skilful and knowledgeable the Members of the Committee might be, that skill and knowledge probably would not be enough for them to resolve those difficulties, and again consultation seems to be absolutely essential.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

The hon. and learned Gentleman is making extremely heavy weather over what are quite small Committee points. For example, maternity leave, which he says has to be given such serious consideration, was dealt with very simply by a clause in the Equal Pay Act, where it was also appropriate, and a similar clause could be inserted in the Bill in Committee without any difficulty.

The Solicitor-General

I have tried hard to avoid any purely Committee points. What I have tried to do is to look at this on the wider scale.

When one leaves aside the question of advertisement and turns to education, one finds similar problems. They stem from the failure to deal adequately with the definition of discriminate. If we are to have an across-the-board prohibition of discrimination, all educational institutions, whether maintained or independent —and I am not thinking solely of Roedean or Eton, but across the board—will no longer be able to cater exclusively for either boys or girls.

There are, apart from higher education —[Interruption.]—I find these interruptions from the benches opposite extremely tedious. I am trying to deal seriously with this point. Apart from higher education, there are nearly 4,000 schools in this category—that figure is well worth remembering—and fewer than half are private. Parents are at present free to choose such schools, and I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to justify the House in coming to a decision without the maximum of consultation in advance. We have, in the absence of any clear guidance on what discrimination means, the difficulty of getting a balance in coeducational schools.

It is the Bill's concentration on discrimination against the individual rather than against the group that causes the trouble, and that highlights the possible weakness that I see in the Bill as a whole. It is based upon the individual approach. That may not be the best way of doing it. In evidence to a Select Committee in another place an American official put the point in this way: …that the processing of individual complaints … does not significantly alter discrimination patterns and practices… Discrimination is by and large systemic, institutionalised, woven into the entire fabric of a company's personnel practices. Unless the underlying systems are attacked and radically altered—systems such as those involved in advertising recruitment, job classification, wage and salary structure, seniority, etc.—significant change does not occur. The Board should therefore, she said, have resources to use a broad-scale approach to combating discrimination, for example, research studies, hearings to focus attention on discriminatory patterns and practices in certain occupations, industries and geographical areas…". She spoke of grants to bodies giving technical assistance to companies and so on, to develop affirmative action programmes, and follow up thereafter.

There are arguments both ways, and it may be attractive to take the individual approach or look at the areas, either in companies or in industry, where the discrimination is widespread and seek to attack it in that way rather than go for the individual case. In any case, one can see many occasions on which the individual is going to be embarrassed by going either to the board or to the court, particularly if it is not a matter of being employed but of opportunities being denied to her when she is already employed. One of the difficulties is that the law has been settled for more than a century, and the courts will not grant an injunction directly compelling a person to employ or to be employed by another, for reasons which one does not have to investigate very much.

Finally, there is the enforcement procedure, and a lot has been said about that. Is it right, for example, to give concurrent remedies to individuals and to the board? There will be difficulties with regard to what steps a court can take, but those are matters which again no doubt can be properly resolved after the best possible consultation.

The Bill needs a great deal of thought and consideration if it is to achieve what it is designed to do, and it means that something more than the ordinary Standing Committee is called for. I therefore suggest that the House gives serious consideration to committing the Bill to a Select Committee. This would enable the subject, about which I have suggested evidence, consultation and more knowledge is required, to be properly investigated. It would also give the opportunity of getting the principle which I know the House wants established in an effective way, free from doubt and anomalies, so as to give those women who are at present denied them the rewards and satisfaction from work that potentially are theirs, and at the same time give the country the benefit of their services.

Accordingly I advise the House to support the suggestion of a Select Committee after the Bill has been given a Second Reading without prejudice to its progress. In that way the House could give the most careful consideration to the objectives of the promoters of the Bill.

Mr. William Hamilton

May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman if he will give an assurance that we shall have legislation this Session because women outside are demanding action and they are not prepared to wait for all the procedures outlined by the Solicitor-General? Will he give three undertakings—first, that the Select Committee shall have a duty strictly imposed upon it when it shall report to the House, because most of the evidence has already been given to the House of Lords Select Committee, so that the Committee shall report by not later than 31st March? The second undertaking is that the arrangement suggested will not prejudice the progress of the Bill in Standing Committee and on further stages. Thirdly, may we have an assurance that the Select Committee will determine its own terms of reference? Unless the Solicitor-General gives these undertakings we shall have serious reservations about what appears to be a delaying tactic by the Government.

The Solicitor-General

I am sure that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is well aware that it is not in my power to say when the House will get through any particular part of a Bill. As for how long it should remain in Select Committee, if it goes to a Select Committee, that will depend on how much evidence is taken. That will be a matter to be determined by the members of the Select Committee.

My advice to the House is not intended to hamper the ordinary process of legislation in any way, but to make it possible to deal in the best possible way with the problems I have outlined. On the two other points raised by the hon. Member, the date of the report would be a matter to be included in the motion which would be laid at some later stage, possibly within a few days, when technicalities, such as the members of the Committee, could be approved by the House. That would be an appropriate occasion on which to seek aproval for the terms of reference.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

I do not think that the Solicitor-General has fully grasped the points raised by my hon. Friend. Do I understand that the Solicitor-General will not oppose the Second Reading and, presumably, that the Select Committee will follow that? We are asking that there shall be reasonable facilities for the Bill this Session. Having taken the Second Reading this Session we want to be assured that matters will not be so protracted as to require another Second Reading in another Session.

The Solicitor-General

It is for the House not for me to give a Bill a Second Reading. It is for me to advise as I have, and for the House to decide on that advice in its own sovereign right. How long the proceedings in Select Committee will last and how long thereafter the Bill takes in Standing Committee will depend on certain factors. If the Select Com- mittee has dealt with the Bill and has made its own amendments and has produced a thoroughly good Bill, the Standing Committee could dispose of it in no time at all. But that is a matter for the House and it is not for me to say how long that would take.

8.43 p.m.

Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)

The Race Relations Act 1968 was introduced after being given a special place in the Queen's Speech. In introducing it to the House the then Home Secretary said that it was of great social significance and he went on to say that society is most healthy and most free from tension when it is based on the simple principle that every citizen within its boundaries shares equally in the same freedoms, the same responsibilities, the same opportunities and the same benefits."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April 1968; Vol. 763, c. 53.] That Bill dealt with discrimination against only a small proportion of the community. We are discussing tonight a Bill which concerns and affects over half the population of this country. Social policies should be linked with legislation; each needs the other. We are discussing a Bill affecting not only more than half the population but 38 per cent. of our present workforce.

We know that there is prejudice on ground of sex as well as on grounds of colour. Prejudice usually springs from fear. Legislation cannot abolish prejudice but it can make it harder for prejudice to breed and flourish. It creates a climate of opinion in which these things are made reprehensible.

There is nothing new or revolutionary in the Bill. Equality of opportunity is not a new concept, neither is legislation to ensure it. The United States has its Fair Employment Practices Commission. The United Nations International Labour Office has its Convention III concerning discrimination in respect of employment which most other countries have already ratified. For two years I served in New York on the United Nations Status of Women Commission where women from all over the world discussed this very issue.

Let us amend the Bill in Committee if necessary. Let us take into consideration the findings and recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee and, if the House wishes, of a House of Commons Select Committee. The House, with very few exceptions, seems agreed that discrimination against women exists and that discrimination against women should end. We have before us tonight the means to end this discrimination.

There is a time factor which the Government should consider very carefully, and that is the connection of the Bill with the Equal Pay Act, which has to be implemented by the end of 1975. The Government in their White Paper on the freeze say that they wish orderly progress towards equal pay to continue. Fine words—but it is three years since the Equal Pay Act was passed yet equal pay, particularly among non-manual women workers, is set back today from what it was three years ago.

The Engineering Employers Federation is sending messages of guidance to its members suggesting that they introduce new job gradings, that they segregate women employees into women's work with lower wages and that they keep unskilled wage rates as low as possible in order to minimise the impact of equal pay. In the year following the passage of the Equal Pay Act, 156,000 women were made redundant. The present Bill is complementary to the Equal Pay Act: if one is to operate fairly and meaningfully, the other must be introduced. They go hand in hand, equality of opportunity in employment with equality of pay.

As far as possible, the Bill should integrate the labour force because it is not good for the country and it is not good for men and women to have an artificial delineation of men's work and women's work.

There is no time to be lost if the Equal Pay Act is to be fully implemented by the end of 1975. I have been a faithful and regular attender at anti-discrimination Bill debates for some time and I have marvelled at the kaleidoscopic variety of excuses and rationalisation presented to us by Government spokesmen. In 1971 we heard from the Treasury Bench the present Governor of Bermuda casually dismiss the Bill—there were not as many present then as there are today. Although that former Minister was against discrimination against women, he did not believe that legislation was the right way to do it.

A few weeks ago it was the turn of another Minister of State, Home Office. He chose to hide behind the future recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee. There was no leadership, no commitment from the Government Front Bench: the Committee would say whether the Bill was right or whether it should be amended: the Committee would say whether a different approach should be made: "We must wait for the Lords Select Committee."

What has happened in the last 12 days? Here we have yet another Government spokesman, this time the Solicitor-General, with a third variation on the same theme. He says that the Bill is overloaded, that the definition of discrimination needs looking at and that there is need for careful consideration and consultation. I listened very carefully to what he said, and I could find no good reasons for the House tonight to oppose the Bill. We shall not have to listen to any more Government excuses if we do not want to listen to them. We now have the opportunity, as elected representatives, to stand up and be counted on this issue, and let our constituents and the country really see where Members of Parliament stand.

If the Bill is accepted tonight by the predominantly male House of Commons, the credit for this achievement must go to the women of the country. If any bouquets are to be handed out at the end of the evening, it is they who should receive them because it is their pressure, their determination, their indignation, their perseverance and their dignified campaigning which have brought about this change of heart and mind among the men of the House of Commons.

Housewives, students, trade unionists, women's organisations have all been campaigning us during the last year; and this, I hope, will be an example of how a battle for justice can be won both outside and inside the House of Commons. But I am not euphoric. In fact, I am cynical and dubious about the future of the Bill. Having seen the battle for the Equal Pay Act since 1964, having seen it put on the Statute Book with great difficulty, and as it is not even implemented yet and we are still having to press for equal pay, I am dubious about the Bill.

The Government have granted special time tonight for a decision on the Second Reading. [Interruption.] The Government and the Opposition combined, we can say. The Leader of the House mouthed acceptance of the Opposition suggestion that we should have special time for the Second Reading. This is by no means the end of the affair. Any Private Member's Bill is subjected to threats and hazards throughout its passage in this House, especially if it is controversial and if it relies on the whims of an inconsistent Government to give it support.

Even if the Bill is accepted by the House tonight, will the Government, having provided facilities so far, give an assurance that when the Bill has completed its Select Committee stage and its Standing Committee stage, it will not fall eventually for lack of time? Will the Bill—the Solicitor-General could answer this on behalf of the Government—be given preferential treatment over other Private Members' Bills so that it can complete its whole legislative course? If the Solicitor-General cannot give that assurance, this extra time tonight is totally pointless and meaningless—a toothless gesture of no significance.

I conclude by reminding the House of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law. There can be no doubt that the Bill will contribute not only to women's progress but to total human progress.

8.55 p.m.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim (Gloucester)

As a supporter of the Bill, I am forced to express one personal regret. It is inevitable, I suppose, that the Bill should have become associated in many people's minds with the more extreme elements of the women's liberation movement. [Interruption.] We hear an example of it now. As a supporter and sponsor of the Bill, and as a woman, I wish to dissociate myself from the protagonists of that movement.

In the first place, they distort the aims of the Bill. Second, it appears to me that all too often they do not want to elevate womanhood so much as to deny it. Their extreme views and arguments, the strident way in which they express them, their tendency to emphasise the trivial and to trivialise that which is serious and, more important, the fact that their arguments contain so little knowledge and reveal so little research on the subject combine to create hostility rather than support for the Bill, and support for an important reform which women's organisations throughout the country, as well as hon. Members of the House now and Members before them, have striven for years to achieve and of which there is legislative evidence.

I believe that women are more effective as persuaders than as revolutionaries, and by that I do not mean persuasion by the blandishments of whatever charms they may have, on the one hand, or meaningless gestures such as burning their bras, on the other. I mean persuasion by the reasonableness and objectivity of their arguments.

The Bill is not about liberating women. It is about giving women a fair chance. I want that point to be clearly understood. I particularly deplore the way in which, by their arguments, the extreme exponents of the women's liberation movement denigrate those women who are fulfilled and happy in the role of housewife and mother, for I believe that to be a good housewife and mother is, possibly, the highest aspiration of womanhood and the hardest to achieve. But that those women who want to use their talents and abilities in any other way should be given a completely equal opportunity to do so is, I believe, their unquestionable right.

One of the results of the Bill which I fear is, possibly, that it could lead to the creation of a whole generation of statutory women. There is no more pathetic figure than the statutory woman, the woman who is appointed not because of skill or merit but because she is a woman, to public boards, commissions or public bodies of one kind and another, because this is likely to undermine confidence in the ability of women at a time when we should be exploding myths. I have in mind, for example, the myth that education and training for women is a waste of time. We all know that each year more educated and trained women are returning to the professions or to work after they have had their families.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) has opposed the Bill on a number of occasions because, he says, it is wrong to prescribe attitudes by law. I agree with him, so long as those attitudes are not doing positive harm to a group of people, and in this case those attitudes are. The Bill represents an attempt to re-educate attitudes, because the nature of discrimination against women is not so intransigent as to be totally unresponsive to education and to reason.

It has already been accepted by the House that discrimination exists. There can be no doubt that it exists to the disadvantage of a great many women. There is no doubt also that it is manifested mostly through inequality of opportunity in education, in training, in higher education, in job opportunities, in job selection, in promotion and in apprenticeship opportunities.

Of the fact that a woman usually has to be three times better than her male counterpart to achieve equal pay and status in a profession or a job, and probably five times better to be promoted above him, there is no doubt. Equally, of the fact that the Equal Pay Act could be totally undermined by discrimination, there is also no doubt. I hope that not one hon. Member would challenge the fact that discrimination exists to this extent.

I do not believe that the Bill will overcome discrimination, prejudice or injustice. I do not believe that it would be acceptable to any Government without extensive redrafting. I do not accept for one moment that it could be implemented without a number of anomalous situations arising.

But I do believe that even if the Bill succeeded in overcoming discrimination and injustice to only a small degree; even if it succeeded in achieving only modest progress towards raising the status of women; even if it succeeded only in beginning to eliminate those laws and regulations that are anachronistic and to the disadvantage of women; even if it succeeded only in making people think twice before they took discriminatory action; even if it succeeded in only one case in a thousand in preventing a discriminatory action from taking place, then it should not be rejected by the House tonight.

There is, however, a much more urgent reason to support the Bill—the need to overcome discrimination against those women who, more than any others, need to be given equality of opportunity and equality under the law. I refer to the mother in the one-parent family who has no choice but to go out to work, the single daughter with elderly dependants to maintain and those women who, on top of the emotional shock of divorce, of desertion, of being widowed or even of having an inadequate husband, must face a barrier of discrimination that will bring them face to face with frustration and financial hardship simply because they are women.

On behalf of those women the Bill should not be rejected, because their struggle is a very unequal one. With a family to support, they cannot earn as much as a man. They are not given the same opportunities to work overtime as a man. The law and the tax system discriminate against them, as do landlords and even some council housing departments. In some cases they will need a male sponsor if they want to take on a mortgage.

Even more reprehensible, some employers will discriminate against women simply because they are divorced or deserted. Unlike men, women have to reveal their marital status on many more occasions. Even in this enlightened day there are still people who regard divorced women as having somehow failed, as being inadequate, unreliable or neurotic, whereas they regard the divorced man with indulgence, as having escaped from a harridan, or with even more indulgence as being a "bit of a lad".

I cannot describe as eloquently as the Finer Committee did the plight of those women alone. If the Bill were to move only an inch in the direction of alleviating that plight, it should be accepted, because with all its faults it represents a gesture that I believe should be made. Notwithstanding that it may be no more than a gesture, it is one that could very well provide, if not the whole edifice, at least the foundation stone on which to build a fairer society for women.

9.4 p.m.

Mrs. Doris Fisher (Birmingham, Lady-wood)

Various hon. Members tonight have tried more delaying tactics against a further step in progress towards the rights of women. To hear some hon. Members, we might think that sufficient evidence had not already been produced by various commissions and set out in international declarations, treaties, charters, agreements and conventions. At the United Nations, the ILO and all the various international conferences, sentiments are expressed showing clearly that women are classified as second-class citizens.

Many conferences are attended by parliamentarians who intend to report the feelings there expressed to their national Governments and seek to embody them in their statutes. They want to try to create a fabric of society which will give women a much more equal opportunity. At international conferences and conventions everybody seems seized of the idea that those objects are right. But when those feelings are expressed to the national Governments, whether the United Kingdom Government or any of the Governments of the European countries, all kinds of problems seem to arise which mean that the ideas cannot be put into operation. Often problems arise because of the attitudes of members of the various Governments. In the present Government and in the House people either echo other people's thinking outside and make those thoughts their point of view in this Chamber or try to form opinions and get the public to go along with those opinions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is trying by means of legislation to bring about legal recognition of women's rights. I support him in that aim. To achieve it there must be a change in people's attitudes. They can be conditioned by the utterings of hon. Members but we must go a long way before they can be changed.

Generally speaking the rights of man have always been interpreted as the rights of men. Women have never even had God on their side.

There has been a great deal of discussion here about the Treaty of Rome and our accession to the EEC. Article 119 of the treaty provides for equal pay between men and women. That is one of the most important social clauses of the treaty, but I cannot say that I have heard any discussion upon that article. We have been inundated with regulations about the size of eggs and how many eyes a potato must have before it can be brought into this country. All these peripheral matters have been discussed, but not the fundamental social aspects of what is called joining the EEC.

Before this debate there was a long debate upon the implications of VAT, which is connected with our joining the EEC. I only hope that the Government dealt with discrimination against women with the same speed as they dealt with VAT.

Many hon. Members have spoken about discrimination and the difficulty of exposing it. It is difficult to expose because, instead of being open and unashamed, it very often takes on the guise of special protection.

Male hon. Members who are opposed to the Bill have been perhaps echoing the view that women need special protection. I do not accept this concept. There are many jobs in society done by men which all men would not be capable of doing. It can easily be pointed out that there are male hon. Members who would not make very good firemen and many would not make very good miners. I must say that many hon. Members on this side of the House have made excellent miners and firemen, but that does not apply to the majority of male Members of the House.

Women's work is undervalued only because we persist in giving them the same working conditions as men. We do this because we are hypocritical. Misleadingly it is done in the name of equality, as it is called. I say that we should let discrimination give way to differentiation. Many hon. Members have spoken about woman's place in the home and the role she has to play in the home. Some of my hon. Friends have spoken about the educational approach that trains boys for an active role in society and in the community generally and girls for a much more passive role. One hon. Member spoke about child-bearing as though it were a penalty that women have to undergo, instead of women being praised for bearing children.

In our debate on 2nd February the hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Miss Fookes) spoke about discrimination in politics. Many women would love to attend political meetings. But we all know of the women who turn up at political meetings eager to remake the world but find themselves allowed only to make the tea.

In their contribution to society, the growth in the number of women at work accounts for almost all the growth in the working population in Great Britain in the last 20 years, but we still have to face the fact that there are approximately 2 million more women than men in Great Britain. Yet we still have to fight for equality. The Bill takes a step towards it. For example, there are twice as many men justices of peace as women, and only 12 per cent. of local councillors are women. One of my hon. Friends has drawn attention to the few women Members of Parliament. Perhaps one could argue that this is discrimination against men in that there is only one of us for every 24 men.

The image of women as decorative dolls with unfurnished minds has really and truly been exploited in our social life. We should look a little further than London and the home counties when taking about the contribution of women. Many hon. Members on both sides must know of the contribution which women are making, not only in London and the surrounding areas but throughout the country. So often women are neglected because they happen to live north of Watford. They are not recognised by Governments or anyone else if they live any further north than Watford.

This has some bearing on the attitude of women. Women have the same abilities as men. They have ambitions and ideas and can contribute to society as much as men. It is time that men and the community generally learned to think of people in terms of their personalities and not in terms of their sexual rôles.

I do not believe that men and women are equal; I believe they are complementary. I would not favour a petticoat régime. I support a society which gives equal opportunities, which gives people the opportunities of a free, responsible and independent rôle in society. The Bill is not perfect. There are many imperfections in it and many alterations will have to be made in Committee. Its aim of giving women their due place in society cannot be questioned and I support it.

9.16 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

Like the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) I can say that, in her phrase, I have been a regular and faithful attender at these debates on antidiscrimination Bills.

Mr. Thomas Cox (Wandsworth, Central)

That is the trouble.

Mr. Bell

I do not think that the hon. Lady will complain of any undue variation in my attitude. I have this to say about the procedure which we find ourselves following. Some odd things come forward on Fridays—I have even been responsible for promoting some of them. There is a merciful procedure which deals with most of them in a relatively painless and not very explosive way.

If we have time for these Bills, what follows is that hon. Members must take responsibility for approaching them in a critical, serious and, may I say it, discriminating manner. This Bill, which has been given this rather special facility, is really a manifesto. It is not a draft law at all. It is not acceptable to anyone in the House as a draft law. We all know that. A special procedure has been proposed, that of sending it to a Select Committee, in the hope that starting with the underlying purpose, to use the phrase which has occurred so often, the Committee will be able to draft a sensible Bill, applicable in practice and without absurdities. I find this a strange operation but I will not oppose that suggestion if it is the wish of the House.

There are certain areas in which something could be done, perhaps through the medium of the law where, for example, there is a barrier or impediment to women through a para-legal operation, such as an exclusive rule of a trade union. It can be argued—I do not know what view other hon. Members would take—that where this happens the only hope of dealing with it is through the law. The Bill is a manifesto. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) went through it. There are five operative clauses. Clause 1 is preposterous because there could not be that definition of discrimination.

Miss Mary Holt (Preston, North)

If my hon. and learned Friend looks at the Bill he will see that the words used are "In this Act". I am sure he will agree that any definition which is incorporated into an Act with those words can be accepted.

Mr. Bell

If we were to say that, it would produce an odd situation.

The definition of discrimination in the Bill could not be accepted in practice. That has been fairly generally conceded. I do not agree with the Race Relations Act, but at least people can argue that we should not discriminate on the ground of race in employment, and so on. But no one can seriously argue that we should not discriminate on the ground of sex. We rightly discriminate on the ground of sex in the whole of our social life. So we must have a different approach.

In the debate which we had the Friday before last, some hon. Members on the Opposition side said that the Bill was not intended to apply to activities in which it would be natural and perhaps desirable to prefer women. But that is not what the Bill is about. When we define the categories in which it is natural and desirable to prefer women, or men, we approach the nub of the problem in preparing a draft law.

One of the things which worries me is that by allowing the Bill to go through for further study we shall seem almost to have accepted the principle and desirability of it at the outset. Now that there is no time bar, is it right to be using to this extent, as we seem to be proposing, the power of the law over people to regulate judgments or opinions in the ordinary activities of life?

As has been said, discrimination is a good thing. I would say that it was always right. The hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mrs. Doris Fisher) said that we must get rid of discrimination and have differentiation. There is no difference. Discrimination is differentiation. What the hon. Lady means is that, having discriminated or differentiated, one should not attach unreasonable consequences to the differences one has observed. That is different. Once we define it properly, we realise that what is an unreasonable consequence will always be a matter of personal opinion and personal judgment. Different people will take different views.

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South-West)

It is the same with every Statute.

Mr. Bell

Yes, but the difficulty with this Bill is that it is a bludgeoning Bill which says that the whole lot is out.

Not only Clause 1 but Clause 2 is impossible. Clause 2 puts a blanket prohibition on differentiating in employment. In no job, not even in the case of personal attendants, would it be permissible to differentiate on the ground of sex, not even in lavatories. In no section would discrimination on the ground of sex be lawful under the Bill. It is easy to say that we could put in an amendment about that, but drawing the line would be the 64-dollar question.

Clause 3 about advertisements is impossible. It could never be operated. Clause 4 applies to the total generality of education. Some people prefer single-sex schools for their sons or daughters. Other people disagree with that. But should no one be able to exercise the preference under the law? Is there to be a bed of Procrustes into which everybody must fit? Some people take a very strong view that there should be no differentiation on the ground of sex. That is what Clause 4 does. How does one try to amend it? Does one do it by saying that some people would have that right and others would not, or that they have that right up to the age of 11 and not beyond? Why should this be done at all?

A Bill like this does not come just because there are militant organisations milling around looking for something to do. There is a specific reason. It is to be found in the Act which the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) put on the statute book, the Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay Act does not proceed upon the principle of equal pay for equal work. If it did, there would not be the problems that have been referred to.

In moving the Second Reading of the Equal Pay Bill, the right hon. Member for Blackburn said that the phrase "equal pay for work of equal value" was too abstract to put in an Act, and so that Act does not proceed upon that principle. It proceeds upon the principle of job description. If an employer were to employ a man and a woman to do the same job which, to make it easier, depended entirely upon physical strength, so that one could demonstrate with total certainty that the man's work in that job was worth twice the woman's, the employer nevertheless would have to pay the same amount to the woman. Differentiation according to the value of the work done is ruled out by that Act.

So far as I know, that Act is unique throughout the world in being based on that foolish concept, totally contrary to the universal declaration to which reference has been made. I do not know why it was done. I opposed it at the time, but it was done and its effect was forecast by many hon. Members.

Employers are driven to try to re-categorise so as to employ men in those jobs in which their performance is best and women in those which they can best perform. The employer is forbidden by this absurd, unprecedented, unparalleled law not to employ indifferently men or women and pay them according to the measured value of the work done. Because that absurd, doctrinaire thing is done the next doctrinaire thing has to be done, and we are now proposing to say to the employer "What is more, when a man and a woman come for a job you shall not distinguish between them on grounds of sex. You must employ the woman if the job is there, and you must pay her as though she were a man". [HON. Members: "No."] It is no good saying "No". It is the case. The Bill seeks to prevent employers from avoiding the absurdity which is inherent in the Equal Pay Act. It is right that the House should bear that in mind and that a Select Committee should have it in mind.

Some of those who support the Bill are animated by an absurd and extreme doctrine of interchangeability of sex—the unisex concept. That that is so is evidenced by the fact that almost all hon. Members from the Opposition benches who have supported the Bill have played the numbers game. They have said that women are in a certain proportion, yet the number in a certain grade or position is so-and-so.

The Bill lays down the condition that one-half of the board must be women. When injustice is sought to be proved, it is always said that the number of women in a particular occupation does not correspond with their proportion in the community. This is not asking for an open choice upon merit and suitability; it is asking for equal representation at all levels. It is like the Equal Pay Act since it puts behind it the true principle and acts on the wrong, the unjust and the oppressive principle.

The Bill is wrongly conceived and I do not believe that it can be cured by any process which does not involve striking out all its clauses and putting something totally different in their place. In my view, the logical thing to do is to vote against it on Second Reading——

Dame Joan Vickers

I should like to remind my hon. and learned Friend that he said the same thing about attachment of earnings, and that that has now led to legislation. He also said the same thing about guardianship, and that matter is being dealt with in the House of Lords.

Mr. Bell

Yes, and I was right on both occasions. My opposition to attachment of earnings was entirely supported by trade union Members opposite who rightly, as it turned out, were looking after the legitimate interests of their members. However, my hon. Friend must not tempt me into other matters.

I have to ask myself what I shall do at the end of this debate. I have never hesitated to state the true grounds on which I support or oppose any measure. I believe not in evasive tactics but in looking at practical difficulties. When I believe that a Bill is wrong in principle, I prefer to take my stand on a position from which I shall not later have to retreat. I have always opposed this kind of Bill. It has been made clear, however, that there seems to be a corpus of agreement on both sides of the House that the Bill could become an Act of Parliament without ridicule and that the Select Committee procedure might produce something which the House could later support. I doubt it, but I shall not stand in the way of that attempt so far as it lies in my power to do so. Therefore, if it is the intention of the sponsors to agree to this somewhat eccentric procedure, on that basis I shall not seek to divide the House.

9.33 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

I am sure that the Government have responded to the desire of the whole House in affording us the opportunity to have this resumed debate on this Bill today. The House congratulates my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) whose persistence over six years has been rewarded by having a full-dress debate on this Bill at last. We are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) for affording us the opportunity arising from his good fortune in the ballot, of being able to discuss the Bill on two occasions.

I hope that my own credentials to speak on the Bill are acceptable to the House. I joined with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) on the famous occasion in May 1952 when the House approved the principle of the Equal Pay Act. Later I negotiated the first agreement for equal pay in the public service. That was in 1955, 17 years ago, and equal pay is still a matter of current interest and controversy in many branches of industry and administration.

Some Government supporters made to wound this Bill but appeared afraid politically to strike. That criticism cannot be made against the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan) or against the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). The hon. Member for Hove revealed to us how rapidly the world is passing him by, and it may be that Hove is no sort of place to be "with it". But his was the authentic voice of the Edwardian period. He argued against women, especially married women, taking up careers at all. That was the gist of his argument——

Mr. Maddan

My argument was against women pursuing careers while they had the responsibility of children under 15 at home.

Mr. Houghton

In other words, the hon. Gentleman was imposing his judgment upon the women concerned. Women who take up careers have made their own choice. They have decided to order their own lives and to satisfy what they feel to be their rôles in life. If they elect to follow careers they are asking for equality of opportunity with men in their jobs.

The Solicitor-General pointed out that the Bill deals with only three areas of discrimination. That is true. The three areas in the Bill are perhaps the most sensitive in terms of human relationships because they cover employment, education and training. But as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, there are other areas of discrimination against women.

There is a report of a study group of the Labour Party which I recommend right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to read—and this is only a very brief commercial. It represented three years' work on the part of the study group of which I was a member throughout and it went over the ground very carefully. The report reveals the many other respects in which there is discrimination against women. There is, for example, social security. I blew my top about that in a debate not long ago. There is discrimination against women in taxation matters, in rights in marriage, and in political and public life. They are not dealt with in the Bill because most of them are more suitably dealt with in their respective fields of legislation than in a general Bill against discrimination. Some of them are receiving attention in legislation which is currently before Standing Committees of this House.

The areas covered by the Bill are employment, education and training, and professional bodies and trade unions. There is no doubt that in all there are strongly entrenched forces of bias against women.

The need for legislation on the lines of this Bill was surely suggested by the present Home Secretary when the House debated the Equal Pay Bill. On Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman said, First, there is the silence of the Bill on the vital question of equality of opportunity for employment. The Bill is intended to prevent discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment between men and women, but it leaves untouched some most important aspects of discrimination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February 1970; Vol. 795, c. 936.] We are all agreed that the Equal Pay Act did not deal with discrimination. In Committee, the Home Secretary said, equal pay and equal opportunity must go hand in hand if we are to achieve the advancement of women".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March 1970, Standing Committee H; c. 137.] That is what the Bill is trying to do. It is complementary to the Equal Pay Act.

If the Bill is given a Second Reading—that is the question before the House—it will, by being accepted by the House, mark another significant stage in the slow, long march towards equality. If it becomes law in due course, as many of us hope—we shall ask the Government for some assurances about facilities for that—it will rank along with votes for women, the Sex Disqualification Removal Act and the Equal Pay Act in our social history.

We all know that there are difficulties in changing attitudes by legislation. This is the problem in discrimination against women with which we had to deal in discrimination on grounds of race. But without legislation there is no impetus to change.

The Solicitor-General said that more education was necessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill), in an admirable speech, pointed out that with the encouragement of legislation the achievement of the purpose of the Bill, equality, is more likely. If something is unlawful then it will influence attitudes, practices and prejudices. It will be talked about, it will be referred to, it will be quoted, and it will largely be observed, even if enforcement proves difficult.

This is where the functions of the Anti-Discrimination Board proposed in the Bill would come in. Under one clause in the Bill a complainant would still have access to the courts without prior reference to the Anti-Discrimination Board, but that clause can be considered when the Bill is examined, as I understand is likely, in a Select Committee. The Anti-Discrimination Board would probably be the most convenient clearing house for all matters arising under the Bill.

I agree with the Solicitor-General that it would be of advantage if the Anti-Discrimination Board gave more attention to the broad areas of discrimination rather than got bogged down with innumerable individual complaints of discrimination. We may need to examine whether the same machinery to look broadly at discrimination should be used to deal with individual complaints and appeals.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Following through the right hon. Gentleman's line of thought, which I think is right, does he agree that if there were some board or committee which would, for example, enable a request to go to the TUC for it to consider as a whole the areas in which it is felt there might be discriminatory action, so that the TUC could call before it the various unions concerned, not only women's, but men's unions, we might be able to get the whole trade union movement together in this sphere to set an example which would knock out discrimination in other spheres faster than almost any other action?

Mr. Houghton

That is an interesting and important suggestion. It may come within the functions of an Anti-Discrimination Board. My idea is that the Anti-Discrimination Board would have responsibility for eliminating discrimination in all the spheres covered by the Bill and its terms of reference. It could set about the elimination of discrimination and make overtures in particular areas where it exists to get it removed so that complaints need not come to the Board. These questions could go to the Select Committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman in his speech mentioned many aspects of the Bill which obviously require further examination. Indeed, he mentioned the very point with which we have just dealt.

The Solicitor-General used many arguments against the drafting of the Bill which we heard so frequently against the drafting of the Race Relations Bill some years ago. Admittedly it is a difficult field. Admittedly it is imperfect legislation even when one has made the best of it. Nevertheless, that Bill was dealing with a social issue of grave importance. It was trying to arrest a tendency in the community which, if it were allowed to continue, might create deep divisions and lead to racial antagonisms of the gravest kind.

Similar considerations do not exist in connection with discrimination against women. Nevertheless, this is a field in which discrimination has to be brought within the framework of legislation and made workable if it is to achieve the purpose that we want it to have. At the same time, Sir Roy Wilson's evidence to the Select Committee in another place about the dangers of too close a comparison between discrimination against women and discrimination on racial grounds should be heeded when the Select Committee looks at the problem.

As to the future of all this, a great deal of evidence has already been given to the Select Committee in another place. A great deal of publicity is being given to the evidence given to that Committee and to discussions of the issue generally. We hope that if a Select Committee is appointed by the House of Commons it will not need to go over all the same ground again and that it will be able to avail itself of the work done by the Select Committee in another place, though of course that would not restrict the Select Committee of the House of Commons from calling additional evidence if it wished to do so. As I see it, it should not be necessary for the Select Committee of the House of Commons to spend months and months looking at this matter when it can be assisted in such a valuable way by the work done in another place.

The Question before the House is that the Bill be given a Second Reading. I sincerely hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading without a Division, because that would have a significant impact upon public opinion. I understand that if the Bill gets a Second Reading there is likely to follow a motion from the Government that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee of the House of Commons.

If that is done, I shall advise all supporters of the Bill to accept it. At the same time, we should make it clear that we accept reference to a Select Committee on the clear understanding that this is not a delaying device, that it is not intended to impede the progress of the Bill and that it is only a matter of good parliamentary procedure in the special circumstances of this case. The special circumstances are that this is a private Member's Bill lacking all the facilities which the Government have in drafting their legislation and that we acknowledge that the Bill is in need of close examination over a brief period with all the available evidence from another place and from outside so that the Select Committee can report to the House within a reasonable period. That may be more expeditious than if the Bill were to wait for a place in a Standing Committee. The work could be going on in the meantime, but this should not leave the Bill stranded or delayed eventually when the Select Committee makes its report to the House.

I hope that those understandings can be honoured by the Government. I do not know whether it is the intention to put an instruction in the terms of reference of the Select Committee to report by a certain date. But if the motion comes before the House for its appointment with terms of reference and with its composition we may well wish to see included in that motion an instruction to the Select Committee that it should report back to the House by a specified date.

We believe that to be essential if we are to avoid a long period of examination by the Select Committee which may mean the House being robbed entirely of the opportunity of passing a reconditioned Bill into law this Session, if ever. We are asking the Government for reasonable safeguards against the possible misuse of the Select Committee procedure so that having been given a Second Reading it shall be subject to the normal process of awaiting its place for Standing Committee.

I hope the House will define its position and show that it is not lagging behind the Lords spiritual and temporal. There was a time when the House of Lords was a reactionary chamber but now in some respects it is a progressive chamber and in certain matters it has been a pathfinder in social reform. This is one case where the House of Commons might well copy what the House of Lords has already done.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mrs. Doris Fisher) made a speech which I thought covered the ground admirably from the point of view of what women want out of the Bill. What they want is the opportunity of establishing their own identity. They want to be regarded as persons whose abilities, aspirations and ambitions can be satisfied in the employment sphere alongside men. It is no good saying that this is not another stage in the emancipation of women. It undoubtedly is. I hope therefore that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and that the motion to refer it to a Select Committee will be accepted. We shall, however, scrutinise very carefully the conditions under which the Select Committee is eventually appointed.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

I have spoken already and therefore, with leave, and before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I say that of course the motion to set up the Select Committee is a matter for the House and that it will have to come before the House when the terms of reference can include instructions as to the timing of that Select Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Select Committee.—[Mr. Pym.]