HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc1483-4


Lords Amendment: No. 1, in page 3, line 29, at end insert: (aa) include arrangements for encouraging increases in the opportunities available to women and girls for employment and training".

7.0 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

The Government have reconsidered whether there should be explicit mention in the Bill of women and girls. They have accepted that there should be.

The amendment refers to women and girls in terms which are not likely to encourage any interpretation that action to help other groups is excluded. Moreover, the amendment does not confer any new power or duty on the commission but merely makes it clear and emphasises that they have the power to encourage increases in the opportunities available to women and girls for employment and training.

The House knows that legislation is being worked on in the area of sex discrimination. which has been announced in another place. I think that the amendment can make a useful contribution to further the cause of equality. In those circumstances, I should be happy to advise the House to agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

I shall not detain the House for more than a minute or two, but I cannot miss the opportunity of sharing the hon. Gentleman's agreement with the Lords in the amendment. I should also like to congratulate them on their good sense and ability in bringing the Government round to the paths of righteousness, because two months ago, on 23rd May, the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends went into the Division Lobby against precisely such an amendment moved by the Opposition.

The more frequently that I heard Ministers agreeing with amendments from the other place, echoing the arguments that we advanced, showing their conversion on the way, the more it diminishes the prejudice that I had long entertained against the other place and their Lordships. If they continue in this way I may find myself in favour of the bicameral system.

Mr. Smith

I do not wish to rob the hon. Member of his humour. I think he will agree, if he examines the interesting debate in the House of Lords, that the emphasis on women and girls was comparatively small. There were many other elements. I concluded that the Opposition divided on the other elements, but I could be wrong. However, the Government have looked again at this matter and agree that the amendment is sensible.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman should be grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your choice of amendments which has provided him fortuitously with a straw at which to clutch. None the less, the Opposition warmly welcome this amendment. The hon. Gentleman is correct that it will add nothing to the powers of the commission. Of course, we accept that, but the important thing is that it will make the will of Parliament explicit in the Act. I hope—and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman shares this hope—that the commission and industry in turn will respond to the spirit of the amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

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