HC Deb 20 March 1973 vol 853 cc231-3
Q2. Mrs. Castle

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Secretaries of State for Employment and Social Services in securing equal remuneration for women, including equality of pension rights.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mrs. Castle

All I can say is that the right hon. Gentleman must be easily satisfied. Is he aware that when his party was in opposition it took the line that the Equal Pay Act that I introduced was of no value unless it was underpinned by equal pension rights for women in employers' pension schemes? Is he also aware that the Social Security Bill now in Standing Committee does not even give women equal rights with men to belong to employers' pension schemes? What will he do to stop this inconsistency between what his party says in opposition and what it does in Government?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware that this has been discussed in detail in Standing Committee, but there is no inconsistency. As the right hon. Lady knows, the standards for men and women under the Bill are actuarially equivalent. I do not see how there can, therefore, be discrimination in this respect and I hope that the right hon. Lady will accept that.

Mrs Castle

No, I will not.

Mr. McCrindle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, when the Social Security Bill becomes law, for the first time under any Government there will be a major move forward towards a situation in which employers will come close to being obliged to include women in pension schemes, whereas up to now women have largely been overlooked? Would he also agree that to raise the benefits for women under the Bill to the equivalents of those for men would require an extra 43 per cent. on the contribution? Is it not incumbent on the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) to say from where that additional contribution would come?

The Prime Minister

On the latter part of the question, it is true that if one were to change the balance of benefits men would have to pay more under those arrangements and subsidise women, which would be open to the argument that it was discriminating against women. Alternatively, because women live longer, they themselves would have to pay a higher contribution, and that would also be claimed as discrimination against women.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does the Prime Minister think that his prices and incomes policy will retard or expedite the progress of women to 90 per cent. of equal pay for equal work by the end of this year? If he thinks that that target will be achieved, why does he not introduce an order as provided for under the Act originated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle)?

The Prime Minister

The target of 1975 remains. There is a clear instance at present with the National Health Service ancillaries, which I have quoted previously in the House. In addition to the present offer of £l.80p made to women a further instalment of 80p has been offered in October in order to carry forward movement towards equal pay. This is specifically allowed for in the Government's policies.