HC Deb 03 December 1974 vol 882 cc1334-7
9. Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the response to the new promotional campaign for the Equal Pay Act.

47. Mr. Bryan Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement about publicity for the Equal Pay Act 1970 to ensure its implementation by 29th December 1975.

Mr. Foot

We started a publicity campaign on equal pay in the Press on 11th November to make those employer who have not made progress aware of the need to do so. We want all employers to realise that if they employ both men and women the Equal Pay Act may well affect them. Subsequently the campaign will tell employees of their rights. It is too soon to assess the full response to the first phase of the campaign but the initial inquiry rate has been encouraging.

Mr. Rooker

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware that the 8 million working women in this country are looking to him and his Department to see that the Equal Pay Act becomes reality next year? May I urge him not to be put off by the screaming ninnies of the CBI who, by the look of today's Press, are trying to castrate his proposals for maternity leave in the Employment Protection Bill before they are even introduced in the House?

Mr. Foot

I fully agree with my hon. Friend about the seriousness of his question. I naturally read the excellent article in Tribune which he contributed on the subject, as I hope the rest of the House has done. While we would contest some of the figures in that article we do not think that an earnings report is necessarily the best way to make calculations. We agree with many of the points he stressed and we are certainly determined to do everything we can to make both employers and workers aware of the responsibilities and possibilities of the Equal Pay Act. We are determined to carry through the publicity campaign and we are even more determined to ensure that by the end of next year everyone is aware of the law as it will then stand, and that that law shall be obeyed.

Mrs. Hayman

There are many other discriminations against working women, quite apart from the inequalities of pay. One of those is the provision at the moment whereby a pregnant employee can be dismissed and is not liable to protection under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the Employment Protection Bill will strengthen what the discussion document has said both on maternity leave and on the specific point about making dismissal on grounds of pregnancy unfair?

Mr. Foot

I hope that we shall have a full discussion on these questions when the Employment Protection Bill comes before us. The proposals which we have so far included in that Bill are only a beginning. We do not claim that they are anything more than that. When we discuss the Bill my hon. Friend and others will be able to see what we propose and to consider whether improvements can be made and what arguments they would like to put in reply to those which were advanced to me by the CBI last night.

Mr. Tugendhat

When is the right hon. Gentleman to introduce the Bill? Ever since the Government took office he has been telling us, in Committee on the trade union Bill and in the House and elsewhere, that he will produce the Bill and that it will do all these marvellous things. We read in the Press only today that some provisions may be delayed for years and others for months, yet it never comes before us. When will the right hon. Gentleman introduce the Bill?

Mr. Foot

The hon. Member should not be so impatient. I am glad that he is anxious to see us progress with measures from my Department. Already one good Bill from my Department is coming before the House this afternoon. I hope that the House will have the other Bill before Christmas. That is what we would like, but it may be that it will not come until after Christmas. We shall hasten ahead with it as fast as we can. It will be a big Bill, because it comprises a huge number of measures which have been piling up for years and on which action should have been taken long ago.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the Bill on equal opportunities will be before the House in a very few weeks? Unless it is, it cannot get through the House before the end of the Session. If it does not do so, the Equal Pay Act will be that much less effective.

Mr. Foot

I fully agree with my hon. Friend, and so do the Government. This is one of the occasions when we agree with him. We want to see the Bill on the statute book this Session. That is the full determination of the Government.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

On the road to anti-discrimination, does the right hon. Gentleman think that a wife has the right to know her husband's income? At present she cannot necessarily find out from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Department. This is a serious question. Will the Minister take it seriously, and agree that as a husband can know his wife's income, the wife should know her husband's?

Mr. Foot

A moment ago I was answering a question on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The hon. Lady is now asking me to answer a question on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. It appears that the House wishes me to take over the whole Government, but I fear that there is no prospect of that immediately.

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