HC Deb 03 December 1985 vol 88 c145
8. Mr. Brandon-Bravo

asked the Paymaster General if he proposes to introduce legislation to repeal the statutory restrictions on women's hours of work; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Peter Bottomley)

We propose to introduce legislation to repeal the statutory restrictions on women's hours of work in the Sex Discrimination Bill, which we hope to bring forward early in 1986.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Equality is the theme of much of our current legislation. However, can my hon. Friend say how such legislation will assist employers and, therefore, employment? Will it be necessary to repeal some special industrial legislation, such as the Baking Industry Act 1954?

Mr. Bottomley

Yes, Sir. The key point is that employers will not have to apply for special exemption to employ women outside the present restricted hours, so women will benefit from increased employment opportunities. If we did not consider repeal of the baking industry legislation, we should be left with the anomaly that men were protected for working at night but women were not, so we are asking interested parties for their views on the repeal of that legislation.

Ms. Richardson

Does the Minister agree that we should improve conditions, including hours of work, for men and women, and not remove restrictions that may result in women being exploited by having to work longer hours for mean rates of pay or risk the sack?

Mr. Bottomley

We should consider the deregulation aspect. At present, more than 200,000 women are exempt from the restrictions and can work at night. I do not know whether the hon. Lady has asked many of them whether they wish to be prohibited from working at night in the way that men may be prohibited.