HC Deb 09 June 1992 vol 209 cc140-1
15. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if she has any plans to accommodate the special needs of women at work.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

I will look at a range of issues relating to the needs of women at work with the help of the new working group which I announced on 20 May.

Mrs. Gorman

Can my hon. Friend confirm that almost half the work force in Britain now comprises women and that in many areas of the country the new industries which are replacing the old industries are especially suitable for women? Does she agree with a publication out this week on equal opportunities, which states that women's criteria in working are often quite different from those of men? Women value part-time work and flexibility more than high wages and security of employment. It is, therefore, extremely important that we resist pressure from the European Community to make the conditions of work for men apply to women.

Mrs. Shephard

I believe that my hon. Friend is referring to the report published yesterday by the Institute of Economic Affairs. I have not yet had time to consider that report. However, I remind my hon. Friend that the authors are mostly American and that their experiences and views may well be coloured by the American experience of positive discrimination legislation, which is unlawful in this country. However, I agree that women and men benefit from a flexible labour market and especially from the opportunity of job sharing, and part-time work in the way that my hon. Friend describes.