HC Deb 20 March 1996 vol 274 cc364-5
9. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what measures she has put in place since September 1995 to improve employment opportunities for women. [20131]

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

Since September last year, we have built on our range of measures to benefit women by, among other things, extending the successful out-of-school child care initiative.

Mrs. Gorman

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her progress in making jobs more available and more flexible for women who especially value part-time work, which the Government do all that they can to encourage. Does she share my worry, however, that job opportunities for younger women could be scuppered if the European directive on parental leave is introduced through the back door, as the European Court of Justice is doing with the working hours directive? Does she agree that the directive would particularly hit younger women because it would affect women with children under the age of eight? It would be impossible for small employers to grant the designated time off, which would naturally make young women less attractive to employers.

Mrs. Shephard

This is properly a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry, but I can reassure my hon. Friend that the directive is covered by the United Kingdom social chapter opt-out. It therefore, in terms of the difficulties she underlines, emphasises the importance of that opt-out, negotiated by the Government.

Mr. Flynn

Why are three quarters of a million people, mostly women, counted twice in the Government's employment figures?


I think that the hon. Gentleman is most certainly mistaken, but he would undoubtedly wish to know that we have a far better record on employment for women than anywhere else in Europe. He might like to reflect on the fact that the policies that his party seeks to espouse—the national minimum wage and the social chapter—would increase unemployment for women, which I am sure he would wish to avoid.