§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this question. I must confess that I had intended to come here to speak as an employer rather than as a husband, but I think that perhaps the husband's voice ought to be raised in this debate. The noble Lady referred to the many duties of the wife. I made a list of the ones I have had: stoker, cook, dryer-up, painter, gardener and children's nurse; and there are many of us who, I hope, in the properly conducted home, share duties as is appropriate. I must confess that when I give prizes away at boys' schools I always advise them to learn to cook, because it is so much more interesting for the husband to cook than to have to dry-up. But this does not, I think, weaken the case that my noble friend has made. Nor, I think, does it weaken the point that the right reverend Prelate made about courtesy—although I remember coming back from the British Empire Exhibition when I was a small boy and having to give up my place to a man whom my aunt had knocked down because she thought he had been rude to her.
My Lords, however much we may feel that these demands for rights are misplaced so far as we are concerned, or so far as the majority of homes are concerned, there is not necessarily any harm 1299 in granting them—and I refer in particular to some of the legal points—and if there is a need for them, then they certainly ought to be granted. I should have thought that the fact that (and this has been true of the whole story of the emancipation of women) so many women are inclined to say that they do not really need it, they do not want it and that they do not think it is necessary, is not, in itself, enough reason to dismiss the very powerful arguments that have been adduced, and adduced so eloquently, by my noble friend to-day.
It is, of course, an indication of the social progress of a particular country if rights of these kind are established. My noble friend referred with some slight astonishment to improvements in conditions, in terms of rights, of women in Germany; but, of course, in many other respects also German legislation in the social welfare field, as in other European countries, is outstripping us in this country. I think that, in considering the points of my noble friend, we should realise that this is an aspect of our whole social progress; that you cannot have one without the other; that this is a very good indication. And the points my noble friend made are a very good indication of the degree of general progress that is being made.
I wanted to refer mainly to the position of women in industry and commerce, which is where I spend a good deal of my day, in the personnel field. I am particularly concerned with the employment and conditions of women, working, as I do, with a large number of women personnel officers. I agree most strongly with the argument that has been put forward—and most sensible employers now appreciate this—that employers must get out of their minds the idea that it is not worth training women because later they are going to leave work and marry. There is no doubt that they are going to leave and get married, and it is extremely irritating when this happens; but once it is realised and accepted that you still need to employ women, and that there are many jobs at which they are best, and many jobs which they may do as well as, if not better than, the men who may be available, albeit for a relatively short period, then one gets a rather clearer approach to this matter. 1300 It is of course true—and this came out recently in our debate on industrial training—that training for industry must be based on the educational system, and the criticisms that have been made in regard to the training of women in industry do apply, of course, to the state of training generally in industry. It is the fact that what my noble friend said was true to such a marked degree with regard to women is also true to a considerable degree with regard to men. There is not enough training, and I do not believe the Government—and this is perhaps the one critical point I should make from an Opposition point of view—are yet seriously tackling this problem. We had an interesting debate recently. We are making a somewhat leisurely approach by setting up training bodies in industry, with powers to levy, but this is not going to be enough to meet the national need, and it will certainly not be enough to meet the rather special problems which my noble friend Lady Summerskill mentioned. I would merely say on this that, until we do have a central body of such a kind as they have in Sweden, we are not going to tackle this problem efficiently.
It is, of course, in the school that the most important part of the preparation for industrial life begins from the training point of view. But there is, of course, a need for continual further training of a kind that best employers already give, but which is still not enough. The noble Lady is right in saying that the majority of apprenticeships are likely to be in trades like hairdressing; but unless there is some form of apprentice training it is probable that very little training will be given. This can be overcome; the devices are known. There are bodies able to provide this training and to advise on it, and, of course, the best firms already do it. It is of very great importance not merely to the woman herself at the time when she is in full-time employment but for her future employment when she may at a later date return to industry or commerce after marriage.
I would just say a word about the attitude that industry ought to take towards marriage. Too many people assume that the moment a girl gets engaged to be married and the date is fixed they are going to 1301 say goodbye to her for ever. I do not propose to go into the difficult question of the extent to which married women should work in industry, but the fact remains that for large numbers of them soon after marriage it is probably an economic necessity. Then comes the question of maternity, and at this point the difficulty arises. I want now to speak not merely of legitimate children but of illegitimate children. Most girls who find themselves about to have an illegitimate baby almost certainly try to conceal the fact from their employer for fear that they will immediately get the sack.
It is in the interest not only of the community but of the employers themselves to look after the girl in the prenatal state; to give her maternity leave, if necessary on pay, and to offer her the opportunity to return to work afterwards; because in many cases the unmarried mother has no option but to arrange for the child to be adopted. Even if the child is not adopted, the State is very much better in providing facilities for the child of the unmarried mother than for the child of the married mother. I should like to see in any industrial charter provision for maternity leave on full pay for mothers, whether they be married or unmarried; and this will come, I believe, at a later stage as we progress. I know firms who in fact do this; my own firm happens to be one of them. I am quite satisfied that it is not only to the inestimable benefit of the girl in question but to the advantage of the employer.
I want now to turn to the difficulties arising in employment of married women. This question imposes a responsibility and an extra labour on management. We have had in your Lordships' House a number of discussions on management, and the primary requirement of management, and the primary requirement that the worker and, certainly, the trade unions want in management, is that it should be intelligent and competent. If management is to be, intelligent and competent, then it must take into account—and it is not always easy to do this—the circumstances of married women. Some of the best unused labour, from a national point of view, is to be found among married women who are not able to go out to work full-time. It may be difficult to incorporate part-time workers into a 1302 business, but in fact a number of firms have done this successfully, both by means of certain shift systems and by means of certain types of work. This brings me back to the point I was making: that it is very important that a woman should be competent at her job and have a skill, either educationally or technically in her fingers, which she is able to use. She then becomes an asset, at least to an intelligent employer.
I would argue that this is in the interests not merely of the economy and the employer but also of the wife and of her husband; because there are plenty of women who are devoted mothers and housewives but who, none the less, after a while find the domestic round is not enough to satisfy their interests. They may be able to find an outlet in social work in their community; but for many of them the opportunity to do some part-time work in industry or commerce will not only be of economic value to the family but also add to their own happiness. Those of us who are engaged in more than one job—and many of us in this House are, because we can go from our business to Parliament—will know how refreshing is the change of activity. This is one of the great privileges that men have. They have, on the one hand, their home; and, on the other hand, their work. For many women it is purely the home, and I believe there is rather a strong social case for extending the opportunity for part-time work to married women. Before I leave that particular point I would emphasise that here is a reservoir of very high-calibre labour which could be usefully and beneficially put to work in this way.
I would say a word or two about the conditions of work for women in industry to which the right reverend Prelate referred. I agree with him in his reference to the importance of the medical side, and here I would return to the special importance of a gradual development within industry—which is voluntary at the moment—of industrial medical services.
I believe that the industrial health service must to some extent change its rôle. It has not simply to cope with accidents or emergencies; it has to provide the sort of help needed for minor 1303 ailments. This is of particular importance where women are concerned. There should be opportunities perhaps for an hour or two of rest, for the treatment of minor ailments and for the sympathy that can sometimes be beneficial. Let me say straight away to the noble Baroness that I am sure she would not accuse me of thinking that men are tougher than women. We know that this is not so. But women do have certain particular needs, and I think a proper industrial health service is of importance.
Now I would turn to the question of wages and promotion. Here again there is the same sort of prejudice that has existed for a long while. It is the doubt whether women are capable of filling the highest ranks in industry. I said that I was in favour of removing all disabilities, legal and otherwise, and I also hope that we shall be able to remove psychological disabilities. It is unlikely, at any rate for a long while, that the majority of women will wish to take over the work of the majority of men, whether in industry, Government or Parliament, but there are some who are capable of doing so, and it would be an act of both injustice and folly to deny them that opportunity.
I have had in business considerable experience of women executives at the highest level who have shown the greatest degree of efficiency and competence. Here again we shall have to move to some extent by legislation. Without going deeply into the vexed question of equal pay and the rate for the job, it is difficult for employers who seek to establish equivalent pay in those industries where rates are fixed by wages council awards and there is a big difference between the two rates of pay. The good employer will always pay above the statutory rate, but the fact is that the pattern will be set by the rate fixed by the wages board. We shall need to move gradually to an integration at that point.
From the employment point of view I think it important—and I am sure that my noble friend would agree with this—to recognise that men and women have different qualities and are each particularly suited for certain jobs. For instance, I should like to see much greater employment of women in personnel management, for which they are particularly well suited. 1304 I happen to have experience of dealing with them in this field, and the women personnel officers who work with me are able to tell me things that I did not know and could not know, because they have these perceptive qualities—which it is so unfair for them to possess but which nevertheless can be put to specific use. I think that a reasonable partnership can be arrived at, in which there is no question of biological inferiority, but a recognition that there are certain qualities which are found more highly developed in women than in men.
The last point I want to make is about the loneliness which so particularly affects women. This is a question with which my noble friend has been long concerned. Recently I heard of the sad case of a lonely woman who committed suicide, which is almost a classic example of the effects of loneliness. There is a particular need to do something for single or deserted women, who find it more difficult than men do to find a place in the community.
In conclusion, I would say that we cannot think about the position of women, both in the home and in industry, in isolation. It is a good thing, as my noble friend has done, to take a separate look at this matter and to isolate the problems and issues that need special attention; yet when we look at it, we find that there may be a need, in respect of certain difficulties, for an advance on the general social and industrial front, and that it is not a matter affecting only women. But in making any advance we should give special attention to special circumstances and special categories. Therefore, I think that it is right that we should have taken this look at the matter today, and I am very grateful to my noble friend for raising this subject.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, I think that the speech of the right reverend Prelate was one of valuable thought and usefulness in a debate of this kind. I agree with most of what he said, although I have reservations about a point or two taken up also by the last speaker. I am afraid that more than once on this very subject I have got at cross-purposes with the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. I do not know why, and I am very sorry for it; but I have 1305 my views upon the subject and may be allowed, I hope, to have them.
I feel that the way in which the debate has gone shows that there is a considerable amount of misunderstanding of certain aspects of the problem. We heard, for instance, that there is a tremendous requirement in industry for women's labour. This was not the view of the trade unions years ago. The trade unions, of course, have altered their point of view upon the subject, but the idea that we cannot get on unless vast numbers of women are engaged in industrial employment, particularly mechanical employment (the career woman is quite another matter), is taken for granted. But I do not take it for granted, any more than I take for granted the common assumption that we must "export or perish". But then I am a Socialist—one of the few Socialists that remain, if I may say so. I think that we have forgotten a good deal of our fundamental principles. I cannot understand the enthusiasm with which so many of our professed Socialists are rushing into the fight for so-called women's freedom, which really amounts to making more and more wage-slaves of the sex than there were before. I am not so enthusiastic about that. I do accept the idea that there are two sexes with certain differences and that these differences are, sometimes at least, important.
The misunderstanding I refer to is the assumption that the objection applies to woman's labour in general. I assure the noble Lady that in my case it does not. There is a great amount of service to the State and the country which can be and is being rendered by women in many directions. No one talks about all women being refused the chance of employment, even in industrial work. There are hundreds of thousands of women who are not married and who ought to be employed in industry according to the kind of work they can do. There are older women, with experience of life, who perhaps have shed certain responsibilities of their earlier life, and who have a right to industrial employment or any other kind of employment for which they are fitted.
I do not want to say a word against the career woman. I do not care whether it is the barrister, Member of Parliament, 1306 or whoever it is, no one suggests for one moment that such people, who render a great service to the State, should be refused the opportunity, at some time of their life, at any rate, of the other kind of service for which they are thoroughly trained and well fitted. I, and those who think with me, do not take that point at all. The point that we take is on the running of a home (I am talking about the married woman with a young family) and doing all the chores of a home. That means a great deal. It will not do to say: "I employ daily help" because if you do that you are merely shouldering the slavery on to others for a mere payment, and that is not a very Socialistic thing to do. I have said that before, and I am afraid it upset the noble Baroness on a former occasion. But it is merely shelving the question.
Surely the point is this: that you cannot run a home on tinned foods and letting children run about the streets until mother gets home or until both parents get home. Young children especially want a lot of motherly affection. There are a lot of child problems in the home—little illnesses that crop up and the comfort that is required. That, alone, is sufficient to suggest to me that full-time industrial work for a married woman with a young family is not a thing that should be supported. It is a bad thing; and I have seen many examples of how bad it really is. Beyond the direct care of the children, the love that is required for them and the intimate care at all times that a child requires, there is also the everyday work of the home. I am thinking more of a working-class home, because I am of the working-class and I have not known much other than working-class homes. In the running of a home, however humble and small, there is shopping, cleaning, bathing the children every day, ironing and all sorts of domestic work to be done. This is work which a man who has done a day's hard work would not think of attempting, and should not be expected to, anyhow. If you have not the daily help that is required to make it reasonable, then something must go; and it does go in many thousands of homes. I am very much concerned about those homes, and not particularly about anything else.
By all means let us have women in industry; it would no doubt do industry a great deal of good. But I object to 1307 the economic point put forward, which to my mind is unsocialistic; and I object also to the idea that it is a question of the rights of womankind. It is not a question of rights. If a woman takes up the responsibilities of a home by getting married, that, as the right reverend Prelate said, comes first; that must be settled anyhow. Even so, the career woman who has training for an important profession, if she selects a home, should not neglect that home, but should make other provision for the proper care of the home and children.
Those are the points I want to put forward. Just think of what a working-class mother's work is: shopping, cooking and all sorts of things. Then it is said: "Let the husband do his share of the chores." My wife would object very much if I interfered with her running of the home. I do not like it, and I do not do more of it than I am compelled to. But there are some things I do and that I think a man should do in the home. I will not go into what they are, because it would take too long, but I want to make it plain that I am not that all-out opponent of women that the noble Baroness has so often thought I am. I have no objection to women in business, in industry or in anything for which they are fitted. But if they go into the business and industry of a home and motherhood, then that must come first, even if they have to pay other people to do it. But do not pay other people to do it and then say: "That is the Socialist thing to do. Look what a good Socialist I am!". You are nothing of the kind.
On the economic proposition, I want to suggest, as a last word, that this country does not need, and really is not in the position of needing, the wife and mother, the one responsible for the actual work and management of the home, in industry. I refuse to believe that. If you regard a "rat race" as the proper economic thing that we as Socialists have to deal with and support—and a good deal of Socialist literature makes me think that you do—after all, it is only a question of nationalising capitalism, and competitive capitalism at that. If you take that, and use all the slogans of the Conservative Party and the capitalist sections of the community you are right. But, as a Socialist, I say that you are wrong. First things first: as, for instance, the point 1308 about whether we must export or perish. It is not true that we must export or perish. It is not said, "We must make do with this, that and the other; there are certain things we have to go without, and we shall be hindered "; it is suggested that we should perish. What a fine idea, that one of the greatest countries, from a horticultural and agricultural point of view, must perish if we do not join in the "rat race"!If that is the modern socialism, I have finished with it. I do not believe it.
I believe in first things first. And one of the first things on this subject is the care and love of the children, and abolishing a situation where, in my own knowledge, in the streets round about where I live, children carry latch keys and come home from school, day after day, to an empty house; and other cases where the parent has to go a long distance to school to take to or fetch from school the younger children of six, seven, eight or nine years of age, making that journey twice a day. The argument that a woman is compelled, or finds it necessary, to do a day's industrial work with all that responsibility on top of it does not seem to me to be a Socialist proposition at all.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I will delay your Lordships for only a short time. I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, for not being present when she made the whole of her speech, but I did hear the last half. Unfortunately, I had a public luncheon and could not get away, and I was not here when she started. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for putting down this Motion, which I think covers a matter of great importance. I would approach it, if I may, in a non-political, non-Party way. The noble Lord who has just sat down made various points, with some of which I agree, but with others I do not agree, but I would not say that I was speaking from the point of view of a Tory or making any points which are necessarily of a Party political kind. The noble Lord who has just sat down spoke about the Socialist point of view. He may be right; I do not know; but I think there are many Socialists who would disagree with what he said. But I am not speaking from any point of view except one of some experience over a fairly long 1309 period in the question of the employment of women.
At the beginning of the last war the Minister of Labour of the day, no less a great man than Ernest Bevin, set up at the Ministry of Labour a Committee called the Women's Consultative Committee which was to advise the Minister on the difficult and important problem of the call-up of women for industry, munitions, women's services and all the other great range of employment that was required for women during the war. I sat on that Committee from the beginning, and at the end of the war we were asked to advise about demobilisation of women, which we did. Since then we have met four times a year when our advice has been asked on various important problems connected with the employment of women. During the whole of those years I realised how tremendously important this subject is and how it is growing year by year, whether we like it or not.
The total number of women who are in work to-day—and I expect the noble Baroness mentioned these figures—is 8,120,000; that is, an increase of 140,000 between 1961–62, and an increase of 1,020,000, between 1952 and 1962. That is an enormous labour force, and I could not agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down in saying that those women, or a proportion of them, are not required in industry, in social services or in professions; because, in fact, they would not be employed if they were not very anxiously needed for the various kinds of professions. In fact, 35½ per cent. of the total number of people in work are women, and this is 1½ per cent. above what it was in 1952. These are very big figures indeed. The largest increase in the last year in the employment of women was in girls under 18, where the increase was 5.6 per cent. and the increase in the number of those over 18 was 1.4 per cent. Nearly half of the increase of 140,000 in the year 1961–62 for which I could get Ministry of Labour figures was in professional employment—scientific, educational, medical and dental services. That is, in my submission, a vital and most important contribution which women are making to the community in which they live. A third of that 140,000 went into the distributive trades and a quarter 1310 went into what is described as miscellaneous trades, largely the hotel and catering trades. That is a very big proportion of the total labour force of the country.
The noble Lord who has just sat down spoke about the married women, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his most interesting speech as an employer, and a very enlightened employer, if I may say so, of women in the distributive trade, spoke about part-time women workers. Of these, 52 per cent. are married or widows, and they, too, make a very good contribution. The increase in part-time workers is largely in women over 35 years of age. That, I think, would help the noble Lord who has just sat down, because, on the whole, the families of those people would be either of school age or above school age and would, to a certain extent, be able to look after themselves. There has been a decline in the number of women employed in the age group under 25. There are 386,000 women working part-time in manufacturing industry, and this also, I believe, is an important contribution indeed to the success of our manufacturing industry. I think your Lordships would agree that those figures alone show the great importance of the employment of women.
I do not want to go into the details of how women are employed, because other noble Lords have done this, but I do think that this enormous labour force, whether it be in the professions, in the manufacturing industry or in distributive trades, is a matter which should concern us all. And here I think the noble Baroness is right when she speaks of the importance of some kind of industrial charter or conditions in the way of employment which everyone would observe and which would, I think, be of great value Ito women in their employment.
But there is still a great shortage. The noble Lord who has just sat down mentioned that he did not know whether there was a great shortage, and I should like to inform him that in certain employments there is. In the teaching and nursing professions, in social work and domestic work, all of us have had experience of the shortage of workers, and I believe we shall not get people to go into these professions unless we can assure them that the conditions under 1311 which they are employed and paid are comparable to, and as good as, those in any employment offered to men in similar professions.
I do not know whether the noble Baroness mentioned the importance of equal pay for equal work, but I am quite sure that is a matter of great importance in the professions and the other services. In the profession to which the noble Baroness belongs we have always agreed that equal pay for equal work is absolutely axiomatic, and nobody suggests that a woman who is a skilled doctor should be paid less than a man similarly skilled; and there are many other professions in which that would indeed be equally true. So that this is something which we want both employers and trade unions to look at with a fresh and enlightened eye.
On this Women's Consultative Committee we have represented all the political Parties, and many people from the professions whose political affiliations I do not know: but that point does not enter into it at all. We almost always agree on methods which we think the Ministry of Labour should adopt; and it speaks well for women of all political Parties that we should have worked for so many years together on these important problems and, so far as I can remember, have never disagreed or taken a vote of disagreement on any of the recommendations we have made to the Ministry of Labour.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who mentioned the training of women and girls in industry. I have here an extremely good booklet, issued by the Industrial Training Council, on the training of girls in industry, which is of the highest importance. I know that many of the great employers, certainly in the manufacturing and distributive trades, have enlightened views about the training of girls in industry or in the distributive trades. At the back of the book there are various accounts of the ways in which different companies, factories and manufacturing industries train women for industry.
The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lichfield touched on the question of women in the Church. I do not think this is a debate in which one should 1312 raise this matter in any detailed way; but only the other day, at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which I attended, a remarkable speech was made by Miss Mary Lusk, who is appointed to a post at the University of Edinburgh which would normally be carried by an ordained minister. She is a deaconess, a worker in the Church, not of course ordained, but carries out exactly those duties. She has asked that the question of whether or not women should be admitted to the Church should be considered; and, because of the remarkable speech and the remarkable case which she made to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland the other day, a committee of investigation is being set up. The right reverend Prelate only touched on it in his speech, but I believe that in the Church of England also an inquiry is being made on these lines.
This is not a matter in which one can have any particular views, because the fact is that these things are all under discussion. But that goes to show, I think, the tremendous importance that one should attach to the contribution which women are making in enormous numbers of spheres of work. And the conditions under which they work, the training which they receive, the standards which are required of them, and so on, are all an essential matter in this very modern world in which we live. I hope very much as a result of this debate, as a result of the very careful and important manner in which the noble Baroness deals with these matters, being herself a professional woman, that we may have a very careful study made by both employers and trade unions and the political Parties, not so much from a Party point of view but from a general political point of view, of the way in which we can help women to continue to make, and to improve the contribution they are already making, in my opinion an essential contribution, to the welfare of the community to-day.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, we must all be glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, was able to be here in time to speak. She said, and was entitled to say, that she was speaking from a non-Party point of view, but, if I may say so, her Party 1313 is lucky to have someone who is so dedicated to social work and public-spirited causes, and she is certainly a great source of strength Ito anybody with whom she is associated. She spoke, as have other speakers, such as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the right reverend Prelate, from intimate knowledge and experience of these problems. We have also had a contribution from my old friend Lord Amwell, who certainly carried us with him while he was stressing the rôle of the mother in the home. There were other more controversial aspects of his speech on which he challenged the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, but I will leave her to cope with him, because I feel she is more worthy of his steel; but we were all very glad to hear him.
I am delighted to be able to back up the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. I myself think that no one has made more difference to this House in the last few years since she came here than the noble Baroness. She has not only made stirring contributions herself but has caused other timid souls to pluck up courage and square our shoulders and play the man, if that expression is allowed in her presence; and certainly to-day she has spoken from a great background of work and idealism.
I was also very much interested to hear what the right reverend Prelate had to say about courtesy. I am sure that courtesy is something that should transcend sex. I still cling to the idea that one should rise in a tube—not in a bus, if one is at all tall, because one causes trouble—but in a tube and offer one's seat. My rule is to rise once between Sloane Square and Westminster, but not twice. I hope the right reverend Prelate would regard that as a thoroughly Christian rule. It is embarrassing, when one reaches the age, now being approached by some of us, at which young women begin to offer their seat to oneself. That is, I think, a wrong trend. Yesterday at Earl's Court, when I was coming down the stairs to the tube my bag flew open; it was not perfectly locked; and a lot of things fell out. It is always interesting on these occasions to, as it were, test the Samaritan qualities of the average congregation as they flow past one. The two who stopped to help me were one young man of what might be called the Y.M.C.A. type, and an 1314 elderly woman who confided that she was suffering from bad arthritis. I am all for courtesy. I am sure the right reverend Prelate would agree that this is something that should flow between the sexes, and not only in one direction.
I have just been reading a life of the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, which is shortly going to appear. When one reads the history of the suffrage movement one finds it really astounding that it is only a few years ago that men conceded the principle of equality. Taking the whole story, one must agree that the greatest condemnation of the male sex is their treatment of women over the centuries. If it had not happened one would not believe it could be true. I am afraid the male sex still constitute in many ways, when they are challenged and still in a position to resist the challenge, the most obstinate vested interest one can find.
It is only a few years ago in this House some noble Lords resisted, on what appeared to them the highest grounds, the emergence of Ladies such as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. You might think that those noble Lords would now think that they were then wrong. I met one the other day. I ought not to quote this but it provides lighter relief and it is only telling the truth. I said, "Surely now the noble Ladies have done so well you must agree you were very much at fault." A look of hypothetical delight stole over his face and he said, "Whenever I see that long neck bending down I wish I had my chopper, and I say to myself, ' Chop, chop, chop '." That is the attitude still to the fair sex of some who are legislators in this House. That being so, it is really surprising they got here at all. At any rate that is what women have had to fight throughout the centuries.
§ LORD AMWELL
I am not intervening on that point but on something that was said a little before, about rising in a train because a woman comes in and she should have your seat and you should stand. The point that occurs to me—I may be wrong is—that it might be worth 1315 considering whether, if it is so necessary and so gallant and so desirable to give up a seat for a few minutes in a tube train, it can conceivably be regarded as a right thing for a woman to do a hard day's industrial work in a factory and then go home and do the chores of the home.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am afraid I do not follow that argument. I think giving up one's seat to a lady is an act of courtesy. I have various rules of that sort which I recommend to the noble Lord. Never walk into a room in front of a clergyman, is one of my rules. I think these are courtesies rather than acts of physical sustenance. I think the world would be poorer and coarser it these courtesies were not observed. There are other arguments but that I suggest to the noble Lord.
I was saying that throughout the centuries this struggle has gone on. Plato, if I remember rightly, was in favour of equal chances for women. In the last century Mr. Gladstone was not. In this century Mr. Asquith was a strong opponent. I am sorry to say it in the presence of his distinguished relative, the noble Baroness, but I think Mr. Asquith was extremely difficult where the rights of women are concerned. And Sir Winston Churchill, too. I am sorry to say that. But Sir Winston is, I am glad to say, still with us; so we are not living in ancient history now. That battle has gone on, and now, at last, the principle is more or less accepted.
There has been progress in the Carlton Club. I do not know whether noble Lords have read "The Londoner's Diary" in the Evening Standard of to-day—we are still quite early in the day. If not, I venture to quote something from the first paragraph of "The Londoner's Diary". It says:There have been some radical improvements at the Carlton Club since the arrival there a month ago of a new Secretary, Mr. Michael Lord.I ought to say that I resigned from the Carlton Club, before being expelled, in 1935, so that I am not in touch with proceedings, as the noble Earl and other noble Lords may be. I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, would be allowed to be a 1316 member of the Carlton Club—she shakes her head!That is not much of a step forward. We are now told that in the Carlton Clubwomen, instead of being confined to a small ante-room are now allowed in the more spacious library on the first floor.That means that the noble Baroness will be allowed into the library.The ante-room has been turned into a banqueting room which can be hired also for cocktail parties or used as an overflow from the dining room. Attendance has doubled. More good things are to come. ' When we close in August we are turning one of our very many lavatories into a bar ', said Mr. Lord "—I do not see what the connection is there; it is all in this passage—Women are still denied access to the main staircase ".Even for the Carlton Club that is a bit backward. I repeat:Women are still denied access to the main staircase. They must take the lift to the first floor.I am in favour of equality of rights, but I am not in favour of absolute and total feminine predominance. Men must be allowed to speak. This is the situation in the Carlton Club which I have placed before the House.
However, at the special request of the noble Baroness, I turn to the more technical part of my speech which will be dry enough, I think, for all tastes. I want to deal in great detail with the life of women in banking, and when I have finished I think no one will complain that I have been facetious, because it is not at all a laughing matter. In regard to the problem of women in banking, I want to make two demands on their behalf which I think will be conceded by all Members here; and of course the remedy does not lie entirely in the power of the Government. But I take banking because it is something with which I was associated for a number of years, until just the other day. I make a demand for equality of pay and equality of opportunity, and I think that the noble Baroness, not to mention other speakers, will be with us because she has upheld strongly the principle of equality of pay, and also, I have no doubt, the equality of opportunity. But may I take the second one first, equality of opportunity, because the question of pay is rather simpler?
1317 In banking the question of equality of opportunity is a rather tricky one. In fact, in commercial banking in what are ordinarily called the joint stock banks, of which the "Big Five" are much the best known, Barclays is the only bank which has appointed women as managers. Barclays now has two women branch managers: no other bank has any. There are in Barclays several kinds of women appointed to senior posts inside the bank. They have a woman staff manager administration, and I am told that that is regarded as a higher position than that of a branch manager. All this, one is bound to say, refers to Barclays alone. Taking the banks as a whole, it is inconceivable that there should be so few women in good positions if there were anything like equality of opportunity. I say that because, indeed, it is bound to be one's conclusion, when one bears in mind that at the moment the banks are recruiting more female than male staff, and that the proportion of women in banks is between 40 and 50 per cent., and is increasing the whole time. In that situation, one would say that it was astonishing that in Barclays there were two female managers and in other banks no female managers at all.
There is need for caution here. The vast majority of women who enter banking as girls leave it, after a few years, to be married. All that side of things was stressed in a more general way by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton; and so one has to be careful in saying, "Well, half the staff in the banks are women; therefore half of them ought to be managers". I am not putting that claim forward, because it is extreme and would be rather absurd. Nevertheless, out of the more than 100,000 men and women employed in banking there must be some thousands of women who give their whole life to the profession; and it must be clear from the figures, and from what I said earlier, that the few women who have received senior posts—those who do give their lives to the work of banking—receive a much worse chance, on the average, than the men, and a much worse chance than their talents deserve.
But we must look at the matter from the point of view of the banks. I have been a bank chairman, and I know this side of it. From the point of view of the banks, when the young women join they are, of course, regarded as much 1318 less durable, much less likely to last, than men. Taking them as a whole, they are looked on as not providing potential material from which managers are likely to emerge, simply because it is thought that the vast majority of them will be married fairly soon. When one is discussing this question of equality of opportunity for women one has to bear that side of the matter in mind. Even so, I would say that the fact which I have just mentioned, that the vast majority of the women marry fairly soon provides an altogether insufficient excuse for the backwardness of the banks. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, covered all this over a wider field, and I must not try to repeat what he said. But I am talking now of banking from first-hand experience. The banks as a whole have failed to take adequate steps to train promising young women so that they can be equipped to take on higher responsibility if they stay in the banks. Most of the female recruits to banking tend to gravitate to routine tasks, to work as ledger-posting machinists or shorthand typists; whereas suitable young men, and indeed the average young men in the bank, are usually, after they have been in the bank a little while, given the chance to acquire wider experience in the various aspects of banking. All this early training and wider experience paves the way for their promotion later on to managerial posts. It is, I suppose, broadly true—though it is difficult to generalise—that if a young woman wishes to rise in banking beyond the routine tasks, she has to show rather special initiative in pushing her way forward, whereas the opportunity comes to the young man in the ordinary course of events.
Therefore, making allowances for all the progress, I respectfully plead with the banks to show far more enterprise and sense of justice than hitherto in giving equal opportunities to their female staff. I was told to-day (I have not seen it myself) that there is an advertisement from one of the banks which shows considerable enterprise. They have published an advertisement under the heading, "Job or career. We provide you with whichever you want". That stresses the fact that a woman may want to come for only a few years; but some may want a career. If that is so, and a bank has put an advertisement of that sort in 1319 the newspaper, I give it all credit. But a great deal more should be done.
I turn now to the question of pay. I should just say, linking these two matters together, that if the pay were more equal as between men and women, there is no doubt that a good many more young women would be ready to assume responsibilities to which their talents entitle them than is now the case. As things stand, they are frequently reluctant to take on the higher responsibilities if only because they do not feel they are going to be properly paid for them. Therefore, the employers have some argument—though not a very strong one in view of their backwardness—for saying that they cannot get the women to take on these higher posts. If they paid them properly, a lot of that contention would disappear.
I should like now to say one or two words on pay. In most of the banks in this country there is a measure of pay parity between men and women on the clerical scales in the early stages. Among the Big Five, according to my information, Barclays, the Midland and the National Provincial offer parity on basic clerical scales up to and including age 23. From the age of 17, or whatever age they enter, young men and women will be paid the same up to, but not beyond, 23, and in some cases the disparity begins before 23. After 23, or sooner in some cases, the disparity begins. At the later end of the salary scale, at 31 in most cases, the increments in the case of men go up from £70 to £75 per annum, and in the case of women, from £15 to £20 in the year. So by the time they reach 31, in spite of the equality up to age 23, the gap between men and women is very pronounced. I am here talking of the people on the scale, not of the people who receive special pay for special responsibility.
In fact, if you take a typical case, still citing the scale, a man of 31 will probably be getting about £930, and a woman might be getting £665 or thereabouts. There would therefore be a gap of about £265 at 31. All that will have opened up between 23 and 31, so there is a very big discrepancy in the years after the age of 23. I am sure we would all agree that this is grossly unjust and that it ought to be brought to an end as soon as possible, 1320 as it has been brought to an end in teaching and in local government in Scotland. It is not long since there was a great disparity there, but now the principle of equal pay is applied in teaching, in the local government services and elsewhere. This discrepancy does not even make very good administrative sense; at any rate, it clearly reveals a kind of flagrant injustice.
It is after 23 that the staff begin to specialise in various banking departments, such as the foreign department, securities and administration. Where women are given opportunities, as they sometimes are, for specialisation after the age of 23, these promotions usually coincide with a step on the salary scale where equal pay no longer applies. The following position results—and this was described to me by a young woman who came to see me the other day when I was studying the matter with the National Union of Bank Employees. She gave me the facts of her own case. In many instances female staff in their late twenties who are seniors in their department are receiving less than the male staff under their charge. This was the case with this particular young woman, and I am told it is quite common.
It is true that the merit award, whatever you like to call it, for higher responsibility, will be the same in the case of men and women, but the difference in the basic scale is so great that you will get a good many cases where the young woman will be getting less than the young man under her charge. I think we would all agree that that position was utterly wrong and should be brought to an end as soon as possible. In fairness, I should add that the women who obtained the more senior positions and become managers receive in total pay, so far as I know, the same as the men. The managers in a bank like Barclays would be getting the same whether they were men or women, but there are many positions of the kind I have mentioned in the intermediate level where women will be grossly underpaid in comparison with men.
I am afraid that all sounds very complicated, but let me re-state what seems to me to be the irresistible demand which must be made on behalf of women in banking, as of women working elsewhere. Women are not asking for equal pay for unequal or inferior work. They are asking—and surely we must all 1321 agree with this—that if they do the same or equivalent work as men they should receive equal pay. I hope it will not be many years before this elementary demand is granted. The principle has been accepted up to age 23. That in a way is rather curious, because, if there are objections (and there are difficulties which may occur to noble Lords), they are just as pronounced before the age of 23 as afterwards.
It may be said, for example, that men tend to have higher educational qualifications than women. That is so in a good many cases, but that need not be so in the higher positions because the employer can demand various educational qualifications as required. Again, there are certain problems as to how you decide that the work is equivalent when the women are doing something which, in a number of cases, may be different from the work actually being done by the men. Nevertheless, these objections have in fact been overruled up to the age of 23. That may well be because employers could not obtain the services of the young women unless they had overruled these objections.
We should all agree that these objections should be overruled for a higher reason. I may be asked: should full equality be imposed up to the age of 31, or whatever is the last year of the scale? That is certainly right in principle. I am not going to say that it should necessarily be done to-morrow, but a long step forward should immediately be taken in that direction. Unless we do that we are going to make a mockery of the idea that we stand for the principle of equal pay for equal work. I have much pleasure in supporting the noble Baroness.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, the noble Lady who has introduced this Motion has presented us with a wide field of discussion, or rather two wide fields of discussion. The first part of her Motion calls attention "to the need for an Industrial Charter for women"; and an Industrial Charter for women—according to the document to which she referred, prepared by the Women's Advisory Committee of the Trades Union Congress—consists of equal pay based on the job done and not on the sex of the worker; opportunities for promotion; 1322 apprenticeship schemes; improved opportunities for training; re-training facilities for older women; and special provisions for the health, welfare and care of women workers. That involves a number of Departments: the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Health. The other field which the noble Baroness introduced, in a speech which most admirably condensed all the points into a fairly short compass, was the financial disabilities involved in the married woman working solely in the home. That again might involve the Home Office, the Law Officers, and the Inland Revenue.
The noble Lady will appreciate that I have come here to this debate primarily for the purpose of listening to what the noble Lady, and others of your Lordships who have spoken, had to say; and, of course, to see that everything that she and your Lordships said in this debate receives proper attention from the various Government Departments which are concerned. Your Lordships will not expect me to attempt anything in the nature of a formal statement of Government policy on so great a variety of different subjects. I should like to comment, if I may, on what I thought were the salient points raised by the noble Lady: the question of equal pay; the question of training for women, the question of education, and also, in the other part of her Motion, the question of certain disabilities which arise from the very difficult problem of married women, some of whom work, others of whom may not work outside the home, but whose working inside the home is perhaps more arduous and more important to the country.
My Lords, on equal pay, which has been referred to by many others of your Lordships who have spoken, including the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who has just resumed his seat, I do not think that there is any body of opinion in this country which is opposed to the principle of equal pay. I cast my mind back many years to 1947, when I was temporarily not a Member of either House of Parliament, to the Industrial Charter which was issued at that time by the Conservative Central Office. Your Lordships may remember that on page 30 of this Industrial Charter there appeared this statement:We have examined carefully the claim for equal pay for men and women. It seems to 1323 us that payment by results ought to give equal pay for equal value whether the work is done by a man or a woman. We believe that there should be one rate for the job, provided that the services rendered and the results achieved by men and women are the same. We commend this principle to those engaged in industrial wage negotiations as the right one to adopt. In non-industrial occupations we should wish to move forward on the same principle when financial and other considerations make it possible.This Report of the Women's Advisory Committee quotes a resolution of the Trades Union Congress in 1962, which says:The Congress notes with concern the relatively slow progress made in implementing the principle of equal pay for equal work for men and women. The Congress therefore urges affiliated unions seriously to consider adopting a policy of securing equal increases for men and women in all wage negotiations.My Lords, there is a great deal that can be done in various ways to lead public opinion to carry out these pieces of advice. But the real problem is probably that, although it might ideally be possible to achieve equal pay for equal work gradually, by working on opinion and by giving advice to employers, trades unions and so on, I believe that what most people have in mind when they talk about carrying out a comprehensive policy of equal pay is that there should be legislation. This must, of necessity, interfere with voluntary wage negotiations, with the free right of employers and trades unions to negotiate wage agreements, to the extent that the law must provide that any such wage agreements shall give effect to the principle of equal pay for men and women.
As the noble Lady said, that principle has been agreed to by the countries of the European Common Market. Although it has not yet been implemented, the programme is that equal pay in France, Germany and the other E.E.C. countries shall come into effect by the end of 1964. We do not yet know exactly how; and there are, as the noble Lady, who is more conversant with these subjects than most of us, is no doubt aware, a great many differences of opinion as to exactly what constitutes equal work. Particularly in industrial occupations, it is often very difficult to equate the value of the work which is being performed by men and women. 1324 But the point about this is that, if Great Britain had joined the Common Market, if we had been able to do so, we should have been bound by Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome, and we should have been compelled in 1964 to bring in legislation equating our industrial laws on this matter with the laws of France and Germany. So although our application to join the Common Market has been vetoed, and we are no longer likely in the immediate future to be under any such obligation, it is of course a matter which was in everybody's mind while the Common Market negotiations were on, just as we thought of various other changes in our economic life, such as agricultural changes which might have increased the price of food. Although we might regard the object as a wholly admirable one, this was a change which naturally aroused the reluctance of people to interfere with the free rights of negotiation between trades unions and employers. We should have been prepared to override that if we had joined the Common Market, but whether or not it will arise again none of us can foresee.
Let me just briefly recite to your Lordships what progress has been made up to date. As the noble Lady said, the Government have adopted equal pay for the Civil Service, but not for Government industrial employees in the Dockyards, Royal Ordnance factories and so on. As she rightly said, the reason why that has not been done is that the Government are a small minority employer and, according to the Fair Wages Resolution of 1946, which governs regulation of wages among Government industrial workers, it is considered right that we should try to follow what the majority are doing and not to give the lead. In the Civil Service the agreement with the National Whitley Council for equal pay for non-industrial civil servants was made in January, 1955. Equality was to be achieved in seven instalments, the final one being in January, 1961. For the last two years all non-industrial civil servants (I think the teaching profession was the last one to be completed) have enjoyed the principle of equal pay for equal work.
Now, my Lords, there were one or two points raised by the noble Lady on this 1325 matter which I do not want to pursue argumentatively but on which I should just like to comment briefly. She said—and I think it is a figure taken from this trade union women's Report from which I have already quoted—that according to the T.U.C. less than 10 per cent. of women in Great Britain get equal pay. I have not been able to confirm that—I think it may be an underestimate; I think it may be more—but what the Ministry of Labour estimates is that equal pay, if it could be enforced, would benefit about 3 million out of the 8 million who are now at work. The 10 per cent. does not mean 10 per cent. of the women who would be getting equal pay if this were done, because it covers all women, including those who are not doing equal work.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Does that mean that more than half the women actually at work ate getting equal pay?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
No, my Lords. Although we cannot confirm this, it is right to say that a very small proportion are actually getting equal pay, but we must remember that equal pay is to be given for equal work, and it is often very difficult to decide what work is equal and what is not. The Ministry of Labour's estimate—I am merely giving this as a matter of interest, and not argumentatively—is that about 3 million women out of the 8 million would receive increases in wages if this principle could now be universally enforced all over industry. Many women in industry are employed on jobs which are exclusively women's work, and they would probably not benefit directly From the introduction of equal pay. The women who might chiefly be affected are in distribution and in non-manual jobs in industry.
My Lords, I do not want to give too much attention to percentages—I know they are often misleading—but I think the noble Lady was right in saying that, on the whole, women are getting only about half the pay which men are getting—that is to say, women's earnings are, on the whole, about one-half of men's earnings. Of course, that is accounted for partly by the fact that they work fewer hours. If you take the rates, I think that in general women's rates are between two-thirds and four-fifths of men's rates. Some unions try to get equal increases 1326 for men and women in absolute figures rather than in percentages, which of course is a good thing for the women, because if they are getting a smaller wage then a percentage means a smaller increase. This was achieved, as the noble Lady probably knows, in the recent agreement in the engineering industry: the increases were absolute and equal—but that is still rather exceptional.
My Lords, I should like to say a brief word about training, and a word about education. The National Economic Development Council, in its Report on the means of achieving a 3½ per cent. increase, refers to the importance of more industrial training for women, both before they marry and later on, if they want to come back to the work after an interval of several years. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who referred to the fact that some employers were reluctant to spend money on apprenticeship training because the girl might marry after a few years. That, of course, may be equally true of the young women; they may not want to spend a lot of time on apprenticeships if they want to marry quickly. But in November, 1962, the Industrial Training Council issued a booklet, called Training Girls in Industry (no doubt the noble Lady has seen it), which urges that all girls entering industry should receive systematic training, and points out the advantages to employers in quicker learning, a higher standard of work and a greater interest in the job, leading to a reduction in labour turnover. The importance of training girls has also been emphasised at the conferences of training operatives which have been organised by the Training Advisory Service of the Industrial Training Council. I should like to assure the noble Lord that the Government are aware of the need to make more training opportunities available to girls and have tried to encourage the provision of training for them—and it is part of our policy to do more in this regard.
As for education, my Lords, I thought the noble Lady paid a good deal of attention to this, both in regard to schools and in regard to universities. She gave certain figures about the numbers or percentages of women who were receiving secondary education, on which I should just like to say a word. Apart from Oxford and Cambridge, where numbers 1327 are limited by the capacity in women's colleges, women can compete quite freely for places with men; and, of course, the universities are wholly autonomous in the selection of their students. They apply to all candidates, whether male or female, whatever criteria they themselves judge are academically desirable; and the proportion of women among university students is thus a result of independent decisions taken by selection boards within individual universities. At present, there are 116,000 students currently studying at British universities, and about a quarter of them are women. The proportion has not varied much in recent years. In 1954, it was 25 per cent.; in 1959, 24.8 per cent.; in 1960–61, 25.4 per cent. Under our present university expansion plan, about 35,000 more university places are expected to be provided by 1966 or 1967. We do not, of course, provide specific places for men or women, but if the proportion of women in the total student population does not change (and it is not expected to change very much up to 1966), that will mean that some 9,000 of the additional places are likely to be taken up by women.
The noble Lady, I noticed, made a particular reference in her remarks to medical education. There are no fixed proportions of men and women in university medical schools, but the proportion of women at present entering university medical schools has risen from 25 per cent. in 1954 to 26 per cent. in October, 1962.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, as the noble Earl is dealing with universities, may I ask him a point on that?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Then may I submit a point to him? I cannot believe that he desires to do this, but I think that he perhaps gave the impression that there is parity of treatment as between men and women in the struggle to get into universities. We have only to take the university which the noble Earl and I know best—Oxford. We know that, in order to get into a women's college there, you have to reach what is 1328 at any rate the exhibition standard and almost the scholarship standard of a male college, simply because there are very few women's colleges and they will not have any more. That is the position. I am sure the noble Earl did not wish to give the impression that men and women are on the same sort of footing in their ability to get into universities.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Earl for pointing that out, but I think I did take particular care to say that the standards by which the university authorities select candidates were a matter for them. I did not imply that university authorities applied exactly the same standards to men and women. I thought it would be of interest to all of your Lordships if I gave total figures.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, forgive me for interrupting. Is the noble Earl about to leave universities?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I think the noble Earl might come a little cleaner. He had misled me in the same way as he misled my noble friend. I hope he would now agree that there is not equal opportunity for men and women in finding places at certain universities. Anyway, I hope he will agree, because this is a rather fundamental point.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I do not think I said that; but to make quite sure may I just again repeat what I said—not all of it but the relevant sentence. I said that apart from Oxford and Cambridge, where numbers were limited by the capacity of women's colleges, women compete quite freely with men for places in our universities. The universities are wholly autonomous in the selection of their students, and they apply to all candidates, male or female, the standards they judge to be academically desirable. I do not want to comment upon that or to enlarge upon it.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, may I say that I was glad that my noble friends have taken up this point? This is one of the greatest scandals of the country. The noble Earl has been briefed to say that the proportion of women 1329 university students in this country is overall, 25 per cent. But let us just come back to Oxford and Cambridge. The fact is that in Cambridge it is something like 11 per cent., and in Oxford about 12 per cent. He says to us that the reason is that we have not sufficient colleges. Why are there not sufficient colleges? Surely, if we believe in an equitable approach to this subject, the Government should recognise that they should provide the accommodation for more women. And those are the figures of our two oldest universities—who ought to know better. When the noble Earl speaks about medical schools—it is not his fault, he has these figures and must give them—I have to say that on this side of the House there are some experts listening to these figures. When he was talking about medical schools, I mentioned the London medical schools. If he inquires to-morrow or telephones any Dean or Secretary lie will find that each London medical school has a quota. There is not one medical school in London which takes more than 15 per cent. of women. Some of them take only 10 per cent. or 12 per cent.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, it is certainly true that at Oxford and Cambridge there are less than 25 per cent. of women; but at other universities there are more. That is why the average figure is 25 per cent. which I must adhere to.
I was going to say a few words upon the noble Lady's representations which she made about married women in the home. I think that she and others of your Lordships who have spoken have brought out very clearly the extremely difficult social problem in relation to this. The noble Lord, Lord Amwell, argued very strongly against a normal married woman working in a factory because he thought that this is against the interests of the children. I am quite sure there are many of your Lordships who are equally concerned when they hear about children coming home in the evening and looking under the door mat for the key, finding their own way in, looking after themselves, playing with the television perhaps, until their mother comes home. On the other hand, I think it is fair to say, as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, did, that the 8 million women, many of whom are married, who 1330 are working now, are essential to our economy and it would be a great interference with human freedom if they were prevented from doing so. Although I would not expect that it would really go very far to removing the objections of the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, it is fair that I should quote another sentence from page 4 of this Report of the Women's Advisory Committee of the Trades Union Congress. They say:Investigations carried out by the Consultative Committee suggested to them that there was no general problem or evidence of any serious failure on the part of mothers to make adequate arrangements for the care of the children while they were at work.I think that is true; and I think that, much as we should like to see women able to do two things at once, which nobody can do, we will all agree that it is possible, and ought to be possible, for work to be done by women and at the same time for a happy family home to be preserved.
There are a vast number of financial and social problems which may arise from that, many of which I should say could not be solved by legislation. I should like to mention the tax position for the information of your Lordships, the provisions that have been made in the Finance Bills for helping married women who work. A married man gets his personal allowance of £320 compared with a single person's allowance of £200. In addition to that, if his wife has earnings of her own, additional income tax reliefs are given against her earnings that qualify for special earned income allowance which is seven-ninths of the earnings up to a maximum of £200. That may not be very much comfort to those who work only in the home; in fact, it may exaggerate the discrepancy between women who work and the other type of wife with whom the noble Lady is so rightly concerned, who has to do the whole of her work at home. I listened with very careful attention to what she said. She quoted various recommendations of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce, and she also quoted from some passages in the Report concerning recommendations which were not made.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
A proposal was that there should be community of 1331 income. That was rejected, I think, by 12 to 7. Then the proposal was made that there should be a statutory allowance that the wife should be entitled to have a share of the husband's income. They rejected that and gave one rather interesting reason. They said that the practical objections to this proposal are clearly brought out in the evidence given by one of the women's organisations. This body had at first supported this proposal, but subsequently withdrew its support on the grounds that the difficulties of implementation were insuperable.
But there was another proposal, which was positively recommended and which the noble Lady quoted, in paragraph 701, which says:We accordingly recommend, in respect of England and Scotland, that savings made from money contributed by either the husband or the wife or by both for the purpose of meeting house-keeping expenses (and any investments or purchases made from such savings) should be deemed to belong to the husband and wife in equal shares unless they have otherwise agreed.In the short time available, I have done my best to consult my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor about this, and he thinks that the Government would have no objection to accepting the recommendation of the Royal Commission about joint ownership by husband and wife of savings from housekeeping money and that, indeed, this might be a suitable subject for a Private Member's Bill. I should not like to say—and neither, I think, would the noble Lady—how much good such a measure would do; but I hope it is a point which will be followed up. Since I have mentioned my noble and learned friend, may I remind your Lordships that the present Lord Chancellor is the first who has been responsible for appointing a woman to be a county court judge?
The other grievance raised by the noble Lady which seemed to me to have something substantial in it, is the question of bequests, but I do not think that it is advisable for me to say much on that point. She said that a man did not have to leave anything to his wife. In Scotland, that is not so. He would have to leave one-third, at least, of his possessions to his wife, which I think is a very good thing. I do not wish to 1332 be rash enough to comment on the position in England, but an Inheritance of the Family Act was passed in 1938, under which the position is that, if a man dies intestate, his widow can claim enough to support her and the children and, if he does make a will and the wife considers that she has been left insufficient money by her late husband, she can claim a readjustment.
I think that we are all agreed that men and women are equal, certainly in a spiritual sense, and that they ought to be equal in regard to human rights and civil rights. Exactly how this equality may in future be related, or ought to be related, to human relationships of every kind is a question which I do not think I could answer. I do not know whether the general sentiment that a husband ought to have the duty of supporting his wife and children is an out-of-date old-fashioned idea or whether it is a permanent part of natural human relations. If it is an out-of-date idea, then no doubt the time will come when husband and wife will not only have an equal amount of money but also equal responsibility for supporting each other and for supporting their children. This is an idea which I think would be alien to most of our minds in the present age, as certainly it is to mine.
I think that we ought to honour the traditional occupations of women, what they call in Germany "the three K's", which is, in our language, church, children and cooking. I think that these are arts of a high and magnificent order, for which we ought to be grateful to women, as well as to their Creator. But we also want them to be able to express themselves in other ways, to earn money, to practise arts, even to fly through space, like Valentina Tereshkova, whom we are so glad to hear has safely landed this afternoon. As the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lichfield said so rightly, we must have flexibility between home life and other occupations. I profoundly agreed with the right reverend Prelate, as I am sure all your Lordships did, when he said that women had a duty both to their country and to their home and that he prayed that, in working for one, they would not sacrifice the other. I am sure that the noble Lady who brought in this Motion would also agree with that sentiment.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I have now been in both Houses of Parliament for a quarter of a century, and the longer I am here, the more I realise that one can never anticipate what might emerge from a debate. In the last five minutes, the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has said something which, in my opinion, can well revolutionise the economic position of the ordinary working woman in this country. When he got up, my heart sank. He began modestly, as he always does, by saying that he came here to listen. Then I looked at the documents which I assured myself he would have before Recess, so that he would have plenty of homework, and I felt that they had been pretty well thumbed, and I realised that the modest approach did not reveal his intellectual grasp of the subject.
The noble Earl went on to deal with practically every point I raised. This is a most unusual thing in Parliament. Generally a Minister is inhibited when dealing with women's problems. My noble friend beside me has just whispered to me that that is because in public schools they are never allowed to mention girls. The noble Earl did seem a little inhibited at first, but as he developed his argument he showed that he had an understanding of, and had thought about, the implicataions of these matters, and his peroration could not have been better. He even congratulated Valentina.
What the noble Earl said was so important. Perhaps some of the noble Lords who have listened to this debate have not read this very long Report of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce. I have quoted some of it, because I wanted to put these extracts on the Record. I have observed that Members of this House listen and if they feel that an argument is sound, they are fairly sympathetic. I pointed out that one of the problems affecting all women—widows, and married women who unfortunately have men who drink or gamble or do not give them enough money—is that women are denied the right to save a penny of the household income, even if they can do it privately. If a woman takes in lodgers, the money she makes is her husband's, because the house is her husband's. If a woman gets a dividend from the co-operative society, 1334 that belongs to her husband because the housekeeping allowance is her husband's. If she does anything in the house to make money which can be interpreted as using what belongs to the husband, then she cannot save a penny of it.
In this quiet House this afternoon, five minutes ago, the noble Earl announced that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said that, if a Private Member's Bill is introduced, he will be prepared to accept the proposition that a married woman at home can keep some of the home savings. I can only say that I am deeply grateful. I want only to be asked to have the honour of introducing such a Private Member's Bill. I do not know whether Private Member's Bills can go through before the Recess, but it would have to be a very quick Private Member's Bill if it did. I want to thank the noble Earl very much for telling me this and doing this for the most badly treated women in the country.
In these matters we are always dealing only with a minority. Most husbands are very fine people, and most of them speak as the noble Earl spoke in his last few sentences. They recognise that a woman as an individual has the right to express herself, and has the right to freedom of every kind, including economic freedom. But there is the minority. I think that when we look at some of our legislation which concerns men and women we find that much of it is of a deterrent nature. In the last century, when men had the right to assault their wives, there were people who said: "You must not interfere. The wife belongs to the husband, and if he wishes to assault her he may." Then, it will be recalled, a Bill was introduced to the effect that a husband could assault his wife provided the stick was no thicker than his finger. Well, he managed to cause quite a lot of trouble with that stick the size of his finger, and more legislation was introduced saying that the wife must have protection from this assault. But it was only the minority; and it deterred the minority. That is the point. Now it is only a question of a minority who do not treat their wives well. When this little Bill comes in, it will probably be welcomed by a minority of women who desperately need it. The great majority, I am sure, enjoy happy lives.
I feel that I should not say anything more because I am so deeply grateful 1335 for what the noble Earl said. May I ask the noble Earl whether he would accept a Motion, if it was written out to-day, on the subject of the Bill?
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I see. I want to thank the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, very deeply. I want to thank other people who have taken part in the debate to-day. My noble friend Lord Shackleton made reference to unmarried mothers. Things have been said in this debate which must be very welcome to groups of women who are friendless, helpless and desperately need our help. My noble friend Lord Shackleton has told the House that in his firm not only will an unmarried mother be taken back after the birth of the child, but the firm will give her full wages during the period of her pregnancy and, indeed, will look after her and care for her, and even arrange for the adoption of the child. This is progress in the social field, and it will bring happiness to the hearts of many people.
I thank the right reverend Prelate for taking part in the debate and for what he said. I am sorry he did not talk about the pamphlet On the Threshold of Marriage. I was a little amused—and I say this in all kindness—when he said that we must beware of prejudice, and then said he believed in women in all fields except in the Church. I would remind him that there are now only two worlds which refuse to have anything to do with women, and they are the Stock Exchange and the Church of England. I hope the right reverend Prelate will think about this. Then, while he was out for just a few minutes, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, got up and quoted from that wonderful speech made by Mary Lusk in the Church Assembly in Scotland, where she pointed out to the assembled clergy that she did everything that they did in church work, but they refused to have her ordained. She made a wonderful speech, and I am glad to hear that she has converted many people.
I must say something to the noble Lord, Lord Amwell. He charges me with harbouring uncharitable thoughts about him. The only uncharitable thing about me is that I never harbour any thoughts 1336 about him. Why he keeps looking at me and thinking, "This woman does not like me", I do not know. I know that he is well read, and I can only suggest that he goes home and reads Freud, which will give him the answer.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
The noble Lord is always saying that I am harbouring thoughts about him. My noble friend Lord Longford always supports me on most unusual occasions. I must confess that I did kick his legs at that moment, and I apologise, but I thought he was getting a little facetious. But what he said about women in banking will be welcomed. There is no doubt that the attitude does change. My own bank manager knows how I feel about it and always has a woman on the front counter.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
I do not know. But she is always there, and I am very impressed. There is no doubt that things are changing. On the subject of equal pay, I was very pleased to learn that we might have it in this country next year if we enter the Common Market. I was glad that the noble Earl expressed his approval of that.
I have to move the Motion which stands in my name, which I am very happy to do. I am looking through it to see whether there is anything to which any noble Lord could object. It says:To call attention to the need for an Industrial Charter for Women and also to the financial disabilities of the married woman working solely in the home; and to move for Papers.As this is only "to call attention to", no noble Lord here will commit himself to anything more. My final word is: Thank you very much for what you have given to the women of Britain to-day.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Baroness was instigated by someone to take this line. The last time I accepted a Motion moving for Papers was from the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and it led to some difficulty about the Papers. As I could do this 1337 only after consultation with my colleagues, I should prefer it if the noble Baroness would get over that difficulty by seeing her way to take what is the more usual course in your Lordships' House of withdrawing the Motion.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I was going to tell the noble Earl that he need not worry about Papers at the end of the Motion. But if that is the case, I will withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.