HL Deb 14 November 1973 vol 346 cc642-746

2.48 p.m.

LORD ROYLE rose to call attention to the Government proposals for legislation contained in their publication, Equal Opportunities for Men and Women; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I am not quite sure what Papers I am moving for. When I look at the history of this subject during the last year I note that we had a Second Reading on the Anti-Discrimination Bill; we had stacks and stacks of evidence submitted to a Select Committee; we had two Reports from that Select Committee, added to an amended Bill; we had Recommittal proceedings and then we had a Third Reading. So, in view of that great number of Papers already in the hands of your Lordships, I am wondering what Papers I am asking for to-day. I deliberately leave out the Papers in connection with proceedings in the House of Commons because I hold very strongly the view that it was an utter waste of time for these two activities to be running in parallel. I felt that when your Lordships gave a Second Reading to the Bill introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, the House of Commons might have been a bit reasonable and waited until we had produced our Report, and we, having produced our Report, perhaps have taken over whatever Bill we might then present to the House of Lords, and continue it in the House of Commons. Therefore, I am deliberately missing out, in my list of Papers, the activities of the other place. I shall do so throughout what I have to say this afternoon.

I find myself in the position at this Dispatch Box this afternoon of being under a certain amount of pressure as the Chairman of the Select Committee and from my Party to introduce this question on their behalf. So I assure your Lordships that greatness has been thrust upon me in both capacities this afternoon.

I have been wondering during the last day or two whether it may be significant—it may also be coincidental—that Princess Anne was married on the day we decided to have this debate. I have been looking at the matter very carefully because I recognise that in this country there is no sex discrimination in equestrian circles, and that so far as horsemanship is concerned even women can rise to the highest ranks. At the same time, I think of something else: the Princess happens to be fourth in line to the Throne, only because she is a woman. Had it not been for the fact that she has two younger brothers, she would be second in line to the Throne. I wonder whether this is something that ought to be considered in the future: whether, when a woman happens to be second in the family she should also be second in line to the Throne. However, that is not something for our decision this afternoon, but may be a matter for the future. However, I think about those two different things: the question of her tremendous success in the field of horsemanship and her position as the fourth in line to the Throne.

My Lords, this wonderful document was produced from the Government. Since it was published all of us have had an opportunity of discussing it at great length. Therefore, I turn to page 27 of that document where it says: The Government's proposals in this Consultative Document are put forward for consultation and discussion. Before reaching final decisions on these proposals, the Government wishes to have the benefit of the views of interested bodies and persons. Well, apart from the other place, my Lords, here is where that process starts. We are this afternoon discussing this Paper on equal opportunities. I hope that it might be a profitable discussion.

May I begin, in a personal sense, therefore, by saying that when I was asked to preside over that Select Committee, I was completely independent. I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on the Second Reading of Lady Seear's Bill, talk about this not being a question for legislative activity; that it was purely and simply a question of educating people to make progress so far as sex discrimination is concerned. I confess at once that I was impressed by her arguments. But I took on this job. Independent, I did not vote on the Second Reading of that Bill. I took the Chair in the Select Committee with a completely open mind.

After hearing evidence for nine months, my Lords, except during the Parliamen- tary Recess, I came to two conclusions: first, that the existence of discrimination against women in employment, training and education was proved beyond any doubt whatsoever. This applied particularly in the sphere of promotion. Even if a woman got into a certain industry or profession, her progress to the top was certainly discriminated against, and she did not have the opportunities for promotion that are available to men.

The second conclusion I reached was that it was no use appealing to better nature without the support of legislation. I am completely convinced about this question. In point of fact, the Government, in paragraph 12 of their present Paper which we are discussing, came to exactly the same conclusion. I welcome this more than I can possibly say because it shows that there is some parallel in the thoughts of the Government and the Select Committee on this issue.

My greatest disappointment was when Her Majesty's Government rejected the Committee's amended Bill. I expressed this disappointment from the Bench behind where I now stand on the day when the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, said that the Government could not accept the Bill which the Select Committee had produced. But at the end of the day we have some satisfaction, and here it is: at least we have compelled the Government to think. If they will allow me to say so, their attitude on Second Reading was very different from the terms of this Consultative Document. They seem to have come around at least to something like the approach we hoped for. When Her Majesty's Government have really got down to this question, they have produced a beautiful document—it is almost feminine in its style, with its glossy character. If I may again speak in a personal sense, one of my great disappointments, having been Chairman of that Select Committee, is that I have never been invited to accept an honorary fellowship in Women's Lib. My difficulty would be as to what garment I should discard.

I want really to broach one main question; namely, why did the Government not accept our new Bill? That is what it amounted to. Why did they put it aside and say, "No, we must produce something of our own." They could have amended the amended Bill that the Select Committee produced. The result has been a great deal of delay; and, in these economically difficult days, it has caused a great deal of expense. The Select Committee had at their disposal possibly the greatest Parliamentary draftsmen of all time. In the sense of draftsmanship, we think we have produced a magnificent Bill. We heard evidence that Her Majesty's Government are now suggesting they will be trying to obtain through public debate. As a result of our deliberations, and from listening to evidence, I suggest to noble Lords, and to the Government in particular, that the Government cannot do much that we did not do. If the Government had accepted the Bill which the Select Committee produced, it could have gone on to the other place, and it might well have been that before the rising of the House for the Summer Recess it could have been on the Statute Book.

My Lords, there are some differences which need to be aired. I am very conscious that I have been at this Despatch Box for 12 minutes. There is a great deal to discuss on this subject, but as there are a number of speakers on the list there are many things I will leave to them. One of the matters that I do not intend to discuss is the question of marital status, which is rejected by the Government in their Consultative Paper. However, I hope that my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner will deal with this at a later stage. Having mentioned the list of speakers, I may say that missing from that list is the name of my noble friend Lady Summerskill. My noble friend was ill last week and did not have the opportunity of putting her name down, and if she speaks later in the debate, your Lordships will understand. I mention this because I valued so much the contribution of my noble friend in the Select Committee.

Our Select Committee advocated a Sex Discrimination Board, and this was the main point of our Bill. Her Majesty's Government, on the other hand, suggest referring it to the industrial tribunals and also the establishment of an Equal Opportunities Commission. I would say that the former is so encircled by controversy that I think it would be very dangerous that a subject of this sort should in any way be referred to them. So far as the Equal Opportunities Com- mission is concerned, it is given no teeth. I would submit to your Lordships that our suggested Sex Discrimination Board had teeth in a way that the other two have not. This seems to be something that the Government need to do at the moment. I do not know Why it is. When they took over three years ago, there was a Prices and Incomes Board. Today we have a Prices Board and an Incomes Board. Why cannot we have one body dealing with all these things? Our suggestion would be completely inclusive and would concentrate on a particular subject. We said it in Clause 13 of the Bill. I hope that the Government will look at this matter again with a view to achieving concentrated activity.

My Lords, so far as conciliation machinery is concerned, we are glad that Her Majesty's Government have accepted the proposal of the Select Committee of using the Employment Department for conciliation. This is good in every respect. When we discussed the matter with officers 'of that Department, we were delighted that ultimately they could see no real objection to taking over that duty. I must express some dissatisfaction with the education proposals. In my view, education should have been approached in exactly the same way as employment and training. Her Majesty's education inspectors are far too busy to undertake extra duties as outlined in the Government's Consultative Paper.

My Lords, the Committee might be criticised for their limitations. We decided against extending Lady Seear's original Bill beyond employment, training criticised for their limitations. We decided against extending the Lady Seear's Bill beyond empoyment, training and education, purely and simply because it was a Private Member's Bill, and if it were extended financial clauses would have to come in. But there are many other facets which are not in our Bill to which the Government refer in their Consultative Document. First of all, there are pensions. I believe that, in the same way as is envisaged for men, women should have the full rights of the occupational pensions scheme, because I believe that the reserve scheme offers many more benefits.

That brings me to the question of retirement at 60 and 65–60 for women and 65 for men. It has been proved conclusively by all the figures available that women live longer than men. Should they not now therefore be regarded in the same way as men so far as the age of retirement is concerned? When I say that, I do not think in terms of 65 years of age. I am completely convinced that we are not far off the day when the retirement age should be 60 all round. It may well be that because of our present employment difficulties we cannot face this at the moment, but it may very soon be the case: and in many industries and professions 60 is now the retiring age for men as well as for women. I think the time has come when this should be given consideration.

My Lords, I must say a brief word on mortgages. During the course of the evidence before the Select Committee many people suggested that women had not the same opportunities for obtaining mortgages as had men; that they were turned down just because they were women. I am bound to say that in no single case was a concrete illustration given, and because of my relationship with the building society movement, I would say, "All right; shop around." I do not know of any leading building society in this country that is not prepared to regard women, all things being equal, in exactly the same way as men for the purpose of granting mortgages. There are exception, which are dicussed in our Bill, as well as in the Consultative Document, and one of them is the Armed Forces. I understand that my noble friend Lord Winterbottom will be dealing with this which he can do so much better than I can. I would only say that if your Lordships go out through the door of this Chamber into the Royal Gallery and look at Maclise's great mural of the Battle of Trafalgar, you will find two women on it. In my researches when I was in the other place I found that there were many more than two women on that battleship during the battle of Trafalgar. I am wondering whether the time has not come when the W.R.N.S. might he thought of as part of the crews of battleships, even in battle. For the life of me I do not see why these days that should not apply.

The other exception to which I want to refer is the Clergy. I am delighted to see that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London is participating in this debate this afternoon. We received evidence from a bunch of lovely ladies who were determined that they wanted to be in the Clergy; they wanted to be vicars and even bishops as the day went by. At the end of their evidence, when members of the Committee put it to them that they might be offending against the hierarchy of the Church, it was interesting how quickly they climbed down. Then ultimately the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester (as he then was) gave his evidence. If I may say so, he was not very enthusiastic about what those ladies had said. He gave the hope that the Church of England at least were thinking seriously about this matter, and it was on those grounds alone—I think I am speaking for the Select Committee—that we decided that the Clergy should be an exception so far as the Bill was concerned. We hoped that the Church were doing something about it; and I can speak, I am sure, for all my colleagues on that Committee when I say that we cannot wait to hear what the ultimate result will be.

I have had second thoughts regarding smaller firms. The Consultative Document says that any firms with less than 25 employees should not be considered in this Bill initially. I have thought differently about this and I cannot for the life of me understand why firms who employ less than 25 people should not be included in future legislation. It seems to me just as important for them as for the larger concerns.

I have been speaking for too long, my Lords, but I want to say a word about the starting date. Her Majesty's Government have suggested in the Consultative Document that any legislation they introduce on this subject might be applicable from December 29, 1975. I do not agree; I think the matter is much more important and much more urgent than that. I believe that it should at least coincide with the implementation of the Equal Pay Act in November, 1975, and perhaps before. It seems to me that if we had this kind of legislation on discrimination earlier than the Equal Pay Act it would pave the way to the implementation of the Equal Pay Act and the two could run in parallel at the end of 1975 and would both be fully considered. So may I conclude with the point with which I began, and repeat that to my mind the great disappointment is that the Government did not accept, with amendment maybe, the recommendations contained in the Bill which the Select Committee produced. I am quite sure that we would have made much more progress had they done so. When we discussed it on Recommittal in the House only two small Amendments were moved and I think were accepted by the House. The members of the Select Committee had no objection to that. The House did not show itself basically to be opposed to the terms of the Bill. I am quite certain that progress would have been much quicker and that this great subject would to some extent have been on its way towards accomplishment had that Bill then been accepted. I conclude by thanking the House for the attention and kindness which it has shown to a maiden speaker at this Box. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say how very glad I am that the Government have responded to the extent of producing this document, Equal Opportunities for Men and Women, with the promise that legislation is going to follow. Your Lordships will not be surprised that I read the document with somewhat mixed feelings: in some regards I find it entirely acceptable and even, in some places, an improvement on what we put forward as a result of our deliberations in the Select Committee; in some respects I feel it to be inadequate.

Before examining the content of the Document, however, may I, like the noble Lord who preceded me, refer to the last page in which the Government are asking for consultation, representation and comment from the general public? I received a letter from a woman who was a member of a group to whom I was talking about the content of this Document and whom I was urging to read what the Government had put forward. I have not checked whether everything she says in her letter is accurate, but regrettably too much of it is in line with my own experience for me to think that in substance it is untrue. She says that in trying to get hold of the document she first of all visited the local Department of Employment who (and I quote) "had never heard of it". After ringing round many of the local offices with no success, she decided to save time and ring Her Majesty's Stationery Office. It took 25 minutes for her call to be passed from various people, the last of whom informed her that the document could not be sent and that she had to call for it.

Her husband valiantly made the journey and stood in a queue for an hour, only to be told that the Stationery Office did not have the document and did not think they would be receiving any copies of it in the future. They referred him to the Department of Employment at St. James's Square. As by then it was after 5 p.m., that meant another journey. The next clay St. James's Square was tackled. Your Lordships may be aware that there are three offices situated in that area. The first office had no copies whatsoever; the second one had one copy which they had to retain; but, believe it or not, the third managed to produce a copy. If consultation is to be a serious matter—and I believe the Government genuinely intend that it should be—I urge that better provision should be made to see that the general public can have the information on which to base consultation.

This is not a Committee stage, and in discussing this document I do not propose to go into great detail on the various clauses that raise matters for discussion. I should like to take a broader view and look first and foremost at the scope and content which is proposed for legislation, and then, secondly, at the all-important proposals for enforcement. In some respects what I am proposing to say is slightly different, though not different in principle, from what I said at the Second Reading debate; and if in some respects I have slightly altered my view, the Government can, after all, only deeply sympathise with me. My alteration of view I should prefer to call a development of my ideas on the subject.

On the question of the scope proposed for legislation, we on the Select Committee in putting forward the Sex Discrimination Bill limited our proposals to covering the areas of education, training and employment. We did this because the Bill was primarily a Private Member's one. As your Lordships are well aware, the wider the coverage in a Private Member's Bill, the more difficult it is to handle and to achieve success. I greatly hoped, and still hope, that the Government, in taking over legislation in this subject, with all the advantages that they have in putting forward proposals, will consider wider coverage than we were able to put into our Private Member's Bill. In particular I would follow the noble Lord, Lord Royle, in saying that we greatly hope that the Government will look again at the question of pensions and retirement. We urged this matter when the Social Security Bill was being debated, and we feel very strongly that it is most unfortunate at this time, when a great deal of change is going on over the whole range of pensions, that women should be once again excluded.

As your Lordships are well aware, a great expansion of occupational pension schemes is going on. Many firms are revising present schemes or introducing new ones. If it is explicitly laid down that women do not receive benefit from these schemes, as the years go on and more and more women reach retiring age they are going to be at a very serious disadvantage in comparison with their male colleagues, because they have been denied the right of access to the schemes now being introduced. Surely it is not too late to ask the Government to look once again at the right of women both to share in occupational pension schemes and also to be brought within the scope of the Government's own proposals concerning the retirement age. Like the noble Lord, Lord Royle, I accept that at this stage we may not be able to bring the retirement ages of men and women into line, but surely we could aim at doing so over a given period of years.

I would remind the House that in the Select Committee we all felt (and this was something which was based on the strong burden of the evidence that we heard) that of all the areas covered—education, training and employment—not the most spectacular, perhaps, but basically the most important was educaton. The whole question of discrimination begins with education and even in the home before the educational process starts; and I do not feel that the educational section in the Government's proposals is anywhere near strong enough. Like the noble Lord, Lord Royle, I do no believe it is good enough to leave it to the inspectors. I urge the Govern- ment to recognise that unless we get the educational part right, and root out discrimination in the schools, then what is included in the proposals—which greatly depends upon a change of attitudes which must begin in the schools—will largely be a dead letter, in so far as the legislation, when passed, eventually allows it to be so. The Act will do something, even if basic attitudes do not change; but it is far more important to change the attitudes. This is needed more than anything else, and I am afraid that the whole section on education is a great deal too feeble.

I turn to the question of exclusion from the Bill of other matters besides pensions, and in particular those concerning financial opportunities. The noble Lord has said—and I bow to his far greater experience in the field of mortgages—that women are not discriminated against in this field. My information is that while there is a much less discrimination than there used to be, some women, at any rate, still believe that they are discriminated against in this way. They may be wrong, but if there are some people who are, or feel themselves to be, discriminated against on these grounds, there could be no harm in covering this point in the proposed legislation. Certainly there are other financial consideraions affecting women. I had a letter not long ago from a widow who told me that she had two jobs: in addition to her day-time job she taught at a technical college during the evening. She went to a finance house to negotiate a loan, and was told that she had to have a male guarantor. I can only take her word for that, but apparently she is prepared to vouch for its accuracy. Even if such things happen only rarely, even if they happen to only a few people, they should not be allowed to go on, and an appropriate new clause in the proposed legislation would make it impossible for them to do so. It would do no harm and could possibly do considerable good.

Then there is the vexed question of the exemptions. Of course we all accepted that there have to be some exemptions, but the fewer there are and the more narrow the grounds, the more satisfactory the situation will be. "A genuine occupational requirement" was the phrase that we used, and it is necessary to have it. But I cannot say I am entirely happy at the list of grounds for exemption which the Government have produced. I accept the argument of authenticity. Obviously, the leading lady will have to remain a lady, and one will have to say so. Some of the other grounds which are listed here could be interpreted too widely and some of them, though they might be reasonable in the short term, I think should have a time limit on them—for example, where the question of communal living is referred to, in Clause 2(11)(e). No doubt it would be difficult to make the necessary provision overnight, though it could be done over a period of time. I strongly object to the two possible grounds for exemption which are put forward in Clause 2(13)(a) and (b). I would remind your Lordships that Clause 2(13)(a)—and the Government do not suggest that they support this but they say that this might be regarded as grounds for exemption—says: Where it would be offensive to public taste or decency for a man (or a woman) to do the job". Surely, my Lords, that could be interpreted by an appropriate body so widely as to exclude a large number of people. It is true that one man's decency is another man's prudery, and a clause which is drawn as widely as that leaves so many opportunities for loopholes that it should be reviewed.

Clause 2(13)(b) says Where it could be shown that for the performance of personal services strong preferences among customers or clients made the employment of a man (or a woman) essential to the business". Again, "strong preferences among customers or clients" is very vague. A great many customers or clients have become so accustomed to the idea of being served by a male or a female that they take it for granted that there will be sex discrimination regarding people rendering that particular service; but if presented with the need to consider someone of the opposite sex, no doubt after a very short period of time they would accept it as in itself a perfectly reasonable and obvious thing to happen. I very much hope that eventually those proposed two clauses will go out of the window.

Then there is the exception with regard to the Churches. I was sorry in many ways that we in the Select Committee had to agree to that proviso. I would, if I might, say with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, that I did not quite agree with his summary of the evidence given by people who were representing the women who wished to be accepted into the Church. From my knowledge of them, I do not think it was any fear of the hierarchy that made them modify their point of view. I think the hierarchy would support me when I say that this particular group of women are not easily intimidated The reason why I personally would go along with it was certainly not that given by the noble Lord, Lord Royle. Speaking personally, I should regard this as an issue of Church and State. I should not be happy that the State should legislate for the internal affairs of the Church. That is a different and quite broader question which I do not propose to raise today.

I am sorry that we have gone ahead with the exemption for midwives. For the life of me, I cannot see (and as a single woman I speak with hesitation on this point) why, if you can have a male gynæcologist, you cannot have a male midwife. Of course one would put in the proviso that no woman who objected to have a male midwife would be forced to have one; but that a man should not be able to be a midwife seems to me extraordinarily illogical in the whole context. It means that it limits the training of men who may take part in duties on the district which it is highly desirable he should do. I would point out to your Lordships that since we changed the terminology from matron (a title which, I suppose, was rather inhibiting for a good many men) to chief nursing officer, men are, if not swarming, none the less going in considerable numbers into the position of chief nursing officer in a hospital. I should have doubted whether it was really appropriate to have in that position someone who had not gone through what is still regarded, as I understand it, as the full nursing training which covers both general nursing and midwifery. It seems a very odd exemption indeed. Reasonable objections in such circumstances must be considered, obviously, of individual women who would not wish it; but they could surely be covered without this blanket exclusion of men from midwifery.

I was glad to see that the Government came down heavily against the statistical argument, which is brought forward again and again, that women should not be employed because it can be shown statistically that the women's absence rates are higher than the men's absence rates. I am grateful to the Government that they have nailed that one for good and all. One does not in any sphere of life deal with the average woman; one is always dealing with a particular woman, and arguments about how the particular woman is going to behave, based on statistical deductions from women as a whole in all spheres of life, are I suggest extremely misleading. So let us not hear any more of that; and let us thank the Government for having made it quite clear that they do not intend to go along with that suggestion.

On the question of the protective legislation, your Lordships may be aware that we had considerable discussions about this in the Select Committee and we were not entirely of one mind. I personally am glad that the Government have decided to amend the protective legislation. But here I have two qualifications. First, I hope that there will be no change in the protective legislation until the Equal Pay Act is fully enforced. I fully accept the criticism that was made by women members of trade unions that to remove the protective legislation until the Equal Pay Act was in fact effective would put some women at considerable risk. These two things should go ahead together. The second requirement before the removal of protective legislation will, I hope, be fulfilled during this Session. That is the revision of the safety and health legislation which is proposed in the gracious Speech. When we know the content of that legislation, and when we are satisfied that we are moving in what seems to me to be entirely the right direction—the direction approved by the International Labour Organisation, that there should be a better standard of health and safety for everyone, male or female, in work, and therefore the need for special protection is removed—and when we know that the Equal Pay Act is in fact in force, then, and only then, I personally should welcome the revision of the protective legislation which is proposed in the Consultative Document. So much for the main areas of legislation proposed.

I now turn to the very important and very difficult subject of enforcement. It is in this area that I have been having further thoughts in comparison with what we said in the summer. I was not happy at that time that we had entirely got the answer right, and I am certainly not happy that the Government have the answer right. Enforcement in this field of discrimination, be it in the field of race or in the field of sex, is, as we all know, extremely difficult. But I take my stand on two points. First, there must be real sanctions—and I am afraid that I do not see adequate sanctions in this document—and they must be sanctions which, in appropriate cases, really bite. But, having said that, I must add that I do not believe that discrimination is going to be removed primarily by the use of sanctions. It will require strong sanctions in the background, but I believe that it will be removed in fact by the persuasive, educative work which must go on in society and of course, above all else, in the field of employment. These two are complementary but separate. I am extremely glad that the Government have separated the work of the Commission as a persuasive organ from the enforcement machinery. My criticism is that the enforcement machinery is not sufficiently strong. The persuasion will be far better done if in the background there is real enforcement, with real sanctions.


My Lords, will the noble Baroness allow me to intervene, because this is an important point and one which has attracted a good deal of attention and, if I may respectfully say so, misunderstanding? She is differentiating now between enforcement of individual complaints, on, say, the employment front, which is one matter, from enforcement of areas of discrimination which have not been spelt out in the Consultative Document but which may be uncovered by the Equal Opportunities Commission. What I think at the moment is obscure is whether the Commission ought to be able to enforce their own potential solutions to the unspecified areas of discrimination that they then uncover; and, if so, how. This is quite a different matter and it is a very difficult one, and if the noble Baroness is going to expand upon this it will be immensely helpful to the Government to hear what she has to say upon it.


My Lords, that was precisely what I was proposing to do. Let us look at the enforcement side.

There are, it seems to me, two types of enforcement. There is the individual case which is important and has to be dealt with but is not at the centre of this whole issue. Discrimination is not going to be got rid of—we have learnt this on the race side—by dealing with a series of individual cases. I reluctantly accept that, so far as individual cases are concerned, they will have to go, initially at any rate, to the industrial tribunals. I accept this because the Equal Pay Act uses the industrial tribunals; the Industrial Relations Act unfair dismissals clauses use the industrial tribunals; and (although I know that the mere mention of the Industrial Relations Act is anathema in many quarters) the unfair dismissals clauses are being used and are being handled by the industrial tribunals. This may not be announced from the housetops, but I have taken care to check on this point, and it is undoubtedly going on. It is one of the sensible things that the trade unions are doing, without putting up a placard to announce that they are in fact doing it.

So it would, it seems to me, be far too confusing if the individual applicant had to ask: "Have I a case under the Equal Pay Act which goes to the tribunal? Am I suffering unfair dismissal which goes to the tribunal? Or is it really a case of opportunity and I have to take it somewhere else? "I had serious doubts about the industrial tribunal, and I repeat them now because the tribunals are manned to a large extent—two-thirds—by representatives of employers and trade unions many of whom in the past were up to their eyes in the business of discrimination. It was for this reason that I personally did not want the tribunals to handle these cases. But the practicalities of the matter seem to me to make it essential that they should do so, and I would only urge the Government to look very carefully at the revision of the tribunals, the manning—the "womaning" or whatever one likes to say; the "personing"—of the tribunals in order to see that that fear proves to be a bogus fear.

I also very much hope that it will be possible for cases to find their way from the tribunals to the courts, be it the N.I.R.C. or be it one of the other courts. I know that the White Paper says there is an appeal on matters of law. I have taken this up with people who have been handling cases on the industrial side and I gather that the interpretation of the phrase "on points of law" can be, and in many cases is, pretty wide. Perhaps this is not the place to say this, but it is not unduly difficult to get a case taken from the tribunal to the courts on a point of law which perhaps the stricter lawyers in this House would regard as being rather too generous an interpretation of that phrase. But I hope that it will be interpreted as widely as may be.

There is one other thing I wish to say about the individual case. I am aware that the individual woman will be hesitant in taking up cases, particularly these key cases on promotion. She will make herself unpopular not only with her employer but also with her fellow workers in many cases if she says, "I ought to have been promoted, and not you"—which is what it amounts to. She will need support and help. I know that the Report says that the Secretary of State, through a special unit of the Department of Employment, can take up cases of individuals. But I am not happy about that. I think it is asking too much for the ordinary woman to distinguish between the part of the Department of Employment which handles the tribunals and another part of the Department which is handling the case on her behalf. There seems to me to he a schizophrenic quality about the role of the Department of Employment in this connection which may be extremely confusing to the ordinary person who will find it difficult to know whether she has gone to that part of the Department which is on her side or to that part of the Department concerned with enforcement.

In my view, it is absolutely essential that there should be an organisation outside the Department which is able to bring cases for the individual woman, if necessary without her name being made public. I hope that the Government will look at this again. I believe that this organisation needs to be a hoard—though not necessarily the sort of board that we put forward in connection with the Bill hack in the summer. I believe that a board should be able to do this, and also should be able to deal with organisations and professional associations and to bring actions for groups and not only for individuals. I think they should have proper powers, such as the Race Relations Board have at the present time. Such a board should have the sort of powers for which the Race Relations Board asked in their previous report but were unable to get from the Government. However, such powers should not be used very frequently; and this is where we come to the relationship between the board and the Commission.

Real progress will come, I believe, from the work of the Commission. There should be a Commission concerned with equal opportunities policies; and at this point—and at this point only—I am not at all sure that we could not have a Commission concerned with equal opportunities policies for both sex and race. On the enforcement side, no; but on the equal opportunities policy, why not? After all, what we need in order to get good equal opportunities policies are good selection procedures, good training procedures, good appraisal and promotion procedures for all employees, of whatever colour or sex. If we look at it from the point of view of the employer, upon whom, after all, a good deal of it turns, it will be ridiculous if somebody comes along from the Equal Opportunities Commission to say, "What are you doing about the equal opportunities policy for women?" on Monday and somebody comes along from either the C.R.C. or the Race Relations Board (when they have sorted this little one out between them) on Tuesday and says, "You ought to have an equal opportunities policy for immigrants". What they want is a good management policy about equal oppotunity to cover everybody, including immigrants and women.

What I should like to see happen is that when the board (I am talking now of the board) has reason to believe that all is not well in an enterprise they will say to that enterprise, "We are referring you to the Commission". It should be this way round, not the other. "The Commission will come and help you to put your house in order", and the Commission will go in, with no powers, but with persuasion, knowledge and experience, and will urge the organisation concerned to reform its ways, and they will work with it in getting out those equal opportunity policies which that organisation ought to have.

Then when the Commission have done the best they can they will either say to the board, "We are satisfied that progress is being made" or, This lot are incorrigible. Now bring up the whips and scorpions and put the sanctions on them." People will listen to the Commission if they know that there is such a board in the background; if they know that the Commission themselves have no powers; but are there, so to speak, to try to make the organisation conform to both the spirit and the letter of the law, and will do their utmost to see that the organisation ceases to discriminate, but that, if it does not go along with the Commission, the Commission will go back to the board and say, "We have tried all we can but this lot are no good at all". I believe that in this way, with the separation of the powers, with real sanctions in the background and with a really well-informed and acceptable—because they have to be acceptable—Commission who can work with industry we shall begin to get the changes and the removal of discrimination which has to come by the use of both these instruments.

My Lords, I apologise for taking so long. The whole question of the enforcement machinery is very difficult, I have somewhat changed my mind and extended my views on this matter, because although I was moving towards the idea of separation before I find it difficult to see the exact relationship. I would not have discussed this question with the people working in the race relations field, but in this area of equal opportunity policies in employment (which is the phrase that everybody in the area of race is using all the time), if we see it for what it is, namely, getting organisations running their businesses in a totally non-discriminating way, then at that point, and only at that point—not on the enforcement side because that is a different point—I believe we could do a very good job indeed by bringing the two together.

I see that I have spoken for over half an hour, so may I finally say that I believe there is the germ of a very good Bill here. I do not think it is a very good Bill yet but if we listen to the comments which will come in from all sides and if the Government really mean business as I believe they now do, then I think we may see legislation that will spell the end of discrimination in this country.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, there are now more women in this country than men and so we are concerned this afternoon with a good part of the rights of the majority. As your Lordships know, if there is one thing more powerful than an idea whose time has come it is an idea whose time is a little overdue. The Government's procedures must take into account many different attitudes and opinions and effects, but on the principle of equal opportunity their stand could not have been put more clearly or with less compromise than in the words of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in his foreword to the document we are discussing. He said: The Government wants to eliminate unfair discrimination on grounds of sex wherever possible and to change the prejudiced attitudes which give rise to it. As I hope the noble Baroness will see, we do mean business. Your Lordships will remember that my noble friend Lord Colville, who will be dealing with the points raised in this afternoon's debate in his winding-up speech, announced last Summer, on May 14, that the Government would introduce legislation, paving its way with the Consultative Document before us. My noble friend's promise has been kept, the document was issued in mid-September and the legislative proposals were outlined in the gracious Speech. This legislation will, we intend, join a formidable programme of measures designed to make the country fit for women to work in as well as to live in.

Of course, our aim is in no sense partisan; we acknowledge the introduction, with our support, of the last Government's Equal Pay Act, about which I shall have something to say a little later. Indeed, it is our deep conviction that we cannot continue to make successful progress towards equal pay without the corollary of progress towards equal opportunity. So the Government are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, not only for the choice and timing of his Motion, not only for the way he moved it and the stimulus that he provided for our long list of speakers, but for the very notable contribution made by the Report of the Select Committee under him to public discussion on this subject. Together with the Report of the Select Committee of another place, this Report has been studied with the greatest care by the Government in preparing our proposals for legislation.

Even as we accept differences in thinking on some points, and even as we accept some castigation from the noble Lord initially, we honour and value his services and those of colleagues—not least for the very clear and enjoyable English in which they set out what they found. Would that it were always so! I thought that the noble Lord was a little severe on the Government desire to go further with the consultative process. I must say that we intend to go further.

This afternoon's debate is a part of that consultative process framed by the document and I can assure the House that in many significant respects the Government are still "all ears". On the day of publication of the document over 100,000 copies were distributed throughout the country, and there has since been a steady demand. Was the noble Baroness perhaps a little selective in her example? I will, in any case, look into it; and the Department of Employment will look again at the distributive process. The time allowed for consultation was 21 months, and the closing date for comment is the 30th of this month. I realise that this is not very long, although I cannot think that it has caused any real difficulties; but I know that your Lordships will acknowledge that we did not wish to delay implementing our declared intention of an early introduction of legislation. In any case, the proposed Equal Opportunities Commission will be taking a permanent and on-going consultative role.

I should now like quickly to look at some of the proposals, particularly those relating to the field of employment.


My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Earl. He said that this Commission would have a permanent and on-going role. I take it that the Government's mind is still open as to what the machinery should be—or are they really committed on this aspect?


My Lords, I shall have something to say about the Equal Opportunities Commission in a minute or so and I hope that that will answer the noble Lord's question. I wanted to look at some of the proposals, and particularly those affecting employment. Although, of course, these proposals apply to both men and women, it is the lack of equality of opportunity for women which gives rise to the greatest concern. The Foreword to the document recognises that women have tended to be concentrated in the less skilled, less well-paid jobs and are poorly represented in management and in most professions. I think that Lord Royle's document, if I may use his words, talked about women being "at the bottom of the barrel".

The proposed legislation will have three objectives; to widen the range of opportunities for women; to help remove unfair discrimination against them in the employment field; and to investigate the need for further measures, including legislation, to help them to contribute to society on equal terms with men. But I want to make one thing very clear. The object of the proposals is to enable women who wish to do so to make the best use of their qualifications and abilities, and to have an equal chance with men in the employment field. There is no intention on the part of the Government to force women to extend their role in employment outside the home. On the narrowest and least romantic grounds, if work in the home is not socially useful, what can be said to be so? On what else is society based?

The Government propose to make unlawful unfair discrimination in chosen employment on the grounds of sex. As your Lordships will know, the Select Committee endorsed a similar provision. But the Government proposals go further. Not only do they cover recruitment, training, promotion and dismissal, but they also provide for equality of opportunity in shift working and overtime and equal treatment in connection with short time, lay-offs and disciplinary measures. The proposed Bill would make it unlawful for employment agencies to discriminate in offering vacancies and submitting clients to jobs. It would also be unlawful for organisations offering courses of vocational training to people over school- leaving age to discriminate in the provision of training facilities. The scope of these provisions will include the Manpower Services Commission set up under the Employment and Training Act, and the Employment Service Agency and the Training Services Agency which will operate these services on the Commission's behalf.

My Lords, before moving on to further aspects of the proposals aimed at improving equality of opportunity in employment I should like to mention that, as foreshadowed in the Consultative Document, the Government have now asked Her Majesty's Inspectors to undertake the study of the extent to which curricular differences and customs contribute to unequal opportunities for boys and girls. As an ex-teacher I feel strongly about this. When I came into Government I interrupted what I thought was a promising underground career in trying to place women in finance and industry as well as in teaching and the Civil Service. I agree with the noble Baroness that we must get the educational sums right and I am pleased to see that my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State is here.

It is, as I have said, obvious that there is the closest connection between progress towards equal pay, on which we already have legislation, and progress towards equal opportunity, on which we do not. The gap between men's and women's earnings has narrowed; but the gap will not narrow sufficiently on the basis of equal pay alone. This is one of the reasons why the Government are introducing legislation against sex discrimination. Because the reform of our attitudes towards the working role of over half our population is so large and on-going an issue, the Government feel, as did the Select Committee, that there is a need for a permanent body to look at the problem steadily and to see it as a whole. So we propose to set up an Equal Opportunities Commission with powers to inquire into the relative positions and opportunities of men and women, to publish findings in the form of reports to the Government and generally to help in the essential task of educating and persuading public opinion.

Your Lordships may wish to know more about this proposal. I know that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition would wish this. If I may, I will ask my noble friend Lord Colville to put flesh on it, since the Home Office will he so closely involved. But I must not pass on without acknowledging that the Government do differ in opinion from those like the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, who would wish to see the Equal Opportunities Commission invested with powers of enforcement as well as of inquiry and persuasion. We believe that what I might call the cultural role of this legislation, the task of changing attitudes, should be kept separate from law enforcement.

In what is, as I have said, so large and diverse an area of human life we do not wish to circumscribe too much the work of our Commission. Our Commission can look at the equal opportunities for men and women in any sphere of life. The Select Committee's Board was, and properly so, concerned principally with employment. That said, the Government consider that the vigorous enforcement of sex discrimination legislation is crucial to the objectives we share with the Select Committee. In a sentence—and may I adapt one of the Select Committee's fine sentences—we believe that the overwhelming weight of evidence establishes beyond doubt that unfair and unnecessary discrimination on the grounds of sex does exist in this country, that this is both unjust to individuals and damaging to the economy, and that legislation can make a significant improvement. Of course, legislation is valueless without enforcement. We intend to entrust the process of enforcement to industrial tribunals.


My Lords, if the noble Earl will forgive me for interrupting him for a moment, may I remind him that the Select Committee, when they had amended the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, dealt with this subject in Clause 13 of their proposed Bill. They actually included this kind of activity in their proposals.


My Lords, yes, I was referring to the Board, but I acknowledge what the noble Lord has said. The use of the tribunal machinery in enforcement will place at the disposal of parties involved in a complaint the services of the Department of Employment conciliation officers, who will attempt to achieve a mutually acceptable settlement. I think the noble Lord, Lord Royle, accepts this. In the past, they have been able to do this in over 50 per cent. of cases referred to tribunals. When a settlement at this level is not possible, then we believe that the tribunals provide the most speedy and convenient vehicle for dealing with individuals' complaints in a relatively informal atmosphere. Moreover, they provide a more comprehensive coverage of the country than would be possible for a specialist anti-discrimination body. They have had almost 10 years' experience of handling sensitive issues of employment under various legislation. The expertise they have acquired will provide an excellent basis for the handling of the type of case that will be brought under sex discrimination legislation and under the complementary Equal Pay Act, which will also be enforced through tribunals.

The Government agree that it is desirable for more women to sit on these bodies. We have already taken steps to increase the number of women on the panels from which their membership is to be drawn. In the last two months, 80 women members have been appointed to the panel. This means that at present there are 130 women members of tribunal panels in a total membership of 1,300. Finally, the use of tribunals makes possible appeal on questions of law to the National Industrial Relations Court and to higher courts whose decisions over time will build up a body of case law reinforcing the consistent application of legislation.

My Lords, may I say a word here about exceptions? On the question of exceptions, the Select Committee favoured the American model where jobs may be restricted to one sex only where it can be shown that sex is a bona fide occupational qualification. Guidelines are issued by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Committee agreed, however, that the Bill should not apply to the clergy or to private households. We have heard something of that this afternoon. It seems to me that the Committee have gone along with Sydney Smith in thinking there are really three sexes—men, women, and clergymen. Though differing to some extent from the procedure adopted in the United States, the effect of the Government proposals would not really be dissimilar. The Government have made it clear in the Consultative Document that they firmly believe that all exceptions weaken the principle. Nevertheless, we feel that the proposed legislation should specify some, although in fact very few, exceptions which would be likely to he expected and supported by the majority of the public. We must always remember that in legislation affecting a very wide area of human life we must take the public at all times with us. In addition to the clergy and private households, it is proposed that the Armed Forces, the police and prison services should also be excluded.

Of course some provisions must be made to cover special circumstances and to avoid creating situations producing manifest anomalies or absurdities. That would bring what we all want into disrepute. The proposals provide for a general exception where sex could be shown to be a genuine occupational qualification. To avoid inconsistency in interpretation, it is proposed that the Bill would set out criteria, and five such criteria are in fact laid out in the document. They are clearly spelt out and I do not think I need take up the time of the House in repeating them, but I do not think they leave wide loopholes. I repeat that the justification for each claim for exception would have to be proved.

The document goes on to mention other possible criteria which the Government are not proposing but which, nevertheless, they recognise may have to be taken into account. These are, first, where it would be offensive to public taste or decency for a man—or a woman for that matter—to do the job, and secondly, where it could be shown that for the performance of personal services strong preferences among customers or clients made the employment of a man, or a woman, essential to the business. The Government would welcome views as to whether the Bill should include such criteria, and perhaps we shall hear some this afternoon. We feel that on the grounds of difficulty of forecasting caseload on the enforcing authorities, small undertakings might be excluded, at least in the early stages. But I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, that provision will be available for the progressive reduction and possible eventual elimination of the figure of a limit of 25 and fewer employees.

My Lords, I come now to statutory restrictions. In the Consultative Document the Government are also proposing the repeal of some of the statutory restrictions which limit the working hours of some 25 per cent. of adult women in employment, and which also limit their working with moving machinery. This was an area where the Select Committee reported that they were not unanimous in their attitude towards existing legislation for the protection of women at work. As your Lordships will know, many of these restrictions originated in the last century and were fully justified in the light of working conditions at that time. However, the Government feel that it is not necessary, under modem conditions, to retain these restrictions. Their repeal will enable women to undertake the full range of duties and responsibilities on an equal footing with their male colleagues. Where there are restrictions on the hours of employment of women under other legislation they apply equally to men. Let me make it clear, however, that it is not proposed to repeal restrictions relating to maternity protection; for example, employment with lead processes or exposure to ionising radiation. Here we are in agreement with the Select Committee.

There are two other areas where existing statutory restrictions might be regarded as denying equality of employment opportunities. The first is that women who might wish to work in underground mining (though not necessarily at the mine face) are prohibited from doing so. The second is that certificates of enrolment as midwives can be issued only to women. From what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, it seems to me that male midwives might become a major platform in the Liberal Party's Election Manifesto. But the Government have not proposed in the Consultative Document that these restrictions should be repealed but would, nevertheless, welcome the views of the public and of interested organisations.

May I close by saying something of the steps that have also been taken within the Department of Employment. The Employment Service actively encourages employers to consider candidates of both sexes for vacancies notified to it. This service has now been extensively modernised and improved. Many of the features of the new service will be attractive to women, I think. They include a network of specially designed job centres situated near shops and offices, with vacancy displays and a speedy, informal self-service. They will also have counselling and advisory facilities which will assist women returning to employment, although one must remember that we are at the beginning of a long road.

May I say a word about training which I know is close to the heart of the noble Baroness? In the past, the proportion of women in Government-sponsored training was small because most of the available courses were in Government training centres which catered primarily for craft training in traditionally male occupations. But with the arrival of the Training Opportunities Scheme a much wider range of training facilities has become available, particularly in colleges, and the number of women in training, I am glad to say, has risen rapidly. In March, 1970, for instance, only 4 per cent. of Government trainees were women; in March, 1973, over a quarter of all the trainees were women, and the number is continuing to increase. To help women who wish to return to work but cannot undertake full-time training because of their domestic responsibilities, an experimental scheme of part-time training in clerical and commercial occupations has been introduced in selected areas of the country. A decision on expanding the scheme will be taken when the results of the experiment have been evaluated.

I look forward very much to the rest of the debate and am proud of the chance that I have had to place my acorn in this eminently fruitful soil. It is sometimes said that our age is sex obsessed. I would say that when Lord Royle's Committee drily and delightfully referred to their lack of sympathy with the definition of "discriminate" which would make it illegal to note or observe the difference between men and women, they hit the nail on the head. Interest in the difference is as old as Eden. But there are clear signs, and this document and this debate are surely among them, that we are losing the obsessiveness and beginning, not without difficulty or pain, to look at ourselves in a more hopeful way, clearly, and with an equal eye.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, in view of the very large number of your Lordships who will be speaking in this debate, I fear that it may not be possible for me to stay to the end of our deliberations. If I should have to go, to fulfil a long-standing engagement, I offer my apologies to the House, and to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, in particular. I shall be particularly sorry if I cannot be here to listen to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, because on a number of occasions I have played the role of St. Sebastian to the barbed arrows that she from time to time shoots at those who sit upon these Benches. I would most readily have played that role again this afternoon, and if I am not here I hope that one of the other Lords Spiritual will be present to receive whatever she has to say.

I express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, not only for the amount of work that he has done as Chairman of the Select Committee on this matter, not only for the courtesy with which he received me when I came to give evidence before it, but also for the fact that he has initiated this debate this afternoon. For surely this is a matter which now accords with the general tenor and outlook of society at the present time. It is not so very long ago since the main part of women in society was to be a decoration at the best and a drudge at the worst. We should all be thankful that things have changed so very much during our own generation, and we must hope, therefore, that this document, and the Bill which we hope will accompany it, will finally clinch the matter so far as out society is concerned. I would therefore wish only to comment on one or two of the matters that are raised in this Report.

First of all, may I say something about the statutory changes which are suggested. The repeal of certain legislation will, I think, remove some safeguards which have existed in the past, but it is right that they should be removed. We ought, however, to hear in mind what might be the possible consequences of this, especially upon family and home life. We now more fully accept that for many married women the first years of their married life can be devoted to the rearing of a family and the creation of home life and that later on they may wish to go out into employment. This can have its risks as regards the stability and happiness of home life, and therefore I hope that alongside the repeal of this legislation will go a recognition of the importance of producing flexible working conditions and shorter working hours so that it is possible for women who wish to work also to devote some of their time to the important matter of their homes.

As regards the exceptions under the statutory changes, I share the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in failing to understand why it is necessary to exempt midwives from these provisions. Surely it is absolutely proper for a man who is properly trained to act as a midwife. I should want to be much more fully convinced about this exception before I could vote for it, if I found it in a Bill that may later come before the House.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has pointed out the importance of education in the whole structure of this matter of equal opportunities. I think the House will feel that this is quite integral to the Commission and to any Bill that may come before us. I have had experience of being chairman of two institutions of higher education which became coeducational, and the experience I found was one of great interest. I approached both with great apprehensions. I discovered very quickly that those fears were entirely groundless. One institution was a college for training teachers, and in that respect we were forced by the Department to go two-sexed whether we liked it or not. The other was an institution well known to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and also to the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, which itself felt that it was improper from the educational point of view to be merely a college for women. We were somewhat perplexed by the terms of our trust, which required of us to provide the best possible higher education for women. But we discovered that in fact we had no difficulty in altering the terms of our charter, because it was pointed out that we could not provide the best higher education for women in a college which was concerned solely with the education of women. This was true about the provision of the teaching staff, for you could not get the very Lest teachers to come to a college which was confined solely to women. Also, we discovered from the scientists that in their research work, which is done largely by a team, they were not interested in the sex of the members of the team but only in their ability to contribute, and therefore if the college was to provide the best possible research it must be on a two-sex basis. I see in this experience somewhat of a parable for the whole of the matter that we are discussing.

As regards schools, speaking from these Benches I can claim that the Church of England, at any rate, has a fairly good record, because of the independent schools with which we are concerned 24 are boys' schools and 18 are girls' schools. I think, however, that educationists would agree that it is important at that level for some segregation, at any rate for part of the time, because, so I am told, the academic development of boys and girls in their 'teens is apt not to be on the same level; therefore, it is a good thing that they should receive at any rate some period of their education separately. But again the fact that so many schools are, at sixth form level, introducing boys into girls schools, and vice versa, is an indication of the way in which the tide is flowing. Again, with the shortage of good teachers for sixth form work, it is all the more important at that level that there should be co-ordination.

There is one particular area of education in which I am glad that the Government will make things possible which Lord Royle's Committee would have math; impossible. I refer to the cathedral choir schools. I think that the Select Committee Report would have made it impossible to start a new cathedral choir school, if it were necessary. Those of us who listened to what was taking place in Westminster Abbey earlier to-day will appreciate what an enormously important cultural element in our national life is the cathedral music of our country. It is important that the boys' voices should be given full opportunity, and it would be a sad thing if the cathedral choir schools were not given full opportunity of existence and development.

May T refer to an important stake which the Church has in education; namely, in our church training colleges for teachers. There are 27 such colleges in this country; 23 of them are coeducational, only one is for men only, and three for women only. In our training colleges there are altogether 12,000 women receiving training and 7,000 men. Again I think that we can claim rather a good record in this respect.

Some reference has been made to the exceptive clause for the clergy, and I wish to say something about this. First of all, I hope that your Lordships will accept that this is at best a very narrow sphere. In the administrative side of the Church's life there is no sexual discrimination whatsoever. If your Lordships were ever to visit that other legislative Assembly that works not very far from here, you would see a great many women as members of the General Synod and taking their place as chairmen of its work. Indeed, a little nearer than Church House at No. 1 Millbank, in one of the most important offices, the Third Estates Church Commissioner is a woman. In that respect there is no discrimination at all. Nor is there any discrimination within a very large area of the work of the Ministry of the Church of England. We have a number of women workers, a number of deaconesses, and a number of women who are now lay readers. But it still remains that for the Church of England we have not yet come round to accepting the possibility of the ordination of women to the priesthood. I am grateful, therefore, for the White Paper making the exceptive clause for what it refers to as the "clergy".

My recollection of the reactions of the Select Committee to my evidence accords rather more with that of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, than with the noble Lord, Lord Royle. I would certainly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that the ladies who appeared before your Committee were not ladies who would have been in any way frightened or overawed by the Bishops; nor need they have had any fear that it would have been the Bishops who would have been their chief opponents. I think I can claim that if the voting record of the Lords Spiritual, both in this House and certainly in the General Synod, is examined it will be found that they have been in the vanguard of progress. It would not be the Bishops who would be the chief people who would disapprove of the ordination of women.


My Lords, will the right reverend Prelate allow me to agree with him completely about that, particularly in the light of some figures we have seen in recent days?


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. Nor also, would I hope, though I have to accept his authority on this, that the Select Committee made the exception for the clergy solely on the grounds that I had assured him that the Church of England was giving this very careful consideration. That certainly is true but, as ill many other matters, the mills of God grind rather more slowly than some of us would like. I pleaded before the Select Committee really on two grounds. One was that which has been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that this would raise a difficult question of the relationship of Church, in its widest aspect, and State. This of course does not apply only to the Church of England. There are many Churches which would have varying attitudes towards the question of the ordination of women. Whatever their views, I feel fairly confident that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and the noble Lord, Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, will agree with me that, whatever their Churches themselves want to do, they would, with the Church of England, fight to the death about being told to do it by the State.

My second reason for gratitude for this exception is that this matter also touches very tender consciences; they may be prejudiced and the prejudices may be wrong, but they may also be theological, and therefore we ought to be careful in approaching this matter. I would ask noble Lords to remember that, as I hope, the term "clergy" as used in this Report applies not only to Christian Ministers but also to Rabbis of the Jewish Church, and in this country, where we are becoming so pluralist in so many ways, it would apply to the Ministers of the Mohammedan Church, or indeed the Hindus, and so on. We should, therefore, be touching very dangerous and delicate ground. I am sure that in this matter it is wise to provide an exception, looking to the Churches and the religious bodies concerned to be sensitive to the way in which thought is going.

Indeed in the Church we have a big job of education to do. I venture to think also that we have a big job of education to do in the nation, for however much legislation there may be, basically this removal of discrimination is going to depend upon the outlook of ordinary people. Therefore, I welcome the setting up of the Equal Opportunities Commission, for I very much hope that it will embark upon a careful educational programme so that we can remove the many prejudices which are, I believe, basically the things against which we have to fight.


My Lords, may I ask the right reverend Prelate a question? This is not a barb; it is just a gentle question. He has told the House that the Church does not ordain women, but he said that on the administrative side there are very large numbers of women. On the television this morning I looked into Westminster Abbey, and from the choir to the priests, to lesser functionaries and all the workers in the Church responsible for that delightful service, I did not see one woman.


My Lords, I cannot speak for Westminster Abbey, but the noble Baroness would find a great many lady churchwardens in parish life, and a great many ladies who act as vergers and people in the choir, and so on. I think that this is a matter again where possibly the tide of development might make its mark.


My Lords, was there not one woman who played a very important part in Westminster Abbey this morning?


My Lords, but not a member of the administrative side of the Church.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may use this intervention as the occasion, if not the text, for what I have to say. This document, which I welcome as a Consultative Document, as a ballon d'essai, is one which very specifically indicates two areas of procedure. One is legislative and the other is educative, and it is on the second of those issues that I rise with a profound sense of discomfort. If indeed I venture to disagree with my noble friend the Lord Bishop of London on the whole attitude that the Church has been taking, and continues largely to take, I know he will regard me as speaking from the inside and not the outside, and if there is rather more sackcloth than lawn in what I have to say it is because he himself has indicated that it may well be that we are here the residuary legatees of a process of indoctrination, a process of bad education, which still persists even if a great many people to-day have long since forgotten the name of the church they stay away from. It is for that reason that I would venture to attract your Lordships' attention for a little while to the two predominant characteristics of the theological background to this discrimination against women, the first of which, in a process of Fabianism, is apparently being dealt with by some churches; and if my sorrow is vicarious, I do not want to pretend that we are very much better, as Methodists, than the Anglicans, but we have at least gone some distance to solve this problem.

As your Lordships will know, it stems from the accident or the historic fact that the first Apostles were men and were living in a man-dominated age; and it has been assumed for long enough in the main stream of church life that special forms of grace inevitably flow in masculine channels. It has often been the fact that the veneration for one woman has been the conscience money for the denigration of most of her sisters. It is, in my judgment, a condition which still prevails, though I am very happy to agree with my noble friend the Lord Bishop of London that the situation is being improved and that one by one the churches are coming to recognise that this is an impertinence and, indeed, a blasphemy.

But there is another constituent in this continuing process which is just as dangerous and to which no advertence has been made to-day. It is the persistence of a belief, which is still at least regarded by many church people as obvious and is paraded as self-evident, in the infallibility of the Scriptures. If you once accept that proposition, that they are inerrant, then you are in trouble with St. Paul, as quite properly you might to be, for it is St. Paul who is responsible for the assertion that women ought to wear a particular headgear in church and that they should keep quiet anyhow. In a recent wedding, the inclusion of the assumption that a wife should obey her husband has called attention to this fact, and has drawn attention to a most curious rejoinder on the part of an official of the Church that this is palliated because the bridegroom is expected to "worship" his bride, which seems to me a very dubious piece of advice, inasmuch as it contravenes the Second Commandment.

However, what I have to say is not in any jesting spirit, except to remind myself that when the Church is excluded then the Church falls into the kind of situation which I find in a document which I was invited to read by the Council of Civil Liberties, in which, in reference to the exceptions, we are coupled with lavatory attendants. Lavatory attendants and the Church are to be excepted, it is said. There is nothing wrong with being a lavatory attendant, but I take a certain amount of umbridge at the association of the Church with that not causal but certainly statistical reference in the booklet of the Council of Civil Liberties. My Lords, it is high time that the Church clearly and obviously stated that which is much more clearly stated in this Consultative Document, and that is that it is blasphemous to make any discrimination in the higher reaches of life between those who happen to belong to either of the two genders.

I turn, therefore, to the actual document. With regard to the whole question of exceptions, there is of course a limit in most generalisations. If you say there is such a thing as the survival of the fittest, that is limited by the reflection that it is only the survival of the fittest to survive. If you say that there should be equal opportunities for men and women, that is limited by the prospect of the capacity of men or women to accept those advantages or those opportunities. There is the very wise statement in this document as to an occupational qualification which, because of the very nature of that occupation, prohibits the application of this principle. Obviously, you cannot offer equal opportunities to sing bass in a quartet; and you cannot offer equal opportunities for the parts of Joseph and Mary in a Christmas tableau. You can obviously ask people to regard male midwives as a possibility, but obviously male wet nurses create a much more difficult proposition. Though it refers to it occasionally in philosophy, what seems to me to be lacking in this particular document is a clear enough definition of what are the permissible conditions of exemption; and although not everything that comes across the Atlantic is worth following in these Islands, yet the evidence from the Civil Liberties group and their legislative efforts in the United States is that, on the whole, the only two exceptions which are completely valid are the exceptions of the play actor and, as they say, of the wet nurse.

I am sure that the noble Baroness was quite right in pointing out how dangerous it is to infect the various causes for exemption with the introduction of the principle of what people would like or what they would not like. This is most dangerous because, in my judgment, it would defeat the whole purpose of the Bill, and would in fact ignore the proposition that perhaps the first of all the requirements is that there should be a continuous process of persuasive education on the part of the Commission, to which they believe such emphasis must be placed.

A word about protective legislation. I hope it will not be withdrawn until it has been clearly shown that it is replaceable. There are cogent arguments for the fact that, in the full employment of such an Act as would flow from this Consultative Document, previous protective legislation would be out of date and unnecessary. Not only do I believe at the moment that the abolition of these protective measures would put certain women factory workers at risk, but what is just as important, I think, is that they should be protected against the very natural temptation to be able to acquire more wealth, particularly in view of the fact that for many of them, since man is not yet a domesticated animal, they have two jobs to do, not only the job at work but also a great deal of the job in the home to which they are committed. For that reason I hope the Government will not consider the repeal of such legislation as an interim measure, for it will give protection until the full purpose and expression of any legislation for equal opportunity comes into force.

My Lords, the question of enforcement raises very large issues, and I hope that there will be very much more careful deliberation as to the extent to which the private desires and the private intentions of ordinary people will be safeguarded in conjunction with the general benefactions that can come from social legislation. I refer particularly to the sort of legislation which, through the Commission, will put the responsibility to take action on the person who feels himself or herself to be misjudged. I would, if I may, use an illustration that comes out of my own experience as a social worker. I doubt whether many of your Lordships fully realise the sense of fear, almost amounting to terror, that this kind of responsibility puts upon ordinary people. There is genuine fear of taking action. That fear is partly the lack oif a sense of savoire-faire and partly the sense that they are the victims of a society which is remote to them; and the programme of alienation which has gone on for so long has perhaps had its most deleterious effect in this field. I hope, therefore, that the Commission will take to itself greater powers; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Royle, said, I hope it will have some teeth in order that it may do more than consult. I hope it will have the power to speak on behalf of people who are too frightened to speak on their own behalf. This will apply particularly to poorer people. Other people, I think, will have the opportunity and the poise to make their complaints directly to the court or to the tribunal, but there are a great many people—and I speak for them—who need the comfort and assurance of some friendly hand and some responsible body, and the Commission, I think, would be that body.

I am disturbed at the suggestion that the Industrial Relations Court and the Industrial Relations Tribunal should be the point of reference. I have very little doubt in my own mind that this Court and the Industrial Relations Act will have a pretty short life. I hope it will: it deserves to die, so far as I am concerned. But meanwhile, can it be expected that, in the general surrounding atmosphere of dislike, hatred and repudiation, the kind of programme referred to in the debate to-day will have a dog's chance of surviving? I think it very unlikely. If indeed it is good enough that there should be a Race Relations Tribunal then I think there is every need for an appropriate tribunal to deal with this issue of equal opportunity.

Finally, my Lords, welcoming as I do this Consultative Document, I am particularly impressed by certain of the aspects of it which immediately strike a personal note. I would, if I may, delay your Lordships to remind yon of one of the exceptions to this proposed equal opportunity which for me has great opportunity and is displayed, I think, with considerable circumspection in the Report. I happen to be responsible for an hostel for alcoholics. I am not now going to embark on a temperance lecture, but to say that this hostel is run by a group of youngsters none over 30, and it is a remarkable tribute to their capacity to deal with this most difficult group of human beings, the alcoholics. In order that the group may work effectively it must be balanced as regards the sexes. For that reason I am very glad—having made certain very obvious criticisms so far as I am concerned towards this Consultative Document—to pay my tribute to such endeavours as have been made to recognise the exceptions which would not easily fall into any of the absolute categories but which nevertheless represent an intelligent and, I think, a generous recognition of what is required in a society which is much bigger than law and in which reality is much richer than thought. I hope that out of this Consultative Document, out of the Commission which will be set up—and which in my judgment is by far the most important of the things the document endeavours to Jo at this stage—not only will there be equal opportunities for men and women, but also in the achievement of those opportunities greater and better opportunities will be vouchsafed to both.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, it is not my intention to detain your Lordships for very long, but as I think I am the only Member on these Benches who served on the Select Committee I should like to say a few words. It is not my intention, either, to make a Second Reading speech on a Bill which, presumably, has not yet been drafted, let alone deal with what will be committee points on a long and I should think a pretty arduous Committee stage of a Bill which, incidentally, I hope will be started in your Lordships' House. Surely this is far and away the most appropriate forum to deal with that kind of Bill. I want to give a fairly warm welcome to the Consultative Document. I feel now that I ought to apologise to my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross for the slightly snappy remarks I made at him earlier in the year when he announced that the Government were going to produce their own document and that Lady Seear's Bill was not going to be proceeded with. I must confess to my noble friend that I had some suspicion of the Home Office which is ingrained and almost innate in me after 25 years in politics. But I am glad to be able to wear sackcloth and ashes and to retract any suspicion I had of my noble friend or his Department.


My Lords, may I say to my noble friend that he is entirely absolved.


My Lords, I can now shed my sackcloth and ashes and come forth in a white sheet of repentance. I want to welcome the document and also to say that after reflection I think it right that a Bill on this kind of subject should be brought forward as a Government Bill, as indeed was the Equal Pay Bill. There have been too many occasions when a Bill of great public importance, but which politically might be rather hot to hold, has been covertly passed as a Private Member's Bill. I think it far better that such Bills should stand forth, with the support of both sides, as an example of a Government measure.

I must tell your Lordships that despite the benign and wise chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Royle, I did not find the work on the Select Committee one of the most enthralling tasks that I have ever had. But none the less I think it was a worthwhile task and I do not think that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who ultimately will be able to take great pride in her achievement, will feel that our work was entirely wasted. I am almost disappointed at the astonishing unanimity which has greeted the document so far. I recall that at an earlier date there was only one speech made here on the Committee stage. It was rather hostile to the Bill and I did not either follow it or agree with it.

Nevertheless, my Lords, I think we have to accept that there are quarters in which there will be opposition, or perhaps I should say there is opposition, and therefore should like for a few moments to dwell on my own approach and why I became a reluctant convert to the need for legislation.

I think that there were two reasons for this: first, the general antipathy to legislation as such and, secondly, some doubt as to the effect of the Bill; whether it would not in the long run create more prejudice than it cured. But I was totally converted by the evidence that came before the Committee and which proved to me absolutely incontrovertibly that in this country, through prejudice, neglect and apathy we are wasting the talents and the labour of a large section of the population—a wastage which we can ill afford.

During the deliberations in the Select Committee a number of themes kept recurring, rather like the sort of light motifs in a Wagnerian opera. There was the timid little woman whom the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, always champions so ably. There was the most fascinating statistic which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, produced at a very early stage in our deliberations, and which actually comes into the Report. It was that 50 per cent. of the draughtsmen in Scandinavia were women as compared with only 1 per cent. in this country. This is a most extraordinary discrepancy and it converted me to the fact that there must be apathy and prejudice throughout industry of which perhaps I had been unaware. Someone might say, "So what?" although I am sure that your Lordships would not use a vernacular phrase. But the fact is that since the last war there has been in industry, if I may dwell on this particular case, an endemic shortage of draughtsmen, and this has held back many industries. I cannot believe that Scandinavians are any better draughtsmen than their British opposite numbers. I presume that the shortage has arisen either from prejudice or apathy on the part of employers and employees, or possibly even from an unholy alliance of both of them. That perhaps is the most extreme and glaring case and, as I say, it was cited in our Report.

My Lords, there are other cases which we came across and which have been mentioned. I would mention one other which is rather a glaring exception at the present time. That is the shortage of labour in transportation. Almost every day one can see advertisements for train drivers for London Transport. But there are none for women. Why not? There is this desperate shortage but they are not acceptable. Does London Transport not accept them, or do the employees not wish to work with women? We must recognise that there are those who have a vested interest in restricting the field of recruitment to their own employment. That, my Lords, is the type of argument which made me realise that legislation was necessary. However, as I say, there has been hardly any opposition in your Lordships' House, and the Press have been very favourable.

I have been searching around to find who was an opponent of legislation with whom I could argue, as it were. I am glad to say that I find that in September, my old friend and former Parliamentary colleague. Mr. Enoch Powell, described the Government proposal as a "huge piece of idiocy", and told a Chamber of Commerce that he thought that the "huge gust of incredulous belly laughter from one end of the Kingdom to another would dismiss the Document".

Now Mr. Powell, as I have known for twenty-five years, has a logical mind. His ideas are logical, but very often pursued to an illogical conclusion. But his argument, which is a serious one, is, I think, shared by others, and runs thus: it applies to equal pay, but it is valid also as regards employment. I quote his words: So long as their remuneration was less than that of men, all employers would be wanting to replace men by women, and the women's remuneration would be bid up until it was level with that of the men. An employer who insisted on advertising for men only when he could get the same performance in all respects from women at a lower price would speedily be driven out of business by his competitors. My Lords, that is impeccable in logic and perhaps akin to views which others hold. In a sense, that is how it ought to work. But employers are not always as avid or efficient in the pursuit of their own interests as Mr. Powell thinks. They connive, willingly or unwillingly, at these restrictions that are clearly unde- sirable. I think that one must therefore remind those who oppose these proposals that restrictive practices are just as noxious in the field of employment as they were, or are, in the field of trade.

May I remind your Lordships, lastly, that it was a Conservative Government which passed the Restrictive Trade Practices Act in 1956, and I hope that a Conservative Government will very soon pass a Bill which will abolish the restrictive employment practices which the report of the Select Committee has so clearly shown to exist.

4.54 p.m.


My Lords, the most favourable thing I find about this Green Paper—which has obviously turned White from shock—is the title, Equal Opportunities. I consider this a great improvement on the more restrictive title, "Sex Discrimination". I also feel that it is very much better that a Bill of this sort should be handled by the Government, rather than be introduced as a Private Member's Bill, because the Government can increase its scope and do very much more than even the most skilful and adequate Private Member's Bill could do.

Like some of the other speakers, I was originally rather dubious about legislation in this field. But after a number of years in various types of work and seeing what is going on—or rather what is not going on—I reluctantly came to the conclusion, with a great many other people, that legislation was absolutely necessary. This Document, which talks about equal opportunities, seems to me not even to begin to deal with many of the fundamental problems. I find that there is too much cosy flannel where a tougher and more durable legislative fabric would be far better, and in fact is needed. I find there is a blurring of words when crisp, clear objectives are needed, both in statements and in action. Legislation without a really strong power of enforcement seems to me to make exceedingly bad law.

As to the Introduction to the Document, to which the noble Earl drew attention, and which is a very pleasant piece of writing, there is nothing wrong with the intentions expressed, but the problem is that it is not used as the basic framework in which any viable legislation of this sort ought to be set. By this, I mean that if we are going to deal with equal opportunities to-day and, within that concept, with sex discrimination, then alongside the legislation dealing with sex discrimination there must be both affirmative action and preferential legislation, where necessary, in order to bring the position of women up to the point at which they can take advantage of the proposals which are listed here. This has not been done.

We hear a lot about investigations, inquiries, future discussions, surveys, studies. My Lords, for years and years there have been studies; there have been investigations. If there is one thing that goes across the board in practically every women's organisation, in all the political Parties, it is the common ground on which there is lack of opportunity for women and a great deal of sex discrimination. If we are to put any legislation into being, it seems to me one has to look at the situation in the context of a society in which, frankly, we do not need a study at this moment by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education to know that the curriculum for girls is largely quite inadequate compared with that for boys. Indeed, the curriculum for boys is also inadequate if boys and girls are to live together later and become husbands and wives and parents in this society.

It is this whole outlook that I find so very backward-looking, and not likely to appeal to, or in any way reflect the feelings of, so many young people. This legislation may be being discussed by the middle-aged, but it is not just for the middle-aged; it is for people now and is also looking towards young people who will be growing up in the future. In order that girls should have this opportunity, first of all, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, a great deal needs to be done in the educational field; and we have enough information. The Schools Council, which is mentioned at the end of the Document, has already done immensely valuable work which could be taken into being almost right away. There is a sentence on single-sex schools: There is no doubt that large numbers of parents wish their children to be educated in single-sex schools. Is this the opinion of the present Secretary of State for Education?

It may well be the opinion of a number of people whose children have grown up or are growing up. However, I respectfully suggest that if any information is to be sought about that then young married couples and young people who are emerging from schools should be asked their views. If that were done, I think there would be quite a different answer. Co-education would also mean that, so far as equipment is concerned, the boys would be able to take their part and learn (after all, we are told that marriage should be more of a partnership) to do their stint on the domestic sciences side, while the girls would be able to use laboratories. They would have a fluid use of equipment and young people would be brought up together.

Then I find that a very grave omission—except in the good intentions right at the beginning—is the complete absence of any specific plans for the woman who wants to return to work. The noble Earl mentioned a pilot experiment in part-time training for women; and if this were successful, it would be carried on further. The need for this has been recognised for many years.

About four years ago, when I was working for a magazine, I was running a project called, "Women in Search". We got out a questionnaire for women who wanted to return to work. We were then able to direct them to training and retraining courses and to suggest what type of employment they could enter. They were asked for details of their home circumstances, age and educational ability. A fairly good representative cross-section of people replied; the response was very good. Running this project meant that we had to be in touch with practically every local education authority and to be aware of all that was going on in the field of training courses: residential, part-time and correspondence courses. We found the variety and extent of such courses to be absolutely lamentable. Reading more up-to-date literature, I find that to-day, although there have been some improvements in some spheres, very little progress has been made in terms of really increasing the opportunities for women.

If one is to encourage women to go into work or to go back into work, and if one is also trying to eliminate sex discrimination it seems strange that in a Consultative Document of this sort it should not be clearly stated that one must provide the kind of facilities to enable many women to carry a dual workload. There is nothing about this in the Consultative Document except the vague statement by the Secretary of State in the Introduction. There is no reference to the setting up of more day nurseries and nursery schools, although the whole area of child care brings difficulties for many women who want to work. More nurseries, incidentally, would do away with much of the unregistered baby minding. This is a different subject, but is one which has some extremely bad effects. This, it seems to me, is the context in which we should be discussing these proposals to-day.

When it comes to the exceptions, I agree with my noble friend Lord Soper that we should go according to the American model. One could take a "posse of prams" through the list of exceptions; and every one of them, if cleverly manipulated, could nullify the effect of the rest of the Act, except in those areas which are to-day considered mainly women's work. If I may, I will add my voice to those of the Liberals and the Church on the question of male midwives. One of the great and practical disadvantages of not allowing them to take the examination is that it prevents men becoming health visitors in this country; for they need to train as midwives in order to qualify. If one of the difficulties is, as I understand it, to find a name for the male midwife, may I suggest that "male delivery nurse" might cover the point.

One of the other exceptions to which I am averse is that of the Prison Service. I cannot see why this should be one of the exceptions, because to-day a great many women, for teaching or other purposes, go into the male prisons and vice versa. I worked in Holloway Prison some years ago, first as a lecturer and then as a prison visitor. It seemed to me at the time that it would be very much better to have mixed staffs in both male and female prisons. I have seen this abroad and it works extremely well. It reduces a great deal of the tension and it stops a great deal of antagonism, provided that you have the right people to do the job. You must put in not the "statutory woman" or the "statutory man" but the best people available. It seems to me quite wrong to make the Prison Service one of the exceptions.

Finally, on the question of enforcement machinery, I agree with my noble friend Lord Soper that it is a mistake to bring in the National Industrial Relations Court. Here, it seems, is a piece of machinery like a defective knitting machine that drops more stitches than it makes. It is as if somebody said, "What on earth shall be do with it? The unions do not use it, the employers do not implement it. Ah! I know! We'll use it for the women." So it starts with this really bad reputation. It is also strictly limited to the industrial field; it does not cover all the gaps which are so apparent in this Paper which, in the enforcement area, deals only with employment. Enforcement should operate in training, education, and all sorts of other things.

It seems to me that what is needed is that the Equal Opportunities Commission should, in one part have this investigatory role, should be examining the scene and encouraging employers and employees, but that in another part of it there should be a strong piece of enforcement machinery. I am not fussy about what you call it. It can be the Equal Opportunities Court or Board rather than the Sex Discrimination Board if the Government do not want to go back to the original Bill. It should be even stronger—and I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about that—than that set up under the Race Relations Act, for we have seen that that too needs strengthening. It should be a type of machinery where legal aid is available. I understand that this is not so under the machinery outlined in the Government's Consultative Document, whereas it was so in the machinery outlined in the original Bill. It is true that, as Lord Soper said, we are not talking of the very articulate people who can fight for themselves and push their way in and out of things. We are talking about people who, most of them, first of all must get used to the idea of being treated as people in their own right; and who then have to be helped. We must make it easy for them to seek help in remedying their complaints and not make it harder, which is what often happens.

I hope that the Government really mean this to be a Consultative Document and that they will take note of the remarks that I and others make. Mine have been critical; but it is an equal oportunities document and the Bill will, I imagine, be called the Equal Opportunities Bill. At least let the Government turn it into something which will do more to ensure equal opportunities than the very restricted Paper which is before us to-day.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, I have read very carefully the Government's proposals in the Consultative Document and find in them nothing new or surprising. In fact, the conclusions are basically the same as those arrived at by the Select Committee of this House of which I was proud to be a member. While hearing evidence it became increasingly clear that there was discrimination and that it starts at a very early stage—in the primary and junior schools, and possibly even younger, in the home. Unless the problem is tackled at its roots, very little impression will be made on it. Of course attitudes are changing, but at rather a slow pace.

I have always been of the opinion that bringing up a family in a happy, well-ordered home to produce sensible, level-headed and productive members of society is the greatest job that a woman can do. But I recognise that there is a minority of women to whom, either by temperament or circumstances, this job would not appeal. It is this group that needs to be safeguarded. I do not think anyone will disagree with the statement that there is discrimination, but how much and how to improve the situation is not very clear, at least not to me. Legislation in itself is not the complete answer and, as I have already said, it is vitally important that the question of discrimination in all walks of education should be studied very carefully. So I am pleased to see that the Government intend to undertake a study of the extent to which curricula differences and customs contribute to unequal opportunities for boys and girls. I think the results of this study will prove most interesting. After all, these children are our future parents.

My Lords, the question of single sex schools was another difficult subject con- sidered by the Committee. But many such schools now admit a small number of the opposite sex, and problems, and the knowledge of how to deal with them, are being discovered all the time. I know that this is only the tip of the iceberg, but it is a step in the right direction. I have purposely not mentioned the most glaring examples of discrimination—student grants, day release courses and admission to courses of higher education, in particular in medical schools. But these I will leave to other speakers to deal with.

To conclude, my Lords, yes, let us do what we can to eliminate discrimination. I am no fierce advocate of women's Lib., and have no intention of burning anything. In fact, I believe that the extremists do more harm than good. But at the same time, while doing all that we can to help, let us make quite sure that we are not in any way destroying the concept of the family, with the father at the head of it. I may be old-fashioned, but I firmly believe that this is the only real, solid foundation on which to build a worthwhile society.

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to apologise in advance to your Lordships and to my noble friend Lord Royle if after speaking I leave the Chamber. Unfortunately, a long time ago I undertook an important engagement for this evening in the industry in which I work, and I am afraid I cannot free myself from it. My noble friend Lord Royle in his splendid and (may I say?) semi-maiden speech, which obviously came from a distillation of many hours sitting as Chairman of your Lordships' Select Committee, indicated that I was going to intervene in your Lordships' debate to speak on a very narrow field; namely, the role, rights, duties and opportunities of women in the Armed Forces. As the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said in part of his most interesting contribution to the debate, the Equal Opportunities Commission has excluded from its purview the position of women in the Armed Forces. May I say that I am going to argue that this is wrong, and I will give my reasons in the course of what I have to say.

My noble friend Lord Royle started with, I think, an extraordinarily interesting point when he drew the attention of your Lordships to the fact that in the painting depicting the Battle of Trafalgar there were clearly shown two women among those involved in that great battle. I think that too little is known about the role of women in the 18th century navy in this country. [Interruption.] My Lords, I think some of your Lordships must be indulging in chauvinistic male pig laugh. I say that they played a most important role. If your Lordships would like to read something which I have found absolutely fascinating, I would recommend a book called Man Midwife, by a ship's surgeon called John Cleverton. He was in fact a ship's surgeon on board a man-o'-war on the glorious 1st of June. He came back to England after, I think, three years at sea and because he had not been paid during that period, collected three years' arrears of pay, plus prize money, and he used what was then a very substantial sum to take a course in midwifery with the great Hunter brothers. In those days, of course, they did things better and they spoke much better than we do. Then they did not call a man a gynaecologist; they called him a "man midwife". The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, would appreciate that point. Nowadays we call rat catchers "rodent exterminators". These men were men midwives; that is what they were called. I will not develop that theme further. All I will do is to commend to your Lordships' interest this book which is full of fascinating reading. The women were there, doubtless darning socks and doing things like that; but come the clash of arms, they acted as nurses, and in fact performed many of the functions that trained nurses would do to-day. I am afraid that Lord Nelson had something of a puritanical streak in him, and I suppose the rot set in at about that time, because he used to put the women ashore at Gibraltar when the fleet sailed into the Mediterranean. I think this was a step backwards, and not a step forward.

My Lords, I was hoping to-day to say something of value in relation to the role of women and equal opportunities for them within the Armed Services. Perhaps it might be argued that the opportunities to serve Her Majesty in the Armed Forces are such that certain women might wish to avoid them. But I think this is untrue. I think that the sense of duty among women is as great as, or greater than, among men, and certainly in the last war women played a most important role in the Armed Forces.

There is another important point which I do not think anybody has yet mentioned, but which I think is relevant. A book, written by an extraordinary French woman called Simone Weil, pointed out that no one has any rights unless other people perform their duties; that duties must come first, and rights follow. This, I believe, is the reason behind the fact that I understand it is a general principle that men talk from this side of the House on the subject of women's rights rather than women, because it is only if we perform our duties that the rights that women undoubtedly have will be achieved.

I should really like to re-read the speech that I made in February, 1971, in the Defence debate. But I am certain that there is some convention that prevents me from doing this although it would make life a great deal easier. Basically, I made that speech at a time when we were presenting to the country the concept of the military salary; and, as your Lordships will remember, it was that the individuals in all the Armed Forces were evaluated compared with those in civilian life, and the basic pay for a particular job was that which would be received in a civilian environment. But since a member of the Armed Forces sacrifices certain rights which the average citizen possesses, the right to change his job, et cetera, an X factor was added of additional pay—the figure was drawn purely out of the air—for the serving soldier to compensate him for his loss of civil liberties. But members of the women's Armed Forces were not paid the X factor: they were paid a Y factor, which was a much smaller figure—in fact, a notional figure only.

As may be imagined, this decision was reached within the Armed Forces after a pretty far-reaching debate on the validity of this argument because, while professional opinion is still that you cannot, at this moment in history, treat a woman on an exact footing with a man in the Armed Forces, this is not a universally held view. The two arguments against equal treatment are, first, that women are not equally postable and cannot be sent anywhere in the world at any time; and, secondly, that women do not bear arms. I think that both arguments are fallacious. Taking first of all the point of universal posting for a woman, the argument put forward in 1971 was that you cannot send female members of the Armed Forces to Gan, where you have a thousand men and twenty women, because this would lead to an appalling disaster. Of course, that is complete nonsense. As I said then, it depends on the character of the girl. A girl can go wrong in Gan; she can go wrong in Godalming.


Why Godalming, my Lords?


My Lords, any place beginning with "G"—Goole if you like. Nevertheless, I say that what matters is not the location but the situation. Those members of the military establishment who were arguing on my side said, "You cannot imagine what good it will do to the men there. It is not a question of women qua women but of (shall we say?) hope. One man who knows a great deal about this subject said, "The men will blacken their boots; they will brush their hair, and everybody will be very much smarter, oven if they are only travelling hopefully." I think we have got ourselves into such a tangle on this subject that, as I said, the supposition that a small number of woman, under, I am certain, a most competent woman officer, are more likely to get into trouble in Gan than elsewhere is highly improbable.

As regards the second argument, that women do not bear arms, I would remind your Lordships that during the last war women operated weapons systems. In the last war they fired anti-aircraft guns, and in this present era they control Radar—and Radar watches aircraft and guides missiles to them. Women operate weapons systems, and they are equally at risk wherever they are posted and whatever they may be doing. It is not right to say that women do not possess courage. I believe that women's courage is as great as, or greater than, that of men. It is not only a question of their power to endure but the fact that, as we have seen, they also possess the traditional military virtues. A member of the W.R.A.C., for example, has recently won the Military Medal in Northern Ireland—and Military Medals are very hard to come by. Therefore I believe this argument that women are not as employable as men within the Armed Forces is fallacious. For that reason I believe that women should be removed from the inhibition placed on the Equal Opportunities Commission in considering cases which are brought before them.

At the moment in time I have been talking about, of course I was referring to pay; but to-day we are really talking not about pay but about opportunities. The case I raised in 1971, I am certain, still stands; and this is real discrimination. In the Air Force at that time we were short of skilled engineers, and we offered attractive terms to professional engineers who would be willing to join the Air Force direct from industry. If a man transferred he immediately entered the Air Force with the rank of squadron leader; if a woman transferred she entered with the rank of flight-lieutenant. I was against that. Now the Royal Air Force has some extremely competent engineers, and I believe that this is an example of discrimination which is not monetary but arises from an attitude of mind. Again, just as a side remark—possibly rather a "snide" one—I believe that there are only two Prime Ministers in the world to-day who really understand the traditional use of military power as a factor in politics. Both of them are women: one is Mrs. Meir and the other is Mrs. Gandhi. Both have used their armed forces effectively, and I should like to see some of their instinctive knowledge of the importance of armed force and armed power coming nearer home to Europe than one sees at present.

The only drawback that women have which causes them to be different from men is their lack of physical strength. They have not quite the physical strength of men, and this must limit their employment within the Armed Forces in certain ways, but not in the essentially military area. But wherever there are power controls—and more and more machinery is operated by power controls—this limitation can be overcome. What I find interesting is that in the present situation, when the only way in which men and women can get additional pay is by changing jobs, in the business with which I am concerned. Many of our lorry drivers are leaving us. We are replacing them by bringing in women—women who are leaving the W.R.A.F.—and we are now getting a whole series of ex-W.R.A.F. women acting as our lorry drivers at men's rates of pay. This is a very interesting inversion of the situation. These women are as competent as men; furthermore, in France (where we see a similar problem) they are driving trains and fork-lift trucks. In fact, they are doing everything that a man can do, because men cannot be found to do these jobs. This proves, to my mind, that the only obstacle to genuinely equal opportunity is the obstacle of attitudes. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London touched upon this point, and it has also been mentioned by several noble Lords. I believe this is a fact that we must recognise.

I have been interested in this particular situation for a very long time, not through any sense of chivalry or because of a wish to be a knight-errant charging to the help of damsels in distress—because most of the damsels I know are not distressed and do not need help—but because I believe that we, as a nation, wish to play a major role in world affairs, and the one asset which we possess and do now use happens to involve the majority of our people. As the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, pointed out, we are here talking about the majority of the British people—in other words, the female share of our nation. I believe that this country has certain advantages which other countries have not. I believe that the attitude to this problem is much wiser in this country than it is anywhere else in Europe. One need only compare the attitude to the position of a woman in this country as compared, say, with that of a woman in Italy. We have an immense depth of strength on which we can draw, if we are wise and sensible. It is for this reason that I hope the Government will go as far as they can to allow women to develop the potential they possess for the service of this country; and I believe that this is of particular importance in the area of the Armed Forces, where we are dependent upon volunteers.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened to an exceedingly interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and I should like to say how much I agree with a great deal of what he has just said. It is an aspect of this important problem which nobody else has dealt with. My mind goes back to the year 1941 or 1942 when I and two other noble Baronesses in this House—I am sorry that neither is present at the moment—the noble Baronesses, Lady Summerskill and Lady Stocks, were members of a Commission appointed by the late Sir Winston Churchill to inquire into the work of the Women's Services. The Commission was presided over by Violet Markham and produced the Markham Report. It was a quite remarkable document at that time. I entirely endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said. That happened twenty years or more ago, and women at that time showed an extraordinary capacity in a terrible War which devasted the whole world, and they played a great part during that time. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, raised this matter to-day because although it does not come into the Report it is one to which we should all pay greater attention. Nobody could have done it better or more succinctly than the noble Lord.

I congratulate the Government on producing this document. Of course there are various things that can be criticised, but I think it is a very interesting, simple, well-written and well constructed document. It means that the Government intend to have some legislation on this matter, which, as has been stated, has been studied ad nauseam. But I think it is excellent that the Government have asked for people to make comments. There is one other congratulation that I should like to make on a matter which is not strictly in the White Paper, but this is the first time that I have spoken since the Opposition have most gallantly and wisely elected a woman as their Chief Whip. I should like to congratulate the Opposition very much indeed on Lady Llewelyn-Davies's appointment. I am only sorry that she is not here to hear what I am saying. I hope that someone will pass on my remarks, because we are all delighted that she has been elected. I am sure she will be a great asset to this House as well as to the Opposition.


My Lords, if I may interrupt and thank the noble Baroness, may I say that my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies is in fact doing women's and men's work at the Shadow Cabinet at the moment.


My Lords, the basis of this document is the Equal Opportunities Commission, and it seems to me that legislation will be effective or not effective as the Equal Opportunities Commission is formed. I strongly agree with the words in this document that the Commission must have on it a substantial proportion of women. How many commissions are set up and reports made in which they have one or possibly two women!—this is the phrase the "statutory woman" which the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, and I have been fighting in this House for a long time to change. I hope that this Commission will be made up of men and women, 50–50, if not more women, as its members. There is a phrase in the document in paragraph 4.6 which says, … the present vicious circle in which employers do not recruit girls because so few suitable candidates come forward and suitable girls do not apply because so few employers, they believe, are willing to take them on". There is a terrible truth in this. This is something which must be changed. Obviously this change depends very much on education. Here equal opportunities are most certainly not available.

We need more women in all professions. We need more women doctors. We have several doctors in this House, but we have one great woman doctor, the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. I have heard her say many times how difficult it is for girls and women to go to university and train for the medical profession, and how difficult it is for them to get training at universities because the numbers are always weighted in favour of men. Paragraph 3 of this document stresses the great need for medical training. I also feel that the national industries very seldom have on their top commissions any women. Are there any women on the commissions in the coal industry, the electricity industry and the air services, whether B.E.A. or B.O.A.C.—in fact all transport and railways which are used by women as well as men all the time? Certainly there are none at the top. We have had the example of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, pressing very strongly regarding changes of which she disapproves in the B.E.A. and the B.O.A.C. services, yet she is the only person who is speaking up on that subject. It is a great mistake that we do not have more women on the nationalised commissions which play a large part in our lives.

On the subject of education, many points are made in this document which are of great importance. Speaking personally, I am not in favour of the abolition of single sex schools, because if people want to go to single sex schools I do not see why they should not do so. I am also in favour of schools for boys and girls together. But it seems to me there are far too many headmasters of these schools and far too few headmistresses. There, again, it could be said that it was thought there were not a sufficient number of academically trained women for these jobs, but I am absolutely certain that there are. The prejudice against women as heads of large mixed educational establishments is considerable. I would do away with this prejudice.

I have said before now that I have had some experience in local government and have been chairman of an education committee, and so on, and it is difficult to get people to realise that when you have a great school of 1,500 or more pupils a woman as the head of that school is just as good, if not better than, a headmaster. The document draws attention to the fact that many more women today want to be employed while carrying on their home life. I am sure that that can be done: we all know of the great improvements and case with which a lot of houses and homes can be managed, and women can go out to work, either part-time or full-time as they wish. I hope that it will be realised that the modern generation, as well as those of older age, are keen about this matter because it can be done with great advantage to the whole community.

In the Document there is a paragraph about discrimination against married women. This is most important. Not so long ago married women teachers were brought back into the teaching profession. But I believe that now, if there is a surplus of teachers—I do not suppose this often happens, but it has sometimes happened—it is the married women who go out first. That seems to me most unfair, because they can make a great contribution to the teaching profession. That is another form of discrimination that we should be against. There is a paragraph in the Report about women who want to increase their skills, possibly coming back into employment and wanting to retrain or learn more about some different employment. I welcome very much the opportunity which is pressed for here for day release to enable those women to do more difficult and responsible jobs, and that they should be given those opportunities to retrain. All that is excellent.

On the paragraphs on protective legislation I find myself in two minds. The White Paper comes down in favour of the abolition of protective legislation, but it is also true that so long as workers, women or men, can be given very bad and very dangerous jobs and are working very long hours, women will be more vulnerable than men. There is a case for examining the proposals carefully. I received only this morning, due to the kindness of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, a paper from the National Council for Civil Liberties—a document which I should have expected to be strongly in favour of the abolition of protective legislation. But in fact in one of its paragraphs it comes down strongly in favour of protective legislation for women in certain cases. So I find myself slightly divided about this. My inclination is to support the proposals in the Government's White Paper, but I should like to hear more on the subject.

One subject not mentioned in the White Paper is that of women and the Church. I have always wanted women to be ordained under the same training and conditions that apply for men, and I hope very much that the absence of any reference does not mean that nothing further is to be done about this matter. Now is the time for legislation. This debate shows that the differences expressed on the subject are really differences of detail but not in principle. In principle, I think we are all ageed, with the possible exception of Mr. Enoch Powell—and that does not upset any of us. We are agreed that legislation on this subject is ovedue. We want an Act of Parliament that will, in the words of the Home Secretary, eliminate unfair discrimination on grounds of sex, wherever possible, and to change the prejudiced attitude that gives rise to it. My Lords, if the Government do this, they are much to be congratulated.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, the Government have asked for comment and criticisms in this White Paper, and I am sure that we are all indebted to my noble friend Lord Royle for giving us the opportunity this afternoon of saying what we think. May I raise a few short points and then perhaps one rather longer one. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, I am sorry that the Government's area of their proposals is not larger, but is in fact smaller, than that of the Select Committee. We on the Committee heard a great deal of evidence of discrimination against women otherwise than in employment—mortgages; guarantees; discrimination in public places; housing; students' grants, and above all, of course, in pensions and retirement benefits. The sole reason why we did not seek to cover any of those subjects was simply that we felt that if we dealt with employment and education and training, which were alone within the long title of the "Bill", it was as much as a Private Member's Bill could do. I do not see how any Private Member's Bill can ever cover so complicated a question as pensions. But I regret, now that the Government are going to introduce some legislation, that they have not dealt with any of those matters at all.

Secondly, I am disappointed that, although our Bill covered education, and made discrimination against women in the field of education unlawful, this Bill proposed in this White Paper does not really deal with it at all. All that the Government are saying is, "The Minister has sufficient powers. You leave it to the Minister and to the school inspectors." We dealt in paragraphs 7 to 30 of our Report with nothing at all except the mass of evidence we had heard about discrimination that goes on in education; how the Ministry until quite recently was recommending to local education authorities not to give the same science facilities to girls' schools or mixed schools as they did to boys' schools. We found that in one Northern grammar school, which was a mixed school, with the same facilities open to girls as to boys, in the science fifth form there were just as many girls as boys. It is not that girls are not interested; there is discrimination in facilities. So, too, is it the case in the curricula where woodwork is only for boys, while girls are to go off and do domestic science and have no choice. Now what we are told is this: "Don't put anything at all in the Bill about this. Of course it goes on. Of course we are very shocked about it. But there are sufficient powers in the Ministry. You leave it to the Ministers of Education, and the inspectors of schools under whom this practice has been going on for years, and they will put the whole thing right." My Lords, I feel somewhat sceptical about that.

I am not at all happy about some of the criteria. On marital status (these in a sense are almost Committee points), we recommended inclusion of marital status in the Bill for reasons which we gave in our Report. I can see no reason why it should not be included. I am particularly unhappy, furthermore, about "public taste or decency", which I should think would cover anything in the world. No illustration has been given. The only one I have seen, I think in a newspaper, was the presumption that this refers to women attendants in men's lavatories. Well, I do not know why that should be against public decency—it has gone on for years in France—or why there should not be men attendants in women's lavatories. They have doors. Every family—I was going to say, "every family has a lavatory", but even that, I am afraid, is not quite true. But most do, and men and women use the same lavatory. I cannot understand the reason for that assertion. But a coach and horses, I should think, could be driven through anything if we make an exception for "public taste or decency".

On customer preference, we were particularly strongly warned by the American experience not to allow an exception for customer preference because, they say, "If you once start that, employers will always try to go on discriminating on that basis." I am sorry to have to disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. The Committee did not agree with the view which she expressed this afternoon when she said that these proposals ought not to come into force until equal pay does. We said that the Bill should come into force, I think, six months after it was passed.


My Lords, may I intervene on a point of clarification? I said, only in connection with protective legislation. I did not want the protective legislation removed until the Equal Pay Act came into force.


I am very sorry, my Lords. I must have misheard the noble Baroness. One of the matters I do not understand is why this legislation is not to come into force for over two years. I quite appreciate that it is important that when equal pay comes into force there should be in existence legislation against discrimination. What I cannot understand is what is wrong with legislation against discrimination coming into force before that. The whole fons et origo of the Government's proposals is that they are convinced that there is a great deal of wrong discrimination going on against women, that it ought to be stopped, and that there ought to be legislation about it. If that is so, on what grounds should employers be allowed to continue discriminating like mad for over two years?


My Lords, just to confirm my own recollection on this point, before the noble and learned Lord develops it too far, would he show me where in the Consultative Document anything whatever is said about when this legislation is going to come into force? This is another matter upon which we welcome advice and comment.


My Lords, I am sorry if I have misread the Document. I understood that it was not to come into force until December 29, 1975. I forget which clause it is, but I feel sure that is said in this Document.


My Lords, perhaps I can help my noble and learned friend. I think perhaps we might solve this problem if we get an authoritative statement. I have certainly got the impression from somewhere—I do not know whether it was from the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie—that it would be 1975. I am not accusing anybody of anything. I am admitting to sharing the confusion of my noble and learned friend, but it would be helpful if we were to be given an indication of the sort of timetable that the Government have in mind. Perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, will be able to help us in that regard. I must not continue because I am making a speech later.


My Lords, may I just interrupt to say that I said exactly the same thing, because I am sure I have read it somewhere.


My Lords, I think I can be authoritative on this point. From wherever the impression may have arisen, I do not think anybody has made up his or her mind about the timetable and, as I said just now, this is something on which we would welcome advice and the views of the House.


My Lords, I am very glad to hear that.


My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord will allow me to intervene, it is paragraph 1.6 on page 7.


My Lords, it may have been that we have read a reference to equal pay as being the equivalent of when the Bill will come into force. If so, we have misread it. I am very much obliged for the assistance of the interventions.

The only other point I want to deal with is this: I doubt whether proposals on these lines will ever be effective at all. I am afraid that if we were to enact legislation without making substantial changes in what is proposed it would end up exactly as the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 which has now been on the Statute Book for 54 years and no successful case has ever been brought under it. That is because it had no proper enforcement provisions. Finally, I wish to discuss the enforcement provisions.

May I contrast our sex discrimination law—and when I say "our" I mean the House of Lords Bill—the Equal Em- ployment Opportunities Commission in America and the Equal Opportunities Commission proposed by the Government. In all three cases they would be the bodies to receive complaints. The Sex Discrimination Board under the Lords Bill would receive the complaints: the Equal Opportunities Commission in America receives the complaints; the Government say, in paragraph 4.5: In employment it is expected that the Commission would receive a large number of allegations of discrimination affecting both individuals and general areas of employment. What happens then? Under the proposals in the Lords Bill the Sex Discrimination Board would investigate the complaint, and if they find that there is a prima facie case and conciliation is not successful they can take proceedings; but they can also investigate and take proceedings although they have received no complaint from an individual if facts suggesting discrimination come to their notice, and they can go on with proceedings even if the complaint is withdrawn. If conciliation is not successful they proceed to the county court or, in big cases, perhaps to the High Court, in both of which of course legal aid is available. The relief laid down in the Bill which can be granted by the court is a declaration that unlawful discrimination has taken place and an injunction ordering the employer to stop it, and damages.

Much the same is true, we were told by the chief counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in America. She said: Let me briefly review how our agency operates. The machinery of the E.E.O.C. is set in motion by the filing of a charge by a person claiming to be aggrieved, or by someone on his behalf, with one of our field offices across the country. Such a charge may also be filed by one of our five Commissioners. The charge is then investigated in our field office, and ultimately a decision issued either in the field office or by the Commission in Washington finding that there is or is not reasonable cause to believe a violation of the Act has occurred. If no reasonable cause is found, the aggrieved person none the less has the right to institute a de novo proceeding in the appropriate federal district court. That also was part of the House of Lords proposal, that even if the Board decided to take no action the individual could still do so. She then continued: If the E.E.O.C. finds reasonable cause, it will attempt to secure conciliation. … If conciliation is not achieved, the E.E.O.C. has the right to institute suit in the federal district court. The Attorney General also has the right to institute a suit himself. She continued: If the court finds that the respondent has violated the law, it may enjoin the respondent from engaging in such action, and order such affirmative action as may be appropriate, which may include, but is not limited to, reinstatement or hiring of employees, with or without back pay, or any other equitable relief deemed appropriate. The back pay would be for not more than two years. She then said: An interesting footnote to our legislation is that while the traditional victims of sex discrimination are, of course, women, and while Congress passed the Act to combat discrimination against women, the Act and the women's movement also have had a liberating effect on men. You cannot, of course, rigidly segregate women into certain categories and roles without rigidly confining men to other categories and roles. She says that in fact there have been a number of complaints, and these have involved issues such as segregated job classifications and seniority lines; the refusal to employ men because of draft status; discrimination in retirement age and pension benefits; and employer restrictions on the length and style of hair. What happens under the Government proposals? After saying that of course the complaints will go, what will be the powers of the Commission? The document says at paragraph 4.5: In employment it is expected that the Com- mission would receive a large number of allegations of discrimination affecting both individuals and general areas of employment. Where these suggested that an unlawful act of discrimination had taken place, the complainant would be informed of the legal position and his or her right of access to the tribunals. The Commission is virtually powerless.

What are we talking about? We are talking about the typist who wanted a job with a company which publishes a provincial newspaper with the new Webb offset process where there is no hot metal; it is a straight typing job. The employers took the view that it might be that some women would be better at this than some men, because they had only employed men. The branch of the union, NATSOPA said: "If you employ a single woman we shall all walk out". This is the woman who goes to the industrial tribunal. Or, take the other one we have all read about in the papers recently—the woman who had every possible distinction in relation to driving and who wanted to be a bus driver, now being employed as a bus conductor. She was very popular with her fellow workers at the depot so they made her a shop steward, but nothing would induce them to agree that the company should employ a woman driver.

What are these people to do? They are to go to an industrial tribunal. I have seen a statement in the papers that Mr. Carr had said somewhere that legal aid would be available. Ordinarily of course it is not available. I cannot find anything about that in the Consultative Document. So they are to take proceedings, which may be expensive and which they have to pay for themselves. And who is the complaint to be decided by? It is to be decided by an industrial tribunal which ordinarily consists of a legal chairman, a representative of employers and a representative of trade unions. Most employees who now go to an industrial tribunal go with assistance from their trade union. But who are the people who discriminate in the field of employment? It is the employers and the trade unions. Is the woman bus driver going to get help from her union in going to an industrial tribunal? You do not usually have burglary cases tried by a jury of burglars or by a jury of the police. This is the great difficulty which the whole Select Committee always saw in these cases going to the industrial tribunals.

I must just add this. There is a great deal to be said for the same body dealing with pay as deals with other conditions of employment, because, of course, pay is only one condition of employment. Then it will be said, "Well, it was your own Government which sent equal pay to the industrial tribunals". I quite agree, and I must make it plain that I not only agreed with that decision, but strongly advocated it. In our Industrial Act we proposed that unfair dismissals should go to industrial tribunals; but that was in the pre-Beeching days. It was in the days when both the High Court and the county courts were unreformed and arrears were getting longer and longer. Even if it had been possible to find more judges, there was always the problem that there were not enough courts in which to sit, and arrears were piling up. As Lord Chancellor, I was satisfied that it would have been absolutely impossible for the courts to deal with them if, as we were told in relation even to unfair dismissal, there might be 30,000 to 60,000 cases a year. Of course, that was long before the Courts Act. The situation is now reformed. For some reason, although their jurisdiction has increased, the county courts did less work last year than the year before. Their work is actually decreasing. There is no reason to think that the county courts could not deal with this work now.

My Lords, I have no complaint against the way in which the industrial tribunals are run. In this country we are still very bad on administrative law. I used to urge bodies like the Society of Public Teachers of Law that they should seriously include judicial administration in their courses. Birmingham University has included in its Law Faculty the Institute of Judicial Administration, and they are looking at the administrative tribunal. In relation to this issue we have always acted pragmatically. No one has ever sat down to work out the criteria by which we should decide what kinds of dispute ought to be tested in the courts and what kinds of dispute ought to be tested before tribunals. The fact that equal pay went to the industrial tribunal is an example of acting quite pragmatically. It was said, "If we are going to carry this through and have a separate discrimination tribunal which could also deal with disputes on pay, there is a good deal to be said for the county court". But I must frankly say that I am unhappy, as was the whole Committee, at the idea of this work going to industrial tribunals, for the reason which I have given.

When one is told that there can be an appeal to the N.I.R.C., the matter grows worse still, because, as we all know, no sensible employer ever goes near that court, and most of the trade unions will not. So what is a member of a trade union, whose policy it is never to go near the courts, to do? I think this is a very unhappy conjunction, and if the Government ever propose that this should work as the proposals are now set down, I cannot conceive of any woman employee ever taking a case there at all. Not only has she apparently to pay for herself, but there is a threat in the document that she may be liable to pay the whole of the costs of both sides. It seems to me that this is simply not practicable, and I hope very much that we shall give serious consideration to the enforcement provisions.

My Lords, may I end by asking one or two questions. I should like a definite answer about legal aid, because this is extremely important. I cannot help feeling that if the Government were going to provide legal aid they would have said so in the document, or we should have heard about it from the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie. From the fact that we have not, I conclude that no legal aid will be available at all. I believe that this by itself will kill the Bill stone dead from a practical point of view. May I ask for some explanation of what is said about charities in paragraph 2.38. I am sure it is my fault, but I do not understand it at all. Could we be given an idea whether legislation would be likely to be introduced? Lastly, on the question that has already been raised about employers employing 25 or fewer as against eight or fewer, could we be told, if not now at some time, how many employers there are in the country who employ 25 or less, and how many there are in the country who employ eight or less?


Not without notice.


I realise it could not be done without notice. I naturally welcome the fact that the Select Committee's Report has convinced the Government that something ought to be done about discrimination. I very much regret that they have given up education altogether. No amount of discrimination in education is to be in any way unlawful; it is being left to the same Ministers of Education, the same inspectors of schools who have allowed it to go on for so long, to remedy it. As to the rest, I hope the Government will think again about the practical side of the subject, because looking at the sort of women who are discriminated against I really cannot see that it is the least bit likely that any of them will ever go to an industrial tribunal in the circumstances set out in the Bill.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support in general the objectives of the Government as stated in this Paper, but I have doubts on some aspects of the legislation referred to in it. I speak as one who has been involved in industry for many years, and for part of that time I had a great deal to do with the management, employment and development of the use of women. I am, however, giving entirely my own views this evening.

My Lords, for many years I have been conscious that industry has not made the best use of women, in skills, specialist activities or management. In so far as I have been able, I have endeavoured to promote their advancement in the spheres with which I have been concerned. There is no doubt that there has been much apparent prejudice against the employment of women in certain jobs. I say "apparent" because much of this prejudice is not real, but arises from social circumstances which become hardened into tradition, combined with a general unwillingness to change. At the present time I see signs of change throughout industry, but I believe that it needs some acceleration which I hope will be brought about by the Bill coming from this White Paper.

One of the main social circumstances which has caused this resistance to the employment of women is the fear of unemployment. I worked in the North-East from 1929 to 1933, over the period of the depression. During that period, the Department with which I was concerned was set up on a new factory site. This Department needed a clerical staff in one section of about 40. The management decided that they would staff it entirely with men. The reason for that was because of the acute unemployment in that part of the world: and the feeling that it was most important to give employment to men who would become the fathers of families. In fact, some years later great difficulty was caused by this, because as these young men got older quite a few deserved promotion and it was extremely difficult to give them that promotion. Fortunately, the company was expanding and many of these young men were transferred elsewhere in the country.

At a similar time there was an unwritten rule that in a factory with a payroll of 12,000 or 13,000 no women should be employed in the works; that is to say, apart from the central offices. This was partly due to the reason I have just given, the fear of unemployment and the need to reduce it. But another reason was that the process workers were on a three-shift basis, and there were legal objections to employing women in that way. There were no legal bars to their being employed on day work; yet they were not. A tradition thus grew up which it is very difficult to break down.

Much of this discrimination disappeared during the war, but much continued. A few years after the war I was involved with some sales departments up and down the country, and in those sales departments the senior workers were called "sales clerks". They had a certain amount of responsibility, in the way of correspondence with customers and speaking to them on the telephone. In many of these offices these clerks had to be men, and the reason given was that it was impossible to have women talking to customers. That was a lot of nonsense then, and it is nonsense now. The custom took a long time to break down, but it was broken down.

Again, in management it was rare to find a women manager. Some 15 or 20 years ago I was involved with a particular company, a subsidiary company of the group I was with, where a manager's job became vacant. I knew a woman who I thought would do the job well; she was fully qualified technically "and in every other way. Uncertain of what the reception would be if I put up a woman for the job, I asked the managing director in question and he replied. "God forbid!". He did not know the woman in question, and I am sure he was not anti-female or with a poor idea of women's capabilities. But there never had been a woman in a job of that seniority, and at the time there were few women available with the technical training and background.

In all the cases I have mentioned—and I could mention many others—there was not really prejudice against the employment of women; it was a custom arising from environmental factors and an unwillingness to change. The most important need is to promote an atmosphere in all spheres of employment whereby women are given their due place in the pattern of employment, and in this I see the Equal Opportunities Commission playing an important part. There have been great advances, but they have not come fast enough. Most organisations do want to advance the cause of women. The noble Lord, Lord Reigate, referred to the fact that there were so few women draughtsmen. I believe the reason for that is that in the main in this country draughtsmen have come from the shop floor. They have started as engineering apprentices and worked up through the various trades in the factory. There are few women going in as engineering apprentices, and thus there are few women draughtsmen.

When it come to specific cases, it is easy to designate jobs which should be open more freely to women. The Select Committee of both Houses found many such cases. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, last week referred to the fact that she had never seen a London Underground train with a woman driver or guard. We know of the difficulties with women bus drivers. I have no doubt that there should be more women in some of the professions. On the other hand, it is undesirable to proceed on the basis that men and women are identical or that their aspirations are identical. This is stated in the White Paper. I do not think it can be denied that many more men than women enter industry for a career. One may say that women do not go into industry because they do not believe they are going to get on in it. On the other hand, training for industry requires working in a great variety of places—in factories, on the shop floor, and all over the country. I believe that women are much more inclined to go into work in which they feel they have more sympathy, such as work in retail shops, offices and commerce.

It is therefore essential that management balance its staff so that people's aspirations can be fulfilled, and the numbers of each sex employed is an inevitable factor. I referred a short time ago to this clerical section of 40 men. In industry a large proportion of the women who come in intend to spend only a short time there; they get married and move out. Some may return after they are married, but there are relatively few who really seek promotion or wish to make a career of their job. For those who do want to make it a career, are capable of promotion and will develop the skills necessary to attain promotion, there is usually no difficulty.

In industry, much training is lengthy and consists of extended periods to gain experience in various activities, interspersed with short courses or long courses on a sandwich basis. This applies especially in education for management. Every organisation needs to mark early the potential managers and senior managers, and to arrange for them to be given the wide basic experience in their twenties and early thirties. As industry gets more complex in its processes, its industrial relations, its marketing and control systems, so it is necessary for the potential manager to be identified early and given wide training. This may cover a period of years and means moving people about the country.

A special difficulty which arises with women is that if and when they get married there tends to be a clash of careers which makes it difficult to move them to other locations. This also happens in some cases with a young man who marries a girl who has some specialist skill which can be practised only in one place. This means that when an employer takes on a young woman with the potential of becoming a manager he has to make sure that she will be prepared to move about the country to gain the varied experience that is necessary. It is difficult for the girl, the woman, or the employer to know that this will be possible, and as a result there is bound to be some discrimination in this respect. One may say that if the girl or the woman is of the right calibre and shows that she is prepared to undergo the training, then there is no reason why she should not do the job. But if a woman is interviewed on this basis and says she is not prepared to be moved around, because she may get married, or possibly may be engaged to be married, and she does not know what her husband or future husband is going to want, then there is this discrimination. One must give some credit to industry that, in the main, it does wish to find its managers among its young men and women, but they have to go through the proper training before they can emerge as managers. We want to ensure that those women who are capable of it can fulfil their aspirations, but we should not create unnatural situations in which the sex of the applicant cannot be taken into account when it ought to be.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, with very great interest. He has spoken from his own experience in industry. I shall, before long, be referring to industry. I hope that he will not think it any discourtesy on my part if I begin in a different way.

I have been tremendously encouraged by the publication of this Paper by the Government, and even more so by the debate which has taken place to-day. I am encouraged because I am old enough to have participated at the beginning of this century in the women's movement for equality. I became a socialist in its first decade because I believed in the equality of all human beings, men and women, and of whatever race or colour. In those days it was the struggle for women's equality which was dominant in the sphere of discrimination. One thinks back to Mrs. Fawcett, and all those associated with her in demanding women's equality. As a teenager I used to go to the gates of Holloway Gaol time after time to meet my girl friend who, after a hunger strike, was weak, and under cat-and-mouse treatment was released until she was fit again and then taken back to prison. My earliest associations in politics were with the struggle for women's equality. If I have since been more closely associated with equality on grounds of race or colour, it has been only because at the beginning this was a more lonely struggle, whilst in politics one has had so many able voices urging women's equality such as, for example, that of my noble friend Lady Summerskill when she was in the other place.

I want to make one reference to a subject where I may be taking a different line from some of my friends who are feminists; it is the subject with which the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, has dealt; namely, the place of women in industry. I do not take the view that a recognition of the equality of women means that we ought to withdraw the restrictions which, on their behalf, are now practised in industry. There are 2 million women working in our factories. There are restrictions. There is the nine hour working day; the 48 hours a week; starting and finishing times, and rest hours. It does not seem to me to be necessary when one stands for women's equality to ask that those provisions should be removed. One has to look at society as a whole, and the great majority of those 2 million working women in the factories work not only there but in their homes as well. They work in their homes for at least 40 hours a week, and that work as housewives should be recognised as a service to the community in addition to their work in industry. We should not regard it as illogical that those of us who stand for women's equality want at the same time to safeguard their conditions in industry.

I have gone through this Paper in detail and have many comments to make on many of its aspects. I shall refrain from doing so because in time we shall have the Bill itself, and we shall have the Committee stage. I only want to draw particular attention to certain aspects that I regard as specially important. The first is in relation to women's pensions and retirement. At the present time women are excluded from many of the occupational pension schemes. In my view, if we are to have a measure for women's equality, that exclusion should be ended. Perhaps I may give this encouragement to those who sit on the opposite side of the House: I remember that the Conservative Opposition in another place, during the discussion on the Equal Pay Act 1970, strongly criticised the omission from that Bill of ending the exclusion of women from occupational pension schemes. At present the occupational pension schemes do not include 30 per cent. of the female manual workers in our factories.

The second point that I would urge in relation to pensions and retirement is that both the occupational pension schemes—when they relate to women—and the State Reserve Scheme provide lower pensions for women. In my view this should be ended. Under the Social Security Act, 1973, women's pensions will be one-third lower than men's, although their contributions are of equal value. This is justified on two grounds: first, that women's expectancy of life is greater, and it is argued that it is unfair to men to subsidise the longer payment of pensions to them. This strikes me as a sectional view of what is socially desirable. In practice, it is denied in other respects. Manual workers now subsidise white-collar workers, whose expectancy of life is greater, and single men subsidise the pensions of widows of married men. I hope very much indeed that when the Bill is finally introduced it will provide for women to be given pensions equal to those of men.


My Lords, I am following the noble Lord with very great interest on this point, and I wonder whether he would allow me to interrupt him. In the case he quoted, where women had the lower benefit by way of pension for the same contribution, would the retirement age have been five years earlier or not, and would that have made much difference? In the case of a pensions scheme that I was familiar with and which both men and women could join, I remember that many women preferred not to join—it was a contributory scheme—because they took the view that they were not going to be likely to be in industry for more than a few years, and therefore it would not be worth their while joining. So, as to our relative numbers, as the noble Lord has said, many fewer women went into the scheme than men.


My Lords, I recognise that that problem is very relevant indeed, just as the problem of retirement at 60 or at 65 is relevant. All I would suggest is that where equal contributions are made the pensions for women should be equal to those for men when they become of pensionable age.

My Lords, the next point with which I wanted to deal very briefly is one which I think particularly applies to many of our trade unions—and I say this from the Labour Benches—where there is a limitation of membership and a limitation of employment. I think trade unions are beginning to think again on this problem, but I would urge very strongly that any Bill which is ultimately introduced should include, as was proposed in the Anti-Discrimination (No. 2) Bill, a provision that it should be unlawful to deny membership of trade unions, professional associations or employers' associations on the ground of sex, and employment in their spheres.

My Lords, references have been made frequently during this debate to education. I believe it fundamentally impor- tant so far as women's equality is concerned. The poor job opportunities, the low pay and the discrimination in employment largely reflect the discrimination which has been practised in the schools. The evidence which was given by the Department of Education before the Lords Select Committee, over which my noble friend Lord Royle presided, showed that girls form only a comparatively small minority of the pupils who take, for example, mathematics and science. It showed that only one-third take "O" levels in mathematics and only one-fifth "A" levels in mathematics. There was a similar minority in chemistry and physics. This indicates an attitude in education which would seem to exclude girls from these technical and creative spheres. I should like to see local education authorities encouraged in their duty of widening the educational opportunities for girls.

Let me add one word—and I am sorry that my noble friend Lady Birk is not here—about what she said concerning one-sex schools. I went to a boys' boarding school, a charity school, and I say that one-sex schools are bad. They are bad, first, because of the habits which they encourage among those who are there, particularly as they move towards adolescent age; but, secondly, they are bad because the absence of working or living with the opposite sex means that when, as teenagers, pupils leave those schools there is a reaction towards the other sex which is—perhaps the word "disastrous" is too strong—quite certainly bad from the point of view of human relationships between the sexes. While I am not suggesting that one-sex schools can be prohibited immediately by law, I would very strongly urge that education authorities in this country should seek to end them by all the influence that they can exert.

The speech of my noble friend Lady Birk makes me add one further thing of a rather similar character, and that concerns her plea that there should be women on the staff of men's prisons and men on the staff of women's prisons. I have been three years in British prisons, where one never saw a woman except on an occasional visit. I had eight months' solitary confinement, and the only time I ever saw a woman was in the distance at the other end of a long passage. She was not young or attractive, but the thrill I had, after months in solitary confinement, just to see that old woman rambling down the end of that corridor! The artificiality of keeping men only together in prisons and of keeping women only together, and excluding entirely the idea that there should be women on the staff of men's prisons and men on the staff of women's prisons, is disastrous physically and psychologically to those who have to exist in those conditions for any period.

My Lords, the last point I want to make is in regard to enforcement. The proposal that enforcement should be in the hands of industrial tribunals is absolutely impossible. Not only is it impossible because of the controversy which has arisen around them in the trade union movement: it is impossible because the problem of the relationship between men and women is entirely different from the problem of industrial relations. There is the example of the Race Relations Act, with which I was rather closely associated. Under that Act we have a separate Race Relations Board because the problem is recognised as different. The problem of discrimination between men and women is also different, and if we are to have tribunals they should be equal opportunities tribunals which are directed to this problem alone. I also beg Her Majesty's Government to give the Equal Opportunities Commission real powers. One of the criticisms of the Race Relations Board is its inadequate powers. Any Equal Opportunities Commission must have much greater powers than have now been given to the Race Relations Board if it is to he effective. It must be given the powers of investigation and of prevention; otherwise it becomes negative.

My Lords, I conclude by saying that men and women are different—and thank the gods that they are! But, in the course of evolution, men and women are closer together in the human family than in any of our animal ancestors who have evolved towards us. Women have minds, they have creative capacities, just as great as any men. If in this period of time we can be fulfilling what the pioneers in the beginning of our century sought, the equal opportunities to women to realise those possibilities, then we shall have contributed greatly to the progress of the human race.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak this evening but I succumbed to the blandishments of an old friend of mine, the noble Lord, Lord Royle, who leads this discussion from the Opposition Front Bench. I really want only to make one point. I do not wish to go into details; we have heard a great many details extremely well put. The point I should like to put is as important to the large majority of women as to men still in this country who are against the emancipation of women. I always like to go to the beginning of things. I went to Genesis and I found myself in a difficulty because in the first chapter of Genesis it says: … God created man in his own image … male and female, created he them. In the second chapter of Genesis we read: And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet …'". And he put Adam into a deep sleep and created Eve from one of his ribs. I do not know which of these stories is true. I have consulted the right reverend Prelate and I have been given a certain explanation. Be that as it may, one thing is quite certain: that Eve was the first person to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.


My Lords, may I intervene for just a moment? There are two records of creation, both imaginative rather than scientific. The first is the prophetic, the second the priestly. So far as I am concerned, and I think that my noble friend will corroborate this, it is better to accept the prophetic, the first. Priesthood has always been rather more dubious.


My Lords, I will accept the noble Lord's advice. It does not alter the fact that Eve was the first to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Whether or not she was alarmed and overcome, she gave of the apple to Adam; whether she gave the full half or not remains a mystery. As we all know, retribution was quick to come. Man was destined to labour and toil by the sweat of his brow and has seemed successfully to have escaped from this retribution through mechanisation and computation and goodness knows what; whereas Eve, who was condemned to pains at home, seems to have remained more tied to her job. I wonder very much whether Eve was a good mother. After all, she brought up two sons; but Cain killed Abel, and Cains have been killing Abels ever since.

Why I am interested in the emancipation of women and the opportunities for them to become full citizens of this country and other countries and take their share in the world in general is because I think it will make them better mothers. There is the old saying, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world" I think it is a very true saying. If we have at present (and always have had) a great deal of violence and revolution in the world, I am not sure that the mothers should not take their share of the blame in that result. I feel that if a woman can take her part in the world and know the sort of world in which children will have to live, she will be able to bring up these children to face it in a better way. We have all learned, perhaps more recently than before, that it is the first years of a child's life that are so impressionable. It is those first years that are in the hands of the mothers.

Never mind about tribunals. On this aspect I agree with a great deal of what was said, particularly by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner. I am very worried about the sort of tribunal that may be set up; how the appeals will be taken to it, and whether there will be legal aid and so on. Those are very important details, as also is the question of women's pensions and so on; but I think that what we really have to impress on the female population of our country as well as the male is that it is important for women to have the fullest possible education in citizenship apart from any career that they wish to take up. If they have that, if they understand better the sort of life their children are going to face, then I think they will be better mothers, that we shall have a better generation of young people and that in that way what we have done to-day will be more fully justified than in any other.

6.49 p.m.


My Lords. my noble friend Lord Brockway may have got the start on me: but not by much. I have been an active feminist since I was 18 when I marched in the first Women's Suffrage procession. Therefore I cannot forbear paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for the persistency and tact with which she has conducted this campaign, which is, after all, our common cause. I have doubts about the extent to which one can legislate against prejudice. I have had doubts about the Race Relations Act. I think it has deprived many students of lodgings they might otherwise have had in lodging houses which had previously announced that they were not prepared to take coloured students. That sort of thing may happen. But it is still more difficult, I think, with attempts to legislate for sex equality. Race discrimination is a comparatively modern problem. It has become a problem owing to the extreme mobility of the 20th century world. Sex discrimination is age old; it is as old as recorded time. Therefore I think it is more difficult to legislate against.

A number of points have been raised in the course of this debate. I should like to fasten on the speech which was made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, since he and I have served the same college in various capacities. I was very sorry to note his suggestion that the Church of England should be cramped in its style as regards women's ordination by reference to the backwardness of, let us say, the Mohammedan community. I do not see why it should. I do not see why it should not stand up for the principles which it believes to be the right principles in regard to the treatment of women. Therefore I do not see why it should not go forward to equal treatment of women as regards ordination.

My Lords, there is in Hong Kong a young woman called Joyce Bennett who was properly ordained as a priest of the Anglican Church by the Bishop of Hong Kong and is now ministering as a fully ordained priest. I learn from the novels of Anthony Trollope that deans and bishops are appointed by Governments. Why therefore should not a Government who really believe in sex equality offer the position of dean or bishop to the reverend Joyce Bennett of Hong Kong? What would happen if they did? I know what would happen if the Government operated their very large powers of interference to interfere with trade unions to bring about the engagement of a female compositor. All the printers would go on strike, and probably there would be a General Strike to follow. What would happen if the Government appointed Miss Joyce Bennett as a dean or a bishop? Well, my Lords, I do not think that the entire clergy would go on strike; I have no doubt that some would. But may I say finally—and when I say "finally" I mean finally—that I do not think Miss Joyce Bennett would accept such a position, as she is a young woman, as befits a student of Westfield College, who dislikes publicity and would regret having to cause pain to any fellow churchman. Therefore I do not really think that is the solution. But, my Lords, it would be great fun if it happened.

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, I do not like people who put down their names at the end of the list of speakers but I want to plead "not guilty" to-day because last week, although I had 'flu, I was not delirous. I' phoned up the House and said to a man —I emphasise that it was a man—that I was going to speak. But I firmly believe that when I told him the subject, and when he knew who I was, he had a Freudian lapse and forgot to put down my name. It is a most amazing thing, and it is the first time it has happened in the whole of my Parliamentary career. But there you are, my Lords, and here I am. I have spoken on this subject so often at various times that to-night I do not want to be guilty of tedious repetition, but I want to make just one or two points.

I listened very carefully to the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, and if I had been much younger I would have sat back and said, "Now he says that things are getting better. Things will be all right You have only got to sit back and wait a little time, girls, and all your troubles will be over" My Lords, I got into Parliament in 1938 and I have heard men say that over and over again. I rise up to-night to say to the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, that he is young and I am very glad to hear that he has been doing what he can for women. But he has a long way to go if this Document before us to-night is the best thing that the Government can produce.

May I make one point immediately? Whatever noble Lords say about the position of women to-day, we cannot gloss over the discrimination, the shocking discrimination, between men and women which is revealed by the recent statement that the average weekly earnings of a man are £40 and of a woman only half that, £20. These figures reflect the whole attitude to women's labour throughout the country. A woman is regarded as cheap labour. She is regarded as an individual who need not have the same consideration as a man. Men know that women are unorganised—although I was pleased to hear yesterday that there are 3 million women in the trade unions—and in consequence they can be exploited. This debate is being held on an important Wedding Day and I must confess that I was a little disappointed to note that when Princess Anne was questioned on the subject she failed to approve of women's emancipation. I felt, like my noble friend Lord Royle, that she should have positive views on the subject, owing to the discrimination exercised against her as Heir to the Throne in favour of her two small brothers.

My Lords, this discrimination goes throughout, and it is accepted. Again I want to emphasise when I put that question to the right reverend Prelate that it was an amazing scene; sitting looking at the Abbey and seeing that vast array of men administering the affairs of the Church. We had the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London telling us that everything was all right. He said, "If I went down to a suburb I would find a woman churchwarden" Women are poorly paid, and in the worst jobs possible. So, my Lords, this change in our affairs is of supreme importance and we cannot be fobbed off as we have been in the past.

I would remind the House that the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, to which women attached so much importance, was passed half a century ago; and as I say we have been fobbed off with promises ever since. And I would add this: Governments may change but there has been one powerful factor common to them all; namely, the Civil Service which is notoriously anti-feminist. As a member of a Select Committee I was left with a strong impression that the representatives of the employers and the administrative grades of the Civil Service had a common interest and a cherished battle cry: They shall not pass!" I have served near the Civil Service in another capacity and I have observed this for myself. In spite of our efforts, what is the result in the Civil Service today? We have one woman as a Joint Permanent Secretary.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, talked about statutory women. Wherever we look in jobs that carry a good salary, in jobs that carry some prestige, we see one woman in the shop window. So, my Lords, we really must not accept Government promises that something will be done and then just sit back and wait. This Document, which has been produced just before a General Election—although last year and the year before the Government adopted an entirely different attitude towards the problems of women —reflects the views of men who aim to obtain the women's vote with the minimum sacrifice of male prestige. I saw the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, jump up just now and say, "We have not promised anything. We have not given any date for legislation" Of course not. The noble Viscount need not tell me that. The Government never give dates for legislation. But they are, in my opinion adopting—as Governments before them have done: I am afraid there is very little difference when it comes to politics—delaying tactics. I have been to so many conferences and so many deputations that I have lost all memory of how many and in what years they took place. But there they are, a blur of them down through the years, all asking for the things that we are asking for today.

We have recently had two Select Committees which interviewed all the individuals and organisations that were most closely concerned with discrimination. Now we are told in this Document—and I quote: The Government believes that the most promising way forward must be by means of inquiring, publicity and persuasion, functions which the Equal Opportunities Commission will carry out and thus serve as a catalyst for change". Ye gods! Fifty years ago that was said to women when the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed; that was how change was to be brought about. I am glad to sec that there is a right reverend Prelate here, and I am sure that he will agree with me that that sentence could not be improved upon by the Established Church which has made a life study of keeping women in their rightful place according to its own lights. I have heard to-day that they are kept in their rightful place—churchwardens in the suburbs.


My Lords, I am sorry, but I was not present when my right reverend Brother the Bishop of London made his speech, but I understand he did not mention that Convocations have said they believe there is no theological objection to the ordination of women. Well, that is a big step forward because all the dioceses are going to talk about it. There is something happening. It is not only a case of having women churchwardens: we are making some progress.


My Lords, does not the right reverend Prelate know that that has been done year after year, decade after decade; that that has been said to me by the right reverend Prelate years ago, that a change would taken place'? We are telling the nation that we women are sick of waiting and we have no faith in these promises. We want to see legislation on the Statute Book.

We were told to-night by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, when he jumped up to assure the House that the Government were not committed to any legislation—


My Lords, I have been taunted by the noble Baroness twice on this. If she will look in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow, she will see that I said nothing of the kind.


My Lords, my noble friend said that the promises related to 1975, and the noble Viscount said, "No, that is all wrong". And quite rightly, because that dealt with equal pay. Perhaps in his summing up the noble Viscount will tell us specifically what the legislation is going to be, what it is going to contain and when it is going to be introduced.


No, my Lords.


My Lords, I want to come back to the matters that I raised on the Queen's Speech, when I sought to focus attention on the proposal of the Government to remove the restrictions on the employment of women under the Factory Act—what is called "protective legislation". I speak very strongly on this subject. I believe this proposal to be utterly opposed to the interests of those harassed, overworked women, married, say, to a mean man or a bully. I am not asking for generous concessions, for these are the present restrictions. Can one say that they are very generous? These are the present restrictions for a married woman. Her work should include a limit of 48 hours a week, which must not start before 7 a.m. or end after 8 p.m., and 1 p.m. on Saturdays; and overtime should be limited to 25 weeks in the year. These are the restrictions which are now going to be changed.

It has frequently been stated lately that battered wives are now going to town halls, to doctors; and now the battered wife becomes a rather familiar, tragic object in our midst. Recently we have been told that 3,000 battered wives have been accounted for. The Sunday Times, last Sunday, told us that 700 battered babies are reported a day. Here, I believe, is irrefutable evidence that legislation is still needed to protect the most helpless married woman from being available to work unsuitable hours at the expense of her family. It is no good telling me that she need not do it if she does not want to. A woman in a poverty stricken home, with children, with a man Who drinks too much and who does not care where the money comes from, often becomes afraid. She is passive; she dare not object, and she will go and do a job. This is why legislation is introduced. It is no good telling me that times have changed, that machinery has changed, that the 19th century was different from the 20th. My Lords, human nature has not changed. These women are still there, needing our protection. It is absolutely outrageous to think that in this document the only piece of legislation to which the Government have committed themselves in Appendix 1 is this brutal little Bill which the employers want. If the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, chooses to read the evidence given at the Select Committee he will see that the employers are in favour of get ting the married women—particularly those in the North—into the factories all night.

My Lords, why has this been put in the document? Is it not going to be debated here? Why have the Government committed themselves to what the employers want? That is the only piece of legislation they are certain of introducing. I would say that working women are already doing a disproportionate share of the work at home, and it is not necessary to prove equality by permitting them to do more outside. And to suggest that this is done in the name of equality—what sheer nonsense! We know perfectly well that the woman who works in a job outside gets the family's lunch, goes and buys it midday, and rushes home to cook it at night. Now we are told that in the name of equality she should be allowed to work all night. What cruel nonsense! It is only those people who are so removed from the likes of these women who dare consider introducing legislation of this kind. I ask the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, what permission had he, or the Government, to put this in this document. Surely it is undemocratic. This House has not accepted it.

We have heard to-night people express views on the subject and say that they thought this was reactionary. I was glad to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, mention the National Council of Civil Liberties' views on this subject. I would ask the House to read the document they published just recently. They argue the case against these proposed laws. In summing up they state that if the repeal of protective laws is to be the price of an anti-discrimination Act, then it would be a price paid by working-class women for a law that at least initially benefits the middle-class. Therefore I would ask the House to think carefully before they accept the piece of legislation which has been set out in Appendix 1 without permission from both Houses of Parliament.

Finally I want to say this. While a great deal has been said, and we have heard it to-night, about discrimination in employment, in education and in training —and it could be said by the way, my Lords, that this has nothing to do with the document; nevertheless it is fundamental to the whole question—there always seems to he a reluctance, even a coyness, about debating discrimination even in marriage. The law has not moved with the change in women's status. This was emphasised in the Social Security Act, when on the question of pensions and so on we had long debates. If one wants to find an injustice that this Government have perpetrated, one has only to look at the Social Security Act. In marriage there is a discrimination which I believe Parliament must recognise. There is a consistent failure to recognise marriage as a partnership in which the contributions of both spouses, whether in the form of financial support or work in the home, should be taken into account. This is fundamental to the question about removing protective legislation. Here is this woman in the home who is now going to be denied any protection. She has no legal right to any share of the family income. I have mentioned this before, and I repeat, that we shall never solve this problem until we get nearer the home and make the woman in the home a partner, because she is making such an important contribution to the household that she deserves a share of the family income.

7.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am feeling rather sorry for the noble Viscount. I hope he will not attempt to answer all my noble friend's questions, because the one thing I do not want to hear from the Government is definite proposals covering some of the suggestions in this document. If I understand correctly, the Government—and I hope they mean this—are hoping as a result of this Consultative Document to get opinions: and they have certainly got them from your Lordships tonight. My noble friend Lord Royle introduced this debate, as it seems, hours ago, but I must admit that I had some part in urging it on, because I felt that this was the right time.

I have a certain sympathy for the Government, If only because I know the limitations of my own part as a member of Government—though not in certain activities that I have been able to follow as an individual. I think the Government may feel a little hurt, having carried out one of those U-turns with regard to which their experience increases all the time. I remember that in the earl days when we first debated Lady Seear's Bill I did not detect much enthusiasm for legislation on the part of the Government. Then we decided to put it into Committee, and the Select Committee met. It was very carefully picked, except for one appalling blunder, Freudian lapse, or whatever it was, because initially I seem to remember that we did not have a woman on the Committee.

I may say that I was not the man responsible for the Freudian lapse of failing to put the name of my noble friend Lady Summerskill down to speak to-day, because it would never occur to me that such a debate could take place without one of her forthright contributions. My noble friend is difficult to follow because of her strength of feeling. I have not got quite the command of language that she has when she comes to a matter on which she feels so strongly, but I am bound to say that this is a matter—and I have made it clear to the House—on which I have felt strongly for many years, largely due to my experience in industry. The House will recall examples I have given, which I have known from my management experience, of quite unreasonable prejudice.

I believe the fact that we have advanced so much is largely due to the work of the Select Committee presided over by my noble friend Lord Royle, the work of my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and others. I would ask my noble friend Lady Summerskill to accept that there is some progress being made. As my noble friend Lord Brockway said, he spent three years in prison as a conscientious objector in the First World War, and was a suffragist. I had not realised that he had been a leading suffragist as well. I know he was a keen rugger player. In those days you obviously had to be fairly tough to stand up to it. But I think we are making some progress.

I had an experience earlier this year. I happened to be presiding over a rather ancient professional dining club of a kind which normally in Victorian times—it actually goes back into Regency times —would not have admitted women. I suddenly realised that I was playing a part in getting a Sex Discrimination Bill through your Lordships' House and also presiding over a club which depended upon professional and other qualifications for its membership. I found this intolerable. So I went to work—it was one of the most difficult political exercises I ever engaged in—and I got satisfaction in the end. What I proposed was accepted, and there was only one resignation—and I think it was desirable to have one resignation to mark the fact that there was some achievement. I think we are beginning to move.

My noble friend Lord Winterbottom made an original speech in regard to the Armed Services. He expressed a view which I happen to know is also supported by some very senior officers, that even in this area there is a degree of discrimination, without having to go back to Trafalgar and, apparently, Lord Nelson's rather reactionary attitude before that.

My Lords, what has emerged from this debate is that whereas the Government have gone some way and there are some fair words, they have not in fact gone far enough in their proposals for them to be seriously effective. I accept that a change of attitude and the removal of prejudice is vital, and this is part of the process that has gone on in your Lordships' House. It is believed to be going on in the Government, and I hope will go on also in the political Parties. I certainly do not exonerate the Labour Party in regard to prejudice. It is clearly necessary that the legislation should be effective.

My noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, and other noble Lords, I think have shown conclusively that there are defects in the proposals. I do not propose to talk at any length on the limitations of industrial tribunals and the Industrial Relations Court. I must say that I did slightly suspect—I wish to be very careful about the courts—that this proposal was perhaps rather extending the range of the court in the hope that it might make it a lot more respectable in the eyes of the public. I make no reflections on the judges who preside, but I would confirm what my noble and learned friend said as to the decision which the then Government took in regard to certain matters, to make use of industrial tribunals. I remember some of the arguments that were used against, and which had to be refuted on the grounds that the courts could not otherwise cope. The situation has now altered. So first I would ask the Government—and I put particular emphasis on this—when they consider this debate and any changes in their proposals, to take into account the forceful arguments that have been expressed in that area.

Concern has been expressed with regard to the exceptions, but with regard to public taste or decency—and we shall have the same problem with regard to a Bill which on the whole is likely to command general support regarding indecent display and the protection of the public—I must say that a particularly dangerous definition could be involved. I acknowledge that it is exceedingly difficult to find the right description, but my personal inclination would be to have no exception at all if it is to be worded in such general terms. I wonder how far, even now, prejudice fills us so that we think that certain exceptions should be necessary which really are not necessary at all.

There are two other areas which have caused particular concern. One is the position with regard to occupational pensions. This is a highly complex and technical matter, but I am bound to say —and perhaps this is the one Party political remark that I shall make—that it is very difficult for us now, with the legislation actually passed in the last Session, to get this right. Nevertheless, it is an area where there are objections, even though I do not accept all the arguments of those who have advocated a totally different attitude to the degree of women's entitlement to pensions.

In this connection perhaps I may say something about the Civil Service. I am a little depressed by what my noble friend Lady Summerskill said regarding the Civil Service, because I was hopeful, as was my noble friend, that progress was being made. Obviously you cannot suddenly get a whole series of women Permanent Secretaries overnight, but the noble Viscount might perhaps ask the Lord Privy Seal to let us have a report on the Armstrong-Jellicoe reforms (I almost said the Shackleton-Armstrong-Jellicoe reforms) on this matter. This has significance in relation to the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, in connection with industry. I may have made this point before, but the noble Earl speaks with immense knowledge of industry. In earlier years, if I wanted a technical answer concerning management and particularly concerning organisation and methods, the best person from whom to get it was Lord Stopford, now the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, who then presided over the O. and .M. Department of I.C.I. Of course, the Civil Service studies in this area raise particular problems. I am bound to say, even at the risk of there being a possible waste of training, that it is still the duty of the Civil Service, in common justice, to provide that training, because women suffer from a number of other disadvantages and handicaps, particularly with regard to pregnancy and a break in their careers. It would be intolerable if industry did not provide equality of opportunity in training. I think it was of great value to our debate that the noble Earl should have raised these points, because these are what we must get across to industry.

The final area of concern has been the educational one, and I am bound to say, having talked to many former Presidents of the Board of Education and to past Secretaries of State for Education, that I am not hopeful that their persuasion will be anything like effective or quick enough. As we have seen in other areas—I believe it arose in regard to the Government Training Funds Bill and the Ordnance Survey—there has been a reluctance on the part of the Department of Education and Science to intervene. I am bound to say that this is a major area of concern.

I will not take up the time of the House for very much longer, though I could go on at great length. What I would say, in conclusion, to the Government is that there is a very clear message from this House. There may he arguments on certain aspects of detail. and particularly difficult are those relating to protective legislation which concerns women. Having seen women doing jobs in industry which they would not have been encouraged to undertake in the past, such as working in anodising plants, and so on—and the Committee was split on this—I should like to see some relaxation of those protections. But I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Soper. and other noble Lords have said, that it would be quite unwise to go straight for this in one fell swoop. In this area, in particular, while we wish the Government to go as fast as they can towards removing some of the inequalities of opportunity, we do not wish them to move too fast in removing some of the protections which have given at least some justification to what might be called the old-fashioned, male, protective point of view.

I would say this to the Government. When they bring in their Bill, which I trust will be soon, I hope that they will take into account the opinions that have been expressed. They must face the fact that, whatever may happen in another place, in your Lordships' House (as happened recently with the Health Service Bill) it is very likely that we shall put into the Bill—as we do, with our less strict Whipping and Party alignments—proposals to meet any deficiencies of the kind that we have found in this document. The Government may feel a little hardly done by. I believe that they have come a long way. but they have not gone quite far enough yet.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think I really feel too hard done by—


You ought to!


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will allow me to develop my argument—I have only said one half sentence. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. has encouraged the noble Lord. Lord Royle, from the opposite Despatch Box, to speak with great eloquence and distinction on a subject which we genuinely wish to have discussed. The noble Lord is quite right in saying that the Consultative Document which has been produced is something which we did and do want, and shall continue to want, people to look at and to give opinions upon. This afternoon and evening has seen nothing if not a constructive debate on the contents of that Paper.

I must say to the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, that really there is no force of law in Appendix I, which sets out the provisions in the Factories Acts. If one does not list the propositions and the sections and subsections that it is proposed to dispense with, everyone is in such a muddle and a confusion that they cannot apply their minds with any accuracy at all; and it seems to me to be no felony to set out what one has it in mind to do in such a form that it can be looked at constructively and in detail by those who are genuinely interested in the matter.


My Lords, what is the hurry? Why put that in Appendix 1? The noble Viscount has heard in this House to-day that there is no agreement that this should be done. What is the hurry for putting this in and perhaps failing to tell the House of other legislation that he might introduce?


My Lords, I think with respect that the noble Baroness will have to listen to my speech as it develops. I agree with the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, that it is of immense value to receive from my noble friend Lord Courtown more evidence of the need for legislation of this sort, because that is what the speech amounted to, and to have the whole issue set in its historic perspective by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, who go back to the very beginning of this issue. I have been in Her Majesty's Government for about 18 months; but, whether or not there have been new developments on this subject, nobody can say that this Government have not passed an immense amount of legislation on detailed aspects of discrimination against women. I shall not go through the list because it is too long for me to rehearse in this speech. We are now going over to a much more general area.

I have a fairly large number of matters on which I ought to try and comment, if briefly, in the rest of my speech. The noble Baroness has it in her mind that we should look at protective legislation—this is something which I picked up from her speech on the humble Address—and I know there was a disagreement on this matter in the Select Committee. There has been a disagreement again today because the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, tended to like the removal of this protective legislation, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, whereas there was a certain lack of enthusiasm on the part of other noble Lords. It was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Soper; I am afraid I cannot remember at this particular moment whether he was for or against. My noble friend Lady Elliot was worried, too, and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, mentioned this matter upon which we have had a good deal of discussion.

What one has to face up to is that if we are going to have any genuine occupational qualifications which may, not on a generic basis but on an individual job basis, be grounds whereby a man or woman may be employed to the exclusion of the other, if we have general legislation which debars women from undertaking certain work we have to consider whether this amounts to a genuine occupational disqualification for people being employed in that job at all. I do not wish to go farther than the generalisation, but it is a proposition which has to be taken seriously by those who consider the protective legislation which goes back over a long period. Therefore no doubt we shall have to return to this matter in due course. But it is a difficult and serious subject, one which raises various philosophical and legal difficulties and is not susceptible to a simple brushing aside as being wholly right or wrong.

Perhaps I could deal with one or two of the more clear issues which have been raised. As I expected, there has been a certain amount of discussion about the pension side and the social security side, particularly in the Act which has just been passed on this subject. As the Consultative Document indicates, the Bill that we are thinking about will not require equality of treatment for provisions relating to retirement or death. That is just the same as the Equal Pay Act which was put into law by the Party opposite. There are two particular aspects on this on which I should like to make the Government's policy clear: first of all, the social security scheme and, secondly, the occupational pension provisions which have been specifically mentioned this afternoon.

The State social security scheme has its own specific and detailed legislation, and the Government's policy is contained in the Social Security Act that was passed in July this year. All aspects of social security, including women's rights under that legislation, were the subject, as has been said already to-day, of a long and comprehensive review before the Bill was introduced and also in debate in the course of its passing through both Houses. It is a complex field; there are a number of inter-acting factors. I am advised—it is not a matter which I can pretend to understand in detail—that women are more favourably treated than men, and there are sound reasons for these differences in treatment. It would be impossible and intolerable to withdraw the preferences for women in the legislation, such as widows' pensions, and the Government could not accept the extension of those preferences to men. They would be very expensive and there would be little public demand for them. We do not think that they can take priority in terms of finance for the need to provide more help over groups like the elderly, widows and chronic sick. The Social Security Act contains in addition the policy for the future development of the occupational pension scheme and the new State reserve pension scheme which is being established for those who do not have an adequate occupational pension. Here the Act is of particular benefit to women. It provides the framework for a major advance in their pension rights. Pensions matter even more to women than to men, because on average women live longer.

This new Act for the first time ensures that working women will be able to acquire the earnings-related pension in their own right. It also makes it obligatory for recognised occupational pension schemes to provide cover for the widows of their members. It does not require identity of treatment for men or women, nor does the Government believe it right that it should. It leaves those responsible for occupational pension schemes free to have this equality if they wish.

One of the great advantages of these schemes is they can reflect the circumstances of individual employers. In particular, the Government have already acted to ensure that the rules for approving schemes for tax purposes should be administered in such a way as not to stand in the way of equality of treatment if that is what is required under that particular occupational pension scheme. All these pension matters as they affect women were fully debated. Decisions have now been taken; the Government's policy is geared to come into operation on the basis of that Act, and it is the Government's firm intention that this scheme should be allowed to run for some years without substantial amendment; otherwise, if we start tinkering with it at this stage, it will not achieve its objectives, let alone get off the ground at all. That is the reason why the Consultative Document contains nothing on this subject, for better or for worse, and we shall be glad to hear whatever noble Lords may wish to say by way of amendment to this Bill when it comes forward.

On the education side a number of noble Lords have mentioned some points. The noble Baroness said that our proposals were too feeble. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, mentioned this and so did the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner. The Government were perfectly certain that it was correct to include a section on education in the Consultative Document. After all, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, said, a great deal of time was spent in the Select Committees on this subject, particularly, as I know, in this House. It is quite right to say that some of the disadvantages that women encounter in employment can be linked back to educational practices and attitudes. It has already been indicated that the study by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools of the extent to which curricula differences and customs contribute to unequal opportunities for boys and girls has already begun, and we are expecting this study to be completed in the first half of next year. That goes to the root of the problem that the noble and learned Lord and others mentioned. Information gathered through this survey is already beginning to be analysed, but it is still a little early to comment on the effect that we may get in terms of curricula. But the effort has already started on this matter.

On careers guidance, which is the next stage after the curriculum has been got right, an education survey by the Inspectorate has been published on careers education in secondary schools. It identifies what has already been done and evaluates its effectiveness because of the general anxiety of pupils, parents and teachers to ensure that careers education becomes fully effective for all pupils in secondary schools. So again we are trying to see what is going on and evaluate its effectiveness.

The measures which the Government are prepared to take in order to eliminate discrimination in employment will apply also to education in terms of employing teachers. The Equal Opportunities Commission, it is proposed—and this is in the Consultative Document—will be able to include education among the broad areas that they will have the duty to investigate and report on. Apart from these two aspects—that is, employment in schools and the role of the Equal Opportunities Commission to look further into the whole subject of education—we think that there is no need to legislate (and this I think is what noble Lords have been speaking about this afternoon) no need to pass further laws, because the powers are already there. This is spelt out in the Consultative Document. They are there to be used. They are, I think, already starting to be used. They will be used, and they will ensure that discrimination does not occur in maintained educational establishments. "Very well," noble Lords may say; "they ought to have been used before" But that does not alter the fact that if the powers are there, there is no necessity to take further powers in legislation.

The universities are specially mentioned in the Consultative Document because of the question of admission of women to higher education and to medical schools in particular, which was one of the matters that came up in the Select Committees. On this subject, although a good deal has been going on the most important point is that a meeting was held on Friday, November 9, with the Department of Education and Science and representatives of the University Grants Committee and representatives of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. They indicated that they would send in evidence to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State about their admissions and other practices of university government which are affected by the proposals in this Consultative Document. There was a very extensive discussion of the document and its implications. The question of admission to medical schools I think was also discussed at length; no doubt the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, will be particularly interested in that, as will the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. The representatives of the Vice-Chancellors undertook to have subsequent talks with the principals and authorities of medical schools, and the Vice-Chancellors will prepare a document which will in due course be available to the Government and to the public. So again on this front the results of the work of the Select Committees are already becoming apparent and progress is being made. This may make up to some extent for the lack of actual legislative proposals in the Bill we are discussing at the moment.

We then have the question of exemptions: what ought or ought not to be included? I agree that this is a very difficult subject indeed. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, if I might invite him to one of our prisons to-day, would I think find rather more women about as welfare officers. I think he is a trifle old, if I may respectfully say so, to go to borstal, but we have some female assistant governors at borstals and I think he would find that things have changed a little since he was there last. But there is still a genuine difficulty, which is worth discussing, about whether we have discipline staff in close contact with people of the opposite sex. I am perfectly open to discussion on this matter, but I think some people would see difficulty about it, certainly in the conditions of some of our more ancient establishments which are not as easy as they might be.


My Lords, it I may interrupt, I hope that the noble Viscount will not go on encouraging my noble friend, who clearly feels in his life of wide experience that he has missed out on borstal now.


My Lords, I believe that we shall really have to change the law for the noble Lord if we want to get him in there, but I will perhaps take him as a guest.

The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said that one could drive her proverbial posse of prams through what we have set out; and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned this, as did the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I have read the National Council for Civil Liberties' document with great interest, and what one is really faced with here is the proposition that if somebody is going, as we did, to take the point that there may have to be exceptions, it is up to us, in putting forward a Consultative Document, to set out something concrete which people can criticise. That is what we have done. It is not supposed to be definitive. It is not necessarily right. But if people want to add to it or to subtract from it and show good reason for so doing, that is precisely the point of a consultative process. Therefore, on this aspect again I shall study with great interest what has been said. I know the point about the American experience which is mentioned by the National Council for Civil Liberties. It may very well be that we have gone too wide and we shall have to consider this point again; but it is a Committee point, though it is very useful to have forewarning of it in the debate we have had this afternoon.

As for the somewhat specialised area of the Forces which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, raised—and my noble friend Lady Elliot followed him—this is something that is really in the sphere of my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence. But I have a few notes on it, and I am told that here, too, the mind of the Department is far from being closed about the question of employing Service women in jobs which have hitherto been reserved for Service men. The examples one has are perhaps not tremendously impressive; nevertheless they show the way the Department's mind is working. We have recently passed a Bill to allow women to serve in the Ulster Defence Regiment; and they are so serving. There is a new scheme to admit women to the Medical Cadet Scheme in the Services.

Here we are up against a practical difficulty because there has to be a greater acceptance of the employment of women in combat units, not only from the point of view of philosophy but also from that of the women themselves. There must be, according to the experience of the Ministry of Defence, a greater willingness on the part of Service women to enter into the same kind of binding engagement as their male counterparts do now. The recruiting of Service women is not, I am told, a matter of immense difficulty, but unfortunately they tend to stay for only a short time. The Services have to recruit some 6,000 women a year to maintain an overall strength of about 15,000, which shows how rapid the turnover is. So there is probably a certain amount of two-way trade in this connection. If the women want to do these jobs, they will have to stay for engagements of a similar length to those of the men who are doing the jobs now. At any rate, the Ministry of Defence is far from closed in its attitude on this matter, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Carrington will study what has been said upon it.

The other major point that has been raised in the course of this debate is enforcement. I ventured to intervene a little earlier on when the noble Baroness was speaking, and I hope she will forgive me, because I wanted to try to get this matter clarified at an early stage. The noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, is not, I think, right in saying that our proposals are basically the same as those produced by the Select Committee of this House. In fact, a good deal of subsequent debate has been engaged in showing how different they are.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, got our position on the industrial tribunals, and their relationship with the position of those tribunals under the Equal Pay Act, absolutely right. What is new to me (I do not know whether it is new to my advisers, but certainly it is to me) is what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said about the origin of putting this jurisdiction on the industrial tribunals in the first place. I think that anybody who studies this problem will realise at once that the jurisdiction of any tribunal which is dealing with the Equal Pay Act, and the sort of thing that is likely to crop up under the Bill we are now tentatively discussing, will have an area of demarcation which it is quite impossible to define. One has only to look at the terms of the Equal Pay Act and interpret it side by side with what one is going to talk about in tern, of discrimination under proposals of this sort to see that it is only conceivable to do it in front of the same tribunal. What that tribunal may be is, I suppose, another matter. I am interested in the reason why the previous Government put this equal pay adjudication on to the industrial tribunals. There is no intention whatever on the part of Her Majesty's Government to try to make the industrial tribunals or the N.I.R.C. scheme respectable, because we do not admit that they are not respectable. We are not trying to make them respectable by imposing a new duty on them under this legislation. It is a simple matter of common-sense law and practice because it is impossible to divide the two functions.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, asked about legal aid. It is not available as such in proceedings before the industrial tribunals. I think the noble and learned Lord is far too senior ever to have appeared in front of one, but I have; they are in fact immensely informal, and it is not the sort of proceedings where it is necessary to have counsel and solicitors. It is one of the things which I think is rather dear to the noble and learned Lord's heart, that lay people can express their cases and get justice without recourse to the panoply of the law. Nevertheless, complainants can get free legal advice up to £25 under the Legal Advice and Assistance Act which came into force last April; and, of course, if they go on appeal to the N.I.R.C. then legal aid is available for that. So people are not deprived of legal aid, even under this particular jurisdiction. But whether the matter ought to go instead to the county court, which is I think what the noble and learned Lord was suggesting, and whether the county courts could cope with it, is perhaps another matter. That comment also applies to the speech made on this point by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who I think, with the greatest respect, had not realised the correlation between the Equal Pay Act and what we are talking about now.

Coming to what is in essence the middle ground of this debate, the noble Lord, Lord. Soper, spoke about the Race Relations Tribunal. There is not one. There is the Race Relations Board, but it does not decide things. I confess, too, that I am very nervous about drawing too close an analogy between race relations and the field that we are now talking about, of discrimination on the grounds of sex.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was anxious about this middle ground where individuals might find themselves in difficulty in going to whatever tribunal—the industrial tribunal we suggest—and there is of course paragraph 2.27, which shows that the Department of Employment (and I think she mentioned this) could act for individuals in cases where they do not want to go themselves. Machinery of this sort is perfectly understandable and acceptable to the Government; we simply want to try to get the method of working it out right. We accept that people may feel shy or inhibited or otherwise disabled from going on their own, and that is why paragraph 2.27 is included in the first place.

I accept that this is a difficult question which needs to be discussed, but let us be perfectly clear what we mean about enforcement. We have the matter of an individual against whom discrimination takes place. That is one thing: that is a case of a single person who is being discriminated against and wishing to get damages or to get his or her job back, and going for an individual employer, or something of that sort. We want the tribunal to adjudicate on that. When we come to the much wider area I think there has been some confusion in people's minds about the enforcement powers of the Equal Opportunities Commission. I suppose they could act, instead of the Department of Employment, in taking up cases for individuals who are otherwise too shy or disabled, but we think that their whole role should be kept apart from interference in individual cases against individual employers in front of some tribunal. Therefore we have divided these two functions very carefully and we have used the Department of Employment machinery to cover the case that the noble Baroness was in fact speaking about.

As for the Equal Opportunities Commission's own initiative to try to solve problems, is it really conceivable that the Government would accept that where they found legislation was necessary (for the sake of argument) or some other major reform or review of practice or the law was highly desirable in order to prevent or to avoid an area of discrimination which they had succeeded in identifying, they should have powers actually to enact that over the head of Parliament? Because that is the other side of enforcement, if one really analyses it, about which people have been complaining. It is said that they have no powers of enforcement; but they cannot have powers of enforcement if it involves legislation or if it involves interference with existing practices, because this can only be done by Parliament. So that is why their role has been defined, so as to educate, to pinpoint, to advise, to attempt to bring pressure, but nevertheless at the end of the day leaving it for Government and Parliament to impose the exact remedy for the particular abuse that they have come up with.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Viscount for a moment, with the greatest respect I think he is using a slightly sophistical argument. Clearly, in regard to Parliament and the Government (actually, Parliament legislates) where legislation and development of the law is concerned that must remain. It is in regard to enforcement of the law that we wish them to play a part because of the limitations that we felt existed in regard to the present Government's proposals. I may have misunderstood, but it seemed to me that he was mixing the two arguments.


My Lords, it may be that I am not explaining this very well and we may have to come back to it, but at the moment the role that the Equal Opportunities Commission has been given is one to explore, to investigate, to try to identify. At this particular stage we do not know what the exact remedy should be. It may be that it is legislation, it may be that it is persuasion; but to give them specific powers to enforce in advance of knowing what the remedy ought to be or indeed what the problems are in detail, would I think be wrong. However, I will leave that with noble Lords because I have been speaking for too long. I think really there is an argument which is more than sophistry on this matter and one that noble Lords interested in the subject would like to consider.

I must conclude, my Lords. I think it is interesting that my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley went back to Biblical origins. I certainly do not want to compete with that, but we very specifically, in paragraph 1.11 of this White Paper, made the point that none of our proposals was compulsory. There is no requirement under legislation that we have in mind that women should give up being good mothers, good wives, looking after the home and the children. The noble Countess, Lady Loudon, was very firm on this, and I am sure she is right. Nobody is suggesting that they must have jobs at night or that they must have any other particular sort of employment that might be open to them. We are after opportunities, and opportunities only. We want to ensure that if they want to do a particular job they should be able to do it.

The noble Lord, Lord Soper, spoke about un ballon d'essai. I think it has gone up very well, on the whole. We feel that the sort of discussion that has taken place this afternoon should be supplemented by a number of other papers, like the one from the National Council of Civil Liberties, and anyone else who writes in. We hope that people will write in, and write in detail with the sort of constructive suggestions that have been made this afternoon. Above all may I say this: that I hope they will maintain the good sense and the even humour of the debate this afternoon. We do not want to get carried away on either side of this subject, if I may respectfully say so. We do not want to treat it as a joke because it is not a joke; it is serious, and the Government take it seriously. On the other hand, we do not want to make it into something so earnest and forbidding that the whole subject becomes desperately unattractive to some. Therefore we must keep an even course down the middle and try to make this a sensible piece of progress which will benefit those who really want to get themselves involved.

My Lords, in conclusion I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, that we do not propose to alter the Act of Settlement and allow Princess Anne to overtake her younger brothers. Within the limitations I have spoken about this afternoon, we are very much open to suggestions. I am most grateful to all those who have taken part in the debate, for the way in which they have done it and for the suggestions put forward. If I have not commented on or answered all of them, it is only for lack of time, not for lack of interest. I can assure the House that we will read carefully everything that has been said.

8.3 p.m.


My Lords, in my opening speech, which seems a long time ago now, I expressed my criticisms and doubts about the Consultative Document. Therefore the House will be comforted to know that I shall make no effort to answer the debate. All I would do at this stage is to express almost surprise that the debate I started to-day has attracted so much interest. I am very flattered that it should have done so. Obviously, I initiated the debate at the behest of my Party. It was the Labour Party's day for a debate, and it was they who talked me into it. I express my very sincere thanks to everybody who has taken part, without naming them—though perhaps I may be forgiven if I make one exception. To discuss the legal and enforcement situation was completely out of my realm, and therefore I must express my deepest gratitude to my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner for the way in which he dealt with this aspect to-day. I could not possibly have dealt with it myself. It may sound strange to your Lordships' House, but I know my own limitations. I am very grateful indeed to my noble and learned friend for tackling that side of it.

We hope that Her Majesty's Government will produce a good Bill. We have had a debate which has indicated to the Government how many of us feel. When the Bill comes we shall study it very carefully. There may be some very interesting times to come before this matter is disposed of. May I again thank all noble Lords and noble Baronesses, on whatever side of the House they may be, for their interest. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.