§ Vernon Coaker
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of equal pay legislation; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Ms Hewitt
The Equal Pay Act 1970 has enabled many women to make real headway, allowing women to claim their rights in a number of landmark cases and to challenge stereotypical assumptions about aspects of their work that have been undervalued.
The pay gap has halved from 37 per cent. when the Equal Pay Act was introduced 30 years ago to 19 per cent. today. Individual claims brought under the Act can impact on many other women and lead to employers making significant changes to their pay systems.
Work is under way to streamline and speed up employment tribunal procedures to make it easier for women to claim their rights on equal pay. Equal Pay tribunals can be stressful and time consuming for women and for employers faced with a claim. The proposal to introduce a questionnaire procedure into the Equal Pay Act has been included in the Employment Bill that was introduced on 7 November 2001. It will enable an individual who believes they may not be receiving equal pay to request key information from their employer when they are deciding whether to bring a case.