Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)
Conservative Members are coming from a particular place in this discussion. Those companies that already have pay audit systems seem to do everything betterthey seem to have women in much higher grades, better policies for pregnancy and maternity, part-time and flexible working and so on. Liberal Democrat Members think that mandatory pay audits would have greatly beneficial effectsimmediately and compulsorilymaking a real difference to women. However, we understand the Governments position and what they are trying to do. We do not agree with their position, but we will not oppose it.
Transparency, ultimately, is the key. That is why pay audits are necessary and must be mandatory. We cannot wait another four years. We did not introduce them in the times of plenty, or when the sun was shining, as Conservative Members like to put it. We do not want to see the proposals kicked into the long grass, particularly with the uncertainty about who will be the next Government. It is clear that we must take action now, and that voluntary pay audits are like waiting for Godot. If the Government fail to take such singular action in the Bill to change womens lives for good, ironicallyfor they have an honourable record on equalitythey will decree that women will remain second-class citizens, possibly in perpetuity if there is a change of Government.
A Labour Government could and should, if only for legacy, right the historic wrong and change the future of women. Unequal pay has meant women suffering in so many ways. Women have so many caring duties and come off so badly in terms of separation, divorce, child rearing and so on that, at the very least, we should ensure that they receive equal pay for equal work. If we do not do so now, then when, because 2013 will be too late?