I beg to move,
That this House reaffirms its belief in the principle of equal pay for equal work as between men and women; supports the doctrine universally accepted in the trade union movement of payment for all work at the rate for the job irrespective of sex; recognises, however, that the economic position of those with family responsibilities must be assured, which can be, and is being progressively achieved by a combination of family allowances and other social services, and tax reliefs; that therefore, in the opinion of this House, there is no justification for continuing the 32 years' delay in implementing the Motion passed on the 19th May, 1920, which declared that it was "expedient" that women in the public services should be given equal pay; and it now calls upon Her Majesty's Government to announce an early and definite date by which the application of equal pay for equal work for women in the Civil Service, the teaching profession. local government and other public services will begin.
The subject I rise to address the House upon today is not a new one. It is rather old. The Royal Commission in its Report in 1946 did not consider it necessary to go into the whole history of the treatment of women. I am not going into it this morning from the beginning, but I shall start at a reasonable date, at 19th May, 1920–32 years ago in three days' time. On that day this House resolved:
That it is expedient that women should have equal opportunity of employment with men in all branches of the Civil Service within the United Kingdom and under all local authorities, … and should also receive equal pay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1920: Vol. 129, c. 1580.]
Notice that the Resolution said it was "expedient": it did not invoke any moral principle. Somehow or another that Resolution of this House has never been implemented at all, and the matter has dragged on all these years, so that the opinion expressed in that Resolution so long ago has deteriorated into a mere platitude and has no meaning at all to this House. Moreover, most of the Members of the House of that day must be dead by now. It is for all these reasons that I am moving this Motion.
I would emphasise that the operative part of my Motion is at the end, calling upon the Government:
to announce an early and definite date by which the application of equal pay for equal work for women in the Civil Service, the teaching profession, local government and other public services will begin.
Let me say straight away that nothing less than an intimation of the date from the Government Front Bench will satisfy me and my hon. Friends.
Much has happened in the period since that debate of 32 years ago. If one reads the report of the debate one finds that even the arguments are out-dated. The debate took place in the small boom of 1920, before it deteriorated into a slump resulting in almost 18 years of continual unemployment; and then there was six years of war. Therefore, it would be true to say that fear has underlain almost all the economic actions of all the Governments since that time.
It is interesting to recall that that Resolution was sponsored by Major Hills, who, of course, had a very honourable record in bringing women into the legal profession; and his name is not unremembered in that regard. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury at the time was one who afterwards became Prime Minister, the late Earl Baldwin—and if the Financial Secretary gives the right answer this time that office may well lie ahead for him. The House will notice that I am stressing all the points of agreement, not points of disagreement.
It is curious that then we come to the 1944 Education Act, which marked a considerable step forward in the treatment of women, it removed the marriage bar from women teachers. It did so presumably because to remove the marriage
bar cost no money. It will be remembered that, after having carried the principle by one vote, the Prime Minister came down to the House and made it a matter of confidence, and the democratic rule of this House was over-ruled. It was just about that time that the Prime Minister came out with this:
We must beware of needless innovation, especially when guided by logic.
For the purposes of this Motion it is necessary to define terms. Taking the words of the present Chancellor, he has defined it as "equal pay for equivalent work." I would accentuate that by saying "really equivalent work." The only limiting factors to women enjoying equal pay are training and physical strength, speed and precision, and quantity and quality over a fair period. I hope hon. Members opposite will not quarrel with that definition.
I have been surprised at the reaction in the last few days. I do not refer to those telegrams which have showered upon me like autumn leaves, or to resolutions from women's bodies; I am not referring to the possibility of a "chain fund" being opened, or anything like that. I have been really surprised at some hon. Members of this House. Before I came here, I thought that this was supposed to be sixth form politics. Now that I am here I think that in some regards it might almost be treated as a prep school.
There are two fundamental questions which hon. Members should face this morning. Is there any hon. Member who would be here at all if at the Election he had denied the principle of equal pay for equal work for women? I cannot speak for hon. Members opposite, but certainly no local Labour Party selection conference would have adopted such a candidate. Is there any trade unionist among my hon. Friends who would deny the doctrine of the rate for the job? I am sorry that there are backwoodsmen amongst us; people who believe in a Palmerstonian foreign policy, and others who, presumably, believe that the earth is still flat. They say "We believe in the principle," then they start to rationalise their prejudices, and then they begin to quote the economists.
Whatever economists may be distinguished for, they have never been dis- tinguished for enunciating a moral principle. One has only to go back to the raising of the school leaving age, and the opposition to it. That was an act of faith, if ever there was one. The present Chancellor was very sensitive to the charge that he might have altered that during the period of this Government; he spoke with considerable feeling about it. If one goes back into the whole history of the fight for freedom for women, it will be found that the economists have always given a good reason why something should not be done. They have gone further than that. Economists have always come out flatly against any reform, even the reform which affected the 12- and the 10-hour working day for men and children.
Let us deal with the perishing procrastination of those who particularly prate about principle—by which they mean precept without any possible foreseeable performance. It was Alfred Adler, the Austrian psychologist, who said:
It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them.
Women might agree with this and think that principle is something political parties talk about only when in opposition.
The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, replying to a very disappointing statement on equal pay by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) on 20th June, 1951, said this:
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House have also made an affirmation of our belief in the general principles concerned, namely, a belief in equal pay for equivalent work? is he also aware that, in carefully worded statements, we have gone rather further? Will he allay some of the undoubted anxiety which will be aroused by his statement that this reform may be indefinitely postponed? Would he also go a little further?
As I understand it, there are already certain inroads into this principle in the Civil Service, particularly in the Health Service. Would it not be possible to carry that inroad further by making an advance in other services within the Government? Further, can he tell us whether, taking into account his last paragraph, this reform in future is to be indelibly linked in the mind of the Government with a further addition to the family allowance scheme? If the right hon. Gentleman would answer those points, I think that it would help the House." [OFFICIAL REPORT. 20th June, 1951: Vol. 489. 529.]
The Chancellor was saying in 1951 that he would have gone further than his predecessor. The assumption was that there was reaction on our side of the House and progress on the other side.
That is not the position now that they are in power. The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward), who has a considerable record in this regard, asked the Chancellor whether he had any Statement to make on his conversations with the Staff Side of the Civil Service on the question of equal pay. This is the Financial Secretary's reply:
My right hon. Friend has had to explain to the Staff Side that, with considerable regret, he does not think it would be in the national interest to make an immediate start on the introduction of equal pay at the present time. —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1952; Vol. 495, c. 5.]
It was Shaw who said:
An Englishman does everything on principle—he lights you on patriotic principle—he robs you on business principle—he slays you on imperial principle.
I prefer Mark Twain. who said:
Principles have no real force except when one is well fed.
Are women to be placated by this plethora of platitudes over the last 30 years? The Financial Secretary must face up to this. We are asking for a date on which this is to begin. We do not want any pronouncements by plausible politicians and potential placemen. If we considered the broken promises of one man to one woman, I wonder where we should get? If you or I, Mr. Speaker, had treated one woman in the way all other hon. Members have treated all other women, I wonder what would happen? After attending many mass demonstrations last night, I feel that I am leading a mass prosecution to a breach of promise. Any man knows that most women allege that we take them too much for granted. It was an American woman, Helen Rowland, who said:
A man snatches the first kiss, pleads for the second, demands the third, takes the fourth, accepts the fifth and endures all the rest.
I want to remind the House what "principle" means. Principle is the source of action from which something originates; it is a fundamental cause; a primary, elemental force; something which determines results; it is a guide to action; it is a springboard, not a barricade for parties in power to hide them-
selves behind so that they throw away the fruits of their opportunities. So much for principle. I hope we shall hear no more of it and get down to dates. If any man mentions the word "principle" on any woman's platform, I cannot be responsible for what will happen. I have given the warning.
Of course, the best and most explicit statement made on this subject was not from the Treasury or from the Civil Service, but, as might be expected, from the engineers. I quote from the A.E.U. evidence which was given before the Royal Commission on Equal Pay. I wish to declaim first my argument on the general principle, and then to say a word or two about equal pay as specifically related to the public services.
The Amalgamated Engineering Union takes its stand on equal pay for women on the basis of the facts, proven by the experience of this war, that women are neither less efficient nor less productive than men; that they are fully capable of performing a great variety of work in the engineering industry—a variety limited only by their lack of equal opportunities for training—and that the public scandal of their exploitation as cheap labour in this industry is a menace both to general wage levels and to any policy of industrial expansion.
The A.E.U. further repudiates the so-called 'rights of women' in the industry to be underpaid and claims for them the right of every human being to a living wage, the right to a decent standard of living, the right to fair remuneration for highly productive and profitable labour.
This presents the facts with all the delicacy of a bulldozer.
I am quoting the evidence of the Amalgamated Engineering Union to the Royal Commission on Equal Pay, 1946. The A.E.U. is a very old union —a hundred years old. They have admitted women to their ranks, and they are on record in favour of equal pay. From their great experience, they plainly see that a pool of low paid female labour is as much a threat to their standard of life as a traditional pool of unemployed.
The exploitation of female labour is as old as the factory system itself, and the phrase used by employers, particularly in my trade of engineering, "Work commonly performed by women," is of such connotation that it means work at
sub-standard wages. There is no need to overstate the case. There are those who tell me about the incidence of sickness among women, and again I quote from the same sort of evidence:
Prior to the war, large numbers of adult women in engineering were earning a rate of 26s. on which it is difficult to claim that a high level of physiological' well-being could be maintained. At the end of the factory day, and before it, many of such women were obliged to clean and dust and sweep and cook. It would have been against all reason and common sense if they had not been obliged to recuperate their energies from time to time by staying at home on 15s. National Health Insurance and saving their fares to work, their meals out and some shred of their vitality.
That is a statement of what happened before the war. No one in this House doubts that the exploitation of children in the early days of the factory system was a crime against humanity and a stain on our country's good name. We grew enormously in stature when we repudiated it. It was opposed by all the same sort of forces that opposed the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act and opposed the Married Women's Property Act, women's suffrage and every other step forward which women have made towards emancipation. The same opposition arises today to perpetuate social injustice.
May I put this point to the hon. Member? It was advanced radicals, like Professor Henry Fawcett, who, in the late 19th century, both advocated women's suffrage and very strongly opposed the extension of factory legislation for adult women on the grounds that it would hinder their emancipation.
The hon. Gentleman is an economist. What he has said is not entirely true. There were two trains of thought running through the 19th century. One group of employers believed in sub-standard wages, and another group, mistakenly, imagined that to send women down the pits was a contribution to their personal freedom. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are two voices on this matter even today. The same sort of people who opposed social reform in the 19th century are the same sort of people who oppose it today.
What the Motion does recognise is that the economic position of men with wives and families should be assured. Why compare a married man with a single woman? The comparison surely should be, in this day and age, that of a single man and a single woman. We must compare like with like. Should not the incidence of taxation be so progressively altered as to ensure that the standard of life of, say, a married man teacher is as high as that of a single woman teacher without responsibilities? If we accept that principle, we accept also the principle that a single woman teacher with responsibilities has a standard of life as high as a bachelor teacher without responsibilities at all.
There is a lot of muddled thinking when this family argument is introduced. It has been calculated that the average male teacher has 0.9 children. The hypothetical married man is almost as silly as the hypothetical tenant under the Rating Acts. The figures are that only 40 per cent. of men have dependent children, 30 per cent. are married without dependent children, and 30 per cent. are unmarried.
No one complains that the father of 10 children only gets the same pay as his childless fellow worker. Some would describe him as a feckless fellow and others would suggest that his enthusiasm has outrun his discretion, but, in any case, that family cannot be fitted into the Macmillan notional house. It is a fact that it is on daughters rather than on sons that the care of the old parents and relatives usually falls. My Motion suggests that these considerations are being progressively met.
I should be deceiving the House if I suggested that we had gone nearly far enough. I want the House to consider some other figures. The gross weekly wage of a man earning £7 a week means that he has a net weekly wage of £6 8s. 4d., if he is a single man. If he is a married man with no children his net weekly wage is £6 12s. 2d. For a married man with one child it is £7: for a married man with two children it is £7 8s., and for a married man with three children it is £7 16s. 0d.
I will not go through the rest of the figures, but I should like to quote as a comparison the salary of a Member of Parliament who has no other source of income. Taking it that he has a gross weekly wage of £20 as a single man, his net weekly wage is £15 5s. 0d. If he is a married man with no children it is £16 1s. 8d. If he is a married man with one child it is £16 17s. 2d., and if he is a married man with two children, including family allowances, it is £17 10s. 0d., and for the married man with three children, £18 2s. 0d. In addition, there are the benefits of the food subsidies and the Health Services which are, unhappily, being reduced. In my view, the greatest single advance that could be made would be a family allowance for the first child.
Those women who look at this Motion with hope and an itching palm should study its implication. It will not be all benefit for
Women cannot insist on having the prerogatives of the oak and all the perquisities of the clinging vine.
The standard of husbands means the standard of wives and mothers too—perhaps more so; particularly mothers with young children. There have been plenty of emotional and patriotic tributes paid to married women who bring up a young family. The women in that position works harder than the man and in the ordinary sense, is not paid, for half of what she does. I hope that the strong advocates of equal pay with whom I am associated will appreciate that a change in the incidence of taxation is fundamental to the approach to this problem.
It is a fact that in the public services women receive comparable training with men. The physical disabilities do not apply as they do elsewhere. A career can he planned over a long enough period to earn promotion. There is a common entrance examination and comparable training. To those people who oppose equal pay, I would say that the marriage bar is more rational than to deny equal pay. There will always be a wastage by way of marriage and children, but even then the education, training and capacity are not really lost to the State if they are employed in bringing up a young family. These are the only groups we can directly influence today.
I do not propose to give many examples from the Civil Service, because my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who has had great experience in that matter, will deal with them. I propose only to refer again to the common entrance examination and to the common training. I may say that,
on the other side of the picture, women make claims in other ways. 1 quote from the "Mercury," which is the organ of the Leeds Branches of the Union of Post Office Workers, which said in November, 1947—and I wonder how many hon. Members will agree with it—
On the other hand, there is little doubt that women are more suited than men for certain classes of work. It is on record that when telephones were first introduced to the general public boys were selected as telephone operators. They had a short reign for it was soon found that they were inattentive, rude to their subscribers and slovenly in their speech. They were kicked out, neck and crop, and polite, attentive and well-spoken little angels were installed, and the service lived happy ever after.
For the teachers, I speak from my own experience, which will surely be a common one among all men. My small girl went to a primary school and in her last year there had a man teacher. He must have been a good man, because the children loved him. He must have been a very good teacher, because many of them passed on to the grammar school—I will not discuss the comprehensive school at the moment. My daughter has now gone on to a grammar school, and for the next six years she will be under women teachers. It will be most difficult to assess the effect of either sex upon that small child's life.
If there are any people with minds sufficiently antediluvian to say, "What about boy's education?", I refer to the fact that I recently went round a school, of which I used to be the chairman of the governors, and I found a woman teaching boys in the sixth form. Let us consider the obvious example. Even the National Association of Schoolmasters did not deny that work is equal.
Members of this House make their speeches and go upstairs to read them. There are 18 HANSARD reporters who do their very best to make our speeches read more intelligently than they sometimes sound. There are 17 who receive the rate for the job. There is one of them, a woman doing exactly the same work, who does not receive the rate for the job. And despite the recommendation of your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, that position has not been altered.
I should like to refer to another example which will occur to hon. Members on this side of the House. To the delight of many of us, the Labour Party for the first time has appointed a woman to a man's job. Miss Sara Barker has been appointed as Assistant National Agent of the Labour Party. She is a highly respected and much loved personality. The men were so delighted about her appointment that the biggest collection of Yorkshire M.Ps. in the history of this House gave a dinner in her honour in these premises. Nobody would suggest otherwise than that "Our Sara," as she is known up in Yorkshire, should get anything less than the man was getting. Some of the enthusiasts for equal pay might have suggested that she ought to get more.
That is a fair point. Women Labour agents always have had, on a constituency basis, the rate for the job. That is not a valid argument in this case, because Miss Barker has just been appointed to a job to which men have always been appointed in the past on merit. She is the first woman who has been appointed on merit to a job which is commonly considered to be a man's job. The hon. Member for Croydon, East had better air his prejudices in the Lobby, where they may be more effective. There are three lady Members on the opposite side of the House, and we are pleased to see them today. The hon. Gentleman ought really to reconcile his differences with them.
Perhaps I ought to say something about those people who get equal pay. I quote from a pamphlet by Mrs. Margaret Cole, She refers to those in the law, medicine, architecture, accountancy, journalism, the stage, Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers, paid magistrates, university teachers, the 11,600 employees of the British Broadcasting Corporation, women ferry pilots, certain employees of local authorities, women flight engineers and women bus conductors. She says that there are plenty of firms which manage to get on quite well without bankruptcy by employing women and paying the rate for the job. She says:
Neither the B.B.C. nor the universities are bankrupt yet. Women have not driven men
out of Parliament or the law; nor, conversely, have equal rates of royalty notably diminished the number of women novelists whom publishers are willing to hire.
I have already spoke for too long. I will attempt to summarise the points of view put by the Treasury before the Royal Commission, and I hope that the Financial Secretary will say that they are fair. They are summarised in this fashion:
If the pay of public servants is fixed at an unduly high level in relation to the rates general in outside employment, this would have the effect of raising public servants into a privileged class, and would be an injustice to the rest of the community which must always foot the bill. It has been put to us by several witnesses that adherence by the Treasury to the doctrine of fair relativity has resulted in the creation of a vicious circle. Other employers, it is said, both public and private, who are convinced on merits of the wisdom of a policy of equal pay, are unable or unwilling to act without a lead from the central government—a lead which the Treasury is inhibited by its own doctrine from providing. We think there is force in this argument as regards the public and semi-public services.
We do not think that any great extension of the area of equal pay is to be looked for except as the result of a directive from the highest political level that, in this particular application, the principle of fair relativity is no longer to be regarded as paramount over all other considerations.
In spite of the merits of that, successive Chancellors—my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), the late Sir Stafford Cripps, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South, and the present Chancellor do not accept that doctrine. They always say that they believe in it in principle.
I think that it is fair now to refer to what this would cost. For this purpose, I go to the other side of the House to quote from what was said by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) in a previous debate. He said that the Chancellor had assessed the cost at £25 million. It is more now, of course. The hon. Member went on:
The hon. Member for Southampton. Itchen (Mr. Morley) put a point I wanted to make, that the amount must be reduced by Income Tax. I would remind the House that it would be reduced by at least one-third, so that the net cost would not be more than £17 million a year.
If the policy were implemented over a period of six years, in equal stages, that would he rather less than £3 million a year. Is the
Financial Secretary to the Treasury going to tell us that with a national expenditure of £1,497 million a year during the current financial year, it would be utterly impossible to increase that expenditure in a single year by rather less than £3 million? That is really what the problem resolves itself into when the figures are looked at and considered simply as a cold financial problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 2nd August, 1951; Vol. 490, c. 3396-7.]
Incidentally, I notice that the Equal Pay Campaign Committee stated that the Treasury assessed the cost at £28 million a year, and they compare that with the £330 million increase in wages during 1951 alone. The Civil Service National Whitley Council Staff Side refer to the fact, and for the purpose of this Motion, we stand by this, that it is not necessary to implement equal pay all at once. They say:
Under this scheme,"—
I need not describe the scheme, as the Financial Secretary and hon. Members will be familiar with it—
which has been drafted on the most modest basis practicable it would take no less than 18 years to eliminate all trace of inequality between men and women in the Civil Service. The cost in the first year (not allowing for consequential increases for grades composed wholly of women to the number of nearly 100,000) is estimated officially to be only £1,170,000. This sum can truly be described as small in relation to a Civil Service wage bill of £300 million a year, and as modest in comparison with the full cost of equal pay in the Civil Service—£7,730,000 in a year apart from consequential adjustments—which would only be reached in the eighteenth year.
That really is the weight of the problem. I have a long list here of quotations. I have one from a speech by the right hon. Gentleman who is now Prime Minister, which may seem appropriate. The right hon. Gentleman said:
It may seem strange that a great advance in the position of women in the word in industry, in controls of all kinds, should be made in time of war and not in time of peace.
Successive Chancellors have accepted the principle.
I wish to say a word or two to hon. Members opposite. They believe in the right of the individual, and it is part of their philosophy that they recognise the danger of seeing mankind in the mass. Not one of them can believe in artificial discrimination against merit based only on sex. Surely the Conservative philosophy cannot agree with that. To prevent equality of opportunity because of sex seems to me, as I hope it does to hon. Members opposite, as obscene as anti-semitism and the colour bar.
I wish now to say a few words to my colleagues. I entered this party about 34 years ago, and I have in all the time since then served it after my fashion. This was the tradition that I learned when I entered the party. Keir Hardie was of this tradition, as was George Lansbury, who threw up his seat to fight a by-election, which he lost and went out into the wilderness, on an issue which in its day was very much like the one which we are facing this morning.
There are great names associated with the history of the Labour Movement—Katherine Bruce Glasier, Enid Stacey, Margaret MacDonald and Margaret Bondfield. I am very proud to think that there is here this morning one who I hope will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, to wind up this debate, the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) who moved a resolution on this issue in the National Union of Teachers as far back as 1904. I wish to say how touched I am by his support.
I am very sorry that the Chancellor has not been able to come to the House today, because although I do not think that his hon. Friend would be less sensitive to this argument than the Chancellor himself it is a great disadvantage to me that he is not here, as I have prepared my peroration on the basis of addressing it to the Chancellor.
The hon. Member once said that one sometimes felt better because of traditions, the fact that other people had been in one's party, from the fact that one was connected with names which meant something in their day. I hope that the Chancellor will agree that he cannot be insensitive to the fact that his name is Butler and that Josephine Butler was the greatest and saintliest of all the advocates in this field. In 1928, on the centenary of her birth, I heard Margaret Bondfield address a centenary meeting. I was moved then, as I am moved now, because Josephine Butler challenged the conception that women's lives should only be conditioned by the physical needs of men. She stood for higher education: she opposed the Contagious Diseases Act. But for her, licensed brothels there might have been throughout the whole of this
country. She opposed a dual morality between the sexes. She said:
Economics lie at the very root of all practical morality
That which is morally wrong can never be economically sound. The arguments against equal pay are not ethical ones. The Chancellor, because it will be his decision, will not need her great courage on this occasion but something of her wisdom, her feeling and her integrity.
It so happens that one of the early suffragette papers was called "The Storm Bell," and these lines were often proclaimed by that great woman:
The Storm Bell Rings, the Trumpet Blows, I know the word and Countersign, Wherever Freedom's Vanguard Goes, Where Stand, or Fall, the Friends or Foes, I know the Place that should be Mine
My place at the end of the day is in the "Aye" Lobby. I hope that all hon. Members will follow me there.
I beg to second the Motion.
I hope to keep my remarks reasonably brief, not because there is not still a good deal to say but because I think it desirable that hon. Members on both sides of the House should have plenty of time in which to say it. The importance and the value of this debate will lie in the contributions that can be made by as many hon. Members on both sides of the House as possible so that at the end of the day we shall have had a well balanced debate which can be brought to its natural conclusion and the House enabled to register a decision on the Motion.
I am sure that the House will wish me to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) on his good fortune in the Ballot, which many of us envy him, and to thank him for having brought this matter forward for debate today. It will be agreed on all sides of the House that it was time to have another debate on this important question, and the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West and his action in bringing the matter forward have been in keeping with the best traditions of this House.
My hon. Friend is a disinterested reformer. He has no axe to grind; he is not interested, directly or indirectly, in the contents of the Motion. He has brought it forward because he believes in it. I am sure that we have all been impressed by the deep sincerity as well as the good humour of his contribution to our debate in moving the Motion.
The House also welcomes contributions to our debates from those hon. Members who are close to a particular problem and who can speak with intimate knowledge of facts and events. May I modestly claim to be such an hon. Member? I do so because I have been a member of the Staff Side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council for practically the whole of the 32 years since this House first registered its approval of the principle of equal pay—32 years next week. I see that I moved for the first time a resolution on equal pay in the public services at the Trades Union Congress as long ago as 1924, and I was supported in successive years by an esteemed and much-loved personality, a late Member of this House, Miss Ellen Wilkinson.
I have heard throughout this long period statements from many Chancellors of the Exchequer on this troublesome question of the application of the principle to which this House gave approval so long ago. In a sentence, they have all said the same thing: "The time is not propitious for me to do anything about it now." In the last 32 years we have had inflation and deflation, booms and slumps, unemployment and full employment, high wages and low wages, high cost of living and low cost of living, war and peace. We have had Budget surpluses and Budget deficits. We have had Conservative Governments, Coalition Governments. National Governments, and Labour Governments. We have had a dozen different Chancellors and four different Members of Parliament for the Sowerby division of Yorkshire; and the answer has always been the same. We have had every conceivable variation of economic, political and financial climate in this country, but every Chancellor has returned in substance much the same answer.
Consider the reasons given in this matter. The Coalition Government in 1944 realised, I am sure, that after the war women would be pressing and insistent upon something being done about the principle which this House had accepted so long before. They wanted to discover the truth about much that has been said concerning the economic and social consequences of granting equal pay, so they set up a Royal Commission.
That Commission reported in 1946. In 1947, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in making a statement of Government policy on the findings of the Royal Commission, said that the Government accepted, as a broad affirmation of a general principle as regards their own employees, the justice of the claim that there should be no difference in payment for the same work in respect of sex, but—and the "but" comes out every time—for two main reasons it would not be practicable to apply the principle at that time.
The first reason was that equal pay would seriously add to the cost of the public services, and the second was that it would have undesirable inflationary effects. He did suggest, in response to an appeal, that if a scheme for the gradual application of this principle could be worked out quite non-committally, he would be willing to consider it.
The various bodies looked at the proposal, and the Staff Side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council worked out a scheme for the gradual application of equal pay to minimise the impact of such a measure upon both the financial and the economic conditions of the country. In February, 1948, the Staff Side sought an interview with my right hon. Friend's successor, the late Sir Stafford Cripps. Unhappily, the Staff Side went to see Sir Stafford Cripps on the morrow of his issue of the famous White Paper on "Personal Incomes, Prices and Profits" I am sure that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will tell us that we meet on the morrow of his right hon. Friend's declaration to the trade unions and the employers only yesterday of the need for a new wage-restraint policy. History repeats itself in this matter, as in a few others.
Against the background of his White Paper, Sir Stafford Cripps felt unable to do anything but he hoped that in the lifetime of that Parliament—it was the Parliament before last—it would be possible to do something and to make a beginning. Unhappily, it was not possible.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has now renewed the hope that in the lifetime of this Parliament it will be possible to do something about it. One of the reasons we want the Government to announce an early and definite date for the beginning of implementing this principle is that we are not sure how long this Parliament will last and we want to get a date during its lifetime. It will be agreed on this side of the House, if not on that side, that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has little time enough in which to announce the date. It must be an early date if his right hon. Friend is to fulfil the hope—if not the pledge—made in the Conservative Manifesto.
The truth of the matter is that the time is never propitious to do a thing unless we feel impelled to do it. What is in the way now? Is it the cost? I have already mentioned, and the various documents that we have had circulated to us reveal, how low the cost would be, comparatively speaking, of this plan for the introduction of equal pay on the "never, never" The full period during which the final accomplishment of equal pay would take place would be 18 years. Is it the inflationary effects? Well, we are moving into a period of deflation at the present time. Is it the repercussions outside? In fact, is it all the old arguments that have been used for 30 years in different places and in different forms? Is it that it will not be in keeping with the new wage-restraint policy? But wage increases have been given in the last two years far exceeding in total cost anything that equal pay would cost, even if it were implemented in full and not on the instalment plan.
The trouble is that Chancellors of the past and present have not been under sufficient political and trade union pressure to bring this reform about and they have felt that they could always set it aside and give preference to other claims upon their attention and upon the national resources. Ono of the great disabilities in which the public services remain in this matter is that, although this is fundamentally a wage issue, we are precluded from negotiating or arbitrating upon it. If the engineers want equal pay, they can discuss it through their normal wage-negotiating machinery, and if they fail to get a satisfactory settlement they can either arbitrate or take any other action open to them.
We in the Civil Service and the public services are precluded from negotiating or arbitrating on this question. We can only go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and come to the House of Commons, and that is why this Motion is before the House at all. There is no where else that this matter can be effectively discussed. When my trade union friends say: "Why do not you use the machinery which is open to you?" the answer is that it is closed to us on this particular matter.
The time has come to end this interminable delay and to stop the "nicely-calculated less or more" in a matter which this House has regarded as one of principle and on which both sides have expressed themselves more than once. The time has come for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say it shall be done. I grant at once that the right hon. Gentleman will need to have a staunch faith in the rightness of what he is doing, but I believe that the right hon. Gentleman possesses a faith that can be as staunch as that. He must have political courage and personal determination to name a date to make a beginning with equal pay. I trust that the hon. Gentleman, when he intervenes later on in the debate, will be able to tell us that the Chancellor will yield to the will of the House.
I am grateful for catching your eye, Mr. Speaker. I feel that the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) and the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who have moved and seconded this Motion, have made a notable contribution in presenting the case for equal pay. I find myself in the position of many other hon. Members, of being one who has endeavoured to weigh up quite sincerely the arguments in this case.
One is faced, among other things, with the question, why should a young woman with no family responsibilities have the same pay as the married man who has to support a family, but then one has also to consider the case of the young man with no family responsibilities or the widow who is struggling to support a family, or again the spinster who is supporting an aged mother. When all these conflicting claims have been weighed, I am convinced that the only way we shall secure justice is to achieve a uniform basis of pay between the sexes in the first place.
The hon. Member for Leeds, West made the important remark that if this is introduced it must be accompanied by a readjustment in the system of taxation. In my view, the way to iron out the difficulties of those with family responsibilities is not on the basis of discrimination between the sexes, but in the readjustment of taxation, family allowances, and other benefits of that kind. So, having weighed up this matter, I have come to the conclusion that the case for equal pay must be supported by any one who seriously considers this matter. Indeed, I have said so to those who have come to see me in opposition to this.
Then we are faced with what, I think, is a far more difficult problem, in regard to which the hon. Member for Leeds, West made charges not only against the present Chancellor of the Exchequer but also previous Chancellors. I am referring to the difficulty of the right time to implement this needed reform. We are faced here with the question of the extent to which we are justified in forcing the Government to implement a measure of this kind if it will do a great deal of damage to the country's economy. To what extent are we justified in pressing the Government to take a measure which may accelerate the inflationary spiral and put up the cost of production in this country at a time when we may be facing severe competition to our trade?
We must at the same time, however, view this claim against the many other claims and arbitration awards that have been granted. And when I consider the promises which have been made, I think by all parties for many years, it seems to me that we should ask the Government in no uncertain terms to give something far more positive than the very qualified statements that have been put out by political parties at election time. It is on that basis that I would ask my hon. Friend if he cannot give us some more positive assurance, however gradual it may be, to indicate that this matter will indeed receive consideration.
In fact, what I am asking my hon. Friend to do is to stake out in any forthcoming wage or other demands that may be made a claim for this section of the community, consideration of which has been put off for 30 years or more. Our task here, if we believe in this, is therefore to press the Government to avoid any further procrastination. Therefore, I must leave my hon. Friend in no doubt that if this matter is forced to a Division, I shall support the Motion.
On 25th July, 1945, I was a teacher. On the next day, 26th July, I became a Member of Parliament. In both cases I held the same responsible position as my male colleagues, but up to 25th July, 1945, I was paid four-fifths of the men's rate, and since I became a Member of Parliament I have received equal pay with my men colleagues. I cannot say that on any of those occasions I did any less work or had any less responsibility than the men with whom I worked. Indeed, it may be said on behalf of women Members of Parliament that in many instances we are called upon to do probably a little more work than our men colleagues.
In the many circulars we have received prior to this debate, there is one from the Civil Service National Whitley Council Staff Side, which says:
The principle of equal pay will not be in question during the debate. All the political parties have already endorsed it unequivocally. … The only, the all-important question of substance still to be considered about the application of equal pay in the Civil Service, is when?
I wish that were true, but I do not think it is true that everybody, either inside this House or outside, accepts the principle of equal pay. It is quite true that there are the two points, namely, the principle and the date when it is to be put into operation. I know that while many people really believe in the principle of equal pay, there are some who merely think they believe in it even though they do not, and there are many who only say they believe in it. We have all had the experience at some time or other of having conversations with politicians and people outside the House about equal pay and about the possibility of putitng it into early operation.
We have had the experience of talking to someone who has said, "Of course, I believe in the principle, but now is not the time to put it into operation," and after five minutes' conversation we have dis- covered that we have not been arguing about a date but about the principle. I believe that it is important to re-state the case for the principle, because—and some of the correspondence we have received during the last few weeks underlines this—it is not as generally accepted as some of us would hope.
In the first place, Great Britain is one of the few countries where equal pay is not paid to women. This country of ours, which has been in the forefront of so many great social reforms, is backward compared with most of the rest of the world in this respect. It is really monstrous that in our country at this time a woman should be paid, not for the work she does, not for the responsibility that she holds, but merely because she is a woman.
We have all heard, and I am sure we shall hear more in the debate, about the effect upon family life. Recently, we all have a circular which says that family life will be greatly affected if this principle is put into operation. None of us wants to see family life suffer. I am sure that teachers who are asking for equal pay would certainly not be asking for something which would be detrimental to the children they teach.
It has been said that men have responsibilities that women have not, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) has pointed out, that is not so. The division between responsibility and no responsibility is not a division of sex. Many other matters are involved.
Thirty per cent. of occupied men are unmarried, and half of those who are married and under, the age of 65 have no dependent children. There are many women who have dependants, but even those with no dependants have very great expenses. It is true that a married man has the expense of a wife, but a wife is not only an expense—she is an asset to any man, and, in some cases, a financial asset. The single woman who has to provide for rooms and domestic help has sometimes to pay out as much for furnished rooms and for domestic help as is equal to the whole cost of a man's household.
It is clear that there must be adjustments for children and dependants, but those adjustments should come through taxes and allowances and not through wages. It is a fundamental principle that salaries and wages should be based on work and responsibility, and not on need and I think that every trade unionist would agree with this.
Of course, many other considerations have to be borne in mind. We have to remember that the low wages of women depress the general level of wages. Particularly was this the case in pre-war years. It has been said by the National Association of Schoolmasters that fewer men would take up teaching if there was equal pay for women teachers. To anybody who believes that, I say that the converse may also be true, because there are some niggardly local education authorities who sometimes employ women teachers because they cost less than men teachers. Those two aspects, therefore, must be remembered.
The same teachers' organisation says that the effect on the teaching profession would be particularly disastrous. There are some disasters facing the teaching profession already—shortage of buildings, and shortage of teachers; and I remember that in a recent education debate, it was said from the Government Front Bench that even if we had the buildings that we desired, we should still be short of teachers in our schools. I remind the House that the present shortage of teachers is as acutely a shortage of women teachers. One of the reasons why women and girls are not taking up teaching is, I believe, the question of their not getting equal pay.
In some instances, headmistresses in charge of schools and with great responsibilities have serving under them men assistants who do not have the same responsibilities but are receiving more than the headmistresses in charge of the schools. That is something that we should not countenance.
It is sometimes said to me, as a member of the National Union of Teachers, by representatives of other trade unions, "Why does not the National Union of Teachers negotiate in order to get equal pay?" That is a fair question, but I remind those of my trade union colleagues who think in that way that teachers' salaries are negotiated through the Burnham Committee; and the local authority representatives on the Burnham Committee have said that they are not prepared to consider equal pay in that Committee until the Government themselves give a lead.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) has put the Civil Service point of view. He said that the Civil Service unions are precluded from negotiating on the ground that the matter is one of major Governmental policy. We have, therefore, a kind of circle, with everybody waiting for everybody else.
But there is this important question: When is the opportune time to put equal pay into operation? I believe that it could have been done quite easily before the war. Economic conditions at that time were such that it could have been done without a great economic and financial upheaval. We all recognise that there were many difficulties in the immediate post-war period. It was a period of shortages and of inflation, and I want to pay a tribute to women as individuals and to women's organisations who in those post-war years were very unselfish in putting the country's good before their own.
I remember that at the Annual Conference of Labour Women at Westonsuper-Mare in 1948 an attempt was made to move the reference back on the question of equal pay. In the annual conference of Labour Women there are not only housewives and people from the Labour women's sections, but there are women representatives from every trade union affiliated to the Trades Union Congress. An attempt was made to move back the report because it was thought that insufficient had been done on the question of equal pay.
It is sometimes said that housewives who do not go out to work do not want the introduction of equal pay, because they do not want to see the single woman getting more. But that is not true, and at the conference to which I have referred it was proved to be not true, because it was two housewives, not in gainful employment, who moved the reference back. Many trade union women representatives got to the rostrum and said, "We do not want to be selfish. We would be prepared to put off this matter for the time being until the country's finances are better."
The position today has changed a great deal. One can, of course, argue whether the crisis is as great today as it was in those days. My belief is that it is not now so great. Let us however face these truths. It cannot be argued by the Government today that to pay out that amount of money involved in equal pay would wreck the country economically and financially, because two things have been done by the Government in recent weeks to prove that that is not so.
Firstly there was the award to the doctors. I am not arguing here whether that award was justified or not. I am only saying it is a fact that £40 million are to be paid out and it has never been suggested that to pay out that sum will wreck the country's finances. Secondly, many millions of pounds were given in Budget relief this year to people with higher incomes. I remind the Government that out of those millions much more money has gone to men than to women, simply because the men are receiving a higher remuneration.
Nothing has been said yet in this debate about repercussions in industry. There are, of course, industries where the rate for the job is now accepted. London bus conductresses receive equal pay with the men. Many women cotton operatives in Lancashire receive equal pay.
Would my hon. Friend not agree that in Lancashire where, as she correctly states, there is equal pay, that has the effect of forcing a married man and woman to go to work, thereby keeping them both on a low wage level instead of one of them being brought up to a higher level?
That may be so, but there is equal pay and it has been negotiated. I hope many more unions will negotiate for equal pay. I want to make it quite clear that I should be absolutely opposed to asking for equal pay for the Civil Service, for local government officers and for teachers, and then resisting the same claim in industry. I believe it is as important for women in industry to have equal pay as it is for professional women. I should not like to see us getting into a position where the Government granted a measure of equal pay to women civil servants, teachers and local government employees, and then when the unions negotiated for equal pay for women in industry, for them to be told that there was a wage freeze and that those demands must be resisted.
I want to make that perfectly clear, because that is one reason why, unlike some of my hon. Friends who believe in this principle, I have some reservations about applying equal pay in the first place through increments. That needs to be looked at again, because if it will take 18 years, then that may be put as an argument why women in industry should wait many years for equal pay.
It should be self-evident, but in some quarters it is not, that to achieve equal pay women's remuneration should be raised to that of the men and there should be no lowering of the men's rates. The Motion before the House is a very modest one.It does not ask for immediate implementation of equal pay. It asks that a definite date should be named by the Government for the beginning of the bringing into operation of this principle. I hope that today we shall hear from the Front Bench opposite definite information that that will be done.
I am very glad that the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell), selected this Motion for today's debate. I should like to congratulate him and the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) on their speeches in support of the principle of the rate for the job or equal pay for equal work.
I do not approach this problem as if we were asking for increased salaries or wages for women in the Civil Service, the teaching profession and local government service. My approach is that we are asking for justice for women by removing the discrimination against women inside those three services and removing for ever from our national economy the decision, which has remained in operation for so long, that Government and local government services should use cheap labour to do exactly the same work as is being performed by men.
We can ask the Government to give a lead to the country in this matter because it is quite certainly wrong that in 1952, after the joint contributions that have been made by men and women to national survival, we should continue to pay women less for their services to the nation as a whole. I believe there are three reasons why equal pay in the three services mentioned in the Motion has not been implemented.
First, I believe there has been Treasury obstruction; and by that I do not mean obstruction by the Chancellor but by the Treasury. Secondly, I believe there has not been sufficient pressure from women themselves because up to now they have not understood the problem. Thirdly, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Sowerby, the structure of the Civil Service itself has prevented women from having the right—which applies to the Civil Service as a whole—to put their case to the Industrial Court. I take the greatest exception to the fact that women are precluded from putting their case in the ordinary accepted way.
That is so, but the hon. Member will realise that I was referring to the structure of the Civil Service machine. I fully realise the case cannot be put by men in respect of men, but at the same time I observe that when a case is put and both men and women benefit, the men do not advocate the rate for the job for women. I want to quote an announcement in "The Times" today and I present it to the Financial Secretary in support of the point I have just made. It states:
The Industrial Court has made an award to 5,500 clerical and clerical administrative workers in civil air transport. An increase of 9s. a week has been awarded to adult workers, and 5s. for those under 21, beginning in the first full pay period after 24th April, 1952.
If it is urgent to restrain applications for wage increases—and I believe it is, because I realise the full implications of our financial situation—then it is manifestly unfair that, under the present structure, awards can be made at the Industrial Court and women's claims denied.
I want to make several points about what goes on in the Civil Service and, if I may say so, in Parliamentary life and to refer to the pressure which has produced certain inroads into the general principle of not having equal pay for civil servants, teachers and local government employees. I think this is very important. I want to make an observation on the general financial position. One realises only too well that no Chancellor of the Exchequer has ever found the opportune moment to implement the pledges which all parties have given, but I have never yet had a satisfactory explanation of why the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who boasted that he met every claim on the Treasury with a song in his heart, did not meet women's claims with a song in his heart or with a double song in his heart. It proves to me that from time immemorial women have always been put at the bottom of the queue.
I have observed that, with certain honourable exceptions, during the time that I was in the House when the Socialists were in power there were only a few hon. Members opposite who were prepared to press their own Government. I believe that if a person believes in a principle and has a conscience, he should not only state it to his constituency but he should advocate what he believes, whether he is supporting the Government or the Opposition. I have noticed that the hon. Member for Sowerby was prepared to press his own Government, but that does not apply to all hon. Members opposite. Perhaps at some time or other somebody will give me the answer about the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland.
I want to deal briefly with the inroads that have been made into the Civil Service with regard to the granting of equal pay. I have observed that in B.O.A.C. and in B.E.A. apart from those women who are tied to national agreements, the other women employees are paid the rate for the job. I have also observed that in the new National Health Service, apart from doctors, finance officers, administrative officers and technical officers, all receive the rate for the job.
I say to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who I assume is going to reply on behalf of the Government, that if we permit in relatively new services the payment of the rate for the job, it is most unfair to the Civil Service, the teaching profession and local government service, who have a very long and honourable tradition of service to this country, that they should be denied the rights which have been given to the newer services. I hope my hon. Friend will take note of that.
I now come to the question of the factory inspectorate. In the factory inspectorate in the lower grades equal pay is the order of the day. In grade 1B equal pay is the order of the day until the women's maximum is reached at £800 a year, when the men's maximum goes up to £900 a year. In grade 1A equal pay is not the order of the day. A deputy factory inspector—and there have been deputy factory inspectors—does not get equal pay, but if a woman is appointed chief factory inspector she gets the rate for the job. Could anything be more inconsistent?
I want to tell a story. An advertisement appeared in the Press asking for applications to the Cabinet Secretariat to assist with the writing of the official war history. An applicant with very high academic qualifications was appointed, but—whether by design or not, I do not know—she applied giving her initials but no christian name. After her appointment, it transpired that she was a woman and she was immediately told that she would not receive the male salary. She fought the case because there was no suggestion in the public advertisement that there was a male rate and a female rate for that post. She won, and she was appointed at what was the supposed male rate. How do hon. Members suppose the Government of the day got over that one? They upgraded the job, leaving the woman in the same financial position, and on paper of course everything was in order. I call that a very mean approach to this problem.
I regret having to raise this matter again because I have already referred to it, but when that very distinguished woman civil servant, Dame Evelyn Sharp, was appointed, the Government of the day decided that they would pay her the rate for the job, but they drew the circle so narrowly that they only just caught Dame Evelyn in the net.
I do not know who is responsible for deciding which Government Departments are major Departments and which are the minor Government Departments, but I do not think I should make the same decision as the person who makes the official decision. We find that the first and second jobs in a major Government Department attract the rate for the job, and the first job in a minor Government Department attracts the rate for the job. In those positions one woman gets the rate for the job, but all the other distinguished women civil servants are denied it. I do not see why the Ministry of Pensions, considering what this country has suffered in two world wars, should be regarded as a minor Government Department. Certainly Dame Marjorie Cox is entitled to the rate for the job for the work that she does in that Department, as Dame Evelyn Sharp is for the work that she does in her Department. I am very glad to have the opportunity of putting this on record.
Let me give an example of another inconsistency. When girls and boys pass their examinations and enter the Civil Service, for some years they obtain the rate for the job irrespective of sex. When people become old and draw National Insurance Pensions or National Assistance benefits there is equality for men and women. But when women are serving the country and their families and give of their best to the country at the period when their physical and mental attributes are at their highest, they are denied the rate for the job. All this has happened because certain pressures have been exercised at certain moments and the whole machinery of payment has developed inconsistently and unfairly. Indeed, only the other day—and I want this, also, to be on the record—when there was a shortage of typists in a certain local authority and the senior officials had to write their own letters, they decided to offer equal pay for equal work.
I cannot understand how it is that, inside the Civil Service, doctors have been able to obtain the rate for the job —though I know that they have the most powerful trade union in the world whereas the legal profession—and we have a lot of legal Members in this House of Commons—allow women with the proper qualifications to work inside the Civil Service and not obtain the rate for the job. I think that is a very great inconsistency; but it goes one step further. If I understand the position rightly, all Governments put out a great deal of legal work to private firms, and when the work goes out from Government Departments to private firms the taxpayer pays the rate for the job. It is only when legal women are employed in the Government or local government service that the rate for the job is denied. Could anything be more absurd?
I want to deal with the argument about married responsibility. I am glad that we have got down to realising that we ought to, treat like by like and that we ought to discuss this problem from the point of view of single women and single men, and married men and widows and deserted wives. A question was put to me the other day at a very big meeting of the Equal Pay Campaign Committee. I was asked if, when children's shoes cost 10s. to sole and heel, I thought that enough was done for the married men. I was able to point out that children's shoes cost just as much to be soled and heeled for the children of widows and deserted wives. I think that the attitude that married men carry all the responsibility is rather regrettable and would not be accepted for one moment if the case were put fairly and squarely to the country.
Quite rightly, this country does a great deal—in financial support through taxation and family allowances—for the married community. So far as I am able to trace the figures—and I cannot help feeling that the Treasury deliberately make it difficult to get information —some thousand million pounds of income is disregarded in respect of married men. That is a gross figure. There is also a special Income Tax relief for married women who are working; so that the family consisting of a man and a wife with no dependent children is in an advantageous position compared with a widow or a deserted wife with children to support, or a single man or woman with dependents.
We give—and rightly—£328 million a year in respect of education, which all goes to the married community. We give £65 million for family allowances; £32 million in respect of meals in schools and £8 million in respect of milk in schools. Indeed, we give from the national Exchequer, through the taxpayer, a considerable amount of relief in respect of married men, their wives and their families. It is quite right that it should be so; but let me put the other side of the picture for one moment.
There is a considerable number of spinsters, single men and widows in this House. We all make our contribution —and gladly—to the welfare of the whole nation; but I would point out that if there were not this additional burden of taxation in respect of married men and their families, there could be a substantial Income Tax relief for single men, single women, widows and the like; because there would not be so much going out from the national Exchequer.
When looking at this problem we should have a balanced presentation of the case. I am delighted and proud to think that this very large contribution is made from the national Exchequer; but it is quite unfair that this claim for the rate for the job in respect of equal services done should be argued against on the basis that it would hurt those who are married and have children to support. The case can be argued in support of the single men and the single women, if one likes. We have never accepted that wages should be linked with responsibilities but we have tried, through taxation, to help those who, by having a happy family life, are doing perhaps the supreme job for the national welfare. I feel quite certain that if the case were put fairly and squarely, the opposition, which comes from a very small section of the community, would be withdrawn.
Our national characteristics are such that we believe in justice being done, and any opposition that there may be to the payment of the rate for the job has come about because it is the object of successive Governments to keep the people in ignorance. I am very glad that this is not a party matter. I am very glad that we have overwhelming support and that all political parties are committed to the introduction of the rate for the job.
I want to put it on record, also, that if there is a Division I shall support the Motion, and I can only hope that, for the first time in its history—and that is the difference between the Socialists and the Conservatives; our problem has always been to get the Conservative Party to commit themselves to introduce the principle of the rate for the job, whereas the Socialists have been committed for longer than I care to remember but have never been able to meet their pledges—the Conservatives having got into power—
I intervene only for a few moments to emphasise what has been said by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward), that equal pay for equal work has been recognised by all of us—and that, of course, goes for my party. I am not at all sure, but I think it is the case that we were the first party to bring this issue to the forefront of our programme. I strongly support the Motion which has been so ably moved by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) and so well supported by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton).
One hon. Lady said that this was a very modest Motion, and I agree that it is. To my mind, it does not go anything like as far as it ought to go. May I first point out one phrase in it which I consider to be open to objection? There is a reference, very rightly, to the Motion which was passed on 19th May, 1920, declaring that
women in the public services should be given equal pay "—
but, as what'? As a matter of "expediency" To me, that is quite the wrong approach. Unfortunately, that is the way in which these questions of women's rights have been dealt with throughout the years. All the improvements which have been made and the grant of rights which have been made to women have been piecemeal, given bit by bit, and never put on the right footing, which is that there is completely equality between the sexes. That is the point I want to emphasise.
May I refer straight away to the place where I think this principle has been best put—the principle that there are certain rights which are inherent in human beings, that those rights are inalienable, that they are equal and that it matters not about race or colour or creed, nor does it matter about sex. That was the Declaration in that very fine document, the Charter of Human Rights, to which the Government of this country added their name in December, 1948. Perhaps I may refer to two paragraphs which make my point absolutely clear?
Article 2 says:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion.
Article 23 says this:
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
This is the important matter,
Everyone, without any discrimination—
that is to say, without any discrimination of sex—
has the right to equal pay for equal work.
That is the right approach to this question—not as a matter of expediency, not as a sop given by men to women, but as a principle by which men and women shall be treated in every respect as equal and shall be entitled to exactly the same rights.
The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth, who has taken such a close interest in this matter throughout the years, said she believes that there is in the Treasury an opposition to the granting of equal pay. It seems to me that that has been the attitude of the Treasury, as such, throughout the years. We have had varying Chancellors of the Exchequer. When they are not in office they say, "This is an excellent principle; it cannot be denied at all" But the moment they get into office they say, "Oh, well, while the principle is really very good, we cannot possibly carry this out at the present time; it is not feasible; we cannot afford it."
I am reminded of a statement made on one occasion by the late David Lloyd George when he was explaining why he did not like to leave the Board of Trade where, in a short time, he had made a great reputation. He was leaving to become Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said he was very much minded to remain at the Board of Trade because there was so much to do and he was anxious for an active life—he was anxious to do things. He went on to say, "You see, you do not do anything at the Treasury. The Treasury has one attitude of mind, and that is to say 'No' to everything." That has been the attitude of the Treasury throughout about equal pay.
When we remember the number of resolutions which have been passed in favour of the principle, the number of Commissions which have reported in favour of it and the number of right hon. Gentlemen who have agreed that there is no answer whatever to the claim and that there is no reason why it should not be put into effect at once, we cannot but observe that whenever these right hon. Gentlemen get into office, somehow or other the advice is given, "We cannot possibly afford it." That was the position of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer last year: "The principle is excellent; we should like as a party to bring it forward; but this is not the moment; we cannot afford it; it might lead to inflation."
It is just as well that we should realise what has been happening in connection with wage increases in this country. I understand that the total amount which would be involved in meeting this claim, even the gross amount, is only some £25 million. Do the House and the country realise the enormous increases in wages which have taken place between 1938 and 1952? I need not go back to 1938; it is sufficient for my case to go back to 1948.
Between February and December, 1948, according to the Ministry of Labour Gazette, there was a weekly wage increase of £1,798,000. Between January and December, 1949, there was another increase of £1,076,000 a week. Between February, 1948, and March, 1952, the weekly increase came to £12,899,000. Multiply that by 52 and it comes to over £670 million increase in weekly wages. Surely, it is sheer nonsense to say that we cannot deal with the question of equal pay because it would wreck the whole economy.
I remember so well the discussions on the Education Bill of 1944 in this House. It was amazing how that Bill passed without much opposition, especially when we recall the very serious opposition to previous Education Bills in the House. All went well until an hon. Lady who has unfortunately left us, but who is still taking a very active part in women's movements—Mrs. Cazalet Keir—moved an Amendment that equal pay should be granted to women teachers. We debated the Amendment late at night and it was carried in spite of the opposition from the Coalition Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman who was then his Under-Secretary, the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). The Amendment was carried by a majority of one.
What happened? So strong was the opposition of the Treasury even in those days that the Prime Minister had to come down himself the next day and make that a matter of confidence, more or less saying, "If you dare grant equal pay, then the whole country will fall to bits, and you have now to reverse the vote you gave last night" I mention that as an instance of the sort of thing that has always happened. The same argument has always been put forward—and there is no substance in it—that the principle is right but that we cannot afford it. It is time that we made it perfectly plain to the Government that this is something that can be afforded and should be afforded.
I rise to support the principle of the Motion, but I do not propose to argue the merits of the case. I thought, when we came here this morning, that the principle was firmly established and that we need not argue it, but apparently the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) thought the principle had to be re-stated. I do not want to go into that at all, because it has seemed to me for many years past that if a woman is called upon to do the same work as a man she is clearly entitled to the same amount of money that a man would be paid for doing it.
I was convinced of this many years ago, and I was convinced of it in a rather startling fashion, because I learned so much from my beloved father of blessed memory who was a member and chairman of the Camberwell Board of Guardians for over 46 years. In connection with the infirmary, it was found necessary to appoint an additional medical officer. The choice of the board, by a majority, was of a woman. This was contrary to the views of my father, not because he was against women, but because he thought that the conditions of service of that job were such that a man would be more appropriate for the position.
However, a woman was appointed. By virtue of the rates then existing, she was, of course, paid a lower rate. She was to be a resident medical officer, and my father was deputed to furnish the apartments she was to occupy, and he did it on the same scale as that on which it would have been done if a man had been appointed to the post. He earned the opprobrium of his colleagues on that board for so doing. It was thought that he, having been against the appointment of a woman—though not on the question of sex but purely on the question of appropriateness for that particular appointment—would take it out of the woman merely because she was a woman, and appoint furnishings less reasonable than would have been supplied for a man.
My father impressed that lesson on me, and from that time onwards I have been convinced that the ladies are entitled to the same reasonable and just treatment as men. So this question I regard as one of simple justice that should be given at the earliest possible moment, and therefore I am concerned only with the mechanics of the matter.
I was surprised, of course, to be told today that the circumstances in which we find ourselves are so much better than they were in 1948: that it is so much easier to do this today than it was then. If that was the argument that was put forward with a view to swaying the feelings of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, I must say it has failed miserably; and if I were not so strongly convinced of the correctness of this case, that argument might even have induced me to turn round from my previous position upon it. It is because things are so desperate today that I have had to search my heart very thoroughly to find out what is the course of duty today.
I have made up my mind. It is that I must support this Motion. I do so despite the pressure that has been put on me by whoever they have been who have organised it. I give them full marks for that. It is all very well for the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Cardiff who advised, as he did last night, that people should worry their Members of Parliament.
Well, if it will console the hon. Gentleman, let him look at this thick pile of correspondence I have here. Perhaps he will help me to get through it. I have not yet been able to answer all these letters, although they will be answered in due time. If I never had before a grudge against the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East, let me tell him, although he is not here, that I have now, because he invited people to go on doing this sort of thing. It may be all right for those Members who come from those dim and remote areas in the provinces, but when one's constituency is within a stone's throw from here, it is not quite so funny.
However, it is not because of the pressure that I have come to the conclusion that I must support this Motion. My mind was made up before. I ought to add that I have had a considerable amount of pressure put up on me from the other side of the case, enjoining me in no circumstances to support this Motion. It has not been easy to come to the right decision.
I was very disturbed by the remarks of the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East, contrary to what I thought was the understanding of the matter, and on which I gave a firm and definite pledge in 1945, again in 1950 and again in 1951 —and from which I do not recede at all. I thought that this was a serious, judicious and statesmanlike attitude on the part of the people putting forward this claim. They said, "We do not ask for full equality forthwith," and that was repeated in this later document, which I think most hon. Members have received. Yet the hon. Lady said, "We certainly ask for it."
I must make my position plain. Despite the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves, I ask the Chancellor to come down in favour of this quite definitely now, but on the understanding that what I am asking for now is not full equality forthwith, but the putting into operation of equal increments with men and the maximums on the grades to be raised to that of men. That is what I discussed with many delegations before the Elections and it is what I understood was the proposal put forward. That is what I understood the hon. Member for Leeds, West, to put forward, and I should like to be corrected if I am wrong.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who seconded the Motion, has great experience as the national secretary of a Civil Service trade union. What the hon. Gentleman has said is what we understand by the Motion. We appreciate the difficulty inherent in this, but it will be appreciated that if the House votes for this Motion today it votes for the terms of the Motion.
I hope it is clearly understood. I thought the hon. Member for Sowerby said that what he was seconding was the gradual implementation. If I am correct in that, there is nothing more to say on it.
I support this Motion, after having searched my conscience very thoroughly. Notwithstanding the great difficulties that certainly we are in at the moment, it should be possible to name a date—not necessarily next year, and nor do I ask that—[Interruption.]—I must be allowed to put forward what will satisfy me. It might not satisfy others but it would satisfy me. I hope that during the debate my hon. Friend will be able to satisfy me on that point.
I welcome the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Patridge), who has joined with my hon. Friends in welcoming this Motion. I must say at once that I thought he rather wobbled on the important part of the Motion, which concerns the definite date. We are not anxious for a definite date in the dim and distant future. We believe that the cause is so just that it has been proved and accepted by both main political parties—and the Leader of the Liberal Party has accepted it once again for his party—and that it ought to be put into operation in the near future.
For our womenfolk this question has taken on the same significance as the cry "Votes for women" had at the beginning of the century. I believe that it is regarded as equally important, if not more important, for its social as for its economic significance. To an educated person there is something offensive at being rated lower than a fellow citizen when undertaking a useful job of work for the community. In my opinion, unequal pay is a relic of the Victorian era, when women were regarded as being in an altogether different category, as being quite inferior in the professions, commerce or industry.
I am reminded that there are countries today where women still have that inferior status. I recall my experience when I was in Greece a few years ago. It is not often that I trouble the House with references to that, but I remember that when the men were all being conveyed on mules the womenfolk were running alongside to care for the needs of the menfolk; one of the women pleaded for food, and when I wanted the procession to stop for the woman to be attended to everyone laughed and thought how silly and sentimental I was. We have left that a long way behind in this country, but when it comes to giving recognition to the status of our womenfolk, I believe that we are seriously at fault.
I welcome the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward), who has a courageous record on this question of equal pay. She has never hesitated, any more than my hon. Friends, when speaking on the subject of equal pay, and I think she burst a bubble that has long needed bursting; that somehow or another the married folk are having to carry the single folk if the single folk are paid at the same rate. It is monstrous that a person's wages should depend on any extraneous factor to the work they are doing. It is an impertinence for any employer, be he either the State or an individual, to say that persons' wages or salaries shall depend, not on the way they do their work, not on the qualifications they bring to their work, but on some entirely extraneous issue.
We could never resolve in this House the various responsibilities that single women or single men and married women and married men carry because they differ with every individual. All we can be sure of is that every citizen, man or woman, single or married, carries certain obligations and has to make certain payments in common with all other citizens.
The woman teacher does not find that her travel is cheaper because she is a woman. She does not find that the goods in the shops are any cheaper because she is a woman. Yet in the eyes of those who pay her she is regarded as worth four-fifths of any man teacher. It so happens that women teachers are often more conscientious than the men teachers. They seem to give all that they have to their work, and to deny them equal pay is a source of frustration and annoyance within the teaching profession. It has a bad influence in a profession which is important to us in this House and to the country as a whole.
I believe that this reform has got to come. All history shows that it will come, and this Government might as well receive the credit of laying down the actual date and of telling the womenfolk of this country that this injustice will be wiped out. The economic case for it has already been advanced on the Floor of the House this morning, the moral case is irresistable, and I believe that it is purely selfishness that holds back so many people from agreeing on this question of equal pay for equal work with equal qualifications. I think that these stipulations have to be laid down.
There are family allowances and tax allowances already recognised and given by the State to cover the extra responsibilities which men have. It will be a further step towards real democracy in these islands and towards economic democracy if we grant the full rights of citizenship to our womenfolk which at present they are denied. I earnestly hope that the House today, when it supports this Motion, will expect of the Financial Secretary a definite date for this reform, so that the women of this country, in the professions, in industry and in commerce. shall know that this time we mean business and that we shall not break our faith with them.
So much has been said and written about equal pay for equal work and the pros and cons have been put so forcibly that it is difficult to find anything very new to say this afternoon. I should like, in a few words, to give by support to this Motion.
If the House will forgive me for speaking for a moment personally, may I say that my father, many years ago, introduced a Bill to enfranchise women, and, in spite of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has said, it was extremely unpopular with a very large number of the Liberal Party, to which my father then belonged. Nevertheless, he introduced that Bill, and he was never failing in his support of women's rights.
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell), who moved the Motion, mentioned in particular engineering. We could all of us speak at great length on the work that women have done in many fields. I know from my personal experience, when my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) and I undertook an inquiry during the war into the welfare of women in factories, something of what women are capable.
Incidentally, I think that was the first and only time that two women Members, accompanied by a woman clerk, have been sent off by the House of Commons to make an inquiry. It is true that as Members of Parliament the two women Members enjoyed equal pay, but I do not think the clerk did. Since then that clerk has seen wisdom, because she is now working for U.N.O., where she gets equal pay. We had exceptional opportunities of seeing a great deal of the work that women were doing in engineering and in other ways, and I know that some of the amazing work which they did was more than equal to the work done by the men.
The Civil Service have been very reasonable in their demands. They have not pressed for full equality immediately. They have only asked for the gradual achievement of equality, and because of the reasonableness of their demand, many of us have been very disappointed in the last six years that successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have not been able to make a beginning with this reform. Difficult though the times then were, we were very disappointed.
We appreciate how much more difficult, in spite of what has been said, is the financial economic position of this country today, but I hope that, in spite of that, at a not-too-distant date we shall be able to congratulate the present Chancellor of the Exchequer on introducing a reform which is long overdue. I have great pleasure in supporting the Motion.
I think that many of us who are speaking in this debate are in the fortunate position—and I am sure that the Financial Secretary will appreciate the point —of having spoken on this matter regardless of what Government has been in power. I think that is a good point.
I for one, and I am sure many other hon. Members, have little sympathy with those who attack others for what they would not do themselves. I know that the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Miss Ward), although I do not wish to make invidious distinctions, has fought this battle when her own Government was previously in power and during the last two years. I have said as many unpleasant things to my own Government as I shall hope to say to the Financial Secretary this afternoon.
I think that it is evident today in the House that every one agrees that this is a question of justice and that it should be put into operation. Therefore, I think it may be useful if I address myself to the reasons which the Financial Secretary may put forward for not giving this reform immediately so that we can find out how much substance there is in them.
The first point I should like to make is that a reason given recently by those of the general public, or associations, who do not agree with this reform, is that the majority of men employed have families dependent upon them. If the Financial Secretary intends to refer to that in his reply, I would make the point which has already been made today, that roughly 40 per cent. of the men of working age at a given time have dependent children. The figures which I am giving were derived from the data provided by the Royal Commission on Equal Pay. Thirty per cent. of the married men have no dependent children, and 30 per cent. are unmarried. Therefore, I submit to the Government that the belief that the majority of men employees have families dependent upon them is a common error, and I hope that we shall hear no more of that after today.
The second point I want to make is that the position of married men in retirement and single women in retirement is not the same. The married men in retirement usually have their children who have been dependent upon them in a position to help them at that time. The position of the spinster or the woman with dependents is such that she cannot make any comparable claim.
Therefore, we have two facts. First that 40 per cent. of men have children dependent upon them, and, therefore, 60 per cent. have no greater responsibilities than their women colleagues. Over and above that, the position of the married man and the single woman in retirement is already heavily weighted in favour of the married man.
I think that it has been argued by successive Chancellors—I hope not by this one—that the introduction of equal pay in the public services would be followed swiftly by its introduction into other occupations. I submit that that is a hypothetical statement without any foundation in fact. Equal pay is already the rule in many cases. It is the rule in Parliament, in the medical profession, both inside and outside the Civil Service, in the higher grades of many local government authorities, including the L.C.C., and in the cotton industry.
I should like to stress that the Council of Women Civil Servants sponsored an inquiry to find out what would be the probable effects of equal pay in the Civil Service on women in outside employment. As a result of that inquiry, the council submitted that the repercussions of granting equal pay were always greatly exaggerated by any Government.
There is an association called the National Association of Schoolmasters. I myself taught for 11 years and, while have no wish to make general statements as a rule, I will make this one. I never, in all those 11 years, found any reason for thinking that women were less worth the rate for the job than men in the teaching profession. The National Association of Schoolmasters have made one statement which I should like to dispute. I do not think that it is true, and their reasons for it are purely hypothetical. The statement was that the introduction of equal pay in the teaching profession would result in a material fall in the number or quality of male recruits.
Probably the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is aware that in the United States of America, where some of the States have equal pay in the teaching profession and some have not, there has been no difference in the ratio of men teachers to women teachers—either actually teaching or in recruitment—between those States which have equal pay and those which have not. That is a fact and, therefore, I hope that we shall not have that argument advanced again.
I submit that in recent years married men have had many benefits conferred upon them by the State in the form of social services. But during all that time the position of women relative to men in these occupations—the Civil Service and local government—has not improved. The benefits include—as the Financial Secretary knows, because we hear a great deal about them today and how they will offset the cost of living—family allowances, increased Income Tax allowances, health services to include wives and children, extended educational services, school meals and maternity grants. I think most hon. Members will agree that it is right that such benefits should continue to develop, but they should be additional to the wage or salary earned. They should be made to a worker with dependants. The money earned should be for the work done.
We on this side of the House, especially in view of our long association with the trade unions, think that the whole fabric of our industrial system, of which the country is justly proud, is based on an acceptance of the principle that rates of pay should be related to the work done. It is harmful that differing rates of pay for the same work should be maintained in any circumstances. The trade unions are strongly of opinion that cheap labour is bad for the workers.
I wish to congratulate the unions on the progress which they have made in this matter of obtaining better rates for women in the last few years. I wish to say here and now that it is the job of the women to join the trade unions and to reinforce negotiations to bring about this improvement. I look forward to the day when we shall not talk about equal pay but about the rate for the job. As long as we use the words "equal pay," I think that we shall have this antagonism between men and women and the sex element introduced on that basis.
I should like to see throughout industry and in the professions the establishment of a rate for the job, where the money is paid for the work done, and where no attention at all is paid to the question of the sex of the worker.
About 18 months ago in this House on this subject I ventured to talk about the various jobs in our industrial system and to point out that certain industries are clearly defined as men's or women's. There are the heavy industries, such as shipbuilding, mining or transport, and the light industries, such as hosiery, laundry and dressmaking which, respectively, have more men and more women employed in them. Then there is an intermediate group where there are men and women—engineering and electrical engineering—and the over-lap area of pottery, hosiery and textiles.
The over-lap area contains industries where men and women are reckoned to be doing jobs which are interchangeable. I believe that it is right to classify certain jobs as men's jobs and others as women's jobs. Some are better fitted for the one or the other, but I maintain that it is wrong to base any scale of pay whether higher or lower, on the fact that a certain job is done by a man or a woman. We all know what happened between the wars when there was certain work called women's work, which meant long hours and low pay.
The view of the trade unions is that where women are given the same opportunity as men they can turn out work as well as the men can turn it out. But the view of the employers, as given to the Royal Commission, was not the same. Whatever reason may be given for the fixing of women's wages, I wonder if the Financial Secretary would agree that the impression remains that convention and prejudice play a strong part in determining the actual difference between men's and women's rates. On any matter differences of opinion are to be expected, but differences of opinion based on prejudice are quite impossible to remove.
I wish to refer to the Minutes of Evidence given by the Treasury before the Royal Commission on 20th April, 1945. I do not know if the Financial Secretary has been able to induce a change of heart in the Treasury. I hope that he has. In Minute 1419, the Chairman of the Royal Commision asked the Treasury:
Take the average bachelor or man without dependants, who gets as much as a married man does and 20 per cent, more than the spinster does. You say the spinster has a higher standard of living?
The Treasury reply was:
No; we are thinking of the ordinary women and the ordinary man who, as a rule, has dependants
I have given those figures. Only 40 per cent. of the men are in that position.
In Minute 1420, the Chairman said to the Treasury:
A number of women of course have dependants, too. What is the ratio of married men to unmarried men in the Civil Service?
The Treasury said:
I do not know whether we can answer that
We have answered that today. In Minute 1422 the Chairman suggested to the Treasury—and I do not know whether the Financial Secretary will agree with this:
It is rather important whether the average man is married or not?
The Treasury reply was:
It works out in this kind of way, that you would find that with a woman Civil Servant and a man Civil Servant on the same level, the woman can afford to take more expensive holidays than the man. She can go abroad. The man has to go and dig in his garden or perhaps snatch a week at Southend.
Without wishing to detract from the value of Southend, I would say that that idea is rather out of date. In Minute 1444 the Chairman said to the Treasury representative:
You state in paragraph 17 that there is no real injustice in paying women as a class rather less than men as a class for the same work—presumably, I suppose …
And I ask the Financial Secretary to note this—
for the reasons we have already discussed, that you think their need is less. That is the reason why there is no injustice?
The Treasury representative said:
I ask the Financial Secretary, if he agrees with that, whether he thinks the need of women is less than the need of men. That was the answer by the Treasury. Do women get cheaper fares on the railways, or, in the debate on transport next week, do the Government intend to bring down the fares for women because they get paid less than men? That is a logical deduction. Would the Financial Secretary suggest that women can buy food or other commodities more cheaply or that they pay less tax? It is complete and absolute rubbish. I hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to tell us that he does not agree that the needs of women are less than the needs of men.
The Government, or any Government of the day, which refuses this proposition is in the position of putting one section of the community into the designation of second-class citizens. I contend that the women of Britain today are being classified as second-class citizens. One can go into the banks, the schools or the Civil Service, or become a HANSARD reporter, and immediately one earns less money if one is a woman.
Every Member of this House would protest if a person, because of colour or religion, earned less money, but it seems to be quite acceptable if persons earn less money because of their sex. It does not matter how well the job is done, that is beside the point. If one is a woman one gets less. I believe that that is a matter for the Government of the day.
I think the present system is wrong economically from the men's point of view and wrong on the grounds of justice from the women's point of view. I believe that the Government should give a lead to the country by informing the Treasury that the principle. of fair relativity no longer applies. If anybody does not know what the principle of fair relativity is, it is when the Treasury say that the Government should not pay more to their employees than is paid outside. That is a vicious circle, because the Treasury formulate their rates of pay by first looking outside and then assuming that women should be paid four-fifths of the men's rate. Therefore, we are not likely to get very far on that basis. Wage rates outside Government service should be the result of negotiations, but I believe that the Government should set an example in their own establishments.
We are a member of the United Nations organisation, and we have subscribed to the belief that there should be equal opportunity between men and women. I wish to say to the women of this country, because I believe that here we must take some blame, that I think the tragedy is that the women of this country have made greater progress in these matters in times of war than in times of peace. Surely the value of women as citizens should be more appreciated in times of peace than in times of war.
I believe that the real issue today which we have to face is the problem of translating the political equality of the vote, which we got after the First World War, into social and economic equality, which is the next stage. I very much hope that the women of this country will show their great displeasure if the Government do not give way today; I hope there will be a Division and that every Member in this House will support the Motion in that Division.
I have listened to almost every speech in this debate with the greatest of interest. I have been hoping to hear someone make out a case for introducing now what is asked for in this Motion. What has been made out with great effect, particularly by the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton), is the case for revising the relative rates of pay as between the married and unmarried, in the case of both men and women. I think that that case has been made out extremely forcibly today, but surely the solution to that problem very largely lies in the hands of the civil servants themselves, in the Whitley Council. I should have thought that that is certainly not a matter which is of great importance in today's debate.
What hon. Members who have introduced and supported this Motion have been trying to argue has been, so far as I could understand, that there is a case for establishing equal pay in the Civil Service and the public services—local authorities and others. I should have thought, however, as my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) said, that that principle has been accepted by all parties already. Accordingly, I should have expected the main burden of the speeches which have been made in support of this Motion to have been to endeavour to show why now, or at "an early … date," is the moment to introduce this proposal.
The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) made a remark which, if it were accurate, would certainly justify her taking the line she did. She said she honestly believed that the crisis today was less severe than the crisis in 1948. If she really thinks that, it is a perfectly logical conclusion for her to draw that this might be the moment when this principle could be introduced.
I should like to ask her a question. She is one of those who came into the House in 1945, the same time as I did. There were surely moments more propitious than now for the introduction of this proposal in the years between 1945 and 1950. None of us forget the halcyon era of the imagination of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. That was a moment when, on 13th July, 1946, he went to Neath, in South Wales, and said:
I have been very proud to tell Parliament and the nation that I will find, without hesitation and even, as I said in my last Budget speech, with a song in my heart, all the money that may be needed for sound constructive schemes for new employment both for men and women in all the Development Areas.
If we were able to say today that we could find all the money we need to do all the great work that needs doing in this country, how lucky we should be. Certainly the case for this Motion would be a great deal stronger than its supporters have been able to make out today. Never in the history of our country have we faced a more critical financial situation that that which the present Government inherited on coming into office. How many Members can recall a time in our history when we were losing £200 per minute from our reserves? That is the situation with which this Government were confronted.
Hon. Members who have brought this Motion before the House have been very disingenuous in trying to make out that they are doing so from a strictly nonparty point of view. Although some hon. Members on this side of the House agree with them, I say that this Motion is a party ramp. I say that because if there was ever a time when this proposal should be introduced it is certainly not this moment. Hon. Members—except the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East—know quite well that this is a very critical period, certainly a far more critical one than any period since the war.
For that reason, I would say to hon. Members opposite that if they really wanted this action taken they could have done it when their own Government were in power, and they did not do it.
I wish to ask the hon. and gallant Member, who I do not think means to be unfair and I know is saying what he believes to be true, whether he knows that my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), both in the last Parliament and in this, attempted to have this matter raised but never had the fortune to secure a place in the Ballot? Nearly 100 Members of Parliament gave an undertaking that they were prepared to ballot for the opportunity to introduce this Motion, and many of them sit on the hon. and gallant Member's side of the House.
Will the hon. and gallant Member take it from me, in the same way that I accept his honesty in this matter, that this subject was not raised as any form of a party ramp but because of the fact that this was something that concerned at least 100 Members of the House; and that the bringing forward of this Motion might very well have fallen to one of his hon. Friends, the Member for Tyne-mouth (Miss Ward)? I ask the hon. and gallant Member not to introduce into the debate the assertion he made, because what he alleges was not in my mind. What we have tried to do in this matter has been to act in accord with the professional organisations interested in the matter. I appeared at four meetings last night, and some of the hon. and gallant Member's hon. Friends were among the people on the platform.
I assure the hon. Gentleman, in whose name the Motion stands, that I rarely enjoyed a speech more than the one he made this morning. It was full of humour, and the subject was presented in a most pleasant way. I was not referring to that part of his speech—although he was not in the 1945–50 Parliament, nor was his hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton).
The hon. Gentleman made it clear in the concluding part of his speech that he is prepared to take this Motion to a Division. if hon. Members opposite really feel as a party that this is a desirable thing, they could have taken it to a Division long ago. The fact that they did not do so I can only take to mean that they thought it would embarrass their own Government. The Motion can only be inconvenient to the present Government, and with far more force in these days than in the days when hon. Members opposite had a Government of their own complexion in power.
We face a very grave situation indeed. Only one hon. Member from the other side, the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East, has faced that issue. The only terms on which I could agree to the Motion would be that the total expenditure on salaries be not increased. The hon. Lady quite clearly said she did not think the crisis was as bad as it was in 1948, and that she did not approve of the idea of everybody being kept to the same global figure. She wants the global figure to be bigger. There is logic in that, although perhaps not sufficient appreciation of the situation in which we are living.
How does the hon. and gallant Gentleman reconcile the point which he is now putting with his support not only of a £10 million increase in doctors' salaries but £30 million back pay?
I should think the hon. Lady who has just interrupted ought to be the last to raise the matter of the £10 million for doctors, because the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) committed His Majesty's Government, as it then was, to acceptance of that decision.
I know that the hon. and gallant Member recognises that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) is quite articulate and can put his own point of view, but apparently it has not reached the hon. and gallant Member that when my right hon. Friend was Minister of Health, as the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) will endorse and as is already on the records of this House, he specifically and categorically refused to allow the claims of the doctors finally to be decided by an outside arbitrator.
On a point of order. Since this matter is on record, it is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact. Is it not according to the traditions of debate in this House that when a point of misinformation has been made and corrected it should be accepted as such?
The hon. Lady has introduced a slightly irrelevant topic into the debate. All I can say is that I have given her what I understand to be the facts, and that she has given the House what she understands to be the facts. That we do not agree is not altogether surprising. The real issue that hon. Members must face is: Do they really believe that the total amount now paid to the public services ought to be more than it is today? If they think it should be more, how can they justify it, in the light of the present crisis?
I am intending no discourtesy to hon. Members opposite, but I have given way several times and have been interrupted a good deal, and I ought to get on with my speech.
My belief is that the case has been made out for readjustment of rates of pay within the present global total. I want to see, and I think many other hon. Members want to see, the total expenditure per year involved in paying civil servants and local government servants brought down rather than up. I want to see reduced the number of people actually doing the work. Far too much is done by public authorities and far too little by private enterprise. I want the total of the Civil Service cut by a great deal bigger figure than 10,000 in the next six months. I want to see this country paying its way, and I do not believe she can ever do it so long as she maintains a Civil Service of the size that we have at the moment.
I cannot sufficiently stress that this country must always consider, when it has a balance-of-payments problem, internal expenditure as well as external. Far too many hon. Members forget that we, as a country, can only survive if we pay our way. How we spend our money inside the country is just as important as how we spend it outside. For that reason I could not agree with the Motion, if it means that we have to increase the total amount paid to the people whose welfare we are considering today.
In the present circumstances—not merely because the Chancellor made his statement yesterday to the trade unions but because, as the mover of the Motion said, what is morally unsound cannot be economically sound—I believe there is an immorality throughout our country in our approach to pay generally. If the labourer is worthy of his or her hire, it should be paid on the basis of agreement at the time of taking the employment. Nobody compels anyone to go into the Civil Service or to become a teacher. I hope we shall have more teachers.
We have a system which involves everybody accepting one rate, or one of a series of rates, throughout the whole country for certain types of work. The relationship between employer and employee has become more and more remote by being interfered with by third parties, fourth parties and fifth parties. We ought to try to get back to a sense of responsibility 'between employers and employees, so that the labourer is worthy of his or her hire and there is an understanding between employer and employee which does not necessitate various outside bodies, be they arbitration bodies or collective bargaining bodies, such as we have today. I believe the Motion is thoroughly undesirable for moral and economic reasons.
I do not blame hon. Gentlemen entirely that they apparently do not appreciate the gravity of the crisis in which we are living. My right hon. Friend and Her Majesty's Government missed an opportunity when they first came into power of bringing home to the people just how serious the situation was. They have not driven it home, through the magnanimity— [Laughter.]—it is nothing else, I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite—of the Prime Minister who, when he got into power, tried to make it as easy as possible for everybody to support the steps he was trying to take to put things right.
He did not bring home to the country, or to hon. Members opposite, how grave is the present situation. What has happened as a result? Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have taken every advantage they can take in the country. They have abused that magnanimity as much as they could. They are making as much mischief as they can for the Government, and this Motion is another step in the same direction.
So long as we assume that in a debating Chamber we can have unanimity, just so long will our debates be intolerably dull and no notice will be taken of them. Because this is a debating Chamber, it relies on the expression of opposite points of view. I say to my right hon. Friends and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that the country expects to hear our case. It is already overdue. If it had heard our case from my right hon. Friends we might be facing our problems with rather more vigour than we are. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friends will wake up to the reality of this as quickly as possible.
What we have to do in this nation today is to look ahead a little and see the great opportunities that lie ahead if we will only take them. We know what happens when hon. Members behave as Jeremiahs. We know what happens in the public mind when all over the country posters go up saying "Work or want". There is no response to them. But we know what happens when the imagination of our people is captured, as it was captured by the Prime Minister during the war. That is the kind of imagination we want to arouse now. We wanted victory then because only by getting victory could we have the opportunity of discussing all the many things we want to do and of bringing them into being. When that victory was won, all too soon we forgot. All too soon we started to turn to purely selfish, material things.
The issue before the country is: do we or do we not believe that there are great opportunities ahead? If we will exercise a little forbearance now, if we will face up to realities now, we shall find that the opportunities ahead of us are immense. There can be no survival without British national sovereignty, without the British Commonwealth and Empire, and without a real faith in the future of this country to be of service in preserving peace in the world.
If there is one section of the community today which deserves an increase of pay of any kind, it is—[HON. MEMBERS: "The women."] There is only one section I can think of, and that is the section of the community which should have been looked after far better in years gone by. The obligation of the State must always be to those men disabled in the defence of this country in war. If in 1919 that had been accepted as a principle, none of the difficulties which have arisen since regarding ex-Service men would have done so. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about ex-Service women?"] Hon. Members opposite have got into their heads the idea that because disabled men had a rise in benefit, automatically all those with industrial injuries must get that rise. If there is any case for an increase today, there is one for disabled ex-Service men.
I shall not try to pretend that there is no case at all to be made for any increases, but I do say that the case which bon. Members have attempted to make today has not been made. There are people far more deserving of increases than those we are considering, and this Motion should not be accepted by the Government. And the Government should say forcibly why it cannot be accepted.
The House is indebted to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) because he has put a point of view which is authentic, although it is at variance with that of most other hon. Members in all parts of the House. It is the authentic voice of the majority of the Tory Party.
The two voices do not appear to me to agree entirely, but I am hoping that I shall be disproved not only from the back benches opposite but from the Front Bench opposite as well.
At this late hour of the debate, what really matters is that we should know if we are to have a pledge from the Government that the principle asked for in this Motion will be met in terms definite and soon. I do not know if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would like to nod his head now before I give expression to the views of the many people concerned about this matter in the House and in the organisations outside? I think we are on the way to a slimy finish to this debate.
I shall be pleasantly surprised if the Government say that we are to have the pledge for which we are asking. I am particularly glad to put my point of view in this debate, because I am not one of those who believe that we can press the principle of equal pay at all times. I am not one of those who believe that we can separate this principle from all kinds of other claims on society. For instance, the hon. and gallant Gentleman was stumbling to a kind of philosophy in his last sentences when he talked about the claims of wounded ex-Service men. I agree with him that, when we are considering one scheme, we have to balance it against all kinds of other schemes.
What astonishes me, however, is that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should not be in an attitude of complete revolt towards his own party which was prepared to hand back an extra £1 a week in terms of relief to families which already have £20 a week. They went into the queue ahead of the ex-Service men. Why is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not in revolt against a party which handed to the bankers considerable increases in profits, which have lined the pockets of some farmers that are already well lined, but which have not given enough to the small farmers who need extra help?
I think I have said enough to indicate that all of us in public life must have priorities. We cannot discuss any one issue in a vacuum. I have no doubt that when the Financial Secretary replies he will stress just that point, and insist that this is not the moment when we can meet the claims put forward by or on behalf of the women.
I was one of those who at the 1948 Labour Party Conference said that since at that moment we were asking every trade union leader to respect the standstill agreement in relation to the claims of his members, I did not believe that women in public life should occupy a position of caprice and special advantage, and that if there were a case for the men to stand still, then there was a case for the women to stand still also. I remember the debates which took place within our party as well as outside, and long talks with Chancellor and ex-Chancellors and other members of the party. They said that, when the time came to go forward again with wage claims, the women's claims would be considered along with all the others.
Therefore, I say that those of us who stood on the corner at awkward moments and who have subsequently seen other claims met but those of the women ignored, have a special right to ask from both Front Benches today exactly what they are willing to do.
The most useful and most practical thing that could come out of the debate today would be a pledge from the Opposition Front Bench that as soon as there is a Labour Government again—and that means at an early date—they would be willing in their first Budget to meet the claim that is being put forward on behalf of the women.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene. She will remember well the manifesto of the Labour Party in relation to this matter, when we said:
As soon as tax reductions become possible, we shall still further reduce taxation of wages, salaries moderate incomes and moderate inheritances. We shall also take steps to abolish the differences between the payment of men and women in the public services.
The present Government have already gone along the first lines of our election manifesto.
I am one of those who believe that it is essential in public life that neither side of the House should create cynics outside by appearing to stand for one point of view when in the Government and for another when in opposition.
The point of view of some of my hon. Friends has been that there has never been a time when it was wrong to try to implement this policy. The point of view of others was that in the first post-war year or two, when we were getting from industry an 8 per cent. increase in production each year—and women con- tributed largely to it—there was a time factor involved and there were other priorities. Now, however, I am asking my own party whether they do not think that on economic grounds and on ethical grounds we should now give the same clear, unequivocal promise to women as we have given to sick people.
We on these benches are in the opposite position to Members on the other side. I find it hard to believe that it would be right for a party who believe in taxing people who suffer from pneumoconiosis and tuberculosis, to go forward on those other reforms; those things have to be taken as a whole. But we on our side have a splendid record, particularly since 1945, with free and enlarged schooling opportunities, free health services, maternity grants and Income Tax changes which make things easier for the family man. By these and other means we have laid the essential basis on which we can now do this job.
I was deeply moved by the proposition which was put forward by the Civil Service in the last year or two. One admires an organisation of that kind for coming to the Chancellor, whatever his party, and saying, "We care deeply about this principle. It is to us a matter of personal dignity as well as an economic matter, but we realise that there are other claims and, therefore, we are willing to spread the achievement of equal pay over as much as 18 years, putting as small a burden as £1 million on the Chancellor in the first year." That means that the older women are standing back in favour of the younger women; they themselves would not get so much of the advantage. That was an enlightened, unselfish and altruistic proposition, and I understand that the teachers would be willing to consider something similar provided that they had solid ground under their feet and not slippery slime.
I hope, therefore, that the end of the debate will clarify the position of the House, of the Government, and of the Opposition, and that we shall say that, if there is any double dealing from Members opposite, then at least, so far as we on this side are concerned, we believe that the time has now come to do this job. I have made the point that it ought to have been done before by our own Government. But as we are the Government of the future—I believe, the near future—the Government of the day now have their opportunity. If they want to do the job, they can do it, but if they are going to dodge it, I hope that my own party will make their position absolutely clear, honourable and unequivocal.
I intend to be very brief, but nevertheless I want the House to understand that I am perfectly sincere and very much in earnest. I do not intend to take up the remarks of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) on the other issues between the two parties. What I want to say is that I am very sorry that it has been left to this very late date once more to debate this very important question.
I am very sorry indeed that we should have to face the Chancellor in this year with such a problem, when he has so very many problems to consider and to endeavour to solve. This is a matter which has been on the carpet for about 30 years, and one would have hoped that in that time something might have been done. However, I believe that the Chancellor has a golden moment now.
I am not so very much worried about an early date for the reasons which hon. Members opposite have suggested, because I am not too worried that we on this side will have only a very brief time in which to give a date. Apart from that, however, I am anxious that there should be a reasonably early date on which to commence the process of putting right what has been wrong for so long.
It is most necessary that some of the anomalies should be corrected—anomalies which no Whitley Council, N.J.A.C. or Burnham Committee has put right over the years. Here is an opportunity for us at least to sow the seed of getting these things put right. It is perfectly true of civil servants who work side by side that the woman receives, probably, 80 per cent. of the salary of the man. She very often sees the man training under her guidance and then passing her in salary but not in status.
I do not want to go over all the other cases which have been mentioned, but there is one field which, I feel, will get an opportunity of having its salary scales corrected, which has not yet been men- tioned. I fail to see why a person who is employed as a cook in a hospital and has the full responsibility of her kitchen, should have as her deputy a man whose salary is greater than hers. I fail to see how it is equitable that a female nurse in a T.B. sanatorium should receive a smaller salary than a male nurse who has to have precisely the same qualifications. These are further instances where correction is needed.
I support the Motion, because I feel that we must do something. It has been delayed far too long. The Chancellor's name will go down in history and be very much admired for many long years if, in spite of his many difficulties, he will be the one to set the wheels in motion for correcting so many wage anomalies on behalf of the women.
I think speeches at this stage of the debate should be brief, not only because many hon. Members want to speak, but because one of the difficulties about this subject is that, despite the quotation just made from the Prime Minister with reference to logic, one cannot really argue these things. Here we are dealing with values. not with logic. Either one accepts equality of rights and responsibilities as between men and women and supports this Motion or, on the contrary, one denies equality of rights and responsibilities and one makes the kind of speech that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) made.
The hon. and gallant Member introduced a note of party spleen, and I think it is important to realise that the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) are the views of the Labour arid Socialist movement as a whole. If one looks at the period following the war, one finds that the great trade unions of this country accepted the plea of the leaders of the Labour Government in the years which immediately followed the war. But as time went on, the great trade unions became increasingly impatient and in 1950 there was a revolt from the floor of the Trades Union Congress. The platform was beaten, which I assure hon. Members is a pretty rare occurrence at the T.U.C.
I think this year at least the platform at the U.S.D.A.W. Conference was able to avoid being overthrown on the main controversial issue. I would say to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely and to the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) that some of us on this side of the House played an active role in the revolt to which I have referred.
The result was continued pressure on the Government and a considerable strengthening of the declaration in our party manifesto at the last Election. Nevertheless, much remains to be done. I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock refer to this issue in association with other issues, because I do not believe that those of us who not only stand for this principle but stand for its immediate implementation should dodge the issues.
Reference has been made to the implementation of this Motion costing £25 million a year. Whilst that might be the cost from the standpoint of the national Exchequer, the cost in implementing the principle not only in the public service but outside as well would be considerably more. I want it made perfectly clear that I am not prepared to regard professional women in the public service as having a prior claim over women engaged in British industry generally. Indeed, on the ground of social justice one might make a case for the lower-paid distributive workers—and the Union of which I am President has 140,000 women members—having a priority over the professions. We must link The problem in the professions with the general position in industry.
Here I will say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely that progress towards equal pay for equivalent work has always been more speedy the greater the crisis that Britain faced. The first great period of progress towards the realisation of equal pay was the First World War and the two years that followed. The second great leap forward was during the Second World War and the two years that followed. I have figures here for the distributive trade, which I know best.
(Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew): I am sorry to say my attention was distracted for a moment by an hon. Member asking me if he would be called and I did not hear anything, so I am afraid I cannot rule upon it.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education:
(Mr. Kenneth Pickthom): What I was trying to do, and did not do quite accurately, was to quote a line from Sir Alan Herbert. The words I actually used were, "This seems to be an argument for having another war."
In any event, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the remark was not relevant to the point I was making, which was that the magnificent contribution made by women in these historical crises in Britain was probably the reason progress was made towards equal pay during those periods. If it is true, as it has been claimed in this debate, that Britain has a difficult economic problem now and will have for some years to come, surely that means that if we are serious about the importance of full employment we must continue to rely upon our womenfolk for efforts in the interest of national economy.
I want to say clearly to hon. Members opposite, who do not appear to grasp this point. that as long as we have differentiations in wage scales based solely on sex, we are in fact poisoning industrial relationships and negotiation between trade unions and employers. Continually the fear is expressed by well-organised male workers that the introduction of women to jobs previously done by men will introduce cheap labour and therefore undermine trade union standards.
If, as I have said, we are serious about the need for full employment and the need for our womenfolk continuing to make a great contribution to the solution of our economic problems, then the sooner we remove sex differentiation as a harmful factor in industrial negotiations and wage bargaining, the better for everybody.
Though almost everyone accepts equal pay in principle, there is still an underground opposition. Sometimes it is argued that, though women do the same job, they do not do the equivalent amount of work. As a generalisation that is utterly untrue. From my own experience of industrial negotiations I would readily concede that there are cases where it is probably so, but that is not an argument in favour of differentiation based on sex: it is a case for a skilled rating of the job by trade unions and employers and grading of workers.
Secondly, it is said that men have family responsibilities. It may be true that historically one of the reasons men received higher wages than women was because of the family responsibilities of men. In the days when there was practically no State expenditure in the social sense, when private spending was the only method of securing standards of life for people, there might have been an argu- ment in favour of giving men higher rates than women. But in so far as we have accepted the social responsibilities of the State and have developed our social services, then clearly that argument has become outmoded. It always led to serious anomalies in practice. The case of the spinster and the bachelor has already been cited and there are many others.
Today I think that the additional responsibilities of married men, widows with children or any other groups in the community with special claims should be met by taxation, by tax reliefs and by the social services. I agreed with the mover of this Motion, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell), when he argued that it is probable that the progressive implementation of this Motion would require family allowances for the first child and possibly some increase for the other children. That, of course, strengthens the argument that the principle should be implemented in a planned way, with the announcement of a commencing date and a date for its final realisation.
I do not think we should dodge the implications of that issue. It is all very well to say that the women's rate must be raised to the men's, and not the men's rate brought down to the women's. But let us face this problem: in conditions of full employment, if we increase the women's rates to the men's rates with no increase in wealth production, we shall have increased the claim of a particular group in our society on the total national product. A problem is created. But that is not an argument in favour of this monstrous idea of differentiation in wages based on sex. It is an argument for necessary adjustments in our taxation system and in our social services to prevent any injury being done to those with family responsibilities, and so forth.
There is a need for an immediate declaration of Government policy on this issue, and I ask the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward), whose speech I found intensely interesting, to appreciate that some of us have been making these speeches regardless of the Government in power. Back in 1882 the T.U.C. made its first declaration on this issue of equal pay. That was two years before my father was born. It is not surprising, therefore, that by 1950 the Trades Union Congress had got somewhat impatient with the lack of progress in the post-war period.
If the parties, whatever their name, are to retain the respect of the great British democracy it simply will not do for them continually to accept principles and then, when they are returned to power, to continue to reiterate that, while they accept those great ideas in principle, they will not aperate them in practice. A continuance of this by any party in the State will damage British democracy, and it will lead the women to cry "How long, oh Lord, how long?"
Make no mistake, if Governments do not yield on this issue, the day will come when industrial pressure will emerge to solve the problem. Only last week a motion was moved at a meeting of the National Committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in favour of guerilla industrial action, with the women taking action and supported financially by the men members of the union. That motion was defeated.
I should not like to see this great principle implemented as a result of industrial unrest and guerilla warfare in industry. The alternative is for the politicians to face up to this principle and implement it in the immediate future. A commencing date should be announced today and, along with it, a planned timetable and a final date when the principle will be fully operated.
I shall be very brief in my remarks, for time is passing and I am sure many hon. Members wish to speak.
Of all the questions which have been put before Parliament during the short time that I have been a Member of this House, none has caused such an avalanche of postcards to descend upon me as this question of equal pay. I have not the slightest doubt that other hon. Members will have had a similar experience. In spite of what has been said by the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), I happen to be one of those Members on this side of the House who believe in this principle of equal pay for the job, provided of course that the same competence is shown in doing the job. This is the first time that I have had the privilege of saying that in this House, although I have said it in other quarters on other occasions, and that may be the reason I have been subjected to something in the nature of a leaflet raid during the last few days.
Of course, the present state of the nation's finances makes it virtually impossible for the Government to take immediate action in implementing this principle of equal pay, but I hope the Chancellor will bear this question in mind, that he will keep it prominently in front of him and that he will find ways and means some time during the lifetime of this Parliament to do something more definite than leaving this matter as a pious hope, as it has been left by successive Governments over the last 30 years.
This is not a question whether or not there should be equal pay. That question has already been decided by this House and the principle has already been accepted by the parties of all three political beliefs. If it were an accepted custom in this country, as it is in some countries, that women are inferior to men, there might be some justification in the Government hesitating to take the plunge, but we know that such is not the case in this country, and in many walks of life the justice of equal pay for men and women is acknowledged.
No great stretch of imagination is necessary to visualise the wave of indignation which would sweep over all those hundreds of thousands of electors who thought fit to send lady Members of Parliament to this House in preference to men, and I tremble to think what might happen in this Chamber, if some stout-hearted opponent of the principle of equal pay dared to suggest that the same discrimination in pay should be extended to the lady Members of Parliament. Letting off the first British atomic bomb in Australia would be as nothing to the explosion which would rock this Chamber. I am afraid the reverberations would be heard at far greater ranges than the echoes of a mere atomic bomb.
Both in the Civil Service and in the teaching profession women are called upon to pass the same entrance examination as men. They are also expected to have the same standard of intelligence. The only difference is in the pay which they receive. I do not agree with that. The experience of the last war demonstrated quite conclusively that women were quite able to take their part in its prosecution.
Surely we have not yet forgotten the women who manned the ack-ack guns in helping to repel the invader from the air; the women who drove ambulances and transport in face of enemy air attack, and the women who stood by our side throughout the whole of that war, helping us to win. Let us not forget, too, those women who allowed themselves to be dropped behind enemy lines to help to win that war. If ever women earned the right to equal pay, they earned it then.
The proposals which have been put forward by the Civil Service Staff Side of the National Whitley Council are quite reasonable. They are asking only that the principle should be put forward on a graduated scale. That would entail no great encumbrance upon any Government, and I sincerely hope that the Chancellor will bear that in mind and will decide that, during the life-time of this Parliament, this Government will not follow the line of previous Governments but will do something definite in order to clear up this question of equal pay.
Everybody who has taken part in this debate has welcomed this Motion [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—with the exception of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). I congratulate one honest man in this assembly for having the courage to express his views. With that very notable exception—and I am sorry I missed his speech—there has been an almost alarming acceptance of this Motion. I am afraid that if we are not very careful this debate will have done more harm than good. It will have allowed a number of hon. Members in this House to ease their consciences on this issue by making speeches and then sitting back for another 32 years, doing nothing whatever about it.
The women of this country are not asking for speeches. We have heard for so long so many speeches of the apparent sincerity of those that have been made today. What women are waiting for—and are determined to have—is action, which will be the test of that sincerity. I would say to hon. Members on both sides of this House that if, once again, today's ventilation of the matter is merely going to be a sop to the womenfolk, they are in for trouble, because this time it will not be good enough.
In this connection I should like to refer to the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward), with whom I have worked very closely on this matter. All through the last Parliament—indeed, even more actively in the last than in this. She has made the complaint that there were Members on this side of the House who had not troubled about action when the Labour Government were in office. I quite agree with her. She and I acted together, cutting across party lines on this issue, concerned not to score party points but to get positive action with regard to a principle in which we both believed. I incurred a good deal of opprobrium from some of my women colleagues—from the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) and the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon)—because I joined with the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth in the iniquitous action of leading an all-party deputation to the Minister to demand equal pay.
The hon. Lady should, however, bear in mind some Biblical references and look around on her own side before she starts making accusations about this side. Since this Government came into power I have not noticed such a remarkable activity on the part of hon. Ladies on that side of the House in pressing their own Government.
If the hon. Lady's conscience were not quite so sensitive, she would realise that my remarks were not addressed to her. In fact, I rather went out of my way to pay her a tribute. I was referring to her women colleagues. She is rather a lone voice as far as this matter is concerned.
If the hon. Lady likes to give me the HANSARD references, I shall be glad. I think she is making too much of a point which began as a compliment to her. I respect her decision to vote for this Motion today. I am only anxious lest this means that it is not going to be pressed to a vote.
We have reached the point when speeches have become a little sickening. If hon. Members on both sides of this House really believe what they have said, the moment has come when action is possible. If there is all-party agreement on the necessity for equal pay, there is no longer any excuse or argument for delaying the immediate introduction of this principle. Thirty-two years ago the male members of our community made a convulsive mental effort and accepted the principle; but ever since they have been recovering from the strain of that effort and there has been continuous lethargy on their part.
Women are sick of the principle; they now want a little interest. They want to draw the dividend of action. The only way women will get anything is not by sweet reasonableness—I think every woman in this House will agree with me that women's achievements have never been won by sweet reasonableness —but by making a terrible nuisance of themselves. The lesson for women is to be read in the progress made in our own working-class movement. Nobody who is privileged will ever concede anything voluntarily to the under-privileged. Concessions have to be fought for and extorted by an expression of determination which defies the limits of nice, conventional activity.
I am very well aware that when men accepted this principle it was not due to any exercise on their part of the powers of logic. It was due, rather, to that eternal masculine characteristic—the desire for peace at any price. The moment has certainly arrived in our political development when no public man could oppose the principle of equal pay and survive politically.
The principle has been conceded. Of course it has been conceded—anything to keep the little woman quiet, whether she be the woman voter or the little wife at home.
There is many a man in the House who would secretly admit on the sly, "Of course, it is more than my life is worth domestically for me to get up and oppose this Motion." That is why I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely, and I congratulate the party opposite on having one really honest Member amongst their ranks; because we women know what happens when we try to follow the principle by the practice. Once we say, "Well, it is agreed, let us operate it," then the arguments which are advanced against the operation are all arguments which, in origin, spring from a repudiation of the principle.
It has never been true that it is purely the economic argument which prevents the application of this principle. Too many barriers have been raised, whenever we have asked for this accepted principle to be applied. The first was one put forward at the I.L.O. Conference quite recently, I regret to say by a representative of the British Government at a time when my own Government were in office. I opposed that line then, and I would oppose the line on its merits, regardless of which Government put it forward.
The line which was then advanced was this: "You see, we have to consider this wages problem in relation to the whole social services structure of the country." The implication was that, with the development of social services in this country, somehow we have been getting nearer to the application of the principle of equality of reward, and that women benefit from the social services, and consequently are brought nearer to the general standard.
But that argument works entirely the other way, as the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth and I said at the time, and as we have continued to say. What the social services do is primarily to help the family man. What the social services of our country do is to supplement the wages system in such a way as to give that assistance to the family man which it is claimed by some people must be given through the wages system itself. [An HON. MEMBER: "And to the family woman."] Do hon. Gentlemen suggest that the unmarried women of this country are assisted by the family allowances scheme'? Do they suggest that they will be helped by the extension of the maternity service, which was introduced under the social security scheme of the last Government? Do they suggest that they are helped by the assistance given under the free school milk and free school meals services?
It is true that they benefit by the general National Health Service, but they certainly do not benefit by equivalent Income Tax reliefs, and anybody who has been attentive to this subject must realise that there has been a growing emphasis in our social services and in our Income Tax arrangements on the needs of the family man. Indeed, the point has been reached at which we have the women of the country as a sex being expected to subsidise the nation's children.
That is something which is quite intolerable because, as has been said before, if it is so socially necessary to have this assistance to family life—and I do not deny it for a moment—then, quite clearly it is wrong that the burden should be decided by a sexual division. The burden should be placed on all those who are not contributing to the family life of the nation through having children of their own.
I would suggest that we have reached quite fantastic extremes in the argument against equal pay, because, so much emphasis is placed upon the family burdens of the man with children, so much emphasis is placed upon the hardship of married life, that if we are not careful we shall give the impression that children are only a debit entry in the nation's account book or in the private family accounts. I suggest to hon. Members opposite, who in their heart of hearts believe that married life is the highest crown of a woman's life, that they had better carry that argument to its logical conclusion and recognise that those women who do not secure the happiness of marriage and the happiness of children may need a consolation prize.
The social argument against equal pay, therefore, is one which has been increasingly weakened by the deliberate policy of the Labour Government, in particular, in seeking, through social services and Income Tax reliefs, to give that financial advantage to the family man, on top of all the richness which his family life brings him. I ask that we should not all the time treat family responsibilities as though they were simply a burden. They are a great richness. The man and the woman who are in the happy possession of them ought to recognise that their lives are enriched as a consequence. The women who have to carry on the day-to-day work of the world, because for some reason they are not part of that great partnership, in my view ought to be treated more sympathetically instead of being regarded as the Cinderellas and the under-paid drudges of the rest of the community.
I know how dull and empty life can be for a woman who has not a man by her side or children to enrich her life, especially when she is told that, because she has not managed to have that happiness, she is to be financially rewarded at a level which means that she can never, out of her own resources, find an equivalent standard of domestic comfort or fullness of life. It seems to me that the argument advanced against the Motion betrays a lack of faith among the men of our community in the advantages of married life, the virtues of which they always extol.
We come back to the economic argument, and I want to remind the House that the economic argument supports this Motion. It is quite wrong to say that all economic arguments are against the Motion. The Royal Commission's Report proves the contrary. Nobody can say that this was a frantically pro-woman Report but, dealing with the question of women in the public services—which is primarily the subject of the Motion—the Royal Commission pointed out, quite clearly, that the efficiency of our public services and of our teaching services would be improved if we were to give equal pay. They pointed out that the recruitment to these services is by competitive examination and that the selection must, therefore, be entirely by merit.
The more, therefore, the wages system inside the public service attracts the best brains among women to compete, the more it will result in an improvement of the standards of the service, because no woman will succeed unless she proves that she is superior to any other competitor, male or female. The Royal Commission definitely makes the point that the efficiency of our public service, including local government services, will be improved by the adoption of the equal pay principle. It is said that we cannot afford equal pay in the public service, but what we are really saying by that is that we cannot afford to get maximum efficiency in it. That is an argument which is of immense danger for the future of the standards of those public services.
I would point out that the opponents of equal pay cannot have both arguments. They cannot have the social argument as well as the economic one, because the social argument is valid only if the economic one is not. Equal pay will work to the detriment of the masculine breadwinner in the country only if it is justified on economic grounds. That is to say, the male breadwinner will suffer only if the women are worth equal pay, because if they are not worth equal pay and we give them it, then, clearly, they are going to be at a grave disadvantage in competing for various jobs; and equally, if a woman is not superior to a man, then, since equal pay is introduced, the employer will always give the male applicant the preference.
I agree that, so far as the public services are concerned, the competitive examination is a safeguard, but I am looking at the much wider implications.
The curious thing is that it is the women who are prepared to risk this equality which the Royal Commission argues may be so dangerous for them. The Royal Commission argues that women need inequality of pay to make sure they get the jobs. But it is the women who are prepared to take this risk, and it is the men Who are not. It is the men who are now asking for protective legislation for the women. What the women are asking for is an equal chance. Hon. Members sometimes complain that we women ask for privileges. All that we are asking for now is that the cold blast of equal competition shall be allowed to blow upon us; and we are prepared to take the risk.
That is an entirely different field, because for a retirement pension there is no competition at all, whereas there is competition for jobs. In receiving pension one is reaping the reward of service. I suggest that it is the women who are prepared to take these risks. We are prepared to face whatever the future may bring.
The Financial Secretary is probably going to argue that the economic burdens are too heavy. Can he tell us at what point it becomes financially possible to operate this claim? At what point? We shall be told that it adds to the inflationary pressure. If the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer succeeds, if we get a deflationary movement in this country, if unemployment goes on mounting as it is mounting, if profits fall, and if wages are attacked as a result of the deflationary downward spiral, is it at that moment that the hon. Gentleman will be prepared to announce the coming in of equal pay? If when there is inflation it is not possible to have equal pay, will it be possible when there is deflation? If the deflationary policy of the Government succeeds, will equal pay be possible then?
Women are not going to wait much longer, and I say to the Financial Secretary that if he gives us an evasive answer today, if he wriggles out of this with all the skill of his sex, then I warn him that he will be allowing to grow amongst women in this country a bitterness and sourness that must be to the national detriment
This is a Private Member's Motion and a Private Members' day, and, therefore, I think it would be inappropriate for a Member who speaks from this Box to do more than seek to assist the House by indicating the views of the Government on the subject the House has been discussing I have heard practically the whole of this debate, and it has certainly been a most impressive one, impressive not only for the way it has been conducted but for the moderation with which a number of hon. Members, such as the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward), who holds very strong views on this subject, have found themselves able to express their views. It is certainly a debate not without importance.
The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell), who opened the debate, in what I hope he will allow me to say was a most witty and attractive speech, pointed out that this is far from a new story, either on the Floor of this House or outside. In discussing this matter, we are all conscious of the background during the period which has elapsed since 1920, when, according to the hon. Gentleman's researches, this House first occupied itself to some extent with this problem.
I shall not weary or detain the House with any argument on the principles of the matter. With perhaps one exception, the House takes a fairly clear view of that subject, and I think it would be simply wasting the time of the House were I to go in to the general ethical. moral or sociological principles which lie behind it. What this debate has been much more concerned with has been, not the general merits of the matter—though one or two speeches have perhaps spent a certain amount of time on that subject —but the more practical point of its implementation.
Our view is this. We wish to start the implementation of equal pay in the public service as soon as we can do so without serious prejudice to our national economic recovery. In our Election Manifesto "Britain Strong and Free" we repeated what we had said in our manifesto at the Election of 1950. which was this:
We hope that during the life of the next Parliament the country's financial position will improve sufficiently to enable us to proceed at an early date with the application in the Government service of the principle of equal pay for men and women for services of equal value.
That remains our view. Hon. Members will recall that in this House on 13th November, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeated that the Government hoped that during
the lifetime of the present Parliament the financial position would improve sufficiently to enable them to proceed in the direction of equal pay in the public service.
But it is equally our plain duty, in dealing with this matter, to take into account the current economic and financial position of the country. That is clearly the duty of this Government, as of any Government. It was certainly the view of their duty which was taken by the Government which preceded us. The House will recall that last summer the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, said on the matter in a statement:
the cost to public funds and the burden on industry would be very heavy. Prices would go up further, and taxation would have to be increased.
Then a little later on referring to "inflationary influences":
It is the duty of the Government to do everything possible to reduce … pressures. Unfortunately the introduction of equal pay would undoubtedly make matters worse." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June, 1951; Vol. 489, c. 528.]
The right hon. Gentleman said that from this Bench a little less than a year ago.
It is, of course, the fact—I do not seek to make any party point of it—that, during the six years for which right hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for the affairs of this country, they did not take the steps urged today, and I have no doubt—they will contradict me if I am wrong—that their reasons for not taking them at any time during those six years were the reasons the right hon. Member for Leeds, South stated to the House in the extract which I have repeated; that is to say, that in their considered view, and in the exercise of their responsibility to the country, they did not feel that the economic position of the country justified such a step. We are all entitled to our opinions as to whether they were right or wrong in that view. That they were of that view appears to be beyond doubt.
I think that one other consequence follows. If the right hon. Member for Leeds, South was right last June that the economic position of the country forbade him to take any steps in this direction, it is very difficult to argue today that the economic position of the country is so conspicuously better as to have got rid of the difficulty which he then saw.
Those who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth, think that the right hon. Member for Leeds, South was wrong and who have urged impartially these claims upon successive Governments are perfectly free, and have every right, to urge them consistently now; But I think that it is a little difficult for those who bore the heavy responsibility of government during the six years after the war to suggest that the economic position of the Government, which forbade them then taking those steps, is now so different, and so different for the better, as to enable us to take them now.
I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that I did not deploy that case at all as an argument in presenting this Motion. I did not base the Motion on economic considerations. I hope that he will bear in mind that I referred to what I thought was a very disappointing statement made then by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South.
I think that the hon. Gentleman must recognise two things. First, that no measure, however meritorious, can be considered in complete detachment from the economic position of the country; and secondly, that it is a material factor in our considerations this afternoon—not necessarily a conclusive argument but a material factor that hon. Members must weigh in their minds and consciences—that the Government that preceded us did not, for the reasons stated by its spokesman, for six years take the steps which it is advocated in this House this afternoon could be taken without detriment to our economy.
If the solution of the problem of domestic inflation which this Government inherited had already been completely tackled, that would indeed be a compliment to the financial policy of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I think that it would be premature to accept it. The House must recognise that we inherited a very grave economic position, but I am not going to waste the time of the House by saying how it arose. We, at any rate, did not create it. We inherited it, and a state of affairs in which the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area were running out at a speed which, if continued unchecked, would have seen their complete exhaustion by September of this year.
We inherited a balance of payments crisis of the utmost gravity. That is a situation against which we are still contending, not, I am glad to say, without success, but equally I am bound to say that it is one which in six months has not been completely overcome. We are bound to bear that in mind in considering any step which will involve further inflationary pressure, and we are bound to consider it against the background of an economic position of very great difficulty and of every great national importance.
The hon. Gentleman has made a sweeping statement. I should like him to elaborate it. I think he said that no case, however meritorious, could be considered without relating it to the economic position of the country. Can he tell me, in the light of that, how he can justify the £52 million to the doctors, the very large sum to the brewers and the larger sum to the farmers?
This is the second time in today's debate this issue has been raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) may not be in the House, so again I would say that the statement is quite inaccurate, as the hon. Gentleman ought to know. When the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was Minister of Health, he deliberately and categorically refused to allow an outside body to impose those charges.
It was because of that attitude and his failure to settle the question of doctors' remuneration that his successor in the Socialist Government referred the matter to arbitration.
Mr. Speaker, I respectfully agree. I can only plead in words that I can paraphrase from the book of Genesis—the right hon. Lady tempted me.
The inflationary factor is a serious one. It has already been stated—and I need not, therefore, weary the House with it—that the full implementation of equal pay in the public services, as this House understands them—that is to say, the levelling up in all material cases of women's rates to men's rates—would cost in all £28 million a year. But that is only the beginning of the process. There is no doubt at all that such action by the Government of the day would have direct and immediate repercussions outside the Government service.
If any hon. Member is disposed to dispute that, I remind him that that was the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) on 11th June, 1947, when dealing with this very subject. He said:
Its introduction in industry and in other professions would inevitably follow."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 11th June, 1947; Vol. 438, c. 1069.]
Indeed, it is fair to recognise that that is one of the arguments in favour of the proposal which its advocates put forward. That is very material. It is equally material from the point of view of our consideration of the impact on our economic affairs of such a change.
We have to consider the effect of increased remuneration not only to the extent of £28 million involved in the direct extra pay for public service, but the further substantially larger figures which would be involved outside the public service. The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) pointed out that, by a curious coincidence, today's debate is taking place on the morrow of an important statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in exactly the same way as a previous debate took place in close juxtaposition to a somewhat similar statement on the same subject by the late Sir Stafford Cripps.
It is a fact that at this moment the Government are urging upon trade unions and employers alike the greatest possible restraint in the claims of this sort with a view to restraining inflationary pressures. We have to consider carefully in this matter what would be the repercussions upon that appeal if my right hon. Friend at one moment made that appeal and, on the other hand, in the sphere of our economy in which he has direct control—the Government services —took a step with exactly contrary effect.
There is no doubt that his so doing would inevitably cast some doubt upon the sincerity and potency of his appeal to organised labour and organised employers. It would look at least a little curious if, at the very same time he was making that appeal, he took this contrary measure. That, again, is a matter which hon. Members, in their consideration of this Motion, will. I am sure, consider and give to it what weight they think fit.
If the hon. Gentleman recognises the right of women to equal pay but says that the economic position does not allow it, does that not mean that he is asking these women to bear a subsidy in order to meet that economic position?
I dislike the word "subsidy" in that context, but it does mean that they and other sections of the community cannot have real, solidly-based claims met if the national economy is not strong enough to sustain the load. It also means, and I do not under-rate it, in reply to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), asking of them a degree of restraint which I appreciate they might find it very difficult to exercise in view of all that has happened in the past.
We are really concerned this afternoon, however, not so much with past history, for which all of us no doubt have some degree of responsibility; we are concerned with the practical circumstances of May, 1952. We are concerned with whether, in present circumstances, without grave detriment to the national interest—and the national interest is, after all, the ultimate interest of us all— this step can be taken now.
It has been suggested, during the course of the debate, and indeed outside on a good many occasions, that we should start immediately with the application of equal pay by gradual stages. Certain proposals, not unattractive ones, have been put forward to that end. Certain rather complex devices designed to mitigate the economic ill-effects have been put forward.
In general, the main trouble about these schemes is that, while they would on the face of them appear to add comparatively little to immediate national expenditure, their repercussions outside would be very hard to limit, in one's estimation, and they, of course, carry within themselves the seed of their own acceleration. One hon. Member referred to proposals which would take 18 years to implement. I do not know whether he really thinks that once that process had started there would not be very great pressures towards its acceleration.
If, therefore, we are to embark on such schemes at this time, we must do so, if we are to do it with intellectual honesty, with the knowledge that they would in fact lead to full equal pay very much more quickly than appears on the face of them. That is at all events a possibility which I would ask hon. Members to weigh, and it is for them to consider and bear in mind in their contemplation—
That interruption does seem exactly to endorse what I am saying. I am glad to have it from so very relevant a source.
This does not exhaust all the possibilities. A suggestion has been made, for example, for the levelling up of increments between men's and women's scales. Indeed there may well be other possibilities. So far, no scheme has been put forward which has been found free of all difficulties. Nevertheless, Her Majesty's Government are now examining all these possibilities with a view to seeing whether there is any step forward which they can take consistently with their responsibilities for the nation's economic health. What I have said certainly includes consideration of these various and in many cases complex and technical devices for achieving equal pay by stages. I cannot go beyond that this afternoon, but I think hon. Members will appreciate its significance.
In saying that, I do not in any manner of means rule out advance by stages. In my personal opinion, that is the method by which I believe it will come. I believe that it will come by stages, but it equally must be the responsibility of the Government of the day, as the late Government thought, to decide on the time-table for the initiation and the continuation of those stages. Our predecessors for the last six years judged that the harm which the application of this principle would do to our economic interests was too great to enable them to accept its application. We are at least as keen as any hon. Member who has spoken this afternoon to get on with its application as soon as it is reasonably practicable.
We all hope that we shall be able to do so before too long, because our doing so would not only be a most excellent and admirable thing in itself but it would be an indication of the success of our economic policy and of the fact that we had succeeded in bringing the economy of this country to a point at which it could stand this additional load which. during all the years which have elapsed since the war, our predecessors judged it unable to carry.
At the moment we are ourselves, in our own counsels. considering the various proposals. I do not think that the time is yet ripe for formal consultation with the staff side. The hon. Gentleman will be well aware from his experience, in what I may describe as a previous incarnation, that consultations with the staff side take place with very great freedom on a wide variety of subjects. When our consideration has gone a little further, discussion with the staff side would not be precluded.
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I think that statement will give them some satisfaction. What time-table has he in mind? Does he think he will be able to consult them in a matter of weeks?
I would rather not be tied to a time-table. What I have said was a carefully considered statement and I would rather not add to it. We certainly hope, as my right hon. Friend has said in this House, that this will be well within the life-time of the present Parliament. [Interruption.] I do not share the apprehensions, expressed by the hon. Member for Sowerby, as to the duration of this Parliament.
In conclusion, may I say that this matter is very much in our minds. We do not consider it only when there is to be a debate in this House. We are very conscious of the real and sincere feeling on this issue. Our own attitude I have already explained and I need not repeat. We are just as anxious as any hon. Member to get on with it as quickly as our responsibilities for the nation as a whole permit. If I may add a personal note. I have been much concerned with this matter for many years. I still nourish the private hope that, when we are able to announce a concrete step, I may have some share in doing so from this Box.
On a point of personal explanation, if I may be allowed to make one, I would have been in my place if I had known that references were going to be made to me. I cannot imagine how I could, even remotely, be connected with the Motion before the House. I have been informed, however, that at least two hon. Members have fastened upon me the responsibility for a recent award made to the medical profession, and as the statements ought to be corrected perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I may be permitted to say two things.
In the first place the Spens Committee, under which the award was made, was appointed by a Conservative Minister of Health—
Order. I believe I can anticipate the point of order which the hon. Lady is about to raise. It is the custom of this House that, if an hon. Member has been accused of something by name, he should be allowed an opportunity to explain. I think I can trust the right hon. Gentleman not to abuse it.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You ruled when my hon. Friend was speaking that it would not be in order for him to answer a question put by the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill). I am seeking your guidance whether, when the right hon. Gentleman has finished. my hon. Friend will be in order in finishing his answer to the right hon. Lady?
The sequence of events was a little different. That matter arose out of an interjection by the right hon. Lady in the course of the speech of the Financial Secretary. As I understand it, it did not form part of his speech but was in answer to her question. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), since he has been mentioned by name, is entitled to state briefly his side of the case.
I was saying that the Spens Committee was first appointed in February, 1945, by Mr. Willink, the Tory Minister of Health. When the Spens Committee made its report as to the remuneration of general practitioners, I was the Minister. In 1946 I negotiated with the representatives of the medical profession remuneration and capitation for general practitioners on the basis of the Spens Report. However, they came back and said they were not satisfied that the Spens Report had been implemented.
I contended that it had been implemented, and I refused at any time, both before a Committee upstairs and on the Floor of the House of Commons, to reopen the matter. Indeed, general practitioners have entered the National Health Service since July, 1948 on the basis of the terms I had negotiated with them. In point of fact, I refused to allow the matter of the value of money to be reopened, not because they might take the Government back to 1939, but because they might take this back—[Interruption.] I have nearly finished, but hon. Members ought to have the truth about the matter.
At no time did I allow the change in the value of money to be one of the terms of reference, because I feared the retrospective effect of that upon the finances of the nation. So far from being responsible, I denied the matter at any time; and the responsibility lies with the Government for allowing themselves to implement a report by an outside body.
I thought it proper to allow that interjection, as the right hon. Gentleman had been named, but I remind the House that it is its duty in the time that remains to consider the Motion which is before the House.
I very much appreciate your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I merely feared that it might be misunderstood if I were seen to have been here and, apparently, to have agreed to some of the statements which have been made this afternoon. I hope that the time will come when this matter can be fully debated and I shall be able to explain my own position in the matter.
I think that the whole House will agree that we are beholden to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds. West (Mr. Pannell), who introduced the Motion. and to his seconder, my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who for so long have given most earnest attention and very considerable and effective leadership to those of us who have sought to assist the case which has been made today.
We have now arrived at the point where we have got from the Government their statement, and the House is in the position, after indications from every side that it was fully in favour of the matter being discussed, of deciding whether the promise which the Financial Secretary has made materially influences us in the vote that, I hold, we ought now to cast on the subject of the Motion.
I have in the past been very critical of the Financial Secretary and of his speeches, but he has addressed himself skilfully and with moderation to the difficult task that he has had to perform. It is, however, disgraceful that such a task should have been given to him, because it is perfectly clear that, despite our financial difficulties, which are not new and have not been new during the last two or three years, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated as recently as 20th June, 1951, when the then Chancellor made his proposals—his unsatisfactory proposals, I agree—about this question, that he himself might go a good deal further. This was said amidst all the financial difficulties of that time—difficulties of which the present Government now say they only became aware after the General Election. The right hon. Gentleman said:
As I understand it, there are already certain inroads into this principle in the Civil Service, particularly in the Health Service.
Addressing my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South(Mr. Gaitskell), whom he was interrupting, the right hon. Gentleman added:
Further, can he tell us whether, taking into account his last paragraph, this reform in future is to be indelibly linked in the mind of the Government with a further addition to the family allowance scheme?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June, 1951; Vol. 489, c. 529.]
The present Chancellor has made himself responsible for the further addition to the family allowances. [An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up."] I think that is very unfair. I am aware I am speaking up. I was compelled to do so by the considerable disorder at the time I began. I am prepared to meet the convenience of the House and not speak so loudly, but I had to do so in view of the situation hon. Members opposite themselves created.
The present Chancellor has taken responsibility for the advance in family allowances which he suggested were to be indelibly linked with the proposals we are now making. I submit that, on the basis of his own intervention last June, he is bound, and the Treasury are bound, to give greater support to the proposals we are making than anything the Financial Secretary has admitted today.
I knew, of course, that when we came to discuss this, matter on the morrow of the announcement that was made to employers and workers yesterday, all of us would be in the greatest difficulty. But however great the difficulty, the Chancellor himself had to admit yesterday that certain alterations in wage rates and scales will have to be considered. He made his plea—we are not arguing now whether we accept it or not—that there should be no considerable advance. It was pretty much the same as that which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South made in his Budget speech last year as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government.
But, despite that, alterations were envisaged by the present Chancellor in men's wages in certain circumstances, and I submit that if this Motion is carried today—as indeed a similar Motion has been carried through the past 32 years since it was first moved and adopted in this House—it is reasonable to suppose that the Chancellor should be prepared now to consider modifications. It is most unsatisfactory that the Financial Secretary should have to tell us that all the Government can propose is that they will begin to discuss the question and later on, after they have made their decision in the Treasury, they will consult the Staff Whitley Council and other representatives. But this is late in the day.
I suggest that even if the country were in the most favourable position the Tory Government would say "No." In 1935, when this question was raised, the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Duff Cooper as he then was, said the reason the Government could not accept this proposal was that the country had recovered from its financial difficulties, and that it had recovered because the Government of that day had been strong enough to say "No" to all those who had put forward proposals which are embodied in this Motion. Whether the financial situation is good or bad, the Tory Party, while pretending that they give their support in principle to these proposals, always manage to find a reason for doing nothing at all about it.
I also used the term "hypocrisy," which has been used against me frequently by hon. Members opposite during the last Parliament, but if it is out of order, I unreservedly withdraw it.
I have nothing to withdraw. I am certain that the statement I have made is correct. There is no doubt a case to be made for the principle of equal pay, as my hon. Friends have said and as the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) has said. She has a long, faithful and courageous record in this matter for which she can take credit at a time when her colleagues make speeches with no desire at all to bring the matter to a successful conclusion
I was saying that there is probably a good reason, despite the lateness of the hour, for hon. Members on both sides of the House to consider once again the fundamental principle of equal pay.
In the year 1904, when I was secretary of the Manchester Teachers' Association, I moved a resolution in favour of equal pay. On that occasion it was voted for by only about five out of 700 people. Two were well-known suffragettes, one of whom was Theresa Billington. It was about the same time that I was associated with Christobel Pankhurst. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh "] Hon. Gentlemen opposite would not express any resentment if they were in real earnest about the decision we are now discussing, because they owe much to Christobel Pankhurst, although her methods may have been wrong. I was associated with her in that first protest, made in the Manchester Free Trade Hall, at about the same period.
I have seen two movements—equal pay for men and women and equal political rights for men and women—growing up side by side. Political rights were won, and the Tory Party obtained some credit for being able to implement at last what a Liberal Government should have implemented a year or two earlier. I am grateful to know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), like many of us, has learned his lesson. He has been here today and he is staying here, despite his party conference, to give his support to this Motion.
Let hon. Gentlemen opposite not forget—and let the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Opposition Front Bench not forget—that women today are not without power. They can make their voices heard in every constituency. They know all about the financial crisis. They have read about the money that it is proposed to give in subvention to Income Tax payers. They will read about what the Government are doing for brewers. They know what the Government are doing for farmers. They know what the doctors are getting—financial crisis or no financial crisis. They know what the bankers are getting. They know what the recipients of wealth generally are getting.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) warned the House of the probability that women would not for ever sit down twiddling their fingers while hon. Gentlemen opposite twiddled theirs. The women of this country showed their capacity for winning without power in the days of the suffragettes. Today they have a still greater capacity.
As everybody knows, I wanted to be engaged on another Motion dealing with the diversion of foodstuffs to the manufacture of alcoholic beverages. In a way, I am rather symbolic of every hon. Member in the House, for we all wanted to be engaged on matters other than that which has caused us to be here in such numbers. The packed benches on both sides of the House, and the mass of hon. Members behind the Bar, are an indication of the power of women in the constituencies to let Parliament know who is the master in this situation.
Many an issue which the Government want to have discussed, and many an issue which we want to bring to a successful fruition, will be interfered with and prevented for years to come unless we can find a way round this piece of elementary justice for womenfolk—the right to receive for their labour the same wages as the man receives for the same sort of labour. The principle has had to be admitted in the House of Commons for hon. Gentlemen and hon. Ladies, and for fortunate people in many places, such as doctors, lawyers and architects. In such cases it has had to be admitted in common practice, and we can no longer deny the claims which women are making.
Despite the failure of the Government to give us a satisfactory reply about the date, which we demanded, I hope that hon. Members opposite, as well as my hon. Friends, will unitedly go into the Lobby in support of the Motion.
That this House reaffirms its belief in the principle of equal pay for equal work as between men and women; supports the doctrine universally accepted in the trade union movement of payment for all work at the rate for the job irrespective of sex; recognises, however, that the economic position of those with family responsibilities must be assured, which can be, and is being progressively achieved by a combination of family allowances and other social services, and tax reliefs; that therefore, in the opinion of this House there is no justification for continuing the 32 years' delay in implementing the Motion passed on the 19th May, 1920, which declared that it was "expedient" that women in the public services should be given equal pay; and it now calls upon Her Majesty's Government to announce an early and definite date by which the application of equal pay for equal work for women in the Civil Service, the teaching profession, local government and other public services will begin.