Equal Pay (Public Services)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th May 1952.

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Photo of Mr James Hudson Mr James Hudson , Ealing North 12:00 am, 16th May 1952

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.