I wish to inform the House that I have not selected the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and some of his hon. Friends:
That this House, while accepting the general desirability of equal payment for work of equal value, does not believe that legislation is appropriate in this field and declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which wholly conflicts with the view of the Royal Commission on Equal Pay.
That, however, will not affect the debate at all. The point of view expressed in that Amendment, and, indeed, any other point of view for or against the Second Reading of the Bill, may be expressed by any hon. Member I call.
Many hon. Members of both sexes wish to speak in this debate. I hope, therefore, that as we debate equal pay speeches will be of equal brevity.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
In our debates last week the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) said of me:
I bet that the right hon. Lady will be speaking when we come to the Second Reading of the Equal Pay Bill. She likes being in the kitchen when the sun is shining, but when the heat is on she gets clear."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1970; Vol. 795, c. 218]
I found that a rather surprising statement, not only because I do not think that many hon. Members would recognise that image of me, but because I thought that the right hon. Member for Mitcham prided himself on having turned the heat on me successfully during those stormy debates on prices and incomes and industrial relations policy. But obviously I was wrong and he did not turn on the heat at all.
Be that as it may, on one thing I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is that the sun is certainly shining from these benches this afternoon. Indeed, I think that his rather uncharacteristic outburst of petulance was due far more to envy than to anger. He knows perfectly well that if he were occupying my post under a Tory Government he would never have been allowed to introduce equal pay at the present time, if ever. His industrial paymasters would have seen to that. I can only hope that if his better nature has had time to reassert itself, he will share my delight on this occasion.
There can be no doubt that this afternoon we are witnessing another historic advance in the struggle against discrimination in our society, this time against discrimination on grounds of sex. In introducing the Bill, I hope that there will be no difference between the two sides of the House about the principle. The only difference is that the present Government have had the will to act.
While other people have talked—lots of people have talked—we intend to make equal pay for equal work a reality, and, in doing so, to take women workers progressively out of the sweated labour class. We intend to do it, if the House will back us, in ways which will give a lead to other countries whose governments have left us behind in adopting the principle but who are still striving for effective ways of implementing it.
The concept of equal pay for equal work is so self-evidently right and just that it has been part of our national thinking for a very long time. Here, as in other things, it was the Trade Union Movement which gave the lead. Indeed, as far back as 1888 the T.U.C. first endorsed the principle of the same wages for the same work—a very courageous avant garde thing to do in those days, long before Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, when women who worked in industry were certainly not considered respectable, even if they were regarded as human beings at all.
Since then the struggle against discrimination against women in rates of pay has had a chequered course. There was that great moment during the war when Mrs. Thelma Cazalet Keir, with strong Labour support, led a successful revolt against the Government on the issue of sex discrimination in teachers' pay, and the great man himself, Winston Churchill, had to come down to the House the next day to make the reimposition of sex discrimination a vote of confidence.
Since then, the cause of equal pay has had its partial victories: the non-industrial Civil Service, non-manual local authority workers and teachers all got the first of seven instalments towards equal pay in 1955, and full equality in 1961. But its extension to that far greater number of women in industry for whom the T.U.C. fought so long ago has so far eluded us. The trade union movement has realised that this can be done only by legislation, and previous Governments have refused to legislate. Up to now, the extension of equal pay in industry has always foundered on three arguments: how should we define equal pay for equal work? How can we enforce it? And: "The economic situation is not right." It is a tremendous credit to this Government that they have found the answer to all three.
First, let me take the question of definition as we have embodied it in the Bill. When my predecessor in this job, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), first started his discussions with both sides of industry on the implementation of equal pay in fulfilment of our election promise, it seemed as if this problem of definition might prove insoluble.
The C.B.I. was all in favour of the definition embodied in the Treaty of Rome:
Equal pay for the same work
but the T.U.C. emphatically rejected this as inadequate. The T.U.C. wanted the I.L. Convention definition:
Equal pay for work of equal value
which the C.B.I., in turn, rejected as being far too open ended and indefinite. I think that they were both right: "Equal pay for the same work" is so restrictive that it would merely impinge on those women, very much in the minority, who work side by side with men on identical work, while, equally, the I.L. definition is far from satisfactory.
What does one mean by "work of equal value"? What does one mean by "equal value" in that context? The Convention is not very helpful on this matter, but merely says that its phrase refers to
rates of remuneration established without discrimination based on sex.
That is fine. This is what we are seeking to achieve. But how does one estab-
lish whether and in what forms discrimination has taken place?
The phrase "Equal pay for work of equal value" is too abstract a concept to embody in legislation without further interpretation. Is it suggested that some one should set a value on every job a woman does? Even if that were practicable it would not solve the problem, because what we are concerned with is the relationship between men's pay and women's pay, and men, of course, have never had equal pay for work of equal value. One could only establish the relative value of men's and women's work by evaluating the work, not only of all women but of all men in the population, which is something we have never attempted in our wildest dreams of prices and incomes policies.
The I.L. Convention does not require anything remotely like this. Indeed, it is pretty off-hand about this whole approach to job evaluation. All it says is:
Where such action will assist in giving effect to the provisions of this Convention, measures shall be taken to promote objective appraisal of jobs on the basis of the work to be performed.
So the I.L. definition does not make job evaluation mandatory. Besides, the Convention leaves open whether the principle of equal pay shall be applied by legislation or through collective bargaining.
I think that, in the sense in which the right hon. Lady is discussing the matter, equal pay for work of equal value referred merely to the length of time an individual was at work, and one could not evaluate the individual job done.
That is certainly not the sense in which those who advocate that we should incorporate that definition in the legislation interpret the words.
The definitions that we have been offered so far have been too restrictive or too vague, while methods of enforcement have varied widely. Some countries have embodied the right of equal pay in their constitutions in general terms, and the detailed interpretation and enforcement of this right has depended on individuals raising cases in the ordinary courts. In other countries, the approach has been to encourage negotiations to incorporate suitable provisions in collective agreements. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that there are many countries which have ratified the I.L. Convention or signed the Treaty of Rome which have not yet effectively applied the principle in practice.
It is for this reason that the Government decided that they must look at the old definitions afresh and try to work out methods of enforcement which would have an effective practical impact on inequality. I think that in the Bill we have succeeded. Its aim is to eradicate discrimination in pay in specific identifiable situations by prescribing equally specific remedies.
The Bill deals with three different situations. The first situation is where men and many women are doing the same or "broadly similar" work, not only in the same establishment but in different establishments of the same employer where these are covered by common terms and conditions. The second is where they are doing jobs which are different but which have been found ha be equivalent under a scheme of job evaluation. The third is where their terms and conditions of employment are laid down in collective agreements, statutory wages orders or employers' pay structures.
This three-pronged approach does all that can be done in legislation, and goes beyond anything in the law of other major countries. It gets away from abstractions like "equal pay for work of equal value", and brings equal pay out of the debating room and into recognisable situations in factories, offices and shops, and into the black and white of pay agreements.
Clause 1 deals with the first two of the situations I have mentioned. It establishes that where a woman is doing work which is the same or broadly similar to that of men, or work which has been established as being equivalent to that of men by a job evaluation exercise, she qualifies for equal pay, whatever tier contract of employment may have said before and whatever any collective agreement may say about her work.
… the same or broadly similar work …
covers not only the situation where men and women do identical work but also the situation where there are differences between the work of women and men but the differences are not of practical importance. The Clause provides that in deciding whether work is broadly similar regard shall be had to the frequency with which the differences occur in practice as well as to the nature and extent of the difference.
The other limb of the Clause deals with job evaluation. There will be no obligation on employers to carry out job evaluation, but where it has been done or is done in the future discrimination in pay on grounds of sex between jobs of equivalent value will be prohibited. Job evaluation schemes cover probably 30 per cent. of the working population, so that this provision will have a wide impact, particularly as there is nothing to prevent unions pressing for the extension of job evaluation schemes. The Clause also removes the effect of any blatant discrimination there may have been in the actual process of job evaluation.
There are two other things to notice about the Clause. The first is that discrimination against men is equally prohibited. Secondly, it applies to all Crown employment, except the Armed Forces. This exception does not mean that we do not intend to apply equal pay in the Services. Indeed, the Prices and Incomes Board Report of last June on pay in the Armed Forces recommended equal pay for men and women where they could be shown to be doing equal work, and we shall honour this. It is merely that the method of enforcement we propose in the Bill would not be appropriate to people in the Services.
The enforcement procedure for those two limbs of our equal pay policy is outlined in Clause 2. The aim here is to provide a means of redress which is speedy, informal and accessible and in the industrial tribunals, set up in 1965 to deal with industrial training levies and later with appeals about redundancy payments and S.E.T., we have the ideal machinery to hand. It is ideal because the tribunals are experienced in dealing with employment matters, they include representatives of workers and they sit at various centres scattered throughout the country.
Where a dispute has arisen as to whether a woman worker is receiving equal pay for broadly similar work or under a job evaluation scheme, she or her employer can take the dispute to the tribunal which, if it finds in the woman's favour, will be able to award her arrears of pay for a period up to two years before the start of proceedings. Where a woman should have received payment in kind as well, such as accommodation or the use of a car, it will be able to award her compensatory damages in respect of this as well, though not punitive damages against the employer.
Can my right hon. Friend say how the woman would be able to take her case to a tribunal if a job evaluation exercise had not been carried out? I understand that it is one of the basic provisos that a job evaluation exercise must have been carried out. What happens if the firm concerned refuses to do this?
It is not only in the case of a job evaluation exercise having been carried out, but in a case where the woman claims to be doing a job equivalent to the men concerned, but where we are trying to measure the value of work done, it must be through job evaluation. This is why it is important to realise that 30 per cent. of the population are covered by job evaluation schemes. There is nothing to prevent unions asking for their extension, which would be very much in keeping with all that is best in the development of pay structures at present. The Clause removes the effect of any blatant discrimination there may have been in the process of job evaluation
Incidentally, if there is any reason why the woman cannot take the case to the tribunal herself, I can take it for her. In the normal way her union would take up the case, but she may not belong to a union: she may be afraid of victimisation or be frightened at the thought of going before a tribunal. If so, she can go to her local employment exchange and explain the situation and if there seems to be validity in her complaint, I can act on her behalf.
Clause 2 also contains a concept which is crucial to the whole intention of the Bill. This is the concept of "a material difference" between a woman's case and that of comparable male workers. The intention of the Bill is not to prohibit differences in pay between a woman and comparable male workers which arise because of genuine differences other than sex between her case and theirs. If an employer wishes to make additional payment to people employed on like work, in respect of matters such as length of service, merit, level of output and so on, the Bill will do nothing to hinder him, provided that the payments are available to any person who qualifies regardless of sex. But such payments must be related to actual differences in performance of service. It will not be permissible for an employer to discriminate between men as a class and women as a class, because he believes that in some way women generally are of less value to him as workers than men.
I now come to Clause 3, which deals with the third set of circumstances I have already mentioned—discrimination in collective agreements and in employers' pay structures which are not the subject of an agreement. The effect of this Clause is twofold. Where, on the operative date, a collective agreement or pay structure specifies a class of work or workers, however defined, to which separate men's and women's rates are attached, the women's rate must be raised to the level of the men's rate. And where an agreement or structure contains a women's rate as such—that is, without any description of the jobs that women do—that rate must be raised to the level of the lowest men's rate in the agreement. The effect of this on the women concerned is that none would get less than the lowest male rate and some might get more, depending on the jobs they actually perform. This achieves just what the women's organisations in their conference last Saturday were demanding. It prohibits different basic rates for men and women in collective agreements. I entirely agree that it is right that we should do this.
Disputes about collective agreements may be taken by any of the parties to an agreement, or by myself, to the Industrial Court. The Industrial Court is clearly the body best qualified to deal with disputes about collective agreements because of its considerable expertise in this field. The action of the Court will be confined to removing discrimination which appears on the face of the agreement in the way I have described. To that extent the court will redraft the agreement and the terms and conditions of workers covered by the agreement will be changed accordingly and become part of their contract of employment.
There is yet another way in which we can have a direct impact on discriminatory rates. As we know, some of the industries which employ a large proportion of women pay low rates of pay because trade union organisation in them is weak. It is for this reason that they have been brought under the protection of wages councils designed to reinforce the inadequacies of voluntary collective bargaining. We estimate that some 3,800,000 workers are covered by these wages councils, or by the Agricultural Wages Board, 2,375,000 of them women, and under Clauses 4 and 5 statutory wages orders embodying the agreements reached in these bodies will have to be brought in line with the principles I have outlined. Either side of the council or board concerned may complain that an order is discriminatory—so may I—and if the Industrial Court upholds the complaint, a fresh order must be made.
I would draw the attention of the House particularly to Clause 6. Unlike the legislation of some countries, our Bill provides that employers shall give equal treatment to women not only in remuneration, but in "terms and conditions of employment"—and here again we go further than the I.L. Convention. What do we mean by this? We mean that women must get equal treatment, not only in rates of pay, but in sickness and holiday schemes, payments in kind and any type of bonus rates. But we also say—and Clause 6 spells this out—that while being entitled to equal treatment in all these respects, a woman shall still retain the right to any favourable treatment accorded by law in respect of hours of work or to any special treatment accorded her by law or through negotiated agreements in connection with childbirth. In other words, we do not consider it preferential treatment for a woman to be given time off to have a baby, or to be paid while she is off—we would do the same for men if they had the courage to have babies, and I am sure the House will agree that this provision is right.
The hours of work question is more controversial. There are many who claim that the special restriction on women's hours of work contained in Part VI of the Factories Act, 1961, is out of date. The C.B.I. argues—so do many women—that now that we are legislating for equal pay all restrictions on women's hours of employment, including night work, should be removed.
I am the first to agree that there are a number of absurd anomalies in our present treatment of women over this. No one rushes in to protect nurses from night work—heaven help the rest of us if they did. We have women working nights on buses, as computer programmers, as air hostesses, in hotels and catering, without giving a second thought to it.
We women Members would scoff at the idea that we were too frail to do all-night sittings. Indeed, I have noticed that we usually look fresher than the men at the end of them.
Conditions in some parts of industry are more onerous; but, even so, only 25 per cent. of women workers are covered by the Factories Act regulations, and I am frequently asked to make exemptions in their case with the consent of the women concerned. Only the other day an agreement was negotiated by the unions in a motor company giving women equal pay, and I have been asked to exempt them from the restrictions on night work as part of it.
Where the women agree and I am satisfied that there is nothing prejudicial to their welfare, I am always prepared to consider exemptions. However, I think that it would be quite wrong to make the introduction of this legislation conditional on the blanket removal of the hours restrictions. There are some unions which still argue very strongly that the restrictions should be retained, and I know employers who are against night work for women on social grounds. It will be necessary to reassure them that the removal of statutory restrictions would not mean that women would be compelled to do night work if they did not want to do so. It is also necessary to show that we are really on the road to equal pay. I myself believe that the need for these restrictions is disappearing fast, but the, right way is for me to continue my consultations with both sides of industry on this as a separate matter in the hope of reaching an agreement.
No, certainly not; that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bill.
There is one further point arising on Clause 6. I have given a great deal of thought to the question whether the Bill should also cover employers' pensions schemes. On the face of it, it seems just that pensions, as part of remuneration, should be covered by the Bill, but in practice there are a number of difficulties, and as far as I can ascertain no other major country has included pensions in the scope of its provisions for equal pay.
When men and women are both covered by an employer's pension scheme at the present time, their pension usually differs in a number of important respects—incidentally, often in the woman's favour. For one thing, her age of retirement is usually lower than the man's yet on average she lives longer. So if we insisted on exactly equal treatment, the woman employee might find herself worse off.
There is another point of considerable importance. Employers with pensions schemes now face a transitional period when they will have to adjust those schemes to the Government's new proposals for earnings-related pensions, and they would not welcome this additional complication and burden at the present time. For all these reasons, I think that it is better for all concerned not to include pensions in the Bill.
So much for the scope of equal pay. How quickly should it be implemented? Clause 8 provides for the Act to come into force on 29th December, 1975, the last Monday of that year. This will give industry over five years to adapt itself to these far-reaching changes. As the House knows, the T.U.C. has urged me to make the period two years, while the C.B.I. has argued that five years is too short: it has claimed that in view of the economic effect of equal pay on certain woman-intensive industries I ought to allow a period of seven years. Here again. I believe that our proposals are about right.
I assure my hon. Friend that I have received no such demand, and I am awaiting with interest the contributions from hon. Members opposite this afternoon.
I was saying that I believe that our proposals are about right. Seven years is too long for women to wait for this basic act of justice. Besides, if we were to enter the Common Market, we would be expected to catch up more quickly than that with the other members of the Community which have been making progress in this direction over the past 13 years.
On the other hand, I believe that it is quite unrealistic to imagine that industry—or, incidentally, the workers in industry—could adapt themselves to these changes in a mere two years. The Government believe that, given reasonable time, industry can adjust itself to these additional costs. Overall we estimate that equal pay will add about 3½ per cent. to the national bill for wages and salaries over the five years—something we can certainly assimilate at a time of rising productivity. Moreover, we believe that by making employers pay economic rates for their women workers we shall be giving a boost to higher productivity.
For this is a Bill designed, not only to end injustice, but to stimulate efficiency. As long as women are paid below their economic value, there is no incentive to put their work and their abilities to the best use. Sweated labour is a soporific to management, not a stimulant.
At the same time, we recognise that the incidence of equal pay will fall much more heavily on some industries and firms than on others, because they are far more dependent on women's labour. That is why my Department carried out a survey recently, in conjunction with the T.U.C. and the C.B.I., into the cost of introducing equal pay in a number of firms in 13 selected industries, the results of which have been published in the January D.E.P. Gazette.
The industries were selected because they contained a high proportion or a large number of women. They were not intended to represent a complete cross-section of industry; therefore, the results are merely illustrative. They indicate that the median direct cost of introducing equal pay in the industries concerned would range from 0 per cent. to 18 per cent. In engineering, for example, the median figure would be only 2 per cent., whereas in retail distribution it would be 13 per cent. and in clothing 18 per cent. The cost for individual firms would vary even more—from 0 per cent. to 32 per cent. It is clear, therefore, that we must give the industries and firms most affected reasonable time to adjust. We believe that five years is reasonable.
On the question of timing, if the right hon. Lady had accepted the Amendment I moved on Report of the Prices and Incomes Bill in June, 1968, which would have exempted from her prices and incomes legislation pay rises to implement equal pay, would we not have been that much further along the scale now, so that these problems would not have arisen?
As I feared, that was a point of opinion and not one of fact. I reject it as being inaccurate. I hope that hon. Members will not interrupt me to make debating points which they would do better to make in speeches, if at all.
We do not think that it is necessary, as the C.B.I. has suggested, to exempt particular firms or industries from this timetable to give them a longer breathing space on the grounds that the cost to them would be higher. I believe that it would be particularly undesirable to exempt some firms and not others in the same industry. A moment's thought will show how unfair this would be to the firms not exempted, which would he placed at a competitive disadvantage because they had already introduced equal pay, were paying their women more, or were employing more men than the exempted firms. It is important that the firms which have the most catching up to do should not be allowed to drag their feet to the detriment of firms which are facing up to their social obligations. That is why Clause 8 gives me power by Order, subject to the approval of Parliament, to provide an interim stage at the end of 1973 if I find it necessary. This would enable me, if I thought progress towards the implementation of equal pay was too patchy or too slow, to require all firms to have achieved a given percentage of the target of full implementation—say 90 per cent. of the men's rates—by 31st December, 1973.
There are two other thoughts that I want to leave with hon. Members who think that five years is too long. The first is that there is nothing to prevent any firm which can afford it from negotiating the earlier introduction of full equal pay—and nothing to prevent any union from pressing it, as some already have. If the unions are prepared to give women higher priority in their wage claims, no one will be more delighted than I.
However, we should also remember that the commitment in this Bill to achieve equal pay by the end of 1975 means that, by definition, pay increases for women will have to exceed those for men over the next few years if women are to catch up in the time allowed. This is what we are committing ourselves to do in the Bill. We have got to give men on the shop floor time, just as we have got to give their employers time, to adjust themselves to the practical consequences of this commitment to equal pay on their wage negotiations. I believe that it would be asking too much of them to try and concentrate those consequences in a period of two years.
I have made it clear already that the police are covered in this Bill. I have gone into it in as much detail as the House will require, in view of the fact that I do not want to take up too much time and so prevent other hon. Members from contributing to the debate.
This, then, is the Bill that I commend to the House. I expect that, as we debate it during the coming months, we shall hear the usual range of conflicting arguments about the consequences of equal pay. On the one hand, we shall be told that the cost of these proposals will be crippling, that it will push up the cost of living, threaten our exports and damage our economic recovery. On the other, we shall be told that the proposals are so modest, that they will not help large numbers of women who are most exploited and that, in any case, men and their employers will successfully conspire to evade them. Yet again, we may be told that the proposals will be so effective in putting up women's rates of pay that they will put a large number of women out of work and damage the interests of women themselves.
Obviously these arguments cancel each other out. But let us look at them more closely. I believe that the country can afford this measure, that it will stimulate the more efficient use of labour, and that the effect on the cost of living will be marginal—far less than some of the tax proposals and proposals for import levies on food put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Will it, then, have the effect of throwing women out of work by forcing firms to automate or employ men instead? I accept that there are bound to be changes in a firm's workforce in specific instances. But I do not accept for a moment that the overall effect will be to create unemployment among women, any more than the introduction of equal pay in the non-industrial public services did—though we heard the same blood-chilling arguments put forward then as we are hearing now. Women form one-third of the working population, and they do so, not just because they are cheap labour or in it for the pin money, but because they need work and are urgently needed by their employers. Indeed, as we all know, there are innumerable jobs where women are employed because they are better at them than men, and in most areas of the country that I visit I find that employers are crying out for more women's labour. A number of employers, indeed, hope that equal pay will attract more women back into the labour force, where they are so badly needed.
How effective will the coverage of the Bill be? There are at the moment 8½ million women in employment, over one million of whom already receive equal pay. Of the rest, we estimate that some three million women are probably engaged on the same or broadly similar work as men or likely to benefit through the adjustment of collective agreements; others are covered by job evaluation schemes and, as I have said, nearly 2½ million women will be covered by the wages councils provisions.
There is also the fact that, if a number of women in a firm have their rates brought up to the men's rates, it is bound to have an effect on the pay of other women in the firm. Some of these categories, of course, overlap, but we believe that some six million women will be directly affected by this legislation, and that includes women who are engaged in what are traditionally "women's jobs". But there is also what I call the "halo effect".
Some of the firms surveyed in our inquiry told us that, although they believed that none of their women workers qualified directly for equal pay, they expected that they would have to increase their wages if increases were paid to women by other firms in the locality. Engineering, pottery and food firms in particular expected this to happen. I think that there can be no doubt that the introduction of equal pay along the lines of this Bill will lead to a general rise in women's earnings relative to men's.
What, then, of evasion? Again I have no doubt that some employers will try it on, and the T.U.C. has pointed out some ways in which it might be done; for example, by employers "phasing out" men from certain jobs in order to continue paying women a lower rate without being guilty of discrimination, or substituting job descriptions for women's rates that appear to make the men's and women's work different. I believe that extensive evasion along these lines can be prevented by the kinds of action that I have outlined earlier: the extension of job evaluation, properly drawn collective agreements, and the "halo effect". But, undoubtedly, pockets of discrimination will remain—unless women organise to put a stop to it.
Legislation cannot cover every possible development, and, in any case, it is no part of my job to make it unnecessary for women to join a trade union. Their failure to do so is one of the reasons for their present plight. This Bill does all that the law can do. It is for women to call the trade union movement in aid to see that they get the maximum benefit out of it, and it is for the trade union movement to seize the biggest opportunity that it has ever had to organise women, by showing them what it can do to help them to see that this law is not evaded. If the trade unions will seize this opportunity—and if women will respond—there is no reason why this Bill should not be the means of bringing to an end an era of financial exploitation of women's work. There will be other forms of discrimination against women that we shall have to deal with in due course, but this Bill is an essential starting point.
There is just one thing I would like to say in conclusion. It is to pay a tribute to all those who have argued and striven over the past years for equal pay for women, and in particular to those hon. Members on both sides of the House who have championed the cause which is coming to such happy fruition today. I hope that we can unite enthusiastically behind this Bill.
I can assure the right hon. Lady that we were genuinely very glad to see her at the Dispatch Box today moving the Second Reading of the Bill. Since she referred to the matter, however, let me also reiterate that we were equally genuine last week in being censorious that she should be the first Minister responsible for labour, certainly in modern history, to fail to speak and defend the record of her Government and her Department in a major debate on unemployment in the House.
Just as much as the right hon. Lady thought it had to do with it this afternoon.
She said that she thought I might have said this out of envy because had I been in her place I should not have been able
to do anything to promote equal pay. As she said that, I could not help looking at HANSARD of 11th June, 1947, which I happened to have by me. I had no idea that the right hon. Lady would say what she did and that the passage in question would therefore be so appropriate. On 11th June, 1947, the late Mr. Hugh Dalton, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a statement in the House about the reaction of the then Labour Government to the Report of the recent Royal Commission on equal pay. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), then Member for Oxford, put this question to the Chancellor:
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, not for the first time, he has claimed the credit for a number of social improvements agreed to during the time of the Coalition, and does not his answer mean that the principle of equal pay for equal work, like other social advances, will have to wait for the return of a Conservative Administration?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th June, 1947; Vol. 438, c. 1072.]
And so it did.
I believe that the T.U.C. was first committed to it about 100 years ago. The T.U.C. has taken a long time to get down to it.
In our "Industrial Charter", published in 1947, we said in the section on incentives:
In this connection we have examined carefully the claim for equal pay for men and women. It seems to us that payment by results ought to give equal pay for equal value whether the work is done by a man or a woman. We believe that there should be one rate for the job provided that the services rendered and the results achieved by men and women are the same. We commend this principle to those engaged in industrial wage negotiations as the right one to adopt. In non-industrial occupations we should wish to move forward on the same
principle when financial and other considerations made it possible.
That commitment was reaffirmed in the Conservative Party's general policy statement in 1949, entitled "The Right Road for Britain", and in our election manifestos in 1950 and 1951.
When in power, we followed our commitment by action. In 1955 we introduced equal pay in the non-industrial Civil Service and simultaneously actively encouraged, supported and led its introduction for teachers and those in hospital services and local government. In other words, when in power we acted.
If we could come from the 1940s to the 1960s, is it not a fact that equal pay was not in either of the Conservative Party's election manifestos for the last two elections, and that all we got in their document "Fair Share for the Fair Sex" of 1969 was the pledge to discuss the whole question with employers and trade unions during the life of the next Conservative Government?
In other words, during precisely the same sort of time scale as the right hon. Lady is now dealing with. I will come to that in a moment.
More recently, in 1968 my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed) introduced an Amendment, which had the support of our Front Bench, which would have exempted from the bite of the statutory incomes policy pay awards designed to bring about equal pay. That was resisted by the right hon. Lady, who thereby quite unnecessarily wasted 18 months, as my hon. Friend said this afternoon.
It is all very well for the right hon. Lady to talk this afternoon about stimulating efficiency by raising low pay, particularly of women workers. It is a very strange doctrine from the chief apostle of statutory incomes policy and some of the Statutory Orders which we have had to debate, introduced by her and some of her colleagues since 1966. At least the debate on the Prices and Incomes Acts exerted pressure which finally forced the right hon. Lady to undertake to enter into serious negotiations with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C.
I will deal with the details of the Bill in a moment. The House will listen with some amusement to a plea to stop joking from the hon. Gentleman.
It follows from the record of commitment and action by Conservative Governments that we would wish to support any Measure which sensibly encourages the further adoption of equal pay for work of equal value and merit, and which completes the process which the Conservative Government started on such a large scale between 1955 and 1961.
The House and the country must ask themselves two questions. First, can and should this be done by legislation. Second, if so, is the Bill a good one for the purpose? My answer to the first question of whether this can and should be assisted by legislation is definitely in the affirmative. It is a legitimate function of the law to put on record the judgment of the community about what is fair and reasonable. It is also a useful and legitimate function of the law in practical terms, because law does form opinion and influence behaviour.
Whilst I believe strongly that pay and conditions of work should be determined by collective bargaining, and by personal negotiation where collective bargaining for one reason or another does not apply, and that bargaining should be free of State intervention, it is right that that bargaining should take place within a framework of general rules laid down in a code of civil law. So very definitely I answer in the affirmative to the question whether law can and should assist here.
The second question, as to whether the Bill is good, is much more difficult to answer. There is much about it that we on this side and many people in the country do not like, and I suspect will like less the more it is applied in detail. For example, the Bill is entirely silent on some of the most important matters of all in regard to greater equality of opportunity for women in employment, whereas on those issues which it does tackle it betrays a dangerous belief in the value of fussy interventionism. We believe that on balance it is right to give the Bill a fair wind on Second Reading, and we shall do so, but in Committee we shall probe and press and seek to amend many important points.
To the women of Britain we give a general warning, because we suspect that when they eat this pudding it will not live up to the glossy claims of the St. James's Square advertising agency. Why must the right hon. Lady always tend to oversell what she offers? She must be a born believer in Robert Louis Stevenson's adage:
To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.
She is always setting out on crusades, and in her crusades for conciliation pauses, strike ballots and a statutory prices and incomes policy she always came out fighting on shining white chargers which were shot down beneath her. This time she enters the arena mounted on a gift horse, whose mouth needs looking into very closely, and we shall so look into it.
May I first make two general points to the right hon. Lady. The first is about the cost to the economy. We feel that the country should be more and better informed than it yet is. I hope that her hon. Friend in winding up will say something about this, and will undertake to have more research and eventually more information as we go ahead into the period covered by the Bill. The estimates of the cost to the economy vary enormously, ranging from £600 million to £1,200 million a year: in other words, from about 3 per cent. to 6 per cent. of the total wage bill. I do not think anyone would claim that either of those estimates is much better than a wild guess. In any case, the guesses show very big variations, not only from industry to industry, but from one company to another within the same industry.
The D.E.P. inquiry was not done in great depth, as is admitted, and it shows how big a range of variation there is likely to be. I expect the right hon. Lady is aware of the research paper published by the Industrial Educational and Research Foundation, which goes into this subject at considerable length and also shows this great uncertainty about what is likely to be the effect in different industries and companies, and the great variations which are likely to occur. We therefore ask, without holding up the operation of the Bill, if Parliament approves it, that the Government should straight away make efforts to obtain better information than we yet have on this complicaed subject.
While I am convinced of the great economic benefit which can come to the country in the long-term from equal pay and from basing our economy on a high earnings and high efficiency policy, it cannot be denied that there are short-term burdens, and that the carrying of those burdens as they are imposed can create problems for the country as a whole, for individual industries and for individual firms. The long-term benefit must not be spoilt by difficulties in managing to carry the short-term burdens.
This leads me to my second point, which has been referred to by the right hon. Lady but not at great length, and that is the danger, as we start to introduce equal pay, of leapfrogging claims from men. The Prime Minister in speaking to the Trade Union Congress last September stressed that progress towards equal pay must be based on a restraint of incomes policy generally. That was badly received by the delegates at the T.U.C., but it is obviously crucial to the economy during the years when equal pay is being introduced. I am surprised that the right hon. Lady did not see fit this afternoon to refer more specifically than she did to the problem raised openly by her right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he spoke to the T.U.C. last September. What assurances have the right hon. Lady and the Government received from the T.U.C. on this point, and what assurances from the leaders of individual unions?
I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The right hon. Gentleman is opposed to a prices and incomes policy, and advocates a high wage economy, but, as soon as it is put into effect, he starts picking holes in it. This is absolutely contradictory.
The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) is wrong in saying it is contradictory. What I said a few moments ago, to which some hon. Members nodded their heads, was that, while the economic benefits of the long-term were undoubted, there were short-term difficulties which none of us on either side of the House or on either side of industry can duck. How does one begin to bring the level of women's pay closer to men's pay and avoid the reaction of men, and unions dominated by men, in putting in claims to restore the previous differentials? Anyone with experience of industry, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have, must know that this is a real problem. While I would certainly oppose to the hilt a statutory incomes policy to deal with this, the country can properly ask the Government whether they have had consultations about this with the T.U.C. and the leaders of the main unions, and what the results of those consultations has been. That is what I am asking the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks in terms of differentials. Surely the bringing in of a Measure to introduce equal pay means an end to differentials between men and women; that is the whole point of the Bill. How can he then say that, if there is equal pay, men will demand differentials? This is not logical, and shows that the right hon. Gentleman has not studied the subject properly.
There is certainly nothing in the Bill to prevent it. Since on this rare occasion I happen to be agreeing with the Prime Minister, perhaps hon. Members opposite might turn some of their criticisms and objections towards him and towards their own Front Bench rather than towards me.
Before I leave this subject, may I repeat that anybody who knows anything about industry, as hon. Gentlemen opposite do, knows that I am raising a real point of substance which must be of concern to the Government and to the right hon. Lady.
May I turn now to specific criticisms of the Bill, First, there is the silence of the Bill on the vital question of equality of opportunity for employment. The Bill is intended to prevent discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment between men and women, but it leaves untouched some most important aspects of discrimination. For example, it does not apply to freedom of opportunity to apply for or to enter any form of employment, or to be admitted to training courses. Experience abroad, notably in the United States, where equal pay has been statutorily required for some time, suggests that, as a result, the number of opportunities for women in higher grade jobs may have been reduced. Enforcement, without some attempt to ensure equality of opportunity, could therefore be a doubtful advantage.
Similarly, there is no reference in the Bill to discrimination by professional bodies or by trade unions as regards membership or equal treatment of men and women members. Such discrimination can be a bar to employment. May I take two quite different examples, the Stock Exchange and the printing industry. Does anybody seriously believe that women at the moment would have much chance of getting employment in skilled jobs which they could do within the printing unions? Here are two good examples from different fields where the bar to opportunity is a much more serious barrier than inequality of pay. The fact is that access to good employment is the greatest need for women and, where this happens, law is hardly necessary to attain the achievement of equal pay. One can look at Vauxhall's to find one good example. Another example is the wire industry, where it is interesting to note that women wire-pullers earn more than men. [Laughter.]
There really is a danger here, and I beg the right hon. Lady and hon. Members opposite to recognise this and to take it seriously. There is a danger that in pressing too hard on the enforcement of equal pay while doing nothing simultaneously about providing equal opportunity that might increase the practice of hiving off women into their own separate employments and therefore do more harm than good. I am not saying that it will happen or that it need happen, but I ask the Government and the House to recognise that there is a genuine danger that it may happen.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman must accept that if one introduces equal pay it is an incentive for equal opportunity? The craftsman in the printing industry, for example, has protected the craft in order to keep a high level of pay, keeping women out. If that no longer applies one is beginning to open the door.
It should be and could be, but there is a danger that it might not be.
I have been generous in giving way, but it does take time. I hope that hon. Members opposite will forgive me if I am less generous from now on.
My second criticism is the rigidity of the timing regarding the introduction of this Measure. I want to make it clear that I do not disagree with six years—because it is six years, not five, because it is up to the end of 1975—and that is a reasonable period. But we are entering on an unknown and very difficult exercise, and it will be genuinely difficult in many industries and companies to decide with consistency between one industry or company and another what constitutes broadly similar employment. The costs also are unknown, but they will be high for some industries and companies. What I am questioning is that the Bill sets an arbitrary and all-embracing time limit for what is a complex and expensive change in employment policy. The Government have been unable so far to take adequate steps to be informed about the detailed problems and the cost involved.
The cost survey reported in the D.E.P. Gazette was based on definitions different from those now proposed, and the Report itself disclaims any authority on which an estimate of the overall cost could be based. In those circumstances, it seems to us irresponsible to leave no option in the Bill by which the Secretary of State and her successors could have power if necessary to extend the time limit, either generally or for particular industries.
If the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State chooses to regard that lightly, I suggest that he should regard it seriously. No individual company or industry would lightly ask for such an extension, because it would be placed in a bad competitive situation for obtaining female labour. I am also quite sure no Secretary of State of whichever party would ask for it lightly, because he or she would not be likely to receive a favourable reception from the House.
I have already said that the period is, by and large, reasonable, but we are entering into an unknown field—and I think this is admitted—and there could be special industries and special cases where not to have this power might prove to be embarrassing to whatever Government or Minister were in power in the period ahead.
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I have given way a great deal. I ask the House to regard and perhaps look more deeply into the experiences of other countries, for example, to Europe, where countries have been finding that the full application of equal pay has been taking longer than was thought when they embarked on the process.
I turn to the question of Ministerial intervention. We believe strongly that equal pay should be brought about by collective bargaining or by personal negotiation where, for one reason or another, collective bargaining does not exist. We agree that it is right and proper and useful for that bargaining to take place within the framework of law, but we object strongly to the Minister having power to intervene to take action in reference to industrial tribunals or the Industrial Court. I have good reason to believe that many trade union leaders share this objection on principle.
Next, we object to the procedural detail in this Bill; or some of it, and this objection is closely allied to the previous objection in regard to Ministerial intervention. It seems to us that Clause 3 goes into excessive detail on procedure which could damage industrial relations. It provides that any collective agreement or pay structure which after the effective date still contains provisions applying to men or to women only may be referred to the Industrial Court. That is fair enough. But it then goes on to require the Industrial Court to make amendments in precise terms. It would be quite adequate, in our view, and much more in keeping with traditional voluntary collective bargaining if the Industrial Court was simply required to ensure that Amendments which satisfied the Act were made. In other words, the Court would be there in the last resort to veto, but parties would be left to put the agreement right by voluntary collective bargaining. The court would still be there in the background. Here again I have reason to believe that a good many people in the trade union movement would not disagree with me.
The next point of criticism is the failure of the Bill to remove some of the present restrictions and inequalities affecting the employment of women. That ties right back to my first criticism—about the Bill's silence on equality of opportunity. Obviously I have in mind particularly Section 6 of the Factories Act regarding the control of night shift working and so on by women to which the right hon. Lady referred. The right hon. Lady admitted that there were anomalies in the present law, and the Factories Act covered only about 25 per cent. of women in employment. We believe that changes should be made, perhaps not in this Bill but concurrently, not only in the name of fairness, which is important, but also for the purpose of achieving the Bill's intentions.
As long as the Factories Act remains unamended, it seems to me that Clause 1(4)(b) gives a perfectly valid reason for avoiding the underlying purpose of the Bill because of the comparisons which could be made about terms and conditions of working attached to men and women. Therefore, I believe that it is not good enough for the right hon. Lady merely to say that she will consider exemptions when requested. In collective bargaining one needs to know when making an agreement what the conditions will be; and one cannot wait till afterwards to know whether one will get exemption. If the right hon. Lady says in effect that exemption will be more or less automatic, then I suggest that that is another reason for changing the law.
Under the same head, there are the questions of pensions, taxation and social services. We find it odd that the Bill is silent on some of these points. One cannot expect the Bill to deal with taxation for that is properly a Budget matter, but the Government ought to give some indications about it. For the right hon. Lady to give a firm categorical answer about selective employment tax as she did in response to an intervention, is nothing short of amazing. If the selective employment tax—if, alas, it is to continue at all—is not to be changed in respect of women when there is equal pay, one is creating a reverse discrimination to which, I imagine, many men would strongly object.
Finally, on the points of particular criticism, I must refer to the exclusion of the Armed Services. The right hon. Lady said that she recognised that there was much work in the Services which was equal, which was of the same kind for women and men, that the Government meant to see that equal pay was implemented in the Services, but that the enforcement procedure in the Bill was not appropriate to the Services. That may be, but why not include the Services and also include provision for an enforcement procedure which is satisfactory to the Services? We shall certainly follow up in Committee the proposal to exclude the Services and say more about it then.
In conclusion, I make both a general criticism and a general plea to the Secretary of State, which, I hope, she will take seriously. Our general criticism is that the content and spirit of the Bill seem to be based too much on the proposition that the principal enemy of equal pay is the employer. In fact, the main enemies to equality of employment opportunity and pay for women are convention and male prejudice, both conscious and subconscious.
Look at boards of directors and top managements. Look at top jobs in the public services. Look at the Stock Exchange. Look at Lloyds, just admitting women now. Look at the law. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) will be able to tell the House something from personal experience here. Women are of course admitted to the law, but I think that she may say that women barristers, for example, have an equal chance only when they specialise in rather narrow fields. I may be wrong, for I am not a lawyer, but that is my impression. Look at the position of women in many industries, in engineering, in printing, and so on.
Look at the composition of bodies on the trade union side. Look at the composition of the General Council of the T.U.C. I believe that the General Council of the T.U.C. has only two women members out of a membership of 39. Look at the Transport and General Workers' Union, which has ¼ million women workers, I believe, out of a total membership of 1½ million, but which has no female executive members at all. In the A.E.F., there are, I understand, seven women members on the National Committee, the central policy making body, but they are there only as observers and have no vote on decisions.
I do not give those examples in any malevolent spirit. [An HON. MEMBER: "Really?"] Certainly. I have taken them from across the whole field—boards of directors, top management, the Stock Exchange, the professions, not just the trade union movement. But I am giving them to prove my contention that the main obstacle which we have to overcome is convention and male prejudice, either conscious or subconscious.
While I believe that the wise introduction of equal pay can be a lever to open the door, with both economic and social benefits to the nation, I believe also that the difficulties are great and the opportunities for legal avoidance of the letter as opposed to the spirit of the Bill are enormous. They could be taken not just by wicked employers but by employers with the connivance and encouragement of men employees if we do not implement the law sensibly and wisely.
It is true that public opinion polls show an overwhelming majority in favour of equal pay, but that is on the general principle. There is an overwhelming majority against sin. There is an overwhelming majority in favour of economy in general. But so often one finds that an overwhelming majority in general turns to opposition when one comes to specific points affecting specific persons' interests.
I beg the right hon. Lady, therefore, to remember one of Newton's basic laws, that action and reaction are equal and opposite. If the content of the Bill and its subsequent administration are made threatening and dictatorial, we may provoke a move towards confining women even more than they are at the moment within particular fields of employment in which pay may be equal but will also be low. We could provoke a contraction rather than an expansion of the employment opportunities open to women. If, on the other hand, the content and administration of the Bill are flexible and wise, we may then achieve great advantage, both economic and social, for the nation.
I beg the right hon. Lady to show wisdom, to show patience and to show flexibility. If she does, she will further what I believe to be her genuine interest, namely, real advance. If, on the other hand, she does not, this will be nothing more than a vote-catching exercise.
We have just listened to a petty-minded speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly, yes. I have been associated with this movement, whether my party has been in favour of it or not, over the past 40 years. I can at least claim that I broke the marriage bar for women in a local education authority in the 1930s when it was not particularly popular to do so. I cannot remember the right hon. Gentleman's name being much associated in the House with equal pay.
My mind goes back to 16th May, 1952, when I moved the Motion, which was seconded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), calling for equal pay in the public services. I am amazed at the House of Commons today. On that Friday, the House was absolutely crowded, the most crowded I can remember on a Friday, and similar to a Budget day. The reason was that the professional women and their organisations had arranged a great lobby of all hon. Members on that Friday morning, and on the evening before also, when there were so many demonstrations that they ran out of halls. Two years after that, Lord Butler, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, agreed to set the seven years limit, which came to full fruition when the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) was in office.
One of the indictments here rests on the professional women. Directly they had their own way, directly they had equal pay in the public services, in the teaching profession and so on, they turned their backs on their industrial sisters. I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) is not here, because hers is the most honourable name on that side of the House in all that agitation. I remember that, at a great demonstration when we had won equal pay in the public services, I pleaded that all the organisations and professional women as a whole should use their powers through education and their expertise to finish the battle.
The point at issue is short and simple. The right hon. Gentleman need not have gone on at such length. Equal pay among industrial women means simply that no woman in any industry, industry by industry or shop by shop, should be paid less than an unskilled male labourer, and that above that she should qualify for every differential on merit. If that is conceded, most of what the right hon. Gentleman said will be answered.
Having said that and made my criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I express the hope that we may this afternoon come together in a mood of some rejoicing, for this legislation represents another step on the forward march to the emancipation of women.
I am sure that it gives great pleasure to my right hon. Friend, as it does to me, that the Bill should be before the House today. She took part in the debate in 1952, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon). It is pleasant to be able to recognise her in this hour of achievement, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will take more pleasure from the felicitations of my hon. Friends and myself than disappointment from the strictures of petty-minded hon. Members opposite. She has a great record, and together she and I can say that, whether our party liked it or not, we were always in favour of this principle and pressed it whenever we were in a position to do so.
It is no use citing Chancellors of the Exchequer. I could fill my speech with quotations from Chancellors of both parties saying that this principle could never be implemented. It is useless to quote Dalton in 1947 amid all the preoccupations of the first three or four years after the war. I could quote Butler, or Amory, or the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral. They, too, took that position.
This afternoon we have taken a significant step forward. But I hope that it will not be regarded purely as a piece of legislation. I hope that it will be recognised that, just as all civilised people think that the colour bar is obscene, or anti-Semitism is obscene, because it is discrimination against a man because of the colour of his skin or the shape of his nose, it is equally obscene to discriminate against women merely on grounds of sex.
This problem goes back to the Industrial Revolution. This afternoon we should affirm, not in grudging speeches, that a country is civilised only to the extent that it recognises the equality of its women. These campaigns always come roaring in like lions in the early days, but all the others with which I have been associated, equal pay or taking over the Palace, when once the principle was achieved seemed to go out whimpering like lambs, and the great battles of yesteryear seem to be settled in a thin House, as this is.
I present hon. Members opposite with what I have to say about the T.U.C. I do not know why there was a great upsurge about equal pay at last year's T.U.C. Conference. Equal pay is not the sort of matter to be used for valedictory swansongs by people who have never before raised their voices on its behalf. The T.U.C. has often gone on record with great resounding resolutions about equal pay, but of course it is at the conventions and on the shop floor where the difficulties arise. This is exactly the sort of thing that happens when the T.U.C. reaffirms the rights of coloured people. How many coloured bus inspectors are there in London?
There is one matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred only in passing, but which I regard as far more fundamental. Before this legislation is worked out, we must deal with the taxation system as it affects married people. When I see a woman at a bench or pleading at the Bar, I do not consider that her position in society is more advanced and more worth while than that of the mother bringing up three or four children in her own home. We know the terrible price which we pay in juvenile delinquency and all that sort of thing because some married women go into factories. I have great admiration for the woman who can realise herself through her growing family and through looking after her husband. I am always grateful that my wife has realised some of her ambitions through me. But the taxation system will have to be altered to take cognisance of wives and mothers, and I know that women will understand that there may have to be a price in taxation to be paid for that.
I rejoice that this campaign, with which I have long been associated, has been taken another step forward this afternoon. I hope that it will be regarded as just another step, and that it will not be thought to be the last, towards the full interflow of that free and equal society which is the end and purpose of all intelligent political endeavour. As the historian once said, what we mean by progress is so often that we leave behind the fading dusk and proceed to an even more doubtful dawn.
It is usual to declare an interest, and I must do so in that I am probably the only woman Member of Parliament at present employing women in industry. I am a director of a large company with interests both here and overseas. I share some childhood memories with the right hon. Lady. We went to the same school and we share the same industrial background. In many respects, we probably have the same prejudices and objectives in this matter. I wholeheartedly congratulate her on the Bill, although I regard it as only modest and only one step on the way in which we are going.
It is difficult to find anything new to say about the principle, because for all my working life I have been talking about the principle of equal pay for women. There are few who would deny in principle that women must have equal pay. Many are the sole breadwinners for their families. Many people, like myself, have supported aged mothers. I know of some of the difficulties, disadvantages and discriminations which women in industry can meet.
I must tell the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) that if women who go out to work have delinquent children, I must claim to be a delinquent in many respects. But in many other respects women who go out to work bring up families even better, because they have broader and more tolerant attitudes to life as a whole. I cannot claim to say anything new, but I can claim to say something about the prejudices and difficulties which we know we shall face.
There is no doubt that these difficulties will occur on both sides of industry. The management side often dislikes having to go to the trouble—and it is often the trouble—of job evaluation, of finding circumstances in which jobs are similar or dissimilar. Many people put great stress on the fact that theirs is a women-orientated industry, as it were, as the textile industry is, and we know about that from living in the West Riding of Yorkshire. They will put stress on the added costs and difficulties of evaluating jobs.
The trade unions are not always among the best friends of equal pay. I have worked in industry long enough to know that many of the obstacles are raised by the craft unions. There is no need to go into these matters in too great detail this afternoon, because we shall be arguing them out very closely in Committee, but it is important to get the Bill right.
Clause 2 refers to broadly similar jobs and broadly similar tasks in industry. That will cause considerable difficulty, not just because of the job itself, but because people will always advance different reasons why women go to work; they will say that women are less reliable; that women are more haphazard.
Does not the hon. Lady agree that this is a gross fallacy, which we who are sympathetic to this cause should dismiss? Would she not agree that in practice women are generally a damned sight more reliable workers than men and certainly very much more loyal?
The hon. Gentleman is making my speech. This is the point that I was coming to. There are a variety of reasons why women go out to work and why, perhaps, their attendance is more haphazard and their period at work is more interrupted, and why perhaps they are not willing to do overtime or able to do it. They are not always at work purely for the maximum gain in their wage packet, because they are not the sole breadwinner in the family but a subsidiary breadwinner with extra responsibilities.
Having employed women for a number of years now, since the end of the war, I believe that they are more reliable, given the right sort of conditions. This is where we have to take a great step forward. Employers must recognise that they have different responsibilities, and very often different attitudes because of these different responsibilities and because of their training and the attitude of society. It is the purpose of good management to help in this set of circumstances and to make it possible for women, when they have to look after dependants or sick children, and when they have interruptions in their working life for one reason or another, to have this equality of opportunity—not just equal pay, not just an equal rate for the job. This is where I wholeheartedly agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). It is equality of opportunity, not only in getting the job and in promotion if it can be claimed that they are good enough for the promotion, but equality in getting the experience, the training and the opportunities within the job which bring about promotion.
In the company of which I am a director, the female employees came to me recently and complained that in our firm we did not give women employees the same opportunities with training schemes as we give to men. To my consternation, because I am a suffragette in this respect, I found that this was so. Our excuse was valid; women would get married and would not go on with their careers, and they do not want to give the whole of their time and energy to their careers. These were important research jobs, and training schemes were expensive. Therefore it was not worthwhile giving women these opportunities. Who are we as directors to decide whether it is worth- while? It is for the women, having got the opportunities of equal terms of employment, to make certain that they use those opportunities.
I place my hopes more on the progress and expansion of job evaluation. A lot of nonsense is talked about this. I spent the whole of my war service working on job evaluation in the Air Force. At the outset we were told that it could not be done, certainly not by women. By the end of the war we proved that we could do a reasonably good job. Equally, I know how subjective the judgments are in this area. We must not pretend that this is a panacea, a medicinal compound which will cure all of our ills.
The more we look at the structure of jobs, the more we bring our own ideas up to date—very often the concept we have of the job is one reached some time in the last century, arising out of completely different conditions in a completely different society—and the more we in industry go forward with re-structuring our jobs, the more efficient and effective we shall be. I hope that the Bill will be not only to the advantage of women working in industry, of women who at the moment are at a disadvantage because of the pay structure, but to the advantage of industry in making efficient and effective use of the labour force.
I cannot stress too strongly the plea that somehow, somewhere in the Bill we should give a greater regard to the opportunities, the training and promotion prospects for women. It is not good enough to look at the one aspect of equal pay in this context. I probably see this from the top looking down a good deal of the time, and I am sure that many other hon. Members have closer experience of industry. As we know, it is the attitude within the firm, within the job and within society that matters. Not only have we to make it possible for all women to have tile right rate for the job when they are working, but we have to make certain that society enables them to do that job and to do the shift-working which is so often difficult at present.
To some extent I agree with the right hon. Lady about the difficulty of changing the Factories Act provisions about shift work and night work. I am sitting on the fence about this because I also agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham that this has to be done at the same time, in the context of the Bill. We have a prejudice to break down. In many industries, particularly the pottery industry in Staffordshire and around Stoke-on-Trent, there is a strong prejudice—and I can put it in no other terms—against women working on night shifts. These are small firms where maybe the management is not—I do not want to say of a sufficient calibre, but maybe not as progressive as in many of the larger firms. There is an element of prejudice in some of the small firms, and if we are to have the complete equality which this Bill presupposes, and if we are to safeguard young people, we must have good management.
It can be one of the important difficulties, and it is one of the changes on which we shall have to go forward slowly. I agree with my right hon. Friend that if we tackle this Bill in any spirit of partisanship, if we try to force the pace, we may do more harm than good. The timing of the Bill is about right. Within five to six years, and in many industries sooner, we can work out the difficult conditions facing us. I also believe that there will be some hard core problems which will not easily be solved. It is in these cases that we have to be as tolerant and flexible as we can, not trying to gain party points over who had something done more quickly. We must make certain that we do it the best way, thus achieving our objectives and giving women a real chance, a real opportunity and a real equality in industry.
It is the attitudes which are the obstacles. In the C.B.I. working party pamphlet on equal pay this was the point which was made—that at the end of the day it was the attitudes which made the obstacles and the obstacles which formed the attitudes, making people say that these things could not be done. I believe that we are taking a great step forward. There are many things wrong with the Bill, and when it has been through Committee it will be considerably better. I hope that if we do not have our Amendments accepted, we shall give notice very strongly that we shall amend the Measure as soon as we get back into office.
It is very important that as far as possible we get this right. Let us not think that it will be easy. I have experience not only of this country but of factories in Europe. There it has been found to be a great deal more difficult than was at first thought. We are facing this problem far more realistically than did our European colleagues. We must learn from their experience, but it will take time and patience.
If we do this we shall not only make it easier and better for women to work in industry but we shall build a better society. We can have a society with a joint partnership between men and women, and therefore a strong society, only when women are able to develop to the full their whole personalities, when women feel that they are not at a disadvantage and when men feel that there is a true partnership in all the facets of their working and social lives. There is much hard work to do if we are to achieve the purposes at which we all aim.
I agree with almost everything in the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike), except with her remark that she agreed with her right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). I felt that she was disagreeing with him most of the time.
The hon. Lady does so by force of habit, as we all tend to do. I welcome the explanation in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum that the object of the Bill is to eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex in remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment. I am as concerned about the issue of "other terms and conditions of employment" as I am about the issue of equal pay.
Neither my right hon. Friend nor the right hon. Member for Mitcham mentioned the point that is brought out in Clause 9(2):
In this Act the expressions 'man' and 'woman' shall be read as applying to persons of whatever age.
The terms and conditions of employment of young persons, including apprenticeship training and a wide range of other matters, come within what the right hon. Gentleman rather pessimistically described as the opportunities which do not exist. I believe that they do exist, and
if they do not I am sure there will be opposition from both sides of the House.
Estimates given as to the level of cost range from 3½ per cent. to 6 per cent. To take the lower figure, I suggest that this step will not seem quite as revolutionary as some people indicate in terms of cost. A great deal will depend on how we interpret what we mean by equal pay. Equal pay with whom? I remember as a junior Minister at the Ministry of Labour some years ago attending an I.L.O. meeting in Geneva in 1951 before which was a resolution on equal pay. It was proposed by the South American Republics and backed to the hilt by the Middle Eastern Arab States. I could not help thinking then that if our women here were confronted with the same rates of pay as their men were getting, then all hell would be let loose. Much depends on how one interprets the question of "Equal pay for whom?".
The date for application of these provisions has caused controversy, but I believe that it is being overplayed. The contents of the Bill are common knowledge and demands by trade unions have already been made. From now on every trade union that deals with industries in which women are employed will be pressing for the implementation of this Measure. None will volunteer to remain at the back of the queue simply because a date has been given in the Bill. Indeed, in many industries a considerable number of trade unions will be involved and it will be very difficult to refuse equal pay to one set of trade union members and to grant it to others. Furthermore, it would be disastrous if employers were to drag their feet until towards the end of the period approaching 1975 and then suddenly have to apply these provisions within a very short period of time. That would not be in the best interests of the economy.
There will be a wide-ranging dispute on the question of eligibility and who will receive equal pay and who will not. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend in his reply will go into a little more detail than did the Minister in saying what Clause 2 means. It might be thought, and I hope that I am wrong, that we are here concerned about a woman who is applying for equal pay. I am not concerned with the woman who happens at a given moment to be working on a particular job. I am concerned about the job itself. If the issue goes to a tribunal, it must be a question whether the job qualifies for equal pay and not a question simply related to the lady who happens at that moment to be working on it. Unless we go about this matter in a sensible fashion, we shall never get a code within which industry can work.
I should like to mention the situation of women who carry out jobs that are not usually regarded as carrying men's rates, and I should like to have an answer from my hon. Friend on this matter. It will either be a source of great disappointment or, if we can get it put right, will be a matter of great inspiration to a large section of women workers at present.
To take the engineering industry, the industry that I know best, a very large number of women work on assembly jobs in which the final product depends on the timing of many small assembly jobs. In some firms such work is carried out by men and in other firms the work is done by women. There will be an argument whether those women should qualify for equal pay. I hope that the Minister will take into account the fact that if that type of important productive job is to be deemed not to carry any more than the rate the woman is now getting, it will be considerably below the labourers' rates and therefore there will be a shoal of applications on behalf of those women. The A.E.F. for years has demanded equal pay so that the women can earn the labourers' rates. I hope that the Government will look closely at this matter. We must not get into the doubtful situation in which women who are doing an excellent job in assembly and who contribute to the global outcome of that work are kept on the low women's rates as opposed to the higher rates.
I was a little perturbed when the Minister said that in engineering there would be only a 2 per cent. increase. I hope that the women's rates, whatever the job may be, will not be less than the male labourers' rates as a result of the provisions of this Bill. Unless that is the outcome, I shall be most disappointed.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham, and, indeed, the hon. Lady the Member for Melton, mentioned attitudes of mind in the application of equal pay, and I agree with them. It is no credit at all to employers or trades unions that 25 years ago many more women received men's rates than is the case today. That occurred largely because of the dilution agreements in the engineering industry and related industries. The work which we then carried out in applying such agreements in which upgrading both of men and women occurred can be most useful in working out the details of this Bill. We argued then whether a job was applicable for equal pay or whether it was not, and a great deal of work was done in getting a code established of the kind of jobs which were applicable and those which were not. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that she look at the results of that work which was done on dilution agreements.
I had hoped that we could take this Bill in a rather wider context. For many years now, modernisation, automation, call it what we will, has produced in industry a position in which we need a far higher ratio of skilled people to unskilled people. That process will go on, and as it goes on, we shall need far fewer unskilled people than we have needed before. By 1975, indeed, when the deadline falls for the implementation of the Bill, a great deal less unskilled labour will be needed and far more skilled labour will be necessary throughout a great many of our industries.
Alongside this development, we have the somewhat ironical situation that, even with an economic squeeze, the nation is still radically short of skilled labour—even in the areas of heaviest unemployment. That should have been said in the debate the other day about unemployment. That position of hundreds of vacancies for skilled people in areas of heavy unemployment will become even worse when the economy is allowed to expand more freely than it is at the moment. I do not want to go too far into the question of the G.T.C.s, but since Government training centres are only half filled it is obvious that that basic, simple fact has not yet sunk in. In these circumstances, merely to increase the volume of unskilled labour in the work force is no answer to the basic problem. Indeed, it could aggravate that problem.
I have referred to certain types of work which women do. I should have thought
that, as the process of modernisation moves on, a great many of those jobs will be among the first to disappear. Therefore, the problem of finding employment for unskilled labour will become much worse. In paragraph 349 of the Donovan Report, a Report not quoted from the Front Bench, it is said:
One other restriction hindering free access to skilled work is that related to the training, or rather the failure to train, women. From the point of view of improving the position of women in industry, this is a problem whose solution is in the long run even more important than that of equal pay. The facts are so disturbing, and the implications, both social and economic, so important, that they must be singled out for discussion.
There follows a table of numbers of people taking apprenticeships. I shall not go through it all, but I take two or three of the figures. I take scientists and technologists. Males taking apprenticeships were 9,630 at the beginning of 1967; females, 110. Of draughtsmen, there were 17,450 males; females, 350. Skilled craft workers numbered 271,650 males; 5,430 females. In engineering and electrical goods manufacture, out of a female labour force of 340,000, only 13,200 are skilled women.
The other day I presented the awards in a big engineering firm in my division, a firm which has a very good apprenticeship system. I suppose that some 200 people were involved—but not one girl among the lot. Having taken some interest in this problem, I have found that it is always exceptional to find a girl among them; there is almost always a gasp when a girl comes along to receive an award, and yet, I remind the House, at school girls are quite as successful as boys at 0 levels. Why in Heaven's name, this kind of nonsense should go on beats me.
We have heard a great deal about the cost of equal pay. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned it. I remind the House that for every girl or woman who can be used to fill a skilled vacancy we not only write off completely the cost factor but we achieve a positive asset, and instead of aggravating the problem of a surplus of unskilled labour we make economic expansion possible, without the shortages of skill which have disfigured previous periods of expansion. In these circumstances the obvious answer to shortages of skilled labour and the fall in the requirements for unskilled labour is to use the coming of equal pay to break through what I consider the disgusting and crazy notion that female labour is synonymous with unskilled labour. It seems to me that that is either male arrogance or feudal thinking, and a nation in our position can afford neither.
Without the approach which I have suggested, I believe that the coming of equal pay will be horribly disappointing to those girls and women who are working at those jobs which have always been performed by women who at best can get labourers' rates. Or else they will get nothing at all. I hope that we shall have confirmation of this before the end of the debate.
Tucked away in Clause 9(2) are words on the need to give boys and girls the same facilities. I should like to feel—and I want an assurance—that from now on day release facilities which boys have to take apprenticeships will be available to girls in those industries. Indeed, for my part, unless that is done I would claim that the provisions of the Bill are not being carried out.
I do not want to go on quoting the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, but I remind the House that it says:
…in remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment".
A condition of apprenticeship is that boys shall be permitted to be educated in the way I have described, and I would consider it a discrimination if girls were not given the same facilities as boys. Again, I take it that all the opportunities for training, including attendance at G.T.C.s to learn the rudiments of a craft, and the provision of £10 a week which the Government pay for on-the-job training, will be available to women who wish to avail themselves of such facilities. I know that they will not all wish to do so. That is fair enough. But it seems to me that it will be discriminating on sex grounds to refuse to give women the opportunity to learn a craft if they desire so to do, and that it will be the same thing if girls are not given the opportunity to take out apprenticeships. The coming of comprehensive schools gives us a great opportunity, as I see it, to train girls in science and in technological subjects.
I take it as a matter of fact that this legislation is doing just that. I take it that that is what it does. If it does not, I shall be very disappointed.
What we need is a change of attitude. During the war, far and away more women got skilled rates of pay. I plead guilty to getting skilled rates of pay for more women than probably any other shop steward of that period. I glory in it. Even today, if what I said about the changes in the ratio of skilled to unskilled workers is true, we are still vastly short of skilled labour and will get less and less demand for unskilled. I should have thought that a nation which does not avail itself of one-third of its labour force to train for skilled occupations does not deserve to remain in the forefront of the great industrial powers.
I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly. I hope that it will put the "dinosaurs", whether they are in trade union colours or those of employers, firmly in their places, and that there will be no more nonsense from now on about believing that girls and women are incapable of doing highly skilled work. There is no need to have the muscles of Tarzan of the Apes to do a skilled job these days. The coming of the technological breakthrough has eliminated most of that. It is in the belief that the Bill will afford a new kind of approach to the problems of employment of female labour that I welcome it.
I shall try, as far as I can, to obey your injunction to be brief, Mr. Speaker, but I hope that the House will accord me a little indulgence in that respect, because I shall be deploying a case which otherwise it may not hear and which it certainly has not yet heard.
This is a Bill to do something which was a question remitted to a Royal Commission, the Royal Commission on Equal Pay. I am, I think, sixth to speak in the debate, and the remarkable thing is that there has been no mention in any of those speeches so far of that Commission. The Secretary of State managed to introduce the Bill without ever mentioning the Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission was set up by the late Herbert Morrison to consider this question. As one would expect in those circumstances, it was balanced in its political composition. It included men and women, it spent two years on the subject and it presented a report admirable in its presentation and in the thoroughness and care with which the subject is set out. It is therefore surprising, since the right hon. Lady, in introducing the Bill, is totally rejecting the analysis of the Royal Commission, that we did not hear at least some word of explanation why this strange thing should be so. But, of course, that Royal Commission and its report were about equal pay for equal work, and the Bill is not.
The familiar phrase in discussion and in international resolution has been "equal pay for work of equal value". Much thought was given by the Royal Commission to what was "work of equal value". The right hon. Member far Southwark (Mr. Gunter), when he held the right hon. Lady's position, or part of it, used to say from that Dispatch Box that the difficulty was to know what was equal work.
The right hon. Lady was not, of course, unconscious of this problem. She recounted the various descriptions of it and said that "equal pay for equal work" was one. The T.U.C. likes the phrase "the same wages for the same work", and she concluded this part of her speech by asking how one defined equal pay for equal work. It was too abstract a concept, she said, to put into legislation.
The right hon. Lady says that this Government have found the answer. I shall ask the House in a moment to look at the answer. What she has done is to avoid all the difficulties by a simple political assumption. If the work is of
the same or broadly similar nature"—
I am of course quoting the Bill—it is to be assumed, absolutely, as matter of law, that the value of a man doing it and of a woman doing it are the same, even if, demonstrably, they are not. Former differences of opinion as to whether one looks only at the performance of a man or a woman in the job or whether one also brings into account factors of the
overall value of a man or woman to the employer seem not to matter, for under the Bill one may take neither into account.
Yet one must look at the complexity which the Bill ignores in order to see how artificial an exercise the Bill is. First, piece rates may be put aside, for they have scarcely figured in the controversy and the Bill will scarely affect them. In a sense, they solve the problem where they apply. It is the grade of time rates which are affected which is the subject of the Bill. Although it might be quite impracticable to operate many jobs on a price list, it may be possible to value the work done by a man or by a woman as a special operation.
Of course, the Royal Commission collected a lot of such information, and, as would be expected, the comparative value of men's work and women's work in the same job varied greatly, according to what sort of job it was, from about half in some cases to fully equal or even more valuable in others. That was the direct comparison in immediate performance of the job, leaving out other factors.
The elements making up "overall value to the employer"—I use the Royal Commission's expression—other than actual performance of the job, were set out briefly in paragraph 10 of the report and more fully elsewhere. Referring to these other factors, it said, for example:
If the total period of employment is markedly shorter than the normal full working life (as, for example, when a woman leaves her employment on marriage) there may be, in some employments, an inconveniently rapid labour turnover; or again, employees between whom there is nothing to choose as regards the work on which they are actually engaged may differ widely in their capacities to undertake, in due course, the higher responsibilities falling to their senior colleagues for whom replacements must eventually be found. Again, of two employees who are equally efficient while at work, one may be frequently absent through sickness or other causes thereby causing delays and disorganisation in the work to be done.
These are some of the extrinsic factors which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike).
In the past there have been two views about equal pay—one that we should take into account only efficiency while at work and should ignore the other factors of overall value to which reference has been made by my hon. Friend—the view of the Atkins Committee in 1919—and the other that it is indefensibly unjust not to take everything into account—the view, on the whole, of the Royal Commission. The right hon. Lady has produced a new, third view—that we should take neither element into account. The Bill starkly propounds the rate for the job, with no material qualifications. Of the three possible meanings of equal pay which Beatrice Webb set out at the beginning of the century, it takes the most extreme.
It is therefore not surprising that in introducing the Bill the right hon. Lady said, in a sentence which may not have caught the attention of the House, that the Bill goes beyond anything in the law of other major countries. As she said expressly, it goes beyond Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome. I do not think that hon. Members on either side of the House quite realise how far the Bill goes.
It is true that a little later in her speech the right hon. Lady talked of jobs of equivalent value, but there is no such phrase in the Bill. Hon. Members should bear in mind that we are discussing the Second Reading of a Bill and not a general school debating society motion about the rights and wrongs of equal pay. If hon. Members will study the provisions of the Bill, they will see that it prescribes that men and women employed on work which is the same or of a broadly similar nature shall be paid the same. It does not matter if all the men in that job produce half as much again as all the women in that job; it does not matter if that fact can be conclusively demonstrated. If the work is the same or broadly similar there is an absolute requirement that a term shall be implied in a contract for equal pay for the two.
Does not the hon. and learned Member concede that if a man working in a job produced only about 50 per cent. of the production of each of his colleagues his employer would move him? The same thing would happen with women.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me not to answer that point immediately, but to continue on my course. I believe that I shall reach that point in a moment, and it might save a little time if I did it in that way.
To the form of the Bill and its consequences I shall return, but first I would point out that the Short Title is highly misleading—Equal Pay (No. 2) Bill. It is not just about equal pay; it is much wider. Clause 1 contains the words:
the terms and conditions of one sex are not in any respect less favourable".
The whole wording is governed by the words in line 6
equal treatment as regards terms and conditions".
The word "remuneration", to which reference has been made several times, occurs only in the Financial Memorandum; it is not to be found in the Bill. It is merely an inference that the Bill applies to equal pay. The Bill is half way to the employment provisions of the Race Relations Act, and perhaps more than half way.
I can see that hon. Members opposite are taking a special interest in this point. Perhaps I may say on this question roughly what I said on the Race Relations Bill. I then said that the Bill happened to be about race but my reactions would be identical if it were about anything else. I say that this Bill happens to be about sex, but my reactions to the use of legislation in this way would be identical if it were about some other subject.
The Bill really seeks to enforce by law the rate for the job. There are three grounds of objection to this, although they tend to merge. The first is the ground of injustice, the second the ground of expediency and the third the ground of inappropriateness of the legislation. On the ground of injustice, at present there are no legal barriers—other than those which the right hon. Lady proposes to keep—limiting the opportunity or the level of remuneration that a woman can receive in any occupation. If there were any such legal barriers I should be the first to jump on them, but there is none.
Since there are no legal barriers there is surely a presumption that the market mirrors the truth. That was set out in paragraph 345 of the Royal Commission Report.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman think that the market mirrored the truth when women worked down the coal mines and his sort were then opposing legislation?
I cannot go back with great authority into the party warfare of the last century, but I have the impression that it was my party which tended to pass legislation limiting that—[Interruption.] Having asked her question, perhaps the hon. Lady would listen to my answer. It was my party which tended to pass legislation limiting that, not on any ground germane to the Bill—the level of remuneration—but because work of that kind was thought to be unsuitable for women, and because—if I dare use the phrase—of the inherent differences between men and women. The hon. Lady has torpedoed her case.
I was about to read an extract from paragraph 345 of the Royal Commission Report. It said:
If all this is to be accepted as true"—
what I said about no legal impediments—
it follows that we should expect to find that in those occupations in which both men and women are employed and in which the engagement and dismissal of workers lies at the unfettered discretion of employers, the average man is more efficient than the average woman. For if it were not so it is hard to see why, at the prevailing wage rates, the employer should continue for any length of time to employ men.
The Royal Commission says in paragraph 345:
We must repeat once more that such a situation, if it exists, would not imply any universal 'inferiority' of women to men.
This is the crucial point to which the right hon. Lady did not address a word.
There is no impediment. The right hon. Lady is not sweeping away any barrier. She is putting one up. An artificial distortion is being created. All the barriers disappeared long ago. What is wrong with paragraph 345 of the Royal Commission's Report? I have no doubt that the right hon. Lady could find an ingenious argument on the subject. It is strange, therefore, that she did not favour the House with it.
Against this market argument several hon. Members have introduced the argu-
ment of privilege, or force of tradition. Herbert Morrison's Royal Commission is a valuable document in this context because it states that tradition and inertia are factors at work. Paragraph 338 says:
At the same time it must, we think, be recognised that inertia cuts both ways. For if it makes some people prone to acquiesce in the continuance of a given state of affairs after the forces which brought it into existence have passed away, it seems to make others somewhat incurious as to what these forces may have been or whether they may not still in fact be at least partially operative. Some of our witnesses, in pointing out truly enough that inequality of pay as between the sexes is sanctioned by tradition, seem to us to have been too ready to jump to the conclusion that it is sanctioned by nothing else—that just because it is of old standing it must therefore be without rational foundation at the present time.
That is a telling comment on the blanket argument that this is all due to tradition and convention.
It might be persuasive if there were no rational or factual evidence to the opposite effect, but there is. Value is a question not of political principle but of industrial and commercial fact. Consider the job itself. Take, for example, the evidence which the Royal Commission collected—the information is contained in paragraph 226—on piece rates. Piece rates in a way short-circuit the argument because one is paying to men and women doing the same job the same rates, and the resultant pay will show how each has acquitted himself or herself on an equal basis.
Perhaps the hon. Lady will have an opportunity later of explaining why it is not true. It would appear to most people that if a man and woman are doing the same job beside each other at the same rates and on the same price list, their resultant pay will be some indication of their value to the employer.
The evidence on that score was quite conclusive. It showed that in nearly all occupations men earned more than women, or produced more than women, when working on identical piece rates on the same job in the same establishment. Even an argument that looks invulnerable may be attacked, but I found it difficult to understand why the right hon. Lady, when introducing a Bill which flew in the face of the only authoritative report that we have on the subject, did not say a word to show why it was invalid.
One may also consider particular occupations; for example, in agriculture, a sphere which is explicitly covered by the Bill. The Royal Commission states in paragraph 251:
In the vast majority of farm tasks—including hoeing and weeding and such miscellaneous work as attending cattle, driving hay mowers, rolling with horses, horse raking, tractor driving (excluding repairs), threshing, lifting swedes and turnips, riddling and sorting potatoes, cutting cabbages—the average work output of women appeared to range between 70 per cent. and 90 per cent. of that of men.
The Royal Commission says that there are certain operations where the difference is much greater, while in respect of such tasks as the picking of small fruits and flowers the value of women's work is higher.
Would the right hon. Lady apply the Bill—I take it that she takes seriously, as a legislative proposal, a Measure of this kind—to these facts? Suppose a woman and man are doing a typical farm job such as
tractor driving (excluding repairs), threshing, lifting swedes and turnips, riddling and sorting potatoes, cutting cabbages
and assuming that this difference of 25 per cent. is found, under the Bill both will have to be paid the same. Why? What does the right hon. Lady intend to do about that? She will no doubt get out of that one by saying, "Because of his physical strength", the significance of which may have been diminished by technical progress, but not to the point of nil, "where it can be demonstrated clearly that the man's work is worth one-third more, then either the man or the woman will have to leave that employment".
Are they to work side by side for the same money when it is clear that the man is producing more, or is there to be segregation in employment of that kind?
The right hon. Lady may say that only one sex need be employed on such a job, so that the problem would be avoided. In a free country, however, can she explain why it should be unlawful for a farmer to employ a man at one rate of pay and a woman at another to do work of broadly similar character, and to pay appropriately differentiated wages?
On the point of the hon. and learned Gentleman's present argument, I do not think that anyone on this side would argue that if a job was predominantly physical and men were more suited for it, men should be recruited for it and do the job. The Bill means that if an unscrupulous employer takes on a woman to do that type of work and she does it efficiently, she should have the standard rate for the job.
The hon. Gentleman says that if the job is one which a man can, because of his superior physical strength, do better, yet a woman is recruited but does the job less well—
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to put the proposition to him, because the Bill has to cover all cases. I invite the hon. Gentleman to assume that a man and a woman were together doing a piece of work which the man could do better. The Bill would enforce equality of payment—
The hon. Member probably has a copy of the Bill, and that is all he needs. That is why I describe this as a very extreme Bill going beyond the law of any other country, because it makes this extraordinary provision for time rates.
I come to the areas where this matters most—the so-called "overlap" areas. The overlap areas are described by the Royal Commission, to put it briefly, as those where the market has the price right and where, therefore, both men and women are employed in doing the same job. What will be the effect of the Bill? Where women predominate, the men will be dispensed with because no employer will keep a few men who will set the rate for the whole of his labour force. So the men will go. Where men predominate the women will go, because in that case they have only just got a foothold and their foothold depends on the differential: abolish the differential, and they will go.
Therefore, because of its extraordinarily extreme nature in relation to time work and because of these two other factors, the Bill will lead to the rigid stratification in industry pointed out in paragraph 509 of the valuable report of the Royal Commission which the right hon. Lady does not seem to have read.
This stratification will lead on to the next step—and I thought that I would, perhaps, have to persuade the House that there does have to be the next step—in the form of a sex discrimination Bill, but I do not have to do so, because the right hon. Lady said as much. To my astonishment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) appeared to be asking for such a Bill: at any rate, he regretted that this present measure did not go further in that direction.
Let there be no mistake about it. Hon. Members opposite may welcome or they may deplore such a development, but let us at least get it crystal clear in our minds that this Bill is the first step that will inevitably lead to a Bill of that nature. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) has left the Chamber, but I say that when this stratification sets in everyone will say that what matters is job opportunity, and that we must enforce job opportunity on employers by a full sex discrimination law, with all the impedimenta that go with it.
Then there is the fact that the Bill will lead not to justice but to injustice. As the Royal Commission pointed out, this is a false standardisation of wages which must lead not to greater approximation between individual effort and individual reward but to less approximation. This will be justified by the right hon. Lady, I suppose, as social engineering: in fact, that was the real meaning of her speech. If that be so, I remind her that when we start on social engineering we have to take everything into account.
In the Treasury evidence to the Royal Commission it was said:
Even with a differential wage, the average woman is, in the present state of society, on a higher economic level than her average male colleague.
Sir William Beveridge gave evidence to the same effect—
I have to plead guilty, Mr. Speaker, to giving away to an unreasonable extent, but when one is subjected to this kind of treatment it is difficult not to give way. I will not give way in future. It is because of interventions that I have continued to this extent.
With statutorily enforced equal pay, that effect will be exaggerated. [Interruption.] If I could speak without constant interruption from the other side, my remarks would take only half the time. I have been immensely interrupted. I ask hon. Members to ask any married schoolmaster whether this is not the case. Therefore, if one talks of equity, one should refer to the Royal Commission's Report, which says:
The claim for equal pay relies for its appeal largely on 'plain justice'.
It is, therefore, relevant to inquire where, on balance, "plain justice" lies. The Bill forbids a man being paid more even when his work is worth more, and does so in the cause of social engineering; yet men carry, and must always carry, the main economic burden of the community.
The result of the Bill will, in all probability, be depression of the common rate of pay, and that is the real nature of the threat to the family. Such folly can only lead to the French position of massive allowances according to the size of family. But in France this was an instrument of Government population policy, and our population problem is the exact opposite. This is the industrial millstone which the French Government have hung round the necks of their Common Market colleagues in Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome. Therefore, we should not underestimate the trigger which we are pulling by this Bill. It must lead, as is conceded by both sides, to a sex discrimination Act, and it must lead, I say, whether it is conceded or not, to massive family allowances.
Few hon. Members are present this evening, and few realise the full significance of the Bill. It is election year, or thought to be, and people are afraid—wrongly, I believe—of stating their true opinions. It is said that women want this Measure. I do not believe that they do. I believe that there is nothing so unrepresentative as a representative woman.
Legislation is absolutely wrong in this field. Attempts to rig the market always fail. For that reason my colleagues and I voted against the Prices and Incomes Bill and its renewal. This Bill is exactly that thing again. It is unjust and economically dangerous; and it is folly to think that inflation and over-employment will float anything. As the Royal Commission presciently said in its report, actions like this would in days of a strict gold standard and floating rates have met swift retribution. Therefore, I invite the House to believe that this Bill and its proposals are economically superficial and naïve. They introduce into yet another field of human affairs the influence of Statute law. I ask the House whether it is thought really necessary that we must have laws about everything and actions in the courts about everything with injunctions and damages and prescription spreading even wider through the community, until eventually freedom is wholly destroyed.
For those reasons I oppose the Bill and it is in general my intention tonight to divide the House against it. If I do not do so it will not be through any weakening of my opposition to the Bill but because I fear that on a Monday night—[Interruption.]
You will understand, Mr. Speaker why I have taken a little longer than usual. It may be that dividing the House might create a wrong impression of opposition to and interest in this historic Bill, but my opposition to it is explicit and expressed for the reasons I have set out. Whether the House divides at the end of the day or not, I wish to go on record as one who recognises the danger of this Bill for the present and for the future.
In view of what you said, Mr. Speaker, it would be especially discourteous of me to follow the peevish mish-mash which we had from the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). It is a pity that so much time has been taken up with lengthy quotations from a report published a quarter of a century ago. Since the Royal Commission reported there have been rapid and revolutionary changes in women's work, in their employment and in the application of technical advances to industry which have transformed the whole position.
So far as I propose to waste any time on the hon. and learned Member, I would recommend him to drop the old-fashioned Royal Commission and to refer instead to an excellent publication by the Department of Employment and Productivity entitled "Time Rates of Wages and Hours of Work". He can get it from the Library. He will find there a vast number of jobs set out with clear profiles and delineations of responsibility and skill required, so that this whole difficulty of finding the equivalent work and the equivalent pay is being grossly over-rated. If there were time I would give further examples, but I respect the need for brevity.
I will mention only one example which shows that we are dealing with a real problem and that it is not a feminist problem. This is a Bill which should rejoice the men of this country. It is a Bill equally about men—we have talked too much about women today—for it is about the rate for the job and about fair wages. The hon. and learned Member opposed the Measure prohibiting racial discrimination. He wants to oppose this Bill on sex discrimination. I am glad that I am not a black woman asking him for a job.
I give an example from the pottery industry, an industry I know something about. The lowest rate there for women is 2s. 1½d. an hour and the highest agreed rate is 2s. 3¾d. These highest-paid women in the pottery industry include women gilders and decorators who are doing very highly skilled work on pottery and porcelain which makes it so important to our export trade. I cannot find an equivalent for a man doing gilding and patterned work which is so skilled. But the man who packs up the china and carts it to the warehouse has a minimum of 3s. 1½d. This discrimination is quite intolerable.
I cannot give way because I am respecting the need to be very brief.
There are countless examples in which skilled women are under-paid compared with unskilled men. That is one reason why I welcome this Bill very much and congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on tackling this problem at last. This problem is partly the result of the bad record of employers, but there is a particular reason why we must have legislation on this matter. The lowest paid women and many lowest paid men work for local authorities; they are public employees. There would be a serious case for surcharge among local authorities if they were paid rates above the J.I.C. agreements which, unfortunately, still differentiate between men and women doing the same job.
I should like my right hon. Friend to try to start this process by asking for cases, first, where there is a clear definition of the job, and, secondly, in the area in which the Government have direct responsibility. I refer to the industrial women civil servants. I do not think that they ought to have to wait the whole six years. We should start straight away bringing them in on a gradual basis, as happened with the non-industrial civil servants earlier. We could start in this House. It is a great disgrace—I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is listening to me—that we do not apply equal pay here. The last time I asked a Question on this subject I was horrified to find that the excellent woman working in the bar downsairs is paid 30s. a week less than the man working next to her, without any difference in efficiency and courtesy when minstering to the needs of hon. Members.
My hon. Friend has referred to 1975. Is she aware that that is the maximum time and that there is no reason once the Bill becomes law why this House or any employer should not implement equal pay immediately?
I am aware of that. I urge that employees for whom the Government are responsible should get the benefit of this Bill straight away. I do not care how much it would cost, because the bigger the cost the bigger has been the forced subsidy which under-paid women have been giving to industry through the centuries.
Moreover, this argument was used when Parliament sought to end child labour. It was used when education was made compulsory in 1870, it being said that the country could not afford the loss of child labour and that children should be at work. The more that this costs, the more it shows what women have lost over the years and how they have been subsidising industry by their cheap labour. The men should be glad that this is a step towards social justice in wages policy. It is a step towards eliminating the dangers of undercutting.
This is a danger which will become all the more real as automation changes industry. The value of brawn in industry is being reduced. We are getting more and more unisex in factories. When the work depends much more on deft fingers and skill, there will be more and more demand for the trained women who are now coming forward. Unless the Bill is strictly implemented, the men will be the losers.
There are all sorts of other difficulties applying to the whole question of women a work. I do not take the criticism that the Bill does not cover enough of the difficulties. There are difficulties in connection with pensions, the care of children, the need for more day nurseries, the need for more part-time work, and about national insurance and income tax; but I do not complain that they are not covered in this Bill.
I am ashamed to say that I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South about not being entirely happy with the Title of the Bill. The Long Title describes it as:
A Bill to prevent discrimination, as regards terms and conditions of employment, between men and women.
It will always be known as the Equal Pay Bill. I do not know whether there will be an opportunity to reconsider the Title and whether my right hon. Friend will offer a prize for the best suggestion. I should like the Bill to be called the "Equality in Employment Bill". It is important to emphasise to the public that we are looking for equality in terms and conditions of, and opportunities for, employment as well as in pay.
Out of deference to the appeal made from the Chair I omit much of what I wanted to say. In conclusion, I am glad that the Bill has been introduced by a Labour Government. It may not seem overtly so, but this is above all a Socialist Bill, because it is about poor women. It is about the more than 50 per cent. of working women who earn less than 5s. an hour. There has been equal pay for some time for clever, articulate, professional women. Today we are talking about poor women. If the hon. and learned Gentleman were logical, he would seek to introduce a Bill to bring back unequal pay for teachers and to introduce unequal pay for achitects, barristers and engineers.
The Bill is seeking to ensure that the women who do the lowest paid, most drudging jobs in society at last get a measure of social justice. For all these reasons, I support the Bill.
Every fair-minded person must acknowledge that it is gross injustice when a woman bearing the same responsibility in the same job and working the same hours as a man receives an inferior wage to his. I do not care whether we are talking about a bartender, a bus driver, or a bank executive. In setting out to destroy this injustice the Bill is worthy of universal support, and it has mine.
However, I am bound to voice certain misgivings and point out that there are one or two thorns on this rose. I fear that the Bill will turn out to be not an unmixed blessing for the fair sex, though I devoutly hope that I am wrong. I hope that everything works as I am sure that the First Secretary of State intends it to work, but there are potentialities about the Bill that worry me.
The right hon. Lady assured the House that there would be no likelihood of widespread sackings of women because of the Bill. My hon. and valued friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) mentioned the inequalities practised by some firms in the matter of sending women off on training schemes. I do not have that kind of worry. I am not so worried about women being sacked as about the possibility that they may not be hired.
An employer who has one vacancy but two applicants both of whom are aged 20, both of whom have exactly the same educational attainments and period of training, one being a man and the other being a woman, will, I fear, look at the matter long-term and say, "Here is a young man of 20. If he gets engaged and married and has a family, if anything he will be a better bet in my employment. If the woman does, I am not so sure. She may leave me. Even if she does not leave me for long when she has a child, she will inevitably have to look after the child when it is ill and before it goes to school" I am afraid that not the Bill or society, but nature inevitably takes a kickback on women.
I agree entirely with the sentiments the hon. Lady has expressed, but is not this the price we may have to be prepared to pay for the equality we are trying to achieve?
It may be the price, but we should think about it seriously and try to eradicate it.
It is necessary for us not to claim unfair advantages as the female sex. The right hon. Lady tended to keep a firm grasp on her cake but to take a large bite on it as well when she said that women will still be entitled to preferential treatment in matters of maternity leave, and so on.
This month's magazine of the Suffragette Fellowship, a body for which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has as much admiration as I have, had a
short article on the subject of equal pay which contains this passage:
It is … little use for women to claim equal pay and equal opportunities if they also ask for privileges on hours of work and maternity leave, etc., and it is unfortunate that a newly-formed body of young women, Women's Equal Rights Campaign, which is most commendably anxious to take action in support of equality, should include among its objects a woman's right to maternity leave without loss of pay and the right to return to the same job without suffering any loss. This would militate against the employment of women, for most employers would be unwilling to face such an interminable liability. The policy of the equalitarian (feminist) societies is sound in declaring that incapacity for work on account of maternity should be dealt with under the same regulations as apply to absences owing to illness, injury or disability.
It is only just, fair and right for women to adopt that attitude in their battles. I do not want to claim any special privileges. I want to be judged on an equal footing with a man in terms of my ability to do a job. My fear is that employers will prefer men to women.
There was a time when inequality of pay had a savage effect on women. Knowing that they could get women as cheap labour, some unscrupulous employers gave them heavy and dirty jobs to do. At that time, the trade unions assumed the unfamiliar mantle of Sir Gallahad and stopped such practices. I only wish that they had carried it through and were as fair today in accepting women into their membership.
The trade unions and employers' associations now have the mammoth task of sorting out what is equal work. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) spoke of some of the rules which had been laid down already, but I cannot help thinking that this is a matter of great complexity. At the weekend, I was talking to a number of factory workers. I was assured that it is difficult in some factories to classify jobs as being equal. In a shoe factory, for example, there may be a shop full of machines, but those operated by women are different in character, weight and so on from those operated by men. Again, is a man humping refuse bins doing a job which equates with that of a woman cleaner who empties wastepaper baskets? There will have to be clear statements, and a large number of them.
It is also true to say that we have not even got equal pay for men in different parts of the country who are doing the same job. We saw that recently, and it surprised no one. After all, living is more expensive in some areas than in others.
As I said before, I do not want to claim any privileges on account of matters like maternity benefit. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that there are certain physical differences between the sexes. Men have greater strength than women, and it may be that one effect of the Bill will be that women no longer get concessions from our society because they are the physically weaker sex. It may be that they do not want them any more. Perhaps the new Amazonian age is upon us, when women lift as heavy loads and drive as heavy tractors as men do. One's mind turns to the Soviet Union, where they have had equal pay for years, and where, if anything, the woman is mightier than the man. The horny handed toiler whom one sees there lifting loads or mending roads more often than not is a woman. That may be creditable, but it has a debit side. Such women are demonstrably long on muscles but sadly short on charm. I hope that we in Britain do not sacrifice femininity to the golden cow of equality.
The hon. Lady said that she was not worried about costs increasing, and she advanced a sound argument that that proves how, for years, women have subsidised the rest of us by their cheap labour. I am very attracted to her argument because it is extremely logical. However, I would take it a step further because when costs go up it is the women who suffer. In too many cases, men are not frank about the contents of their wage packets. We cannot remove from any woman's mind the knowledge that when costs go up it is the women who suffer most quickly and perhaps most severely.
An inevitable consequence of equal pay is a rise in costs. It has to come. It is no use saying that it does not matter when costs go up, because it does. Apart from anything else, it matters very much to those who are living on fixed incomes.
Then again, the whole concept of pensions is based on the fact that a woman draws a pension partly because of her husband's contributions. I cannot swallow the theory that the Bill will not lead to higher contributions, higher stamps, and higher S.E.T. The Government have been a little less than frank on that point, since it ties in with the costs argument. There is a great deal of difference between the costs to an employer of a stamp for a woman and that for a man. When we get equal pay, there can be no argument for maintaining that differential.
The costs point is closely tied in with the time target. I hope that the target set by the Bill is a reasonable one and that the rise in costs in that period is not so steep that it cannot be absorbed.
I noticed that the right hon. Lady had in her possession the document "Fair Deal for the Fair Sex". I would like her to read that document properly. If she had done so, she would have recognised that it is not a policy document. It does not say what my party intends to do. It is a document which carried out a brief to examine the inequalities of women before the law. Bearing in mind that we have already gone some little way towards equal pay, thanks to my party, in the teaching profession, local government employment and so on, and bearing in mind, too, that a number of specific agreements have been reached recently between unions and employers on equal pay, I would like to have seen a Bill of this kind dealing with all the matters set out in "Fair Deal for the Fair Sex".
My main concern in intervening in this debate is to place on record my complete agreement about the need for a fair deal for women. I salute the Government for their endeavours, but I am a little worried about some of the potential dangers.
In spite of some of the speeches to which we have listened, I believe that this Bill is one of the great Measures of social reform by which this Government will be remembered in the history books. It is another important milestone in the long struggle for women's rights which is far from concluded with this legislation.
Ministers in successive Governments have resisted it. For years, parties have paid lip service to the principle of equal pay for women. But always the excuse has been that this is not the right time at which to implement it. Yet there has never been a more blatant case for the remedy of a social injustice.
To whom do we now owe credit for this piece of legislation which grants to women not a privilege but a basic human right? We should first be thankful that we have the important combination of a Labour Government and a woman Cabinet Minister bringing in this Bill. Hon. Members opposite, whatever they may say, did absolutely nothing to implement equal pay during their term of office. What steps did they take to introduce legislation to implement it? We have heard many quotations from a Royal Commission Report published in 1946, 23 years ago. The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) implied that legislation is not necessary.
I know that the hon. Lady would not want to misrepresent me. I posed some critical questions about the Bill, but I specifically affirmed that in my view legislation had a part to play. A Conservative Government implemented it in relation to public service employees.
I am sorry that I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, and I am glad that the majority of the party opposite now support this legislation, even if they could not bring themselves to introduce it over the whole of industry when they had the power to do so. I think that we can ignore the reactionary comments from some hon. Members opposite as not being the view of the majority of the Conservative Party.
Second, we must acknowledge in this debate a group of women who played a very significant part in the history of the struggle for equal pay. I refer to that small group of women machinists at Fords who went on strike for their beliefs and their rights. I do not like strikes any more than anyone else, but those women had to take really forceful action to achieve this principle. Like the early pioneers for women's suffrage, they faced abuse, misrepresentation and ridicule, but they demonstrated their great industrial power and their vital rôle in the export drive, so that politicians and public alike were made to realise that working women are indispensable to the economy, and that nine out of 10 of them are being exploited as cheap labour, a fact of which we should have been ashamed. But where the enemy is prejudice and custom, as in this case, those women at Fords showed that letters to the Press and conference resolutions are feeble weapons. Consultations and requests to employers over the years have been similarly ineffective. Only the present Government legislation can implement the principle of equal pay.
The Bill will have a long-term significance and implications for the status of women in society which cannot be fully assessed tonight. As long as women are exploited economically, they are treated as second-class citizens. They suffer legal injustices and discrimination in employment, training and prospects of promotion. They have restricted educational opportunities. All these are an indirect result of their being employed at a cut rate. The status of women in Britain today is a direct result of their economic inferiority. Just as votes for women emancipated them, so will this legislation open more doors and break down other barriers, though I do not believe that legislation is necessary to break down all these barriers. Many may fall without it.
The next step could be a sex discrimination Bill on the lines of the Race Relations Act to create a climate of opinion and alter people's views about what is permissible behaviour. Not only must women be paid the rate for the job, but there should not be such low rates for what is known as women's work—usually unpleasant and menial work. I always remember a visit I made to a factory at which nearly all the employees were women. I was taken round by a director, a man, and I asked him as we came into one room full of women, "What do these women earn?" Smiling all over his face, he replied, "They earn £9 a week, which is not bad for a woman."
The jobs that women do can earn higher rates if women take a more active part in their union. Equal pay may force them to do so. The unions will be more powerful as a result, and women will play a greater part.
The Bill will help to close the huge gap between the average wage rates of men and women. But there are still women earning less than 5s. an hour. As equal pay becomes the norm there will inevitably have to be, either by legislation or by natural processes, more equality between the sexes in taxation and wage-related National Insurance contributions and benefits. The Bill is a historic start to these developments. It will encourage more married women to work outside the home to make a valuable contribution to our economy. They are a source of valuable untapped labour. In my constituency of Halifax there are more vacancies for women than for men.
At last men have realised that their wage rates are being kept down by the exploitation of women. Their wage rates will tend to rise if there is equal pay.
For the past two years I have been the United Kingdom delegate to the United Nations Status of Women Commission. We in this country have always lagged behind advanced western countries in this matter, and certainly behind the Common Market countries. This was a shameful situation, because the way a society treats its women is an indication of its civilisaton and progress. As Fourier wrote 150 years ago:
The degree of feminine emacipation is the natural measure of general emancipation.
We have heard much about the cost of the Bill, but is not the great cost an indication of how women have been exploited, of how they have subsidised their employers for so many years? The employers should be thankful that the increase will not be retrospective.
The implementation of the Bill will be long, complex and fraught with difficulties. I do not think that any of us underestimates them. Its opponents in all parts of society, those who are prejudiced against the whole Measure—whether they be directors, women themselves or even trade unionists—will do everything legally possible to find loopholes in its provisions. Great advantage will be taken of definitions—what they mean, whether they are too narrow or too wide. We must not underestimate the opposition that awaits the Bill. But the Government and those of us who support it must be vigilant in our determination to see that it works effectively and without evasion, and is strongly enforced.
I believe that a historic start has been made to remedy one of the greatest injustices suffered by women in Britain today, and the Government can feel proud to introduce the Bill.
As a practitioner in personnel management, currently advising one of the larger companies in telecommunications, I have a professional interest in all the legislation which emanates from the Department of Employment and Productivity. But as I am neither an employer nor an employee I have no financial interest in the Bill. Equally, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) and the Secretary of State, I have very little interest in the financial arguments that have been put forward by some of the critics of the Bill and sometimes by its proponents.
I have a personal reason for this. Last autumn, whilst I was carrying out a survey of the possible financial implications of equal pay for the company with which I am associated, the company was approached by the employers' association to give a rough estimate of the likely cost for the company as a measure of the probable cost for the industry. I pointed out that, as it was early on in my investigations, the only information I could offer was an estimate based on an initial sample taken out of a job evaluation exercise on one site, which was not necessarily representative of the company, let alone the industry, and which related only to unskilled and semi-skilled grades of hourly rated women employees.
In spite of my heavy qualifications, this estimate was taken and processed along with other, I suspect, equally heavily qualified figures given by other companies in other industries, and eventually found its way, through the employers' association, and the C.B.I., to the D.E.P.
Subsequently, on 4th December, the right hon. Lady, replying to a Question on the probable average increase in women's pay which might result from the implementation of an equal pay policy, gave a figure rounded up to the nearest whole number that was a fraction of 1 per cent. of the heavily qualified figure that I had given to the em- ployers' association relating only to a very small section of women. I take the view that the forecasts are irrelevant, because I believe them to be wholly unreliable. What I have said about them is probably very much in line with what the right hon. Lady implied, and certainly what my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham said.
Even if the forecasts were, by sheer chance, reasonably accurate, I should still regard them as an argument for, rather than against, equality of pay. Surely a substantial difference between men's and women's rates of pay for the same work must imply that employers and trade unionists alike have taken advantage of the weaker bargaining power of women employees to maintain or to increase the pay differentials for men.
Even in a man's world, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) said, rates vary considerably for the same work if we are looking at global equal pay. Global equal pay does not exist, because rates vary widely for identical work in different locations, different factories, different companies and different industries, according to the pull off the market forces or the strength of a particular group's bargaining position. This system has evolved since the Industrial Revolution, and nothing in the Bill will change, or indeed seeks to change, that kind of differential.
I underline what my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) said. Since there is no objective, scientific method of evaluating work of equal value, to talk in terms of equal pay for work of equal value, as hon. Members opposite have done, is totally misleading and belongs more in the realms of fantasy.
Before making one or two more detailed criticisms of the provisions of the Bill, may I say how much I regret the reference in the Bill to job evaluation. The Bill inflates the importance and reliability of job evaluation as an objective means of establishing work equality. Job evaluation, at best, is a subjective and not an objective study. It rests on variable judgments that are far from unassailable. Its results depend, at least in part, on a basis of opinion, on the arbitrary selection of factors, on the weighting given to these factors, again arbitrarily, and the points awarded to each factor in the opinion of the assessors carrying out the exercise.
Nevertheless, job evaluation techniques have a part to play as a means of demonstrating in a local situation that a comparison, if it is wrong, is uniformly wrong, because it is based on the same factors assessed by the same people. There is much scope for development in these techniques, and it could well be that, with the development and research which is being carried on, they may one day offer a standard of work value that is measurable. Unfortunately, I believe that Clause 1(5) could stop such development dead in its track, and, in the final resort, kill the use of the techniques, even at their present stage of development, by placing too much importance on them and holding them up as a measure of what should be equal work. That would be highly regrettable.
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and several other hon. Members that the Short Title of the Bill is a misnomer. The Bill is not really an equal pay Measure. The only equal pay Measure introduced by any Government—an administrative Measure—was that introduced and implemented between 1955 and 1961 under a Conservative Government for the non-industrial Civil Service, followed by the local government hospital service and the education service. Even with the introduction of this Bill, that remains true today because that kind of global equal pay could be introduced only where there was a standard rate throughout the country in all establishments.
The Bill is about non-discrimination on grounds of sex alone as regards terms and conditions of employment. That is exactly what it says in the Long Title. The purpose of the Bill is to say to employers that as from the moment of engagement—not during recruitment—the terms and conditions of employment shall apply equally to men and to women, but, unfortunately, the Bill does not stop there. It seeks to qualify its purpose by establishing criteria for discrimination against men.
Of course, men and women are not the same as each other. Thank heaven they are not! Where there are biological differences, allowances should be made in equity, but I can see no adequate reason why there should be discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment relating to retirement, death or hours of work on grounds of sex alone. If an individual wishes to retire at 60 instead of 65, then he or she should be able to compensate for this either by paying higher contributions or by accepting a lower rate of benefit. If a man or a woman wishes to make provision for a surviving dependent relative—and women sometimes have dependent relatives who survive them—he or she should be able to pay a higher contribution or take a lower pension.
Equally, I fail to see any reason why the Services should be excluded from the Bill, in spite of what the right hon. Lady said. The police are included, and it should be possible to provide a method by which redress could be sought by Service people. The Bill provides that there shall be no discrimination between a woman detective and a man detective, but, my word, we can discriminate as much as we like between a modern Mata Hari and 007, without a licence to kill, because they are both employed by the Ministry of Defence and we are excluding Ministry of Defence people, but no one else in the country.
I do not like the opportunities that the Bill offers for excessive Government interference in collective bargaining. As an industrial relations man who believes firmly in regulating relationships between employer and employee by means of agreements freely negotiated by the people directly involved, I am opposed to unnecessary interference by Governments, whoever they are and of whatever colour.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South may well conclude from that that I ought to be opposed to the Second Reading of the Bill. I am not, and I should like to explain why. I do not oppose the Bill on Second Reading simply because I recognise the need to safeguard the interests of those parties which, due to apathy on the part of more powerful allies or due to wilful intent—or any other cause—must negotiate from a position of weakness. Therefore, I support the principle but I only wish to see balance redressed and a general direction indicated.
I hope to see the Bill purged in Committee of a number of its provisions which, in my view, constitute an unwarrantable political intrusion into the field of industrial relations. In supporting the principle, I may be laying myself open to the charge of wishing to obtain some male advantage in reducing the status of women to that of men by introducing non-discrimination in employment at the present time—the argument that increasing their pay may well reduce their employment prospects.
That is true only in a typically high unemployment Socialist economy and even hon. Members opposite must recognise that that will not last for much longer. With an ageing population, with a rising school leaving age, and with a Conservative Government getting growth back into the economy, the demand for employees will outstrip the supply, and only the increasing admission of women into traditionally male areas of employment will meet the nation's economic needs.
The reason for my support for legislation in principle is not one of craftily seeking an advantage for my own sex. It is rather to provide minimal legislation simply because human nature is imperfect.
It would be better to leave as much as possible to voluntary initiatives. But when the Conservative Government implemented equal pay in the public sector they hoped the private sector would follow their example. This has happened to a certain extent, but in my view progress has not been as fast as could reasonably have been expected.
I believe that the law should say "There shall not be separate conditions of employment applicable to men only or women only"; and that is as far as I should like the law to go. The questions of rates of pay and what constitutes equality of work are matters best left to free negotiations between employer and employed—between the people who know what they are doing and the best method of achieving it.
Whilst I hope to see a number of the Bill's provisions removed or modified in Committee, I also feel, paradoxically, that the Bill is too narrow in scope. Unfortunately, I think that the Long Title might prohibit us from extending its scope in Committee.
But the Bill relates only to non-discrimination in the relationship between employer and employed. It would have a better chance of achieving the more laudable part of its objective if it were to include non-discrimination on grounds of sex in the relationship between organisations in the field of employment and their members as well.
The professional bodies, or some of them, are among the worst offenders in this field of discrimination. By means of their particular form of closed shop they could well thwart the employment and promotional prospects of women seeking higher appointments. Similarly in a more conventional closed shop, the trade union favouring the male majority interest might well jeopardise some of the employment prospects of a female minority membership.
Finally, I return to the Short Title because it is not only a misnomer but unkindly misleading. The Bill will not result in increased pay for all women employees. It will not necessarily result in increased pay for all those in the lower wage brackets, or in equality for women in terms of take-home pay, because there are factors other than sex which militate against women earning as much as their male counterparts in employment. Many women sacrifice a measure of their earning capacity to obtain work nearer home, or in obtaining more flexible hours or a shorter working week. For women in factories the rate of absenteeism is generally higher than for men, and there are reasons for this. The hours of overtime for women in the average week are also shorter.
By legislative means it was possible to bring equal pay into the public sector, but we have not yet achieved non-discrimination in the public sector on grounds of sex.
I believe that in the private sector it can be put the other way round, because it may well be possible by legislative means to bring a measure of nondiscrimination in the terms and conditions of employment. But improvement in pay levels will only come, I believe, partly as a result of rising productivity and the more efficient use of women in employment and partly as the result of good will on both sides of the bargaining table.
It is a pity that there are so few hon. Members here this evening to discuss this most important piece of legislation which my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State has introduced. Whether that means that all hon. Members support the Bill or whether it means that only one or two diehard opponents have dared to appear today to speak against it, I am not sure.
My right hon. Friend deserves better support—and the Cabinet deserve better support, because my right hon. Friend could not have introduced the Bill without the backing of the members of the Cabinet who are responsible for supporting her on its financial aspects. Great credit is due to the fact that it is the present Government who have introduced the Bill along with many other Measures which have been introduced since 1964 which are of particular benefit to women. If I mention a few it might put the matter in the right perspective. As my right hon. Friend said, this is a further step—not the only step or the first step—but a further step towards the equality of men and women, and it is an indication of legislation and of steps which will have to be taken in the future to achieve true equality.
What we are anxious to do is to free women so that they can take their part in an enlightened society, do the jobs which they want to do and obtain the training for the jobs which they feel the need to have. To my mind—and maybe I am prejudiced about this—the greatest step in the emancipation of women that the Government took was when they found time for a Private Member's Bill to introduce legislation to reform the law on abortion.
Order. We are debating this Bill. We must not widen the debate; otherwise we should have a debate on abortion and all the other matters about which the hon. Lady may wish to speak.
It is important, Mr. Speaker, to point this out. We are concerned about the whole woman and the part which she will play. We wish to enable her to play that part—and that is what the Bill does. The Family Plan- ning Act did the same. We have accepted that girls have the right to the same kind of education as boys if they want it, but, unfortunately, discrimination occurs here too. The fact that there are 8,500,000 women workers in industry and in professions and that only one million receive equal pay indicates that there is an overwhelming need for this Bill.
The Bill, contrary to what the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) said, is likely to bring equality for a large percentage of those women who are workers. It does not mean that all women must do full-time work. What we are saying is that the timetables will have to be organised and that management will have to be flexible in its use of women workers, who will have to be paid the rate for the job for the hours of work they put in—which they do not receive at the moment.
In reply to a recent Question about gross national earnings for women as compared with those for men, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State gave me some quite staggering figures. It appears that the national average for women is only just over £500 whereas for men it is over £1,000. That also illustrates the need for the Bill, apart from the other matters which have been brought into the debate today.
We have heard some reference to the Opposition's intentions in this matter. They do not oppose the Bill today, and they will not seek to divide the House, but in the Conservative pamphlet, "Fair Share for the Fair Sex", the question of equal pay is not dealt with. They say specifically that they do not deal with it in that document, but what they intend to do, if returned as the Government, is to discuss the whole question with employers and unions during the lifetime of the next Conservative Government.
Further discussion by the Conservatives will not take us far along the road towards equality between men and women. The discussions have taken place. My right hon. Friend has been discussing the matter with both sides of industry for almost two years, so the Conservative pamphlet, which, we have been told, does not lay down policy for the next Conservative Government, if there should be one, does not take us very far.
Will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State tell us what the Government intend to do about those women industrial civil servants who do not receive equal pay at the moment? When I asked a Question about this in March 1968, the Treasury told me that there were about 30,000 women industrial civil servants not in receipt of equal pay. An enormous number of women non-industrial civil servants have equal pay, but there are about 14 Government Departments still employing women who do not receive equal pay.
The Ministry of Defence has the largest number of women employees not receiving equal pay. My right hon. Friend told us that the Government have accepted the recommendations of the Prices and Incomes Board with regard to women employed by the Ministry of Defence, so one may expect that, over a period of time, there will be phased progress towards equality of pay for women employed by that Department. But the Home Office has a large number of women who do not receive equal pay. My hon. Friend's own Department has a number of women employees who do not receive equal pay. The same applies to the Ministry of Public Building and Works, the Post Office and one or two others. As I say, 14 Ministries in all are involved. I hope that my hon. Friend will tell us what is to happen in respect of those women employed by the Government in their movement towards equality.
May I ask one or two questions about the timetable and about definition. My right hon. Friend has laid down in the Bill that the final date for implementation of equal pay shall be 29th December, 1975, the last Monday of the year. We know the position of the C.B.I. and the position of the T.U.C. But I wonder whether my right hon. Friend is being a little too kind to employers in this connection in not being precise about the intermediate stages in the movement towards equal pay.
I should very much like my right hon. Friend to bring the operative date forward, particularly as 1972 will be a date affecting women under the new pensions legislation, but, if she cannot bring the date forward at least to 1973, will she be prepared to consider a timetable under which a specific proportion of women in industry not now in receipt of equal pay could be expected to move towards it? Could she lay down that, with the passage of each year, a certain proportion of women should have achieved equal pay in certain industries?
If my right hon. Friend were to set a target to be achieved annually within each industry and service, we should then have an orderly movement towards equal pay, which would defeat the arguments put by the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and one or two other hon. Members who have said that we shall not achieve by the Bill what my right hon. Friend hopes to achieve. An indication of the Government's thinking on that matter would be of help to the trade union side.
Agreements have already been made in, for example, Ford and Courtaulds for a planned progress towards equal pay, and a timetable has been laid down. It has been said by the Opposition that there is no barrier between the two sides of industry on the implementation of equal pay, but, unless pressure is applied by the Government and a lead is given by the Government, employers will not readily move towards equal pay. They have been content until now to use women as cheap labour in industry, and, unfortunately, the trade unions have not applied sufficient pressure to compel them to reach equal pay.
The question of definition concerns several trade unions, among them my own union, the Transport and General Workers Union. They are concerned about industries in which there are large numbers of women employed and few men. They are afraid that, if men are employed in those industries along with a large number of women, the effect will be to depress men's wages in those industries; wage rates may be agreed for women, and these will then be offered to men if they take similar jobs. My union feels that too much emphasis is put on the question of job evaluation. That is a subjective analysis, the value of which can be inflated, and it cannot deliver the goods which the trade union or the employer hopes to see.
We are concerned about what is to happen when firms do not carry out a job evaluation exercise. My right hon. Friend said that in such circumstances she can raise the question of women's pay with the tribunal. But are there to be no sanctions on employers or sections of industry which do not carry out job evaluation exercises? Would it not be easier from the point of view of progress towards equal pay it employers were required to carry out job evaluations, it then being for them to show to the tribunal that in all cases a job evaluation exercise had been done?
At the moment, the tribunals are, generally speaking, male-dominated bodies. In the interests of equality, there should be a greater number of women shop stewards on the tribunals if women are to be seen to receive a fair hearing and a fair deal. I hope that my hon. Friend will say that he is prepared to see that the balance is put right.
The Bill should provide incentives to industry to use women's work and women's skills much more effectively. No longer will women be regarded as cheap labour, and it is up to all of us, men and women, particularly men and women in the trade union movement, to ensure that the Bill is supported and given a speedy passage.
Our job is also to see that discrimination is eliminated in other respects—education, opportunities in the professions, many of which have closed their doors to women, opportunities to achieve promotion in the professions and in all kinds of jobs in industry. There are too many top jobs in industry and in the professions which are held by men and for which women are never considered.
But the Bill is not drawn to deal with that. That is a matter for pressure, for education, for propaganda. But the introduction of the Bill will mean that a lead has been given by the Government, and we hope that others will follow. We hope that both sides of industry and the leaders of the professions will follow, that the doors of university entrance to various professions will be opened to women. We do not have many women engineers, structural, mechanical or electrical. We do not have enough women medical students. There is discrimination against the selection of women in these faculties of universities.
Once the Bill has had a Second Reading, it should not have a prolonged Committee stage. Something has already been said about the effect of the Bill on women now working in industry. Similar argu- ments were used against the introduction of automation into industry and against the raising of women's pay, when it was said that employers would much prefer to employ men if they had to choose between men and women earning the same rate of pay.
Not only are many women needed in many sections of industry in many parts of the country—and this is certainly true of the Midlands, the North-East, Yorkshire and Lancashire—but there are whole industries, service industries and professions, which are desperately short of women. Examples are the nursing profession and the teaching profession.
The indications are that the introduction of equal pay will mean that more women will be prepared to come forward to take these jobs. If there are more retraining opportunities for women to get up to date, more opportunities for women to have their children looked after while they are at work, more day nurseries and more nursery schools, more opportunities for women to have labour-saving devices in the home to help them to carry out not only their biological jobs but their industrial and professional jobs, the Bill will have made enormous progress towards true equality between men and women.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), who is a living example of the fact that some women are more equal than others. She has championed this cause for a long time and I am glad that she and her colleagues are at last getting somewhere with it. I agree with her that what we are doing is not merely manipulating wages or wage rates but setting an example, endeavouring to change the climate of opinion.
Before I proceed, I should like to apologose for having punctuated the proceedings with a series of coughing bouts, two of which made it necessary for me briefly to leave the Chamber. This shows that doctors are just as delighted to talk about their complaints as is anybody else, and also that we are equally helpless to deal with them.
That reminds me of the recent 'flu epidemic of which I have statistics which are relevant to this issue. Many women suffered from influenza in the recent outbreak, but fewer appeared to be off work and those who were absent, in fact were for shorter periods than men, and they appeared, so far as one can tell, to suffer rather less severely than men. In other words, they did not behave as the weaker sex in any medical sense. All doctors know that they are not the weaker sex. That is what we are talking about in the debate, and that is what we hope to do something about.
No one could accuse the House of bringing forward the Bill with indecent haste. As the right hon. Lady pointed out, the trade unions decided on legislation of this kind, or at least were campaigning for it, as far back as 1898. The Labour Party were early in their adoption of equal pay as policy. I regret to say that it was some time later before the Liberal Party were unanimous about it, but at least they were during the 1920s. I agree with what the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) said about the Conservative Party official stand on this issue since the war. I recall a party political broadcast by Winston Churchill just before the 1945 election when he said:
What a magnificent part our women have played in this total war…
That was in June, 1945. He went on in his own way to refer to their contribution in the home, in the factory, on the land and in the three Services and so on, and said:
Who can measure their gifts to Britannia in her years of pain and glory?
Saying that the Government had decided to do something about it, he went on to tell his listeners:
A Royal Commission is now sitting on equal pay for equal work between men and women…I trust the new Parliament will establish in an effective manner the principle of the complete equality of women in industry, in all walks of life and before the law.
That was 25 years ago, which seems to be the inevitability of gradualness with a vengeance. A sentence which followed is significant:
And that this will be achieved without any diminution in the chivalry and the protection of the strong right arm of the male warrior or toiler".
That kind of attitude, admirable in its way, has delayed this kind of legislation, for it betrays the feeling that whether woman is inferior or not, man has to
be superior. This is at the root of some of the opposition to emancipation which we have seen throughout the years, and I hope that at last we shall overcome it.
The purpose of the Bill is to establish a climate, or to change the climate, rather as was the purpose of the Race Relations Bill which has been similarly mentioned. When we discuss subjects such as capital punishment, the State sets an example. In this kind of issue, it is time that the State set an example by the kind of legislation we pass. It is necessary to change attitudes and to get people—and by "people" I mean "men"—at long last to regard women as people, too. That is difficult against the kind of picture which is continually presented in television advertisements and so on, tending to make us think of women as things, nice things it is true, but nevertheless things and not wholly people.
I accept that the law will not of itself achieve this kind of equality. Indeed, unless we are careful about the kind of law we introduce, it could do the reverse, and it is necessary to take other steps in parallel. But having the right law could do something. We have come a long way. It is a long time since an ancestor of mine—I cannot remember how many generations ago, but the story is still recounted—on being told of the passing of the Married Women's Property Act was alleged to have asked his informant, "Do you mean to tell me that if someone leaves my wife some money, I shall have to ask her for it?". That was the attitude for a very long time, but we have moved a long way from that.
There was a tune when any kind of women's organisation, even an organisation like the Townswomen's Guild, was regarded as a bunch of dangerous revolutionaries. That, too, has changed. There is an increasing acceptance by society as a whole of women's right to take a full and equal part in activities of almost every kind. The professions have been entered, especially my own profession of medicine. Bastions of reaction like the Bar and the Stock Exchange have been at least breached. The Jockey Club remains inviolate, but perhaps that will be overcome in due course.
But let us remember that these gains have been made only in part. Merely because women doctors get the same pay as men doctors does not mean, as the hon. Lady the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) will confirm, that their opportunities are equal; they are not.
We organise our services in a very inflexible way. We do not take regard of the special needs of married women. We do not pay attention to their special requirements. Many married women wish to return to work, but there is no provision, no schemes or courses of revision and so on for them to be brought up-to-date after they have been out of the profession for some while. There is no flexibility with hours worked. We are unable to make use of this vast reserve of trained womanpower among the married. This is because we organise things in such a highly rigid way which is quite unnecessary. In the United States and on the Continent, nursing and hospital administration is organised so that women play the fullest possible part.
We have seen progress made in politics, but the mere presence of a few hon. Ladies here, who are active and respected Members, does not mean that the battle is won. Hon. Ladies themselves know how difficult it is to be selected as a candidate, let alone be elected—
One welcome change, and I think that all parties would agree with this, is the change in the way that women vote. When I go round knocking at doors canvassing I do not very often hear the answer:
I do not know how I am going to vote. I leave all of those things to my husband.
More often I am told:
I am going to vote for so and so. I do not know what my husband thinks. He can please himself.
That is a welcome sign that women are beginning to behave as equals, and I hope that men will allow them to do so. We have a long way to go.
We have achieved the form rather than the substance of equality. We have a situation with women in the home which was referred to very eloquently by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). We must be careful, in taking these proper steps with regard to women in employment, not to produce the climate of opinion which makes the woman not in employment feel that she ought to be in employment. This kind of development has taken place in the United States, where a woman somehow feels that she is a failure if she has not embarked upon a career. That is partly because women in the home are not adequately rewarded. There is much wrong with the rate of pay.
We are asking for the rate for the job, but it is clear that in many households—no doubt some households represented here—women in the house are not paid a proper rate for the job. That requires us to look at other legislation—for example, taxation—which must go in parallel with the measures which we are taking here. We have to seek changes in social life before we have true equality.
Primarily we have to see fundamental changes in sexual morality and in our outlook on sexual behaviour. We have to get away from two standards—one standard for a man and a totally different standard for a woman. That is evidenced in our attitude towards prostitution, when we prosecute one sex and apparently do not prosecute the other. Until we make progress along such lines we cannot afford to pat ourselves very heavily on the back and say how progressive we are in adopting a policy of equality between the sexes.
Yes, I will come to the Bill, having said what I should have liked to see in the Bill. What is in the Bill is limited. It is helpful provided that it is seen in that general context.
What are the facts about work? We heard the extraordinary speech of the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) who talked about work rather as someone who has never actually done any but who has sometimes heard it described. He had a curious notion about what piecework was. But he must surely realise that since the Royal Commission Report, from which he quoted, was published 25 years ago there have been great changes in industrial technique. If he looks at the figures he will find that in factory after factory, in terms of piecework, women are the equal of men. That is true in the textile industry and even in some heavy engineering industries. On certain kinds of automated piecework they are the equal even in terms of speed.
It is necessary to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that efficiency does not consist only of speed. It also consists of accuracy. There is no doubt that many people in management would tell the House that in certain forms of piecework the standard of work is higher among women than among men. There are very few jobs indeed in which actual performance as between men and women differs materially, save that the performance of one individual may differ from that of another individual.
I return to the point I made earlier—women are people and consequently they differ in the same way as other people differ. It is quite illogical to discriminate on physiological grounds between the sexes from the point of view of employment, productivity or industrial efficiency. There are very few jobs indeed in which man is at a physical advantage to an extent that it is recognised within a salary structure.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman and support his case, but I can point to one occupation in which physical strength is essential and that is in the heavier part of farmwork—not the crop picking, but the heavier part.
The point was made earlier and I do not necessarily dissent from it, save to say that in this country we have the most highly mechanised agricultural industry in the world. If we are to have discrimination we could have a whole series of graduated sexes, varying from the very male man to the very female woman. It is just as illogical as the sudden and sharp separation which we have practised over the years. Generally women equal men in intellect, in their application, in their endurance, in their conscientiousness, in their imaginativeness, in their responsibility and in their attention to detail. In some things their ability to do detailed work and to keep on doing boring, but sometimes important work, to my mind exceeds that of men, in so far as it is possible to generalise.
I accept that there are many women with many defects, just as there are defects among men. There are idle women in industry just as there are active women. We accept that the Bill will do only a limited amount of the things we should like to see done and we support it in so far as it recognises the general principles in which we believe and in so far as it will help to achieve them.
We have certain doubts, which might be more appropriately dealt with in Committee, but one or two of them I would like to raise now. One concerns the question of definition—whether we should use the Treaty of Rome definition or the I.L.O. definition. The Bill uses both. We believe that the only acceptable definition is the I.L.O. definition. We believe that because of its effect on women's work and pay, and for economic reasons, the crux of the problem from the women's point of view is the existence of two almost entirely separate labour markets, one for men and one for women, with a small overlap area.
Women are heavily concentrated in lower-level jobs, in industry, offices and services, and because of the widespread acceptance of the idea of what is customary men's work and customary women's work, the number of jobs which can be described as similar or broadly based is in our view severely limited. Thus the number of women to benefit would be relatively small. That is perhaps why the right hon. Lady's survey concluded that the cost of implementing equal pay would be only 3½per cent. to 4½ per cent. of the national wage bill. Relatively few women will benefit financially. Improved job opportunity is more important for women than equal pay. "Similar or broadly based" can lead firms to ensure that the demarcation between men's jobs and women's jobs is maintained rather than abolished.
I have already been told of discussions about redesigning jobs to make sure that they are not similar to men's jobs. If new jobs develop, women may be barred from them if they are broadly similar to jobs being done by men. Equal pay for work of equal value does not in itself create new opportunities, but at least it does not increase the existing obstacles. A positive attack on new opportunities requires anti-discrimination legislation of the kind that already exists in the United States. This is not clearly spelt out in the Bill.
From the economic point of view, equal pay for work of equal value is required where, and only where, there is a job evaluation scheme. In the short run this definition will cost firms more and will involve more readjustments. Firms with job evaluation schemes are on the whole the more efficient firms who will consider they have been handicapped because they have been efficient. Other firms will be discouraged from introducing job evaluation which, properly implemented, can be a real aid to efficiency.
There is a belief that equal pay for the same or broadly similar work will be cheaper and so will have less effect on the national economy than equal pay for work of equal value. Since relatively small numbers of women will benefit, at first sight that appears true, but in the long run the reverse is the case. If women are paid more for doing jobs which they are already doing, the costs of production will go up, but there is no reason to suppose that there will be an increase in productivity. There is no evidence that women are restricting output now because they are paid less than men and therefore no reason to assume that their output will increase when they get equal pay. This must mean that economically there will be no benefits to offset the increased cost.
If equal pay for work of equal value is introduced, women will cost more to employ. This will be a powerful lever to make better use of woman power resources. Because women are cheap to employ, there is at present little incentive to employ them economically. Because of the sharp division between men and women's jobs, women's capacities are wasted. The long-term way to pay for the introduction of equal pay is to redeploy women so that they in fact earn the higher pay and to tap skills and abilities which are at present wasted. In a country living on its wits it is absurd to have in British industry, in May 1968, only 2,855 female scientists and technologists, 1,455 female draughtsmen and 13,750 female "other technicians", compared with 92,150 male scientists and technologists, 104,690 male draughtsmen and 183,240 male "other technicians". This is the kind of thing about which we should be thinking in considering the economic effects.
The use of women at present is grossly wasteful. It will get worse. Because women are employed in the least skilled work in both factory and office, they will be more affected by automation than men. If they are to be used, new openings must be found for them. The need must be for the gradual integration of the men's and women's labour markets into a common labour market. We believe that job opportunities for women are the key both to a better deal for women and to the means of paying for it. It will be with that kind of idea in mind that we shall approach the Committee stage of the Bill.
The House probably has heard of the conference held this week by the Liberal Women's Federation at which a number of resolutions were passed by all-party representatives of various women's organisations. They asked for adherence to this type of definition rather than to any other. They asked for certain other safeguards which we shall be pursuing in Committee.
With these reservations, we support this Bill. We are glad that it has been introduced and we hope that it will achieve its effects. We hope that, the Bill having been passed, we shall not all let go of the rope, as in a tug-o'-war which can be lost even though one thinks it has been won. That has happened so often before. There is a general belief that once legislation is passed the battle is over. But this legislation is merely to set the climate of opinion. I hope that the legislation will go through, and I believe that it will work, but there will still be a great deal to do. I hope that we shall combine to see it through.
I should like at the outset to refer to the speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). It was a devastating exposure of the Conservative Party's hypocrisy over this issue, and it ended on an important note. He said that one of the major problems was that of the prejudice that exists inside men. It exists inside nearly all men in one way or another. This is illustrated by the argument whether the Stock Exchange should admit women, and some of the rather specialist printing unions adopt the same sort of attitude; but this argument misses the major point.
The House has before it two alternatives. It can score trifling points on one side or the other, or it can face the issue as part of a major and thoroughly desirable change in the nature of our society.
I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) that it is about time that our society began to treat women as people. This is not strictly the attitude in this building. There is a form of equality of a sort, but it certainly does not obtain throughout the political system and it would be idle to pretend among ourselves that it does obtain.
I welcome the Bill. I share the view that the legislation is somewhat tardy. It was a long way back that Miss Black moved the proposition in the Trades Union Congress—and, incidentally, at a largely masculine congress it was carried unanimously. There has been a long period of time in which the trade union movement has had opportunities to end the inequalities and exempt the movement from criticism. But some of the criticisms advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite have been totally uninstructed and inadequate, and, when one considers their understanding of the trade union movement, that is not surprising.
It would not be entirely reasonable to exempt the movement entirely from criticism. Criticism can be levelled against the trade unions in this matter. I would not even exempt my own union in its attitude over the years, though I am glad to say that there seems to have been a positive change over the last few years.
It would be untrue to say that over the years there has been no prejudice among working class employed people. Often they had been only too prepared to follow the habits and customs and morality of their supposed economic masters. Where they have had the power to do so, employers have not hesitated to exploit the situation, in the way in which they always exploit working class people. Knowing the nature of the employment set aside for the woman, knowing also the temporary nature of her employment and her inability to organise herself and her colleagues into trade unions, the employer has not hesitated to exploit the situation, to keep those women down to the bare minimum of payment, and to use that labour as an alternative supply.
We heard from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) that this legislation will lead to a diminution of male employment. Is he saying that it will be used to cut male rates? Surely the situation up to the present has given the employer the opportunity to exploit the situation with the classic argument "I can get somebody to do the job more cheaply than you can." It is no coincidence that, apart from bus conductresses—and even there the situation is not wholly satisfactory—virtually all the million women who are said to receive equal pay are of upper middle class extraction.
So when the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) spoke I had some understanding of what she was saying, unlike the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight). I understood what the hon. Lady the Member for Melton was saying. She was accepting the argument; she was the sort of person with whom one could negotiate.
Now I should like to turn to the Bill. Although I have accepted the principle, I do have several points of major disappointment. The first major disappointment to me is fundamental, and that is the timing of the Bill. I am not satisfied that we need to take so long. Even if I were satisfied that a long time needed to be taken, even if I were to reject the sort of view which I have always accepted, that the T.U.C. explicitly laid down as two years—I am not saying that any particular number of years is necessarily right—what appals me about this Bill is that a dilatory or incompetent or, more frequently, malicious employer has to do absolutely nowt till the end of 1973. We may take whatever view we want about what sort of Government there will be in power then. I have no idea. That will be left to the voters. However, on the assumption that they represent the type of view of speeches and interjections which I have heard coming from the Opposition tonight, the women in this land may write off equal pay if there is a Conservative Government.
Yes. They will have to. If there is a clear declaration from the leading spokesman for the other side that they will ensure that this is done, then I will accept it.
The hon. Member must have heard my right hon. Friend make it very clear that he was in no way objecting to the Bill in principle, that he had certain criticisms but that on general principles he was in support of it.
This is monstrous evasion, because in the same speech the hon. Gentleman said he wanted provisions to give employers exemptions not to carry out all the provisions in the terms specified. In other words, I am left in the right hon. Gentleman's hands as to how many exemptions he gives. Can I have a guarantee that he will give no exemptions, or very few? No. Of course I cannot, because he has left himself a very useful loophole, and he may well use it—I do not know.
I am not prepared to accept the argument that the definition "the same or broadly similar" is sufficient. I do not. I regret that the Bill does not say that it is equal pay for work of equal value.
There have been many red herrings introduced in the arguments we have heard this afternoon. Some have been pathetic, although some have had a certain value. There could hardly be a better illustration of the argument than this House with its 630 Members. In this building is a concentration of people well past the middle age, and lacking in greatest physical strength. The consequence of this argument, as the hon. Member for Cheadle, speaking for the Liberal Party, pointed out, is that we would have to grade people and pay the highest rate to men of 28 because that is the age of Physical peak. In certain jobs it may be different; the age may be 32. I am not sure what would happen if we followed the logic of that argument in this building, and if hon. Members will think about it they will see what I mean. We cannot do it. The argument does not obtain.
Nor does the argument that women are more inclined to be sick. Funnily enough, as has been pointed out, they will not take two weeks off for 'flu unless somebody else in the family is sick at the same time. They are more conscientious than men. Ask any man who employs a secretary whether he would rather employ a middle-aged man or a middle-aged woman. He would rather have a middle-aged woman. There is no question about who will be the more conscientious and effective. The whole of this argument is a false argument designed to assist a state of society which has gone.
The hon. Lady the Member for Edgbaston referred to the Soviet Union and said that large numbers of women there are employed in manual work. They are. Of course it is true, but there were 20 million dead in the generation to which most of us in this House belong, and that makes a considerable difference to the necessity for this system. I think that was not a very fair or very generous argument, and I believe that in socialist countries there has been a definite effort to improve the status of women.
That is something which this Bill is starting to do and I am happy at that, but I am not as happy with it as I would have been had the Bill gone further. However, I am certainly not, like the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South, inclined to vote against it. Very far from it. It probably represents a major achievement. Ministers responsible for it have had to fight the sort of entrenched powers of reaction which exist inside the Civil Service. They are the Ministers who have defeated the reaction.
There will be no Division tonight, I take it, but I would vote for the Bill if that were necessary. I am delighted it has appeared, but I am sorry that it is not stronger, and I am sorry that it is not about equal pay for work of equal value. I feel bound to say that I have heard here today on this subject criticisms which are more nonsense than I have ever heard or thought would have been possible and would not have believed possible in this institution. Nevertheless, we have the Bill. Let us accept it, and accept it despite such criticisms as I have made in the interests of those wider purposes.
The hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood) has made a speech which I am bound to say I found a strange one. At the end of it, after saying he welcomed the Bill, and that he wanted it to go forward, he was critical of it because it was not stronger, and earlier in his speech he criticised my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) because he, too, welcomed the Bill though he also had certain reservations about it. I think the hon. Member might attempt to be consistent, and recognise that this is a normal practice in the House, to accept a Bill on Second Reading and then to make comments which one hopes will be developed constructively in Committee on the Bill. That was precisely what my right hon. Friend said he was doing, and that in no way minimised his support of the principles of the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman's not being here makes it a bit awkward. I thought that at the end of his speech he showed some considerable gentleness towards and an understanding of the case for women in our society. I do not want that to be misunderstood. I thought the beginning of his speech showed a lack of understanding about the way industrial relations actually work. His sympathy for the opposite sex was, I think, quite clearly evidenced, and I would not like anyone go away with the impression I do not respect it. I do.
I take that point and turn to some other points, which can be very brief, since most of what I want to say was very well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike).
The Bill should certainly go through. This subject has been around for a long time—in 1888 the T.U.C., in 1947 the Royal Commission. The European Economic Community is tackling the problem, and 65 countries have signified their support for the I.L.O. Convention, although Britain is not one of them. So this is hardly revolutionary progress. During the time that this subject has been under discussion, the objectives which have been made have grown infinitely less in substance. Another reason why no more delay should be allowed is that this concerns many people. This is not a small proportion of our labour force, but about 35 per cent., and that proportion will be increased, particularly among skilled labour.
Why do I say that the objections should be regarded as of less account now? Primarily because the conditions of work and conditions in which those objections were made have changed and are changing fast. The first objection is the old objection so often used by employers and sometimes by unions, that women lack the skill and training to merit equal pay. Whose fault is that, usually? It is not the women's fault but that of the employers and the unions that there is a lack of places in apprenticeships and training courses and a lack of opportunity for promotion. That argument is not a sensible one—and even less so today when the education of women is changing so much. There is much more progress to be made, but more girls as well as boys are staying on longer at school and going into further education. There are more, although still too few, university places for girls. Against that background, the question of skill does not merit serious consideration.
The second objection is that of absenteeism, that the woman is not a very good risk for employment and equal remuneration because she does not give equal service in return. One question which has not been asked is: which women are we talking about? It seems to be assumed both here and in discussing this subject outside that the prototype woman whom we are discussing is the woman with two children at home. But that is by no means the typical woman today, because times have changed. The age of childbearing is younger, and women tend to plan their families and complete their child rearing earlier. Then comes a long period in which a woman has seen her children grow up and is both active and wanting to work. It is this woman whom we should take into account and not just the woman with two children under 5 or under 15 at home. There are many more who merit consideration—
The hon. Gentleman is supporting my case, but this argument has been used time and again.
One can reinforce the case by saying that women will increasingly demand the right to work and with it the right to equal consideration in pay. There are not only more years available for work but more hours in the day because of the modern kitchen and so on. Also, with the sprawl of our towns and the incompetence of our planning here, we live in a less neighbourly and more lonely society. Once children have grown up, it is a very dissatisfying life for the intelligent woman to lead. Hence the attractions of work and the demand to work outside the home for many of them. Also, in talking of the women whose children have grown up, let us not forget the spinster, the widow and the childless whose position should be taken into account.
The third objection which needs to be considered is the economic one, that there will be too few jobs to go around, which will not be in the interests of women. We cannot consider this problem in the round, because the demand for women in employment is a very fragmented market. I foresee very little shortage of opportunity for any people, male or female, with skills, and plenty of concern about job opportunities for the unskilled, male or female, in the years ahead.
The final argument is that much work is too heavy for women. But mechanisation is changing a great many places of employment.
I have given my reasons for thinking that the old objections to equal pay have progressively fallen away and should do so completely now. On the other hand, women should not expect the Bill to do too much for them. Pay is not the only or even the major source of discrimination in employment. Training and promotion policies are much greater areas of discrimination. Also, many areas in which women are substantially employed will be largely unaffected. Where the labour force is already mainly female, the Bill will not change the picture much.
I have one word of caution about costs. We do not know enough, on the figures presented to us so far. The gap between the Government's estimate of a 3 per cent. addition to the wages bill and the C.B.I.'s estimate of 6 per cent. is sufficient to be disturbing, to put it mildly. We need to know more about that. Depending on what we learn, we may need—I say this in no defensive spirit—to study views about the length of the period of transition. It might need to be different from one field to another.
Finally, one consequence of the Bill—I recognise that there are difficulties which may take time—should be that the exemption list should be reconsidered. If, with one voice, we are asking for equal pay, it does not make sense that the exemption list should extend to no shift work and so on, although I know that there are problems here.
I hope that the Bill goes ahead. I believe that we have waited long enough for it. But women should not see it as ushering in a golden age for their employment, and the Government should do some more homework on the costs.
Like the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), having sat through practically the whole of the debate I find it difficult to make a contribution, in the sense that it is not easy to avoid going over ground which has previously been covered.
I am perturbed about the attitude of some hon. Members opposite. Although some have tried to express enthusiasm for the proposition put forward by my right hon. Friend, far too many have shown a merely tepid enthusiasm. Some hon. Members opposite have expressed their outright opposition, and there has generally been the guarded inference that although they will not oppose the Bill tonight they will try to cut its throat in Committee. That is most disappointing.
Since hon. Members on both sides have mentioned the attitude of the trade union movement, it is right that, as Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Trade Union Group, I should say that when my right hon. Friend spoke to the group its members expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for the Bill and for the arguments advanced by my right hon. Friend. The trade union group in the House wholeheartedly supports the Bill. It does so conscious of the fact that there will be difficulties. It is clear from what has been said by hon. Members opposite that some of them are green with envy because their party, when in office, failed to bring forward a Bill such as that which my right hon. Friend has presented.
I wonder whether there is a general feeling abroad that, as a result of the Bill, there will be a strengthening of the trade union movement. I believe that it will bring many more women members into the trade union movement. That will be a good thing. It will not happen tomorrow, but eventually we shall have women in our midst who will increasingly aspire to positions of leadership within the movement. The criticism has rightly been advanced that at the moment we have too few women in positions of responsibility in the movement. The Bill will to some extent rectify that situation. I hope that when the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) winds up the debate she will do her best to dispel any illusions that may have arisen that the Opposition are worried about this strengthening of the trade union movement.
I hope, too, that we shall not hear any argument that we cannot afford this change. That argument has been put forward whenever an attempt has been made to bring about a change of this kind. My grandfather was a miner, and when we were campaigning not on the question of equal pay but for holidays with pay—when we were saying that New Year's Day, or Hogmanay, as it is called in Scotland, should not be an idle day, but that we should receive payment for it—my grandfather said that the country could not afford it.
When I started in the industry there was no question of holidays with pay. We had idle days, disguised as holidays. The same old argument was advanced that when we were in a process of change we could not afford to pay for such things. The events of the last 20 years have demolished the basis for any such argument.
The House ought not to be so churlish; hon. Members should congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the Bill in the manner in which she introduced it. It may be that because she is a woman she brought into her speech a certain amount of fervour and passion. She was conscious of the fact that she was introducing an historic Measure. This sparsely attended House may not have realised that this was an historic occasion.
We have been told that the Bill may not be popular with women, and that it may not be popular even with many men. I do not know about that. I read in the Press over the week-end that some dissatisfaction had been reported in certain sections. Politicians, the trade union movement, and the activists in certain women's groups may be to blame for not bringing forward the argument more strongly in the past. It may be that as industry has become more sophisticated we have become frightened to implement this change. If so, it is deplorable.
Some people argue that equal pay will cause strains and stresses in domestic and married life. The answer is that when equal pay was introduced into the professions, no strains and stresses appeared in married life. Certain members of the Press will be taking notes of these proceedings. I am sure that they are very conscious of the existence of equal pay in their profession and will agree that there have been no stresses and strains as a result.
The main argument arises on the question of unemployment. I do not think that that will prove to be a real problem, either. In the first place, our womenfolk will always be at a disadvantage at some period in their lives, especially if they are responsible for bringing up families. It is not a bad thing that our womenfolk should be concerned with their children and their families.
The problem of absenteeism has been mentioned. We must find ways of preventing this. My right hon. Friend mentioned the question of absenteeism in the mining industry and in the docks. We are trying to find the answer there. It is argued that if we have equal pay for women and they are given jobs of equal responsibility the fear of absenteeism will destroy and dislocate industry. That is a bad argument.
As the hon. Member has been an active member of the N.U.M., does he think that his union, with others, will be prepared in the coming few years to restrain their wage claims to provide funds from which equal pay in other industries may be secured?
That is a red herring. If that had been the only obstacle to equal pay, we should have had a Bill of this kind a long time ago. Negotiations must take place to resolve all these problems.
I have always regarded women as a threat to men—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"]—in the sense that for too long they have been used as a source of cheap labour. In that way they have been a threat For example, in the electrical components industry women are being employed in a greater ratio to men largely, it is said, because of their manual dexterity, but mainly, I believe—I accept that in many respects they have excellent manual dexterity—because they are a source of cheap labour.
This and similar problems must be overcome in our implementation of the Bill. The question of job evaluation is an important issue which will have to be decided by the trade unions. For this reason I hope that we shall see more and more women becoming members of trade unions so that they may play their full part in the implementation of the Measure.
I believe that the Bill will have its biggest impact, admittedly in the longterm, on education. It should be old-fashioned nowadays for parents to be less interested in the education of girls, but I wonder whether that is so. I have obtained some interesting figures which, although they relate to Scotland, give a good picture of the present position. The figures are for the number of youngsters entering university, the boys to study science subjects and the girls to take non-science subjects. Whereas two-thirds of the boys who took those subjects went for pure science, technology and medicine, only one-fifth of the girls entering university took those subjects. Many reasons might be adduced for that trend, but the figures show that of 90 per cent. of boys and girls with S.C.E. higher grade passes who entered some form of higher education, proportionately more girls than boys continued in full-time education, 55 per cent. as against 45 per cent. However, of boys and girls entering employment, more boys engaged in part-time study, 75 per cent. as against 25 per cent.
The passing of this Measure will result in the whole attitude of parents towards the education of girls changing. I have always believed that an untapped pool of ability existed in Britain. Apart from the contribution that women can make to industry, I believe that in our womenfolk we have a pool of untapped ability which, with the aid of the Bill, will gradually be tapped to the advantage of the nation as a whole.
It is kind of you, and perhaps prudent, Mr. Speaker, to call to take part in this debate both the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) and myself, for it would have been unfortunate had there been any apparent discrimination against Scots when the House was discussing a subject such as equal pay.
This is an important Measure, more important than some of its supporters believe, and less important than some of its opponents think. Two examples have been given of problems which hon. Gentlemen opposite think the Bill will resolve. First, the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) pointed out, in a penetrating speech, that in the pottery industry women were engaged in painting china at a basic rate of 2s. 1½d. an hour while men who were making boxes to hold that china were earning far more. The hon. Lady said that women had special skills that enabled them, and only them, to undertake that work.
While I am not sure that that is absolutely correct, the Bill can do nothing to resolve the problem. It will not, and cannot, resolve any question of differential rates being paid for different jobs. It relates only to pay for the same job or jobs of a similar character. If the supporters of the Measure think that it will resolve apparent injustices in the wage structure by which more is paid for a job of less apparent value—that will not happen.
Secondly, the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) thought, like the hon. Member for Midlothian and many of his hon. Friends, that the Bill would in some ways remove apparent discrimination against women in obtaining jobs, promotion and opportunities. One of my hon. Friends pointed out that there were not enough places in universities for girls and hoped that the Bill would resolve the problem.
That shows how muddled is our thinking on this topic, because in this respect the Bill will not solve the problem. Indeed, in some ways I think that it will make it more difficult and will limit the opportunities for women in certain spheres. It does not solve the apparent injustice in the wage system, and it does not solve the problem of opportunities for women.
I am astonished that the right hon. Lady the Minister, for whose courage I have a great admiration, should, after the abysmal failure of the prices and incomes legislation and of what I believe was her sincere desire to arrive at some just wage system—those things are now in tatters, the legislation has been scrapped, and norms and ceilings have been thrown overboard—bring forward another Bill, another piece of Government interference with the wage structure to establish this famous just price.
I believe that when we try to bring together the economic theories of St. Thomas Aquinas and Karl Marx all we get is tomfoolery and Groucho Marx. We get a ridiculous situation in which we have a man, a committee or a board in Whitehall saying what is the right wage and job for every man and woman at work. Either we have that or we have the market fixing the right price. There is no halfway house. The sad thing is that time and time again the Government have tried to arrive at a compromise by which we have some kind of free collective bargaining and at the same time what they regard as a just wage in society. That is impossible, and if that is the Government's aim in this Measure, as it was in the prices and incomes legislation, they are once again doomed to failure.
We had an example in the prices and incomes policy. The idea there was that as there was only a certain amount of money to share and we could afford only a certain national dividend, we should agree that the money should go to the lower paid worker. One of the exemptions in the current White Paper is that lower paid workers should be able to burst through the range of 2½ per cent. to 4½ per cent. There are others, such as public servants and the like, who may do so, but basically the idea has been that ony a small number should be able to break through.
Before that, we had a ceiling of 3½ per cent. for everyone, with productivity as the only means of rising above it. We all know how productivity was made into nonsense by some of the wage increases negotiated at the time of the 3½ per cent. ceiling. That idea could not work because the market forced wages up in other respects. The ceiling was impossible to apply. The Minister and all hon. Members opposite must know that the majority of increases negotiated during the period to the end of 1969 were allegedly justified by productivity, but that the agreements were just a load of tripe. There was no basic costed productivity, as stated in the White Paper: productivity was used simply as an excuse for increases.
Now we are being told that it is all to be done on job evaluation. I was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Midlothian say that the trade union movement was solidly behind job evaluation as a means of getting justice for everyone. When I worked in the Clyde shipyards before coming to the House, if a stop watch had been produced by a work study man there would have been a walk-out. Hon. Members opposite must know that the Government's idea of controlling and interfering with wages cannot work, and that all that will happen is that excuses will be found to drive a coach and horses through the legislation. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and others have in their own way encouraged the unions in that direction and have shown how it can be done.
The same thing will happen with this Bill. It seeks to set up a way in which a just wage can be established between men and women, but we know, and the Government and all the Opposition must know, that it will prove to be simply another wonderful structure, another wonderful idea, another way in which people think that the just wage can be achieved, when we all know that in fact it cannot be achieved. We cannot choose between two masters. It must be either the market or the committee or board in Whitehall. We cannot have the two working at the same time.
I have also been astonished to hear the Bill justified on the grounds of justice. We are asked: why should a man and a woman, working at apparently the same job, get different wages? We might as well ask: why should a boilermaker in the north of Glasgow get a different wage from the boilermaker working in the south of Glasgow, or in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool or Wolverhampton? Why should they not all have the same rate for doing the same job in the same circumstances? We all know that it cannot be so because of different economic factors; transport costs, rating costs, the regional employment premium and other things, all of which distort the natural market. In the Bill we are creating what is presented as a wonderful opportunity for women, but it will achieve little, if anything, and much of what it will achieve will be damaging to women.
Who is to pay? The Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity said that the cost may not be as great as we think. Others have said that the cost will be enormous. We know that the change will cost something. If we forget about inflation—which is one way of running away from these problems—we see that the money available for wages has to come from somewhere. It has been suggested in the White Paper and by Government supporters that it should come from men; that they should have their awards limited in future. Shall we have every shop steward attending giant conferences saying, "We shall restrain our wage increases so that we may have equal pay for women"? We know that that will not happen. Unless there were a totally regimented, controlled economy it could not happen.
If we had asked hon. Members discussing the White Paper on Prices and Incomes whether the trade unions would be prepared to take a little less so that lower paid workers could take more, the answer would have been an overwhelming "Yes"—but what about the motor car workers? There was no limitation for them, no 4½ per cent. ceiling. There have been amazing increases, bursting through the White Paper proposals. The money has come from somewhere. If no one is prepared to give, the only way will be that of inflation. Then wages will be adjusted as if the market operated.
If hon. Members reject my basic argument against the Bill, how do they view the question: how is this to be enforced? The Government should look seriously at this matter. When the Secretary of State was speaking I asked why she did not mention Clause 7. That Clause refers to police pay. There is the question of provision for marriage. Does that relate to allowances made to police officers in respect of rent? Is this rent allowance? Will a woman police officer get a full rent allowance? If she is single, will she get a full rent allowance? If she is married to a man who is working, will she get a full rent allowance? If she is married to a man who is not working, will she get a full rent allowance? If she is married to another police officer, will both of them get the rent allowance?
On the question of justice, how precisely would the position in two factories next to each other be determined? In one factory there may be 5 per cent. male workers and 95 per cent. female workers, all doing the same jobs, while in the other factory all the employees are male and they are doing the same jobs. Are we to force up the wages in one factory and do nothing about the wages in the other? We should find that women would tend to be segregated in one establishment doing what is classified as a particular job and that there would be a rate for it, otherwise there would he the ridiculous position of people being paid entirely different wages in those adjacent factories.
What is the position under selective employment tax? If there are to be equal wages, are there to be equal payments of the tax and equal payments of regional employment premiums? What is the position over pensions? Are women to be responsible for hire-purchase debts contracted by males? It has been suggested that one of the main reasons for this Measure is the same as that for metrication and the adoption of British Standard Time—to show that Britain is ready to go into the Common Market.
All the experience of the Government in the last few years when they have tried vainly, desperately, in some ways magnificently and I am sure sincerely, to have a prices and incomes policy to bring about justice, has been that their efforts have not produced what they expected. They had to abandon their policy. They had to tear up the National Plan, the Prices and Incomes Bills and the White Paper. Their mild, tepid version introduced recently has been blown to smithereens before it has started to operate. This Bill is in the same category. It will not produce what is wanted and in some ways it will do grave disservice to those whom we want to help.
There is a theoretical basis for the arguments which have been advanced by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor): one point follows logically from the previous point. It is right that either the concept of the market forces is accepted or it is rejected and the theory of interventionism is accepted.
I reject the concept of the market forces. It is not essential in determining wages that we should always be guided entirely by the market forces. Nor have we been so guided throughout history. There have been many occasions, even in Britain, when wages and prices have been determined by Governments. Under the feudal system there was a much more rigid system of wage and price control than anything since seen or likely to be seen.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's logic, and I have never accepted it. I did not accept it even in the argument which we advanced against the Government's prices and incomes policy. Our argument was not that there should be a free-for-all and that wages should be determined purely by market forces. We opposed the prices and incomes policy because it was compulsory legislation of a kind we were not prepared to accept. We did not object to the basic theory.
The hon. Gentleman argued that, if it were accepted that there should be equality between men and women in the same industry, in no time the boilermakers in South and North Glasgow could argue that they should have the same rate of pay, the boilermakers in Glasgow and Liverpool could argue for parity, and so could the boilermakers of London and Liverpool. The hon. Gentleman said that the same could happen in the motor car industry.
I have news for the hon. Gentleman. That is precisely what is happening in the motor car industry. That is why the workers in Lancashire, when they were fused into the wider context of the merged Leyland organisation, said, "What we are getting is not good enough and we will not accept it. We want the same pay and conditions as our colleagues in the Midlands have for precisely the same work". That is what the workers in Fords are arguing; they are saying, "We want the same conditions as those enjoyed by workers in other sections of the motor car industry".
It is not the same thing, because the women in industry have always been in a position of lesser strength than the men in industry.
One of my hon. Friends said that the trade union movement must accept a certain amount of responsibility for the position of women in industry. That is perfectly true. However, the movement has always accepted the need for certain legislation. It has not rejected legislation entirely, but it has objected to certain types of legislation. The idea of equal pay being introduced by legislation has never been objected to by the trade union movement. We know that in 1888 the Trades Union Congress went on record in favour of equal pay for equal work. In those days, Congress was a very weak body compared with what it is today. That was the very time when the match girls in London were fighting for the right to belong to a trade union. They were working under appalling conditions. The trade union movement was arguing that there should be equal pay for equal work.
The trade union argument is not the same, because women have not been in the position of strength which the men have held. Where they have been in a strong position, women have been able to increase their wages and to better their conditions. That is why, ultimately, the professional women secured equal pay, but even they had to seek Government assistance to get it. However, because they were in a strong position and because of their skill, they were able to use the argument earlier than were the women industrial workers.
I think that the hon. Gentleman's argument is fallacious. It is against the principle of equal pay for equal work and equality of opportunity for women in industry. He does not declare that openly, though he was a little more blunt than was his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), who, in this usual smooth lawyer's way, made it quite clear that he was totally opposed to any idea that women should have equal rights with their fellow workers.
There is one other point to which I must devote a few moments. It is that which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) about the women engaged on the fine painting and gilding of pottery earning only 2s. 1½d. an hour, compared with the lowest male rate of 3s. 1½d. an hour. She did not say that the latter rate applied to men who were making packing cases. If it does, I cannot understand why my own trade union is not doing something about it, because those workers will belong to my union. I cannot believe that my trade union would accept that people working anywhere in the country should receive a rate as low as that. However, I think that my hon. Friend was referring to those workers who pack pots and cart them away, which is not quite the same as making the packing cases.
If it were true that this Bill would not help those women to demand at least equality with the lowest-paid male worker in the industry, it would be a scandal. I know that the Bill does not say that clearly. It cannot say everything, and there are plenty of points which do not appear in the Bill and which I should like to have seen spelt out clearly. It would be a great incentive to those women to know that they should not be receiving any rate lower than that of any low-paid male worker in the industry. The Bill will assist greatly in that direction. It is an absolute scandal that any employer in the country today should pay such low wages. I was appalled when I heard those rates of pay. It is time the matter was cleared up.
There has been an argument about the value that can be placed on a workman's wage, and the value of a woman worker as compared with a man worker. The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South seemed to make a great deal of the argument that some women were better workers than men, and suggested that it could be argued collectively. But some men working alongside others doing the same job are faster than their workmates. In my own industry we always argued against individual bonuses because at the age of 60 the old cocker, as we used to call him, who had worked as a joiner in the building industry all his life, could not climb the ladders as quickly as a young man of 21 and could not do the job as quickly. Therefore, we used to argue for collective bonuses so that the old worker received the same for our output as the young, and the workers were not used one against the other. We knew that the young man could perhaps do twice as much work as the old man, but it was not that the old man did not work as hard. He might have been working harder than the young man, but he could no longer do the job in the same way and at the same speed.
That is true of all workers, whether they are men or women. Some workers are quick and some are slow. That must be understood. To suggest that women have not the same abilities as men is ludicrous. It is an argument that I thought went out with the dinosaurs, but we have some dinosaurs in the House—quite a few of them on the benches opposite. One is sitting there now, if I may say so with respect to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), whose ideas are way back in the past. They are not in this century at all.
It is clearly very important that the Bill should be given a Second Reading and full support.
I want to make one more comment. I had wanted to make many more, but I do not have time. My comment concerns the period over which the Bill comes into operation. The T.U.C. said two years, the C.B.I. seven, and the Government said five. It is obvious that that choice is a compromise. I am not against all compromise. Sometimes we must compromise. That is political life; that is the reality. I should have liked to see the Bill brought into operation more quickly, but I shall not make a big argument about that.
My right hon. Friend deserves the full support of the House and its congratulations on introducing the Bill in the way she did. She has sometimes been on the receiving end of critical speeches by me in the House. I am not making a critical speech tonight in any way. The Bill is a magnificent job. Perhaps it could be better, but then every Bill can be better. This is a great, historic moment. I am only sorry that the House has not recognised that fact in the way in which it should have recognised it. Attendance today has been regrettably thin.
This is a very important milestone in the emancipation not only of women but of human society as a whole. One can see the milestones of the past quite clearly, one following another. There will be others, but this is one of the most important documents which we have ever considered. It is with great pleasure that I tell my right hon. Friend that I not only support her but support her wholeheartedly. I am sorry that there will not be a vote, because I should have voted enthusistically for this Measure. I hope that hon. Members who said that they would divide the House will do so, to give me the opportunity of going into the Lobby with my right hon. Friend in support of this important and historic Measure.
When I was a pupil at the Bar, my first master at law gave me a very sound piece of advice which I tried to follow. He said, "Always express your conclusion first, so that people do not have to wait for it". I therefore gladly express my conclusion first on the Bill. I welcome it, and join my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) and others in congratulating the right hon. Lady on having introduced it.
The task of winding up from this side will require rather more diplomatic and economic skills than I had imagined a subject of this kind would require. There has been a number of speeches, some about the subject from the viewpoint of women and some about it from the viewpoint of economics, as well as a number of critical views and a number of views of welcome. I share the view of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), that not nearly enough hon. Members have attended the debate. Although the sun was shining out of the eyes of those on the Front Bench opposite, there were only 25 people behind the right hon. Lady, a number which at its maximum rose to 29—and these benches were not much fuller.
The Secretary of State's speech was punctuated with many cheers, except when she said—I hope that I wrote it down correctly—that pay increases for women would have to exceed those for men over the next five years. This is what we are committing ourselves to. Of course it is. Unless this happens, the Bill's objective will not be fulfilled.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell)—I almost said "my right hon. Friend"—has always been a great friend of women hon. Members. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will not take that wrongly. He has always championed our cause. He championed it in that early debate, as he reminded us, way back in 1952. But I should like to mention first the debate of 11th June, 1947. This was the first debate on the Report of the Royal Commission, which reported in 1946.
When hon. Members opposite criticised the slow way in which we introduced equal pay for the public services. I would remind them that in that debate in 1947 the then Labour Front Bench refused to take the administrative action which could have introduced equal pay in the public service, in spite of being bombarded from the back benches by very effective speeches. So they had the Report of the Royal Commission for four years and took no administrative action to further these proposals for the public service.
Certainly, we then had it for another four years before Lord Butler introduced equal pay for teachers, for the local government service and for women in the Civil Service, except in the industrial sector. True, he did not require legislation. But it is interesting that, with both sides of the House pressing the Front Bench to introduce equal pay, and with no legislation required for that part of the service, no action was taken for a long time. We should be entitled to credit for what we did in 1955, and hon. Members who are just will not begrudge us that credit.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, West mentioned one or two other factors which I think are worth noting. He pointed out that he was very glad that his own wife had achieved her ambitions through him, and, of course, he is a dab hand at choosing wives—or at least one wife—if I may say so.
The right hon. Lady referred to the document we have produced, "Fair Share for the Fair Sex". We have always been concerned—and that document showed it—that those of us who pioneer for equality for women should not in any way damage the position of women who choose to fulfil their lives in the home through the ambitions of their husbands and by bringing up their own children. After all, about half the married women choose, with their families, to live their lives that way, and they are every bit as important as the other half of married women who go out to work.
I have noticed recently that in other legislation which comes before the House their rights in some ways are being diminished, and that is why we were so anxious to have that other document "Fair Share for the Fair Sex" first before the later one "Opportunity for Women". As the right hon. Lady probably realises, there is another Bill before the House which is abolishing the age-old common law rule that the wife shall be entitled to pledge her husband's credit for necessaries. I am very sorry so see that go, and I am sure that those of us who are all for equality must watch that we do not diminish the right of the wife to maintenance from her husband. The same Bill is also putting extra responsibilities on the wife which she has never had before.
A number of these points were brought to the fore in that document. We then went on to the other document—to which the right hon. Lady did not, I think, refer, but of which I am certain she has a copy—called "Opportunity for Women".
Incidentally, in the first document we also dealt with some of the points about taxation which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with. One point which was put to the right hon. Lady concerned selective employment tax. I seem to remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time specifically pitched the levels of selective employment tax by reference to the average wages for women compared with those for men. That was how he explained that one level was approximately twice the other—because the average earnings of men are about twice the average earnings of women. I hope that equality in that sense will mean that the rate of selective employment tax for men will be brought down to that of women until such time as it can be abolished. What will happen about the regional employment premium is a matter for the present Government in deciding which way they would operate the equality.
One could also say that as a result of the present Bill wages will not be equalised and there are bound to be some differences between the take-home pay of men and women because of differences which arise from reasons other than basic pay.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) made what I am sure we all found was an interesting speech and a carefully argued one. My hon. and learned Friend referred to the Report of the Royal Commission. Our own report "Opportunity for Women" put the Royal Commission Report in perspective in relation to present-day circumstances. It said:
Twenty-three years have now elapsed since the whole question of equal pay was examined by the Royal Commission.…The Commission's report, which was enthusiastic about the adoption of an equal pay policy, reads today as though it was written for a different world—as indeed it was.
The evidence adduced before that Commission came from a different world—the world of the 'thirties. It also came from a world in which a number of women had to go very quickly into occupations in wartime to which they were not accustomed and for which they were untrained, and they did absolutely magnificently.
In reply to my hon. and learned Friend, I take one or two quotations from the minority report, so that at least he will know that I have read the report, and read it as closely as he has. The minority report, or memorandum of dissent, as it is properly called, was written largely by the Principal of Somerville College, at which, I think, the right hon. Lady was a student at one time. So was I—so, with the three of us, it must have been right. I do not think that anyone could resist the three of us all together. I sense even that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition almost agrees to that. [Laughter.] I find that one always needs eyes behind one as well as in front in this job.
In paragraph 5 of the minority report it was said:
No quantitative analysis of jobs has been made, but we find it hard to believe that at the present time more than three-quarters of all industrial jobs require physical strength beyond the capacity of women.
In other words, the report came to its conclusions on the basis that three-quarters of industrial jobs required physical strength beyond the capacity of women.
Another observation to which I turn somes in paragraph 11:
Our reading of the evidence is different from that of the majority".
That meant that, according to the minority, the evidence would not support the conclusions. Again, in paragraph 14:
The majority do not base their case mainly upon the evidence. They appear to rely chiefly upon an a priori argument …".
The conclusion in paragraph 19 of the minority report was:
To sum up: the theoretical argument advanced by the majority to account for the lower wages of women in terms of lower efficiency, used in its widest sense, seems to us unconvincing and on the evidence their case is not proven.
My hon. and learned Friend used a phrase from the report, "The market mirrors the truth". Perhaps the best argument which I can put about the market in relation to certain jobs is this. Let us suppose that the question of application to be a candidate for Member of Parliament were judged entirely on market forces. I think that there would probably still be candidates to be Members of Parliament even though there were no pay at all, for Members would be sponsored or would have enough money to do it, or some would come who had other means of support. But, in that case, I think that we should probably find ourselves without a number of very valuable Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr.
Powell), who I know devotes nearly all his time to work in the House.
My right hon. Friend might, but I do not think that he would be able to devote as much time to it as he does now. I am sorry if I have misjudged him.
I turn now to one or two other aspects of the Bill to which hon. Members referred, and I take, first, the income tax consequences. There will be several repercussions in income tax. One of the reasons why so many women go out to work is the quite ordinary one that the wife needs to work to keep up a good standard of living for the family. But the income tax consequences for the man who has a dependent wife do not allow really sufficient differences between the single allowance and the married allowance. I was surprised today to see that the difference between the single allowance and the married allowance is still only £120. Obviously, at some time, now that the right hon Lady's right hon. Friend has gone into his confinement—non-productive confinement—for his Budget, he may wish to have a look at some of the income tax consequences which will occur when we see women's rates of pay rising.
Incidentally, there will be other consequences. For example, if a docker earns £40 a week, which is £2,080 a year, and his wife now earns £500 a year, their interest on Post Office Savings of, say, £15 a year and any building society interest will be liable to surtax because it is savings income; and that situation will be worsened—to put it that way—once women's pay rises, so that a good many people who have a small amount of savings income will find themselves surtax payers.
A number of hon. Members have pointed out that equal pay does not bring with it equal or enlarged opportunities. In the public service it certainly has not. For example, teachers have had equal pay since 1961, but it is comparatively rare for the head teacher of a mixed school to be a woman. The top job tends to be given to a man and the No. 2 job to a woman. There has been equal pay in the Civil Service and a number of professions, but promotion prospects for women have still been comparatively poor.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton seemed to be arguing that women now had more promotion prospects. I thought he was arguing against the contention from this side of the House that promotion prospects for women had been comparatively limited. The image of him as a shop steward working under the authority of a woman foreman is not one that readily springs to mind.
I shall be glad to learn that the hon. Gentleman would be happy to work under the authority of a woman foreman, and I should very much like to see it in operation.
There have been a number of reports about the limited opportunities available to women, and the right hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) spoke of how few women went on to be qualified in science. This was a subject mentioned in the Dainton Report. One of the reasons why few women go on to a science course at a university, or another form of science course, according to paragraph 41 of that Report, is the apparently limited career prospects lying beyond qualification. We should not delude ourselves by thinking that equal pay for women, or even increasing pay for women if it does not come to equal take-home pay, necessarily means equal opportunities. There is still a great deal of work to be done in that respect to enable women to have the jobs which their qualifications would warrant.
It is important that more and more women become qualified and trained. A large proportion of the women in jobs—and there are 9 million of them—are in the comparatively unskilled sector. These are the very jobs which will go with automation, the very jobs which computers can do, the very jobs which machines will eventually be able to do better. It will be progressively more important that women take all the training opportunities available and that more opportunities are made available to them.
I have never seen any valid argument against the rate for the job. I like our own definition in the "Industrial Charter"—one rate for the job provided that the services rendered and the results achieved by men and women are the same. One of my hon. Friends has made some play with the fact that the Bill has no provision for results achieved and says only that terms and conditions must be equal. Most women would be very happy to be adjudged by the results achieved. We should not in any way be fearful about results achieved as one of the conditions for equal pay.
I note that there are several different components of pay. The Industrial Education and Research Foundation showed that basic pay accounted for 67 per cent. of total weekly earnings of male employees and 78 per cent. of those of women employees.
The proportion taken up by payment by results is interesting. Payment by results formed 8·9 per cent. as a component of men's pay, and 12 per cent. as a component of women's pay. So we are used to having payment by results as quite a large component of our net take-home pay. If payment by results were used in this House, on that alone we should most certainly be entitled to full equality.
Coming to the alternative definition of equal pay—equal pay for jobs of equal value—looking at American, European, Common Market and Swedish experience, it is doubtful whether this definition could ever be properly implemented, and the right hon. Lady pointed out some of the difficulties. It just is not possible to have a total job evaluation of all jobs done in this country or in any other. One therefore has to attempt to find some compromise solution, and the right hon. Lady has put forward one. If it is not quite right, doubtless it can be amended in Committee.
The problems of job evaluation have been brought up by many hon. Members. Of course, the same evaluation done by different people can produce different results; job evaluation is subjective, and this will produce problems. Even so, the existence of the Bill will mean that a large number of women will get higher pay because those responsible for paying them will be prepared to give them higher pay.
As the right hon. Lady said, there are many cases where equal pay has been implemented in the industrial sector, and she referred to Vauxhalls. On opening the newspaper on 26th January, I was amused to see a headline:
Equal pay for equal nights.
This was not the Sun, or the Mirror, but The Guardian. The article said that women workers at Vauxhalls might become the first female employees of a major engineering firm to work night shifts in order to get equal pay. The point is that they are prepared to work night shifts, and, if the right hon. Lady gives her consent, they will get equal pay with men workers. This is a case of equal pay where women are prepared to work under exactly the same conditions and do the same work, whether during the day time or on night shift.
There is also a factory making television equipment where nine women and about 40 men are receiving equal pay of about £27 a week. The reason why equal pay was introduced is interesting. The factory needed more flexibility, and to be able to switch workers about to meet rush orders. So the shop stewards and the union officials negotiated an equal pay deal. They did not quite know how it would work, and they had some misgivings. The works manager said:
It was part of a package deal for three years, so I thought let's find out how it works for these three years.
That is what the Bill will do. When we try to work it we shall not find anything like the number of difficulties which we anticipate because many of the problems will be ironed out, not by going to a tribunal but by negotiation.
I agree with many hon. Members that we do not know what the cost will be because we do not know the repercussions on women in jobs which are not affected by job evaluation, or the repercussions on the lower rates of pay of some men. Nevertheless, we shall have to try to work the Bill. So many people have supported the idea of equal pay for so long that one wonders at the continuing inequality of payment between men and women. I believe that the Bill will lead to better pay for many jobs, and I support it as another step in the equal pay story.
I should like at the outset to say how struck I was at the contrast between the humorous, charming and disarming speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and the polemical speech made earlier in the debate by her right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr). The Opposition came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. Incidentally, the relationship between my right hon. Friend and myself is not that of foreman and shop steward. My right hon. Friend needs no shop steward to look after her.
The Bill has been widely and warmly welcomed in all parts of the House, if not wholly and unequivocally accepted. The debate has reflected accurately the form and strength of public opinion outside the House. I will leave to the judgment of hon. Members which strand is represented by the views expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell).
The debate, for the most part in many well-informed speeches, has shown a clear recognition that the demand for this reform cannot be long delayed. Some of the speakers in the debate have long been in the forefront of this campaign, and today they must have received a great deal of satisfaction. Although it may be invidious to pick out any contributors, I would particularly single out the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). They and many others have played a significant part in bringing about this great achievement which has come to fruition today.
Inevitably qualifications and reservations have been expressed. A number of questions have been posed and I shall try to deal with as many as possible. I should like first to comment on the gloomy prophecies by the right hon. Member for Mitcham about the reactions of trade unions and trade unionists. His jeremiad earlier this afternoon showed how completely he misjudges the mood and strength of feeling of the trade union movement and trade unionists on this issue. When at the end he said that none the less he accepted the principles and aims of the Bill, having hedged his argument with so many qualifications, he could have fooled me.
The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) usually hangs around late at night. He has not been in on this debate all day. He usually comes into the Chamber in a knocking frame of mind, as I am sure is his purpose tonight.
I remind the hon. Member that the debate started at about 3.30 p.m., that it is now 9.30 p.m. and that he has only just put in an appearance.
I was referring to the speech of the right hon. Member for Mitcham. His final jibe about vote-catching goes to prove that one just cannot win with the right hon. Gentleman. I recall the first moment when I appeared at this Dispatch Box at Question time to answer Questions on this very subject of equal pay. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends imagined that they were indulging in some live hare-coursing. They chased me on this subject and threw out jibes about reneging on Election pledges. I told them to contain themselves until the year 1971. Well, we have not waited that long. If we do not fulfil a pledge we are told that we are reneging on our promises, but when we fulfil a pledge we are accused of vote catching. We just cannot win.
There was an equal contradiction in the right hon. Gentleman's demand that we should have anticipated the possible wage claims and should have been prepared to impose a wage restraint on men—this, again, was a reflection of his misjudgment of the mood of trade unionism today—in regard to a restoration of the differential. Only last week hon. Gentlemen opposite were attacking the Government's statutory prices and incomes policy and berating the Government for having an incomes policy. Now they express concern and apprehension that we might need one.
No doubt my hon. Friend is referring to some wages council industries of which his trade union has a large membership. Recently they have submitted for approval by the Department agreements involving equal or higher increases for women so as to reduce the differential, thus reflecting the eagerness of men to see that justice is given to women in those trades.
A point raised by the right hon. Gentleman with which I would like to deal right away was about the exemptions for the Armed Forces. The Opposition have rightly referred several times to the introduction of equal pay in the non-manual public services during the 1950s, when there was much which was achieved not by legislation but by administrative action. There are particular problems about including the Armed Forces in the Bill, particularly in respect of access to the enforcement machinery, the industrial tribunals and the Industrial Court. I have doubted whether this would be appropriate procedure for dealing with the Armed Forces in this context, but my right hon. Friend in her speech this afternoon gave a firm indication of implementing the National Board for Prices and Incomes Report for June, 1969, which recommended equal pay for equal work in the Armed Forces. She said that that would be honoured. I would say that the timetable for doing so will be in line with that laid down in the Bill.
It may be appropriate at this point to make reference to a point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renee Short) who also asked about other workers in direct Government employ. I would say to my hon. Friend that the Government are ready to negotiate the problem with the unions involved. It is the Government's policy in matters such as this to behave as a good employer and to act in conformity with the general practice of good employers elsewhere.
I might also add, while I am referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, that the point which she raised about making sure that justice is not only done but is seen to be done by the appointment of women to the tribunals is one at which we ought to look very seriously.
The right hon. Gentleman also complained about the extensive powers of the Secretary of State to intervene. Methinks the right hon. Gentleman complains too much. I looked through the Bill when he said that, wondering whether I had misunderstood our own Bill, because I thought that my right hon. Friend's powers to intervene were extremely limited, and I saw that she can intervene in only two sets of circumstances. One is where she herself can refer a case to a tribunal; and the second is where a collective agreement can be referred to the Industrial Court.
The reasons for both these are as follows. The provision for her to have power to refer to an industrial tribunal arises from what I think will be known to those of us who have a background in the trade union movement—the natural inhibition of a worker, and particularly of a woman worker, to make a complaint to what may appear to her to be a judicial body with all the aura which surrounds that. It is for that reason that my right hon. Friend has that power—to do it so as not to attach to a particular individual the anxiety or inhibition which frequently accompanies that situation. As to her power to refer a collective agreement to the Industrial Court, that is, of course, to avoid the possible absurdity, if not reluctance, of a party to an agreement having to ask the Court to modify what in effect is its own agreement.
One further point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech which I think I ought to be dealt with is his suggestion that there should be a provision for the period of implementation to be extended for particular industries. We think that five years is sufficient time for any industry to make this adjustment—more than five years: the period to 1975 provides adequate time, we believe, for adjustments to be made.
But there is also the technical difficulty that, if particular industries or firms were to be exempted, the Bill would have to lay down criteria for selecting them. What would they be? An obvious criterion, of course, is the cost criterion—that is, the cost of equal pay as a percentage of total costs—but that would be very difficult to define and would give rise to endless argument before tribunals. Even if we thought that the time scale was inadequate, the technicalities and practicalities would forbid such a provision. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will pursue this point in Committee.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee) raised three points of substance. He spoke of the need for women to have new employment oppportunities, but, of the three specific points which he raised the first was whether the decision of the tribunal under Clause 2 would apply to the job performed by the claimant or would relate to the claimant's right in the particular situation. I am pleased to assure him that while, in law, the decision would apply to the individual worker, I understand that, in practice, the decisions of the tribunals are accepted as precedents and are followed in subsequent similar cases. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will find some satisfaction in that reply.
Secondly, he asked, did we mean by "terms and conditions" that where, for example, training courses and day-release were a part of the conditions of employment, there would be equality for young persons of either sex? I am pleased to assure him that that is so, that where an apprentice or any young person has as his terms and conditions of employment provision for day-release and training facilities, and a young girl is engaged on the same or broadly similar work, as provided for in the terms of the Bill, she is equally entitled to share in those conditions of employment.
Finally, my right hon. Friend asked about the position of women in relation to minimum male pay, with particular reference to the situation in the engineering industry. Again, I am glad to assure him that the provisions of Clause 3 cover this point and that the implications are as spelled out in the Explanatory Memorandum, that, by providing for the removal of substantial discrimination between men and women in collective agreements, from the date of implementation of the Act, women in the engineering industry, for example—this was the particular point of concern—will be entitled to at least the male labourer's rate, because there is that clear provision that unskilled women must be equated with unskilled men. My right hon. Friend has scored a hat-track; he got all his three points home.
Inevitably, and perhaps in spite of my right hon. Friend's earlier comments, comparisons have been drawn between the terms in the Bill and the way in which the equal pay principle is spelled out in I.L.O. convention No. 100. This point was made by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) with regard to the L.S.E. conference last Saturday, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Norwood). The principle has been stated in various ways in the past, the most familiar, of course, being "equal pay for equal work", and this is the expression adopted by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the expression, incidentally, used in the Labour Party's Election Manifesto of 1964. Also, as we have heard so often today, the Treaty of Rome refers to equal pay for the same work.
My right hon. Friend referred to the limitations and inadequacies of this approach, but also commented on the problems posed by the formula of the Convention. A Bill based entirely on the concept of equal pay for work of equal value would require not only interpretation of that somewhat nebulous notion but some kind of conception of how the evaluation was to be carried out, an impracticable, if not impossible, task. But job evaluation on the scale implicit in this approach would take years, would be very costly, is beyond our resources of skilled personnel and would be completely contrary to all the established practises of collective bargaining in this country.
In cases where we believe that job evaluation is relevant, practicable and desirable in the equal pay context there is no reason why trade unions should not press for this solution, but the concept of a universal and comprehensive job evaluation scheme—a concept to which rigid adherence to the terms of the I.L.O. conference inevitably and logically leads—is not on, either now or in the foreseeable future. We believe that the provision of equal pay in the concrete types of situation which the Bill describes will be more effective than any legislation based on such an abstract idea as equal pay for equal value.
In commenting upon the speeches of the hon. Member for Cheadle and my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South, I want to make further reference to the L.S.E. conference on Saturday, which was apparently organised by the Women's Liberal Federation. I was interested to see, according to The Guardian today, that it made three demands. I have dealt with one. Another was that the Bill should prohibit different basic rates for men and women in collective agreements. The Bill does precisely that. Of the three points I have dealt with two.
The third point is one that I shall shortly turn to in the context of other speeches—the question of efficiency, and of a non-discrimination clause to give women an opportunity to obtain jobs previously reserved, by custom, for men.
Before that I want to comment on the assessment of the cost of equal pay. I have said that on the basis of an investigation carried out by my Department the best estimate that we can make is that the cost will be about 3½ per cent. of the total national wage and salary bill. The C.B.I. has estimated the cost as between 5½ per cent. and 6½ per cent., but it has not told us on what basis it carried out its investigation and arrived at that figure.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham and his hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) thought that a further investigation should be made to assess the reliability and accuracy of this figure. My view is that that would merely duplicate, in a more extensive form, the exercise that we have already carried out. We know the natural resentments that are provoked by this kind of questionnaire and survey within industry, and when we have done it, what does it tell us? Not very much. For the reasons given by the hon. Member for Carlton, it is not likely to give us any more reliable figures at the end of the day.
I agree that we cannot make a thoroughly reliable and accurate assessment of the future situation. Equally, I share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Carlton that, whatever its cost, the principle of equal pay must be carried out. Cost is not an important deterrent.
I want to quote a comment of the Economist of 31st January. Concluding an article describing the Bill and its proposals it said:
Compared with the usual average wage increase the price of equal pay does not look unreasonable.
If it does not look unreasonable to the Economist it certainly does not seem unreasonable to me.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that a considerable proportion of this cost would be absorbed by the introduction of minimum earnings legislation, which some of us also support?
I do not see how the hon. Member can say that there could be any saving in cost. In my view, it would all depend on the level struck, and I think that, rather than reduce the cost, it would considerably add to it. I admit that that is not an argument for or against doing it. If the hon. Member has read my Department's surveys on this matter—which in no way represent its opinions or policies—if bodies generally accepted as an ideal the level of £15 and established a threshhold at that figure, taking into account the possible consequential repercussions the estimate given of the cost is £3,600 million—in other words, a 10 per cent. slice of the gross national product.
An important point which has been raised in many speeches—it was the third of the three legs of the demand made by the Women's Liberal Federation at the L.S.E. conference on Saturday—is the whole question of whether there should be a non-discrimination Clause in the Bill and whether there will be greater or less access to job opportunities as a result of the Measure.
I was hoping that the hon. Gentleman would refer to what his right hon. Friend said about the effect of the factories legisla- tion. In certain cases women are not allowed by the relevant regulations to work night shifts. If, in the firms which have had a tradition of both day and night shifts, men will be compelled to work at night while women will work by day, what will be the result of that legislation?
My right hon. Friend dealt with that question in detail. It is my view that the time for talking about removing the provision which the hon. Gentleman has in mind from the Factories Act will be when women are in exactly the same position as men and have equal pay. That will be the time to discuss this problem seriously. Until then, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, she has power under Section 117 of the Factories Act to grant either general or special exemptions. She has made it clear that she will continue to exercise that power in the light of the cases that arise.
Will women have continued, greater or fewer job opportunities? I assure the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South that we too have looked closely at the Report of the Royal Commission on Equal Pay of 1944–46. In the memorandum of dissent, the T.U.C. evidence to the Royal Commission is quoted, and we read:
As the Trades Union Congress said in evidence: 'We believe it to be beyond dispute that the relative rates of wages paid have been a substantial factor in determining the allocation of certain jobs to men and others to women. The trade unions have been compelled, not only to uphold, but to promote, a clear demarcation between men's and women's work—where such demarcation was possible—in order to protect the men's and thus indirectly the women's rates of pay,
In paragraph 22 of the memorandum of dissent we read:
In our view unequal pay is an important element in maintaining unequal opportunity
while in paragraph 27 we are told:
It must therefore be contemplated that the general introduction of the rate for the job would raise the demand for men relative to women in a number of occupations. In our view this would be a transitional phenomenon, compensated in the long run by the opening of new occupations to women".
On the basis of my industrial experience, there is tremendous substance in that.
The hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) referred to a factory which she had either visited or had had described to her and dealt with the distribution of jobs as between men and women. She said that there were "women's jobs" in that factory. The argument about a job in a certain factory being a woman's job has not been about whether the person doing it wore skirts or trousers but what should be paid for the task. Once we get over this distinction between skirts and trousers, and pay the same rates, we shall break down barriers and offer new opportunities. I believe that one of the effects of the Bill will be to give women the wider opportunities that have been so long denied them.
We are asking Parliament to approve a Measure which not only redresses a longstanding and undeniable moral injustice but will prove in the longer run to be economically advantageous. We never tire of proclaiming that the nation's most precious asset is manpower, and it is a self-evident truth that it should with equal obviousness be applicable to women power. Equal pay must inevitably prove a spur to the more efficient use of that power, and not in the sense of the more intensive exploitation of women. Such a consequence would be wholly alien to the intention of the Bill, and to the spirit underlying it. On the contrary, I believe that equal pay will help to break down those artificial divisions to which I have referred which have for too long hindered industrial efficiency; and will give women access to new roles and occupations in which they may the more fully express and utilise their talents and abilities.
We do not deceive ourselves about the problems which will remain unsolved, and which will, indeed, arise from the legislation; problems of interpretation, enforcement, prejudice, convention, preservation of sex privileges—problems which have for far too long been an excuse for inaction. Let us now see them as challenges to be met in giving women the social, moral and economic justice so long due to them. The Bill meets the longest standing wage claim in the history of the trade union movement, and fulfils yet another of the Government's election—pledges—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
It will undeniably lead to greater productivity by stimulating the more efficient use of the labour of both men and women. It will tackle the largest single element in the wider problem of low pay, and, above all, it will abolish an indefensible system of industrial apartheid which has endured for too long. I feel that I have been privileged and honoured to have been given the opportunity tonight to commend the Bill to the House.