The highest post held by a woman in the Ministry of Defence is at assistant secretary level. The type of posts from which women have been excluded in the past, and the reasons, were given in my reply to the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) on 10th March, 1971.—[Vol. 813, c. 128–30.]
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the categories from which women were excluded, according to an answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) on 22nd February last year, where it was indicated that 12 categories of work within the Defence Department excluded women, including civilian instructors, chief instructors reproduction class grade A, whatever they may be, are now open to women and how many of the assistant secretaries to whom the right hon. Gentleman has referred are women?
I cannot answer that point specifically. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that women are only excluded from certain posts in the Ministry of Defence if by generally accepted standards it is impractical for them to carry out the work. The House will be gratified to learn that I am announcing today by a Written Answer the pay award for the Services. This carries equal pay for women a further step forward.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is disquiet at the lead being given by Government Departments in the equal employment of women? Will he look at this matter more carefully, in general if not in specifics, to see that women are not excluded from any jobs other than those which they are unable to carry out through physical incapacity?
It is not only a matter of physical incapacity. The Government are anxious that women should be employed in all categories in which it is appropriate that they should be employed. However my hon. Friend will appreciate that there are certain environments in defence where it is not appropriate that women should be employed.