Employment Services and Training

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15 January 1974.

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3.45 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Reports from the Expenditure Committee in the last Session of Parliament. We have the opportunity today to debate some of the reports from the Expenditure Committee. I am sorry to see so few hon. Members present since the reports before the House today are the result of a year's consolidated energetic work on the part of the Expenditure Committee and its sub-committees. Some of the reports have been published in time for the Government to produce their documents and their proposals on certain aspects of policy.

I am grateful to the members of my Committee for their support, to our Clerk, Mrs. Sharpe, and to the expert witnesses who sent in memoranda and appeared before us to give oral evidence.

As a result of our comprehensive inquiries into the employment services three reports were published, one on the youth employment services, one on the employment of women, and one on the Government's proposal for reorganising and improving the public image of the Department's responsibilities. We applaud many of these proposals, and we welcome the determination of the Department to turn the dreary old labour exchanges into modern, well-equipped job centres using up-to-date methods of assessing and fulfilling customers' needs, training staff to approach customers in a more capable and friendly way, separating job placement and vocational guidance from the payment of unemployment benefit, and the reorganisation of the professional and executive register. All this we welcome, and we shall be looking with great interest to see how it develops.

Our inquiry provided useful material for the debates on the proposals to reorganise the youth employment service and for a private Member who introduced a Bill to control private employment agencies. Our recommendations were published well in advance of the publication of the Government's White Paper "Education: A Framework for Expansion", and had considerable relevance to the areas covered by that White Paper.

However, it is on the report dealing with the employment of women that I wish to concentrate. Again, our recommendations were available to the Government many months before their discussion document "Equal Opportunities for Men and Women" was published last September.

This is an opportune time to talk about women in this House because, in the difficult economic climate created by the Government's decision to introduce three-day working, women are bearing a considerable amount of the brunt of the problem. There is a great deal of ignorance about the way that we treat women. We pay much lip service to equality, but progress comes very slowly.

To illustrate that, one has only to look at the position on equal pay. The Act is on the statute book and must be implemented in less than two years. But how much progress has been made? If a recent survey by the Office of Manpower Economics is to be believed, many firms do not know their obligations under the Equal Pay Act, and the Secretary of State for Employment seems not to be too bothered about that either. When we have pressed him in the House to require firms to achieve 90 per cent. of equal pay by 1973, as the Act allows him to do, he has refused. Stage 2 has deliberately slowed down progress towards equal pay. The law has been broken, with Government connivance, and women have suffered as a result.

The TUC, at a special conference that it called last February to discuss the economic situation of the nation, said: The stage 2 formula has made it impossible for women whose rates are less than 85 per cent. to achieve 90 per cent. The fact that the Government has delayed phased increases under existing equal pay agreements, that there was delay under phase 2, and a reduction of such increases and then the Minister's refusal to make the order providing for 90 per cent. at least by the end of 1973, all adds up to a negative approach to the problem. As long as women are prepared to be second-class citizens receiving poor wages while doing essential jobs in industry, so long will they remain undervalued economically, sexually, and in every other way.

It is not just a matter of pay. How many girls take up apprenticeships after leaving school? How many girls go into dead-end jobs without training or prospects? Women constitute 40 per cent. of the work force, but their skills are undervalued.

When the Expenditure Committee took evidence on this matter it discovered that only 7 per cent. of girls, or three out of 40, entered apprenticeships and that three-quarters of those are in hairdressing, where, let us face it, unregistered hairdressers regard apprentices as cheap labour and are not interested in their training on the job or in day release as a preliminary to the City and Guilds examinations. A leading article of The Times of 13th April 1973 called this a "shocking" state of affairs. Indeed it is.

On the other hand, almost 40 per cent. of boys leaving school entered apprenticeships. But 36 per cent. of girls went into clerical work, where they are expected to acquire basic skills by themselves, and 38 per cent. of girls went into other jobs in shops, in showrooms, in restaurants and in cafés where no training is given.

Only 10 per cent. of young women, compared with 40 per cent. of young men, get day release. It is a scandalous situation that the lowest numbers of women granted day release are in those industries, such as clothing and footwear, the distributive trades, insurance and banking, and the textile industry, where the highest proportion of women is employed. We recommend that it should be a statutory requirement that all young workers should have day release and that there should be commercial apprenticeships for young people, both boys and girls. I had an opportunity to look at the departmental reply, which was published only yesterday, from which I see that our proposals for day release have not been accepted by the Minister.

Few women are admitted into Government training centres: first, because the vocational training scheme is geared to industries that are traditionally interesting and regarded as important to men, such as the engineering and construction trades, offering women only commercial subjects ; secondly, because it is practically impossible for a woman with a family to leave them while she takes a course at a Government training centre which may be far from her home ; and, thirdly, because of the blatant discrimination in the training allowances paid to men and women.

Although the Expenditure Committee highlighted this in 1972, drawing attention to the allowance of £11·75 for a single man compared with £10·75 for a woman, married or single, no action has so far been taken by the Minister to improve this situation. In fact, a recent Department of Employment News publicises the inequality. A married man with two children gets £17·70 a week during training, but a married woman, whatever her family commitments, gets only £10·75. It would appear that the boast to do away with sex discrimination, which appeared on the back page of the same newspaper, was a little premature. The Government would do well to put their own house in order. We recommended that inequality in training grants between men and women should be removed.

Many firms and institutions have progressive policies on paper, but they do not work out in practice. The BBC is a good example. Few women get promotion to top jobs in the BBC. Women are not considered these days to be suitable as news readers on any scale at all.

Teachers achieved equal pay 13 years ago. But how many women heads are there? Although they represent about 75 per cent. of primary school teachers, there are fewer and fewer women heads in primary schools. In 1961, when equal pay was won, there were 12,350 women primary heads. In 1970 there were only 10,242 women primary heads, and there had been an increase of 91 more headships. That means that there were over 2,000 fewer women heads than in 1961. One has the nasty suspicion that more women were promoted to the headships of primary schools before 1961 because it was more economic for LEAs to appoint them.

There are 44 Vice-Chancellors. None is a woman. There are 42 heads of university education departments and institutes. None is a woman. There are 44 registrars. None is a woman. It is a little monotonous, is it not? The Secretary of State, the statutory woman in the Cabinet responsible for education and science, ought to feel pretty outraged by this dismal story. I should be if I were in her shoes. But then I should not have allowed this situation to continue.

The Civil Service, too, is full of anomalies and prejudice against women. Even though the industrial Civil Service has achieved a woman's rate of 92½ per cent., which is obviously better than private industry, women cleaners in the Civil Service get less than men. They do the same jobs as men, but they get about £2 a week less. Indeed, Government Departments are not averse to using contract cleaners whose rates for women are nothing short of a scandal.

In the higher echelons the story is the same. The opportunities for women to be promoted to the ambassadorial ranks and the higher posts in our embassies abroad, even to permanent secretaries in Departments, are very few and far between. The Government, as employer, should do better and provide an example for private industry to follow.

The fault does not lie all on the side of the Government. I wonder what the trades unions have been doing about it? The leading TUC witness told the Expenditure Committee that he did not approve of married women working. Clearly much needs to be done to educate trade unionists who, again, pay lip service to the theme of equality but who are content to see women remain underpaid for doing unskilled routine work. However, I am glad that the TUC has a strong women's advisory committee that has been bringing a good deal of pressure to bear on its male colleagues.

Flexible hours would help women who have dual responsibilities. Working women have responsibilities at home to their families and to their jobs. Flexible hours to fit in with the time that a woman with a family has to offer is a sensible arrangement, and firms that have tried this idea are pleased with the response. I hope that the Department and the Minister will discuss this matter with the unions and the employers.

If women are to play their full part it must be possible for them to have time away from their families. This places great responsibility on both the Government and local authorities to provide the facilities which will make it possible for women to do just that.

More nursery schools are essential from the child's point of view in a firm foundation for his future educational and emotional progress is to be laid. But, here again, a more flexible and courageous attitude is needed. Mornings or afternoons at a nursery school do not meet the needs of the child whose mother has to work full time, as many women do, even when there is not this present situation burdening women. They have to do it either because their husband's pay is insufficient to meet the needs of the family and provide them with a decent standard of living, or because they are unsupported mothers who have to work and for whom social security is totally inadequate.

We also have to accept that women should be free to take a job if they wish to do so. All too often we adopt an ambivalent attitude towards working women and make them feel guilty if they want to take a job and not just stay at home to look after their families all the time.

We have proposed—and so have many organisations, including the TUC—that pressure should be put on the Secretary of State for Education and Science to provide more nursery places. We make that recommendation because we need more many more full-time places than are indicated in the White Paper on the expansion of the education services.

After the publication of the White Paper last December, the TUC published a document in which it supported the case for more nursery schools and more nursery centres, combining the day nursery with the nursery school, and also supporting our recommendation that there should be more after-school and holiday care for those children whose mothers cannot afford to take four, five or six weeks off work during the summer when the schools are on holiday. That is an opportunity for women's organisations to provide the kind of care and supervision that is needed at these times.

With the short working week, now imposed, some women have to work on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Those who have to work on Saturday when their husbands are also at work are placed in a difficult position in finding someone to look after their children. The restricted hours of the nursery class never meet the needs of the working mother, and there is a need for nursery education to be provided on a much more flexible basis than the Minister has indicated in her White Paper.

We also considered discussing with employers the possibility of their providing facilities at their premises for nursery education. This is usual in many countries abroad. Some hospitals in this country have tried it, some Civil Service Departments are adopting this practice, and I gather that they are satisfied with the response.

When I asked the TUC witnesses why the TUC was not pressing for such provision, they asked why they should relieve the Secretary of State for Education and Science of her responsibility to provide nursery education. It may be that there will now be second thoughts on the matter, because the women members of the TUC are more open minded about this, as women generally are. I hope that the TUC will regard this as something that might be discussed with employers when times are more conducive to it. The ideal would be for firms to provide the accommodation, and thus relieve the Minister of the capital cost of providing it, and then hand the whole thing over to the Minister to staff and run the scheme. In that way there would be more nursery education for more children, and it is that in which I am primarily interested.

The inescapable conclusion to which we all came as a result of our investigations into the employment services was that we need a revolution in our attitude to women and girls at work and in training. Parents, employers, unions and, above all, schools need to adopt a much more flexible and less hidebound attitude. The brainwashing of girls starts at an early age. It starts when they are very young, when their picture books tell them that their rôle in life is to play with prams and dolls. It is the little girl who helps mummy to bake a cake, but it is the little boy who helps daddy to mend the car. That sort of think starts at an early age and continues throughout a girl's life.

Careers guidance in schools leaves a great deal to be desired. Why not suggest less conventional careers and less conventional training for girls? Why not end segregation of the sexes? Even in mixed schools boys and girls are taught separate crafts so that they grow up thinking that housecraft is for girls and metalwork is for boys. There is no law of the Medes and Persians which says that girls should not be taught metal and woodwork, and the boys should not do domestic work and cookery. This is done in some secondary modern and comprehensive schools, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Mathematics and science teaching for girls should be considerably improved, because without it how shall we get our women engineers—civil, mechanical and electrical—our women bridge builders and' road designers, and our women aeronautical engineers and pilots? Serious concern is felt over inexpert careers teaching. We found from our inquiries that in many schools the career teachers are seldom properly trained. Few of them have the opportunity of following a worthwhile career structure, with the result that the usual pattern of advice is given to girls. Those who do not obtain O-level passes go into shops, offices, factories and hairdressing, while the O-and A-level girls go into nursing and teaching.

We were struck by the fact that the witness of one teachers' organisation, when asked how careers guidance in schools was organised, said that the headmaster usually called into his study a teacher who had two or three free periods a week and said "You're doing careers!" The person concerned had to undertake the job without any training, without any opportunity for a career structure within the school, and with no knowledge of the courses available for students other than those set out in leaflets issued by the Department—and one requires considerable knowledge on how to use those documents. No knowledge about training facilities is provided by the Minister's Department. The system is a half-cocked affair, and the Departments of Employment and Education and Science should take the situation on board.

Some months after the publication of our report there was published the document "Equal Opportunities for Men and Women". I find it a disappointing document. It is a rather flabby and puny affair. Perhaps the Minister would tell us how many organisations and individuals have sent comments to his Department, because the closing date for receiving them was 30th November.

I say that that document is rather a puny affair because we know that some employers have been working like beavers to exploit loopholes in the Equal Pay Act. There is still discrimination in industry and training, in certain social security benefits, in credit facilities, in housing, and in a whole range of activities.

It is only with regard to employment that the Government propose to take any action at all. Two Select Committees, one from this House and one from the other place, have considered this matter. In addition, a mass of information has been collected by the Expenditure Committee. There is no shortage of information on this subject, yet it is only with regard to employment that the Government have felt it necessary to take action.

Speaking about the need for anti-discrimination legislation in connection with education, the Select Committee said: The view that differences exist in the opportunities and facilities available and in the assumptions about future careers for boys and girls is strongly held. We believe that the DES have been complacent in their reaction to these criticisms. We recommend that the Secretary of State should establish machinery to keep these areas of concern under review.We find from the document that the Minister is only going to ask HMIs to undertake a study of unequal opportunities for boys and girls. The studies have been done and it is action that we want.

As for careers guidance, the Secretary of State will simply discuss with careers teachers what rôle they can play, but that is not enough. The right hon. Lady should take steps to act on the recommendations that have been made. Discussions with the NUT should be held so that the right kind of opportunities and career structures can be provided for these people. Although there has been much evidence about discrimination over the entry of girls to certain departments of universities, there has been no determination to act on it. Therefore, one can conclude only that the evidence is not being taken seriously.

The revolution that we need seems slow in coming, but if we are to use the skill and ability of our population—and the most important part is our women—more has to be done. I believe that our recommendations are the minimum that need to be acted upon in order to create a new climate to encourage women to play their part in many areas of society, because they have a considerable rôle to play. But because of the lack of opportunity and because of prejudice among many employers and unions in some areas, women are denied their opportunity of competing on equal terms and of making their contribution to the better world that we all want.

However, I am delighted that the TUC has accepted most of our recommendations. I expect that the Minister has had a copy of its replies to our report dated 8th August 1973. The TUC was quicker off the mark than the Department in letting us have its views. The unions have not been slow to make criticisms of the proposals which are contained in the discussion paper, "Equal Opportunities for Men and Women". I shall be interested in the departmental reply to see how many of our recommendations are accepted. Many of them have been accepted, but certain crucial ones, such as those on day release and education, need to be considered again by the Minister.

I have pleasure in presenting these reports. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House, should they catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, will be able to make contributions on the other two reports which I have not had time to discuss.

4.14 p.m.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

I am a member of the Expenditure Committee and take a great interest in it as well as serving on some of its important subcommittees. I did not intend to speak this afternoon but I have listened with great interest to the comments and occasionally one feels that one must make a contribution. I do not always agree with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) but there are occasions when I do. One such occasion is this afternoon, when she made an informative speech on the reports.

A great deal of work and effort is put into preparing these reports by the Civil Service and much expenditure comes from public funds to maintain the services, but it worries me that the Government, whom I support with great pleasure, should not take more notice of this all-party committee. Even the membership of its sub-committees is balanced roughly between the Opposition and the Government. As far as I know, the reports have the support of the whole Committee and that of our distinguished Chairman.

It is inexplicable that the Government should not have gone into greater detail and should not have said that they were determined to act on some of the Committee's recommendations. I have heard that the Government are not certain whether they want to wind up the debate. It is not the Government's business whether they want to wind it up. If I want to make a speech, I shall not ask the Government whether I can do so. I will make my own speech as I wish.

I wish to make it clear that I am not a member of women's lib.

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) does not think that I was wishing that she should not make a speech. I rose to speak just now because I did not see any of my hon. Friends rising to speak. I am delighted that my hon. Friend is taking part in the debate. I share her views about the small attendance.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. The Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Proudfoot), who is a great friend of mine and who comes from my area, went round asking hon. Members whether they wanted to speak ; but he did not bother to come to me. I always try to be present on these all-party committee occasions when we discuss general interests, and it is absolutely right that Committee members should let the Government know what they think about their replies to the various reports.

The Government have declared themselves—I am delighted and proud of them—to be in favour of equality between men and women. I do not mind whether women take full advantage of what may be offered, but it is sometimes difficult for women to find equal training opportunities. It is understandable that employers are cautious about spending money on training female employees because, quite naturally, many of them leave their profession or industrial undertaking when they fall in love and want to get married. However, this should not interfere with the Government's decision to try to ensure that there is equality for women in training, jobs and promotion.

For about two years I have been suggesting to the Minister for Transport Industries that there should be a woman on the British Railways Board. I like men very much indeed. On the whole, they have a much wider experience than women in matters of trade, diplomacy and defence. But I think that women are much better than men at detail. If the Government were better at matters of detail their policies might be much more effective.

There does not seem to be anybody on the British Railways Board who can point out, for instance, the difficulties of elderly and disabled people and women with children in struggling at stations to get on trains because the Government have decided that porters should do two jobs. The board does not seem to mind tuppence whether the disabled have anybody to help them, although I know that the authorities are very good if people ring up and ask for a chair to carry a disabled person.

The Minister for Transport Industries has said to me "As soon as I can find a suitable woman to put on the board I shall appoint her", but he has not the foggiest idea how to find one. I wrote to the Prime Minister—I always believe in writing to my right hon. Friend ; it is very good to get him on our side in matters of detail—pointing out that it was peculiar that the Minister for Transport Industries did not seem to know how to find a woman suitable for appointment to the British Railways Board. The Prime Minister agreed that there should be a woman on the board. I think that he had a word with the Minister for Transport Industries about it. But what has happened? Nothing.

The National Council of Women—a very distinguished women's organisation which gives very useful advice on many subjects—put forward the name of a woman who would be suitable for appointment to the board. She was not appointed. After I had written I do not know how many letters to the Minister for Transport Industries, my right hon. Friend indicated, very politely, that perhaps the lady whose name had been put forward was slightly old for appointment to the board. Apparently, he would prefer to appoint someone who was younger but had the sort of experience which a woman appointed to serve on the board should have. But again he used the phrase "When I can find a suitable woman".

I wrote to the National Council of Women saying that I would help the Minister because either he did not know much about women or he did not know how to find a suitable woman for appointment. I accepted the Minister's view that it would perhaps be better to appoint a younger person. I asked the council whether there were any other women whom it would care to recommend. Some time ago it gave me the name of a woman and all her details. I sent the information to the Minister for Transport Industries. I received a postcard saying that my letter had been received, but nothing has happened since.

I do not accept the criticisms of the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. We are very lucky to have such a distinguished Secretary of State. She is the tops.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

That may be the hon. Gentleman's view, but his party is not in office. I support the Government. As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is the tops, and the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet are very lucky to have her in the Cabinet. That is the opinion—it has not always been so—of many people in the teaching profession. It is no good hon. Members opposite laughing. If my constituents did not like what the Government were doing, they would have thrown me out. I represent the Government's point of view, and I think I am entitled to speak for the Government.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science is Co-Chairman of the Women's National Commission, which is an all-party body with very distinguished women on it. I tried to find whether there was anyone in the commission who might be recommended to the Minister for Transport Industries to serve on the British Railways Board. I discovered that the commission has a register of women suitable for such appointments. I propose to send a copy of it to the Minister for Transport Industries, who does not seem to know how to find a woman suitable for appointment to the British Railways Board.

I have again written to the Minister for Transport Industries asking whether he would like me to ascertain whether the Secretary of State for Education and Science would care to recommend a woman for appointment. Again I have had no reply. He keeps on using the phrase "When I find a suitable woman". It is both humorous and deplorable that even when the Government, from the Prime Minister downwards, have said that they would welcome the appointment of a woman to the board no woman has been appointed. If that is the Government's policy—and I am glad that it is—I should like it to be implemented. It is absolutely ridiculous that the Minister for Transport Industries has not found a woman suitable for appointment to the board. I am sure that he has some suitable women in his own Department.

I have waited a long time to get these views into the OFFICIAL REPORT. I shall probably need to take a few more kicks at Ministers but I hope that before long there will be a suitable woman on the board.

I agree with many of the views expressed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, yet almost nobody is here to take part in this debate. This is very bad when the Committee concerned is so important. The Committee on which I sat made a report on improvement grants and another on transport, and at the moment we are discussing the new towns, all of which have tremendous problems. I am glad that, up to a point, my Government have accepted many more of our proposals than they are apparently prepared to accept in the report to which the hon. Member referred.

Another point which is perpetually made by knowledgeable and effective women is that when only so many places are available at medical schools and we want as many trained doctors as possible the bias is against women and in favour of men. Many women, and I expect many men, are aware of this discrimination. I think that I can foresee the Government's answer. When we need more fully trained doctors as quickly as possible, we have to bear in mind that women often train for two years and then suddenly throw it up because love overtakes them and they want to get married. I am in favour of women getting married if they choose the right husband, and I acknowledge the argument that women falling out to get married reduce the number of trained doctors. I do not support the argument against discrimination because I can see a reason for it.

I should like now to go back to the training of people in the ancillary professions. There has been a long fight for training for speech therapists and physiotherapists. That important section of our society never seem to get enough support from my Government. I do not blame the Secretary of State for Social Services, who is very helpful, but he has to make a case to the Treasury. Devoted though I am to the present Chancellor—I think that he is absolutely a top person, too—with all that he has to do he does not always have time to examine whether physiotherapists have proper salary and career structures. As the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East said, we do have male nurses, and the great thing is to see that male and female receive equal pay.

I have had great pleasure in supporting this Government because they have human souls—much better than some other Governments, even of my own party, in the past—but they sometimes do not seem to realise the problems of the widow or the mother of the illegitimate child. They say that the law takes care of all these matters. It does not. Nervous people do not always know what legal action they can take. I call them the "fragile people". When husbands fall down on paying maintenance awarded by courts, I often say "Why have you not gone back to the court?" They are terrified of even the nicest clerks of courts. I understand that. It is the necessity for this human touch that women could bring home to even the highest in the land.

For example, after the Chancellor's broadcast about the mini-Budget, I wrote to tell him how much I had enjoyed it. What he had said had made it simple for many people, and he had also included many endearing human touches. If we can get to the present Chancellor—and as Members of Parliament we can—we can achieve a great deal.

We were all so proud of the Expenditure Committee when it was set up. It has done a good deal of work, but some hon. Members do not think that some of the things are worth while. But they should express their views in language that one understands, considering that it is an all-party Committee. The views on this report have come from all parties, and no Government have a right to reject some of these proposals without giving adequate reasons.

I have often been told that women do not study languages, for example, as a means of entering the Diplomatic Service. But hon. Members, even in the Government, should take more trouble to find out the advantages that women can offer over a wide field.

The opposition of the Department of Health and Social Security to the provision of domiciliary physiotherapists on Tyneside was incredible. The then Chairman of the Newcastle Regional Hospital Board, who unfortunately died recently, agreed with the requests of the domiciliary physiotherapists. He said "I have only one fund that I can spend as I like without the permission of the Minister."—he did not mean the present one, who is very co-operative— "As this is the only fund, I will help the physiotherapists". Yet the Government paid no attention to that, although he was a distinguished man.

Some of the things that ordinary backbenchers find out about the workings of Government Departments make one wonder how one lives at all. I support many of the views of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, and I should like a real explanation of how the appropriate Minister dared to turn down the recommendations of this report when there are so many committees concerned with women. We have a committee under the Department of Employment which meets two or three times a year. It is an all-party committee, in which we have to fight tremendously hard. In the old days the Minister responsible had to get the message through to the Cabinet. I can never find out whether the message ever reaches the Cabinet. That is part of the problem of parliamentary life. Some Ministers are most co-operative and helpful. But if there is anything which will be critical of their Department, they close up like clams. Men do that much more than women. Women are much more outspoken.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to say what I have said. I hope that I shall have a satisfactory answer and that the Minister will reconsider the report about the employment of women, to which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East has referred. I hope that we shall get some more action.

4.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Garrett Mr Edward Garrett , Wallsend

This may be a historic occasion. I am speaking immediately after the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), who happens to be one of my constituents. She is not standing for election to the next Parliament, so she may have made her last speech in this Chamber. But one can never tell ; the present Parliament may last for another year or so.

I hope to follow my normal practice of being brief and to the point. It was a pleasure to be a member of the subcommittee under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short). She deserves a great deal of credit for getting out the report on the employment of women. Credit should also be given to those who gave evidence and, above all, to the staff, who worked so assiduously behind the scenes to supply members of the sub-committee with the information that they required.

It is regrettable that a report such as this should be debated before such a thin House. It is more regrettable that lady Members of Parliament are not in attendance today in the numbers that they should be. Before the House accuses me of being anti-feminist, let me say that those who know me will probably have a different view.

The report analyses the job prospects and promotion prospects of women in employment. Much of the evidence that we gathered we knew in our hearts was true. Job prospects are not as wide as they should be. My hon. Friend dealt adequately with that point in her speech. Promotion prospects for women are virtually non-existent in many industries. Employers, particularly employers of female labour, should read this report and see what they can do to widen the promotion prospects of women. I am referring not in general to the professions but to industry. My experience of industry is based on the engineering industry. I have been appalled to see, day after day, particularly during the war years, women playing such an important part in this vital industry, operating lathes, milling machines, drilling machines and so on, producing the same number of units per day as the men, yet receiving less pay. That is distressing.

I am proud to be a member of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. That union has been on record for many years as pursuing the principle of equal pay for equal work. Other large unions within the TUC also have a similar principle. But the fact remains that, with one or two honourable exceptions, the situation is that women receive much lower wage rates than they should receive, and little progress has been made.

In some respects we can blame the women themselves. Within the democracy of many trade unions the rules are applied to men as they are to women. The rules are applied equally. But women, unfortunately, do not make full use of the democratic procedures of their trade unions. Indeed, if they did we should see many more women assuming major positions within the trade union movement. I see no reason why women should not be members of the executive bodies of some of the trade unions. The chances and opportunities exist, but regrettably women do not take them.

Critics of my statements will say that other factors are involved. That is so. But that does not apply to all women. Some women have the ability, skill and knowledge required, and an understanding of not only the industry in which they work but the negotiating procedures. They should play a more active part. If they decide to do so, clearly their voice in support of the principle of equal pay for equal work will be enhanced.

Promotion prospects are very important to people in industry in general. People in industry are always working towards an objective, towards getting as much as they can for the product that they produce. But there are also people in industry who have some desire for promotion opportunities. In the engineering industry in particular these are nonexistent. Employers should make the most of the opportunity that is available. But ultimately it looks as though the battle will have to be won by the women playing a much more active part. In spite of the difficulties facing the country at present, the fight could be maintained. We in this Chamber today have done virtually everything possible to help women to maintain their just causes and prospects and their recognition as people who are equal in our society. The battle must be fought outside this Chamber. It must be fought within the trade union movement.

I hope that what I have said will be recognised by the millions of women employed in industry. I hope that they will not give up the fight but will continue to fight with added vigour towards what is a just and legitimate goal.

4.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

I must begin by congratulating the members of the Committee on producing the three very powerful, penetrating and timely reports which we are discussing today. In particular, I congratulate the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), and sympathise with her, as I do with my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), about the sparseness of the attendance today when we are discussing such important matters.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East had the advantage of me in that she spent most of her time dealing with one report in particular, the Sixth Report, that dealing with women. I cannot hope to cover all that ground, as I have to deal with three reports this afternoon in a speech which I hope will not be unduly and tediously long. If I do not go into the same amount of detail on the report about women, I hope, like the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett), that I shall not be accused of being anti-feminist or of being a male Chauvinist.

Photo of Mr Edward Garrett Mr Edward Garrett , Wallsend

Not in view of recent events.

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman—not in view of recent events in particular. I have never quite understood how the expression "male Chauvinist" ever got into the language of Women's Lib. My historical researches reveal that M. Chauvin was a rather mindless adherent of Napoleon and not even an adherent of the Empress Josephine. How his name gets into this language I have never understood, but perhaps some hon. Member will be able to inform me.

However, I have to deal with three reports. The Fourth Report, on the Youth Employment Services, deals with what must be on any long-term view one of the most vital and significant parts of our whole range of manpower services and one whose future had been under continuing discussion for some years before the report appeared. The report came out just before the Second Reading, in which I was involved, of what is now the Employment and Training Act, 1973.

The Sixth Report, which I have just mentioned, covers another immensely important part of this field, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth has reminded us. I do not think that she will find, when she has time to read the White Paper on the subject, that as many of the recommendations have been turned down as she might expect. As my hon. Friend reminded us, the Government's consultative document on equal opportunities and the intention to introduce legislation this Session show clearly the weight which we attach to the importance of this matter. However, we shall have many more opportunities to discuss this piece of forthcoming legislation.

I must take up one point made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East, who asked me about the number of representations which we had received since the closing date of 30th November. There is no implied rebuke when I say to her that she has fallen into the kind of error into which we all fall on these occasions without realising what we are doing. It was not a document called "Equal Opportunities for Women" but a document called "Equal Opportunities for Men and Women". If she left out the male sex by a slip of the tongue I am sure that she did not intend it and that she will not do it again. However, I am sure that I shall be guilty of many faults myself as I speak this afternoon. We received 1,300 representations on the matter, and these will be carefully considered.

The Seventh Report, on Employment Services and Training, deals with a tremendously wide range of subjects, from private employment agencies to the special arrangements to help disabled people and the socially disadvantaged, of which there was some discussion at Question Time today. Just how wide a range it covers can be seen from reading through the 31 subject headings listed at the beginning of the report.

The whole House will agree that members of the Committee have carried out an extremely thorough, comprehensive and valuable review of our manpower services, and that their reports, despite what may have been suggested earlier, have made an important contribution towards the sort of far-reaching debate and discussion which is important to the future of these services. I congratulate the chairman of the sub-committee on leading the sub-committee through this labyrinth.

I am sorry that we did not get the White Paper into print before the debate. We tried to do the next best thing by making duplicated copies available to members of the sub-committee, and there are copies available in the Vote Office for hon. Members. By way of apology for the length of time it has taken to produce the White Paper, I should point out that in this case it was a reply to three reports, not just one, covering an enormous amount of ground and touching on the responsibilities of at least eight Government Departments.

That fact does not make my speech any easier. Nevertheless, we hoped that it might be possible to get the White Paper printed in time for the debate, but the times and circumstances are not exactly propitious for getting documents printed in a hurry.

On many of these matters the Government's reply did not have to wait for the formal White Paper in response to the reports. It was thrashed out to a considerable degree and fully discussed—as I know from the part I took in them—in debates on the Employment and Training Bill in all its stages in the House and in another place, which is all to the good.

The reports of Committees of the House have an immensely important part to play in improving the amount of information available on issues which are currently the subject of parliamentary discussion. These were no exception. As the hon. Lady and other hon. Members have recognised, many parts of these reports were reflected in the legislation. They made a major contribution to the Employment and Training Act, and I like to think that that Act is the better for them.

I want to mention, in particular, the Manpower Services Commission, because it was one of the main fruits of the Act. One of the most important innovations of the Act is the establishment of the commission to take over the management and development of the public employment services. The members of the commission were announced on 4th December. As the House knows, they include representatives of the TUC, the CBI, local government and the education service.

The commission is intended to be a new kind of organisation. We have plenty of committees composed of representatives of various interests, but these committees advise Ministers and are not responsible for the operation of the services. We also have plenty of bodies on which individual industrialists and trades unionists sit and which are responsible for the running of important activities. But in these cases they are there purely in a personal capacity.

The commission came into formal existence on 1st January and held its first meeting as a commission last week. Some hon. Members will have seen the Press notice which was issued from the meeting. The members of the commission are just getting to grips with their task, which, in present circumstances, is just about as important and as challenging as it could be. They agreed at the first meeting on an initial work programme of four points.

The first was to have presentations from the chief executives of the Employment Service Agency and the Training Service Agency on their present operations and long-term plans. The second was to analyse the present information available on manpower forecasting with a view to improving manpower intelligence and information. The third was to hold meetings in different parts of the country to discuss with employers and trade unions how the commission can best serve them. The fourth was to see at first hand the work of the agencies throughout the country.

With the commission we are giving responsibility for running the manpower services to those who actually use them and who must, therefore, be vitally interested in their operation—obviously employers and workers, but also other interests, such as education. The commission's job is to provide a manpower service to the community as a whole—to individuals seeking new jobs, or training for new jobs, and to employers seeking staff across the whole range of occupations, skills and responsibilities. By involving employers, trade unions and other interests directly in the management of these services, the new arrangements will make the services more responsive to the needs of individuals and employers. This in itself will be a major step forward towards securing many of the improvements which the Committee wanted to see.

The structure of the commission shows the great importance which we as a Government attach to getting those concerned fully involved in the services, which are so important to the country's economic and social life—in other words, what has become known as the tripartite approach, though I admit that in this case it goes a little further than tripartite, because there are interests other than those which we in the House think of as tripartite involved in the commission.

The commission will have two basic tasks—to help people obtain jobs which satisfy their aptitudes and abilities, and to help employers find suitable workers. If we look at some of the ways in which it will do that, it will be clear how big a contribution it has to make on many of the matters covered by the Committee's recommendations.

I begin with the employment services. First, it will be modernising and developing the public employment service and encouraging all workers and employers to make more use of it, something on which we have been working for a long time, as the hon. Lady realises. To do that, it is necessary to create a service which can offer much more to both employers and job-seekers, and to persuade them to take advantage of it. One of the main ways of doing that will be by improving the employment offices. The Jobcentre programme was launched last year, and it is planned to have more than 800 Jobcentres which will cover the whole of Great Britain by the end of the decade.

Jobcentres will be attractive places, sited in busy shopping centres—the sort of places which many potential customers will see and which will attract them to come in and have a look round and see what is there for them. The Committee commented in its 7th Report on the contrast between some of the old employment exchanges, with their rather depressing premises—some that I saw for myself had an almost Dickensian air of depression—and the much more pleasant and inviting offices which it visited in Sweden.

All that will change. The Jobcentre programme will mark a complete break with the past in this respect. The Jobcentres will not only be better located but will also have a standard form of quality design, lay-out, furnishings and so on which will create a quite different atmosphere. I am sure the Committee was right in thinking that this sort of change will be particularly important in attracting more women to use the public employment service.

Inside the Jobcentres the first tier will be a self-service section, offering job-seekers the opportunity to come and go as they please and to browse through the job display cards setting out details of specific vacancies. When a person finds a vacancy which interests him or her, the receptionist will be ready to telephone the employer and try to fix the person up with an interview there and then.

The next tier will be the employment advisers—staff who are trained to give advice and who know the local manpower scene very well. If the job-seeker cannot find what he wants among the job cards, or would like to discuss other prospects or opportunities, he can ask to see an employment adviser.

At the third tier there is a range of special schemes available through the employment adviser. The job-seeker can be introduced to an occupational guidance specialist, to help those who are uncertain about a career or who think they would benefit from a sympathetic and expert analysis of their employment problem, or he can be recommended for training under the Training Opportunities Scheme ; he has access to the Employment Transfer Scheme which encourages mobility, the careers officer, the special services for disabled people, and so on.

The aim is to have an employment service which will concentrate on the job of helping people to choose and to get the right jobs, and helping employers to get the right staff, as quickly as possible. Unemployment benefit, which can stand in the way of effective employment work, will be managed and organised separately. I am sure that will be an advance. At the same time there is a complete reorganisation of the employment services, to introduce a new style of management with defined objectives at all levels.

I want to come to another aspect of the work of the commission, in regard to the training opportunities scheme. It will be setting about its task by expanding training opportunities and improving training policies throughout industry and commerce.

The inauguration of the Training Opportunities Scheme in August 1972 marked a big step forward in the expansion of Government-sponsored training, both in the number of people trained and in the range of training provided. In 1971 fewer than 15,500 people were trained under the old Vocational Training Scheme. In 1972 we almost doubled that to 29,000. Although we do not yet have the full figures for 1973, I expect to find that about 40,000 people completed the training opportunities courses. The aim for this year is 50,000–55,000. We should be able to achieve that.

The Training Opportunities Scheme now offers not only the traditional courses in skilled trades at the Government training centres but also a broad range of courses, involving vocational education as well as training, at colleges of further education throughout Great Britain.

The coming into existence of the commission was a turning point in the development of the industrial training boards.

I am sure we would all agree that the boards have had a considerable impact on training in their industries over the past eight years. The outlook on training in many companies is very different now from what it was a few years ago.

What about the future? When the commission takes on its new functions, the boards will be looking to the commission and its Training Services Agency to co-ordinate their activities. But it is the boards which will remain responsible for identifying the training needs and priorities of their industries, and for developing the best methods to promote the necessary training. That is a vitally important rôle.

I hope the commission will strengthen the boards by giving them more effective support from the centre. As from 1st April 1975, the commission will have substantial funds—up to £35 million a year—to meet the boards' operating expenses, to help them encourage key training activities in their industries and to enable the Training Services Agency to promote training in sectors of employment not covered by the boards—the gaps to which we have often referred. That is a real improvement on the resources which the Exchequer has made available for this sort of purpose in the past, and it is wholly unaffected by the recently announced cuts in public expenditure, since these only apply for the financial year 1974–75.

Over the next two years the boards will also be moving into the era of exemption schemes, which will take firms which are carrying out training adequate for their own needs outside the complications of the levy system. The Committee was anxious that the impact on training of the limitation on board's levies to 1 per cent. should be closely monitored, and I am sure the commission will wish to do just that. I think that that is one of the interests of the hon. Member for Don-caster (Mr. Harold Walker), who I am glad to see has joined us.

The new system is in no way a dramatic break with the past. What it means is that in the future the boards will be placing more and more emphasis on their rôle in helping firms to solve their training problems and carrying out schemes which are needed by the industry as a whole. At the same time the commission will be able to take a national view of training needs, and feed in to the boards information about the overall situation which will help them in studying the problems of their own industries.

I hope that the end result of these changes will be to increase the ability of the boards to win the support of their industries and to promote the training that their industries need. I have no doubt at all that they have a crucial part to play in the new set-up, in collaboration with the commission.

I want to come now to the subject of women, which I hope I shall not be accused of having neglected. The commission will be tackling its responsibilities by encouraging increases in the opportunities available to women and girls for employment and training. Parliament wrote a special reference to this into the Employment and Training Act. I have described some of the steps which are already being taken to improve the employment and training services for women, in particular the substantial expansion of training under the Training Opportunities Scheme for women and our hope that the Jobcentre programme will make these offices much more attractive. But the commission may well have further ideas about all this themselves.

Looking at the problem on a wider scale, there are very real problems of attitudes to be overcome here. The committee in its report on the employment of women drew attention to the unconscious acceptance of traditional views about which rôles and occupations are appropriate to women, which can be found at all sorts of levels and in all sorts of places. I have no doubt that if we have an Equal Opportunities Commission, as is proposed in the consultative document on equal opportunities, its work will have an impact on these built-in attitudes and help to change them as time goes on.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

Will the Minister say what he intends to do about an inequality which I mentioned and for which the Government are directly responsible, namely the inequality between training grants for men and women?

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

I intended to cover that and I also wanted to tell the hon. Member about an extension of facilities for women under the training opportunities scheme. Here the number has risen very dramatically indeed. In March 1970 only about 300 women were in training—less than 4 per cent. of the total. Although the figures are not yet available I estimate that towards the end of last year over 9,000 women were being trained, which is about 36 per cent. of the total. This is much the same as the proportion of women in the labour force, though I think the hon. Lady in her speech put that proportion just a little bit higher. I should like to see many more women receiving training over a much wider range of skills and occupations, but at least things are moving in the right direction.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East and, I think, the hon. Member for Wallsend spoke about GTCs and women. Before the training opportunities scheme was introduced in August 1972 most official training was given in GTCs with the main emphasis on skilled craft occupations, mainly in construction and engineering. These courses have been and will continue to be open to women, but because most of them lead into traditionally male fields of employment very few women apply. The advertisements will, however, emphasise that women have equal access and one point which may be of particular interest to the hon. Member for Wallsend is that there is to be an experiment to offer part-time training in engineering for women who will later want part-time employment.

In colleges of further education and other educational institutions, clerical and commercial courses are the most popular, as one would imagine, but the range at colleges is widening and there is an encouraging trend that the number of women being accepted for training at higher-level occupations such as statistics, personnel management, nurses, training officers and so on is moving up. There are about 150 on these courses.

Training allowances were increased last October when the differential between rates for women and men was again narrowed in progress towards parity at the end of 1975. The rates for both sexes under the age of 20 and without dependants are already equal. I think the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East strayed a little from the path of virtue when she referred to the whole subject of equal pay. If she studies the somewhat truncated Adjournment debate which took place just before Christmas between myself and the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) she will find that I refuted then a good many of the points she made this afternoon. I have since refuted by letter other points for which there was not time for refutation in the debate and I am sure this letter will be made available to her.

The most recent statistics I can give from the Pay Board between April and November 1973 show that about 1,500 settlements covering more than 2,800,000 women included a movement towards equal pay. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East must remember that the OME report goes back as far as August 1972. We have not been idle on that. Since then about 30 agreements have reached 90 per cent. of male rates, including engineering, and if the hon. Member cares to look at HANSARD for 14th December she will see the various other figures which I hope will comfort her.

I was speaking about public expenditure cuts during Question Time and I assure the House once again that the expansion of the training opportunities scheme will not be seriously affected by the cuts in Government spending announced on 17th December. There will be a slight slowing down in the expansion of training places at Government training centres, but the expansion in colleges of further education remains unaffected as does the target for the Training Opportunities Scheme. As I said earlier, this stands at 50,000 to 55,000. The hon. Lady will be glad to hear that the cuts will not have any substantial effect on the rehousing programme for Jobcentres.

Yet another important field of activity for the commission will be developing the services for groups such as disabled people who need special help. As the House knows well, we are engaged at present in a thorough-going review of the services for disabled people. No doubt the commission will have views on this, and naturally these will be taken very fully into account. Finally, the commission will also administer schemes of assistance to workers moving to new jobs in other districts.

In all these activities, the commission's executive arms will be the Employment Service Agency and the Training Services Agency. In fact, we expect that the commission will operate in much the same way as the board of directors of a holding company in that the agencies will be rather like operating subsidiaries. The commission will concentrate on the major issues and in particular on the forward programme of work and budgets which will have to be prepared each year. It will be the commission's job to consider the programmes of the two agencies together and to ensure that they add up to a coherent whole.

Employment services and training are obviously closely connected and interdependent in many ways. Naturally the two agencies will have to work closely together as they do now. It will be the commission which has the overall responsibility for making arrangements to help people to select employment, to train and to retain suitable employment, and to help employers to obtain suitable employees. We shall be looking to the commission to ensure that the programme provides the full range of services which are needed to cope with our changing manpower needs.

I am conscious that I cannot cover everything which is in all the reports. However, I am certain that a careful reading of the White Paper will answer many of the points which are in the minds of hon. Members. I end as I began, by congratulating the Committee on its penetrating and extremely useful service to the House.

5.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jack Dormand Mr Jack Dormand , Easington

I congratulate the Expenditure Committee on its Fourth Report. I do so not only because it chose Youth Employment Services as its subject but for the recommendations that it has made. I dissent from none of those recommendations. I understand that the Government's reply to the report has been published today. I, like other hon. Members, have not had the opportunity of considering it.

I am not sure whether the Minister was expected to deal with or refer to all of the reports. I hope it is not of any significance that he has not mentioned the Fourth Report. Perhaps I should delay any criticism which I may have until I have had the opportunity ot read the Government's reply. We must accept the Minister's explanation for the extremely short notice which hon. Members have had to study the reply.

I shall speak mainly about careers officers and careers teachers. Before doing so I refer to Recommendation 7, which states: Specialisation in school should be delayed as long as possible. There is nothing new in that. Educationists have been saying that for years. The significant thing is that it comes from the Committee. I respectfully suggest that the Committee does not pretend to be one which is mainly concerned with education. It demonstrates that there is continuing pressure for early specialisation so that the education of young people can be fitted into job pigeon holes. That should be resisted by everybody concerned with education from the Secretary of State for Education and Science down to the teacher in the classroom.

To delay specialisation causes organisational difficulties in schools, but those difficulties can be overcome. In any case, they do not warrant introducing specialised courses early in school life. There is not one youngster in 100 who knows absolutely what he or she wants to do at the age of 16, let alone the earlier age at which some schools regrettably tend to specialise.

The report quotes one example in giving the size of the university and college drop-out problem. It is also well known that only a small percentage of school leavers stay in their first job. The school is an educational establishment and not a vocational institute. It must remain so in order that children can be given not only a broad-based all-round education but, at the same time, the widest possible spectrum of job options.

It can be said that at least there is the beginning of a realisation of the need for careers officers and careers teachers. It seems that some local authorities have been much more progressive than others. It was a step forward when youth employment officers had their names changed to careers officers. That was not merely a change of name. The change signified a more positive and constructive approach to their work in that it should be concerned with guidance rather than just having young people "signing on" for a job. I pay tribute to the work done by the officers over many years.

I have known many of them personally. I am sure that they would be the first to admit that much remains to be done. There is no compulsory training for careers officers. Provision for such training is limited to five centres, and at present only 75 per cent. of entrants receive training. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) said that a person could be in one job on a Wednesday and a careers officer on a Thursday. That is intolerable. Professional training in careers is more important than ever.

I am delighted that the report recommends that training should be mandatory. However, I say that there should be a two-year training course. One year is totally inadequate for people who have no other training. Apart from the intrinsic value of longer training, it would provide the status which the career requires. In addition, there should at all times be highly organised in-service training schemes.

One further plea I should like to make concerning careers officers is that the Government should make it mandatory for local authorities to appoint a specialist officer who has special responsibility for handicapped children. Most of the larger authorities now have such specialist officers, including my own local authority, Durham County Council, an authority which sets the pace in most local government matters.

There is sufficient experience now to show that specialist advice is absolutely necessary if handicapped children are to make the most of their abilities. It is logical, if the provision of trained careers officers is to be mandatory, that trained careers teachers in secondary schools should be a compulsory requirement. I am glad that the report recognises that that should be done.

For some time there has been a growing awareness in schools of the need for careers advice. Some local education authorities have been conscious of that need. If anyone has any doubts about the general situation, however, the recent report of the Department of Education and Science—namely, "Careers Education in Secondary Schools" —will put the record straight. The report deals with a sample of 87 schools. It is sufficient to show that the position is totally inadequate. A general finding—and I could give many similar depressing examples—is that only 15 of the 87 schools realise in some important aspects the importance of careers education. That is a devastating comment which indicates the need for a fundamental change of attitude by everyone concerned.

Careers teachers must be recognised in schools as important and essential members of the staff. I can assure the House that at the moment that is not so. Careers teachers must be given time from other teaching duties. There should be supporting staff to deal with matters such as routine clerical work. The report highlights the inadequacy of facilities for careers work in schools.

If this work is to be carried out effectively there must be space set aside for it. I know that the Department of Education and Science, in its building bulletins, recommends that new schools should make provision for this but in practice the careers teacher is often stuck in some hole in a corner which a head teacher finds for him. However laudable the Expenditure Committee recommendation on this subject is it will not be as valuable as it ought to be if attention is not given to some of these bread-and-butter matters.

The Committee recommends the mandatory provision of trained careers teachers, and I fully support that. Unfortunately, the remarks I made about untrained careers officers can also apply to careers teachers. The untrained enthusiast in this work is not good enough ; indeed, when such important decisions have to be made it could be a positive danger. I see no reason why some colleges of education cannot include basic courses in careers work. In addition there should be specialist courses of one year, full-time, for practising teachers, together with a full programme of in-service refresher courses.

The most important question on this subject of training careers teachers is, where will the initiative come from? I doubt whether it will come from the schools, on their record. I also doubt whether it will come from the local authorities, although, as I have said, their record is patchy. I am driven to the conclusion that the responsibility must be placed fairly and squarely at the door of the Department of Education and Science which has a reasonable record in careers education. I hope that it will do something to implement its own report.

In a reply given as recently as 11th December the Secretary of State for Education and Science said: we are anxious that careers education in schools should receive high priority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Commons, 11th December 1973; Vol. 866, c. 177.] She said that when referring to the Department's report. We shall watch carefully to see just how high that priority is. I hope that she will also take note of this valuable report by the Expenditure Committee.

It is a happy coincidence that a DES report showing such wide gaps in this area should be published at the same time as the report of a major House of Commons Committee saying what should be done to fill those gaps. It provides yet another good reason for prompt action. The Department's report, I am glad to say, pays special attention to the needs of the handicapped in special schools.

It is important that a member of staff, enthusiastic, and with training and experience, should be responsible for careers work for the handicapped in every special school. Co-ordination with the careers officer in such schools is even more important than in what I might describe as ordinary schools. Much remains to be done in special schools. This is an aspect to which the local education authorities and the Department should pay particular attention.

I wish to draw attention to a recommendation of the Expenditure Committee which the Government have already found unacceptable. I refer to the recommendation that the workers' benefit should remain with the LEAs. The Government have decided that the payment of unemployment and supplementary benefits for young people under the age of 18 should be undertaken by the Department of Employment. That is a retrograde step. I noted in reading the evidence given to the Committee that there was a mixed reception to this proposal from the witnesses.

I have had letters from two trades councils in the North-East objecting to this new proposal. Like the Expenditure Committee I consider that the importance of retaining this connection with the Youth Employment Service cannot be over-estimated. The Government's action will cause—I understand is causing—confusion among young people. It will also remove the biggest incentive there is for youngsters to return to the place where this expert guidance can be given. There is no reason why staff cannot be recruited specifically for benefit work. That presents no problems.

I hope that the Government will have another look at this. The Expenditure Committee has drawn attention to a neglected area of education and the social services. It has produced an excellent report and I hope that its labour will not be in vain.

5.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne West

I should declare my interest immediately as a sponsored member of the General and Municipal Workers Union.

I want to deal with that part of the Sixth Report of the Expenditure Committee which deals with the employment of women. Since my union has over 25,000 women members I am acutely aware of the employment problems facing women. I am glad that the Government seem to be interested in tackling the question of sex discrimination but I think that the barren nature of what they intend must disappoint a great many working women.

Equal pay of itself will not give women equal treatment at work. The attainment of equality and the movement towards equal earnings as distinct from equal basic rates depend on many other factors such as the equalisation of fringe benefits, equal job opportunities, equal protection against lay-off and short-time working, equal facilities for training and more flexible job and career structures to cater for the special circumstances of working mothers. We must give serious consideration to these things. My union is on record as wishing to extend collective bargaining into all areas of working life. It is undeniable that attainment of more equal treatment for women is part of the process.

I wish to say a word about maternity leave. The Government's proposal for 26 weeks of unpaid leave is a step forward. It is not good enough, however, Even with the help of present State benefits, many working mothers would find this a luxury they cannot afford. Paid leave should be a right. We could well take a leaf from the book of some of our Common Market partners. They have a variety of methods for paying maternity leave. This should be a high priority reference to the proposed Equal Opportunities Commission.

More than that, we would also need statutory guarantees of reinstatement without loss of seniority, fringe benefits and so on. That is why I look forward to 25th January and to there being no interruption to the Session through an election. It is then that my Private Member's Bill—the Rights of Women Bill—which includes provisions of this sort, will come up for a Second Reading. Assuming that we do not have any unseemly interruptions, the Government would be ill advised to block that Bill or the Second Reading of the Bill being introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) which comes up on the same day and deals with occupational pensions.

I am extremely concerned that the Government have continued to regard the question of occupational pensions for women as being outside the scope of the principle of equality. It is monstrous that in 1974 the Government should be so completely oblivious to modern thinking. This is another example of the selectivity in application which undermines the declared intention of the Government's document and shows the ambivalence of the Government's attitude towards women generally.

Pensions are deferred pay, and if women are excluded from an occupational pension scheme they are denied access to potential benefits. It has been estimated that one-third of the manual working women are not allowed to join their employers' scheme—a situation which the Government apparently are prepared to support. Exclusion from such schemes means that by 1975 these women will have to join the State scheme, paying ½ per cent. of their earnings, for which they will receive neither tax relief nor the benefit of their employer's contributions to their retirement provision. I urge the Government to review their whole attitude to women's pension rights, and I expect them to correct this inconsistency in their present proposals.

Training opportunities are still denied to womenfolk, young or old, in industry. Of boys between 15 and 17, 40 per cent. get apprenticeships as against 7 per cent. of girls, who are in the main apprentice hairdressers. They represent a large source of cheap labour in the hairdressing trade. Forty per cent. of boys as against 10 per cent. of girls in industry get day release. Fifty per cent. of men receive in-training on the job as against 20 per cent. of women.

If the Equal Opportunities Commission is to be worth anything it must have enforcement powers. If it is to function in a worthwhile manner as an investigative and educative body it must have a free hand in deciding the areas into which it will inquire.

I pay tribute to the Select Committee for its report. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand), I do not demur from any of the recommendations put forward. I congratulate the Select Committee on several of its recommendations. One recommendation is: That the provision of day release for young workers should be made a statutory requirement on all employers. The recommendation refers to "young workers" with no reference to their sex. The recommendation: That commercial apprenticeships should be provided for young workers in clerical work is long overdue. We tend to think of sweat shops being back-street clothing factories, but many youngsters are trapped in dead-end clerical jobs. That is evidenced by the rapid turnover in the headquarters of the Department of Health and Social Security at Longbenton, Newcastle. I suspect that one reason for that rapid turnover is the salary that the Government pay their public servants.

Recommendation No. 5: That the inequality in the training grants paid to women should be removed is long overdue. I am sorry that the Minister said nothing positive on this matter.

Day nursery and nursery school provision is years behind, and I sincerely hope that the Government will accept Recommendation No. 7. I hope that the increase in the disregard of £2 for working mothers which involves only £3 million will be carried out as rapidly as possible.

It is regrettable that more women Members of Parliament are not taking part in the debate. Rather than two, there should have been 20. Although we in the North-East are often stereotyped by the poplar Press as "Andy Capp", three hon. Members representing North-Eastern constituencies on the Opposition benches and one on the Government benches have taken part in the debate, and three of us have spoken for women's rights.

5.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I make the fourth Member from the North-East to speak because, although I represent a Scottish constituency, I was born and bred, I am happy to say, in Durham. This probably ensures an entry in the "Guinness Book of Records".

Before getting on to the subject matter of the debate, particularly the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), I wish to comment on how these debates are conducted. Some time the House will have to get down to the way in which it deals with the enormous amount of work that goes on in Select Committees. The hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid), who chairs the Public Expenditure Committee, has a thankless chore on his hands. My experience as the Chairman of the Estimates Committee was the same. He and I well know the enormous amount of unpublicised work that goes on in Select Committees, which sit for hour after hour taking oral evidence and preparing reports.

When in due course, after an inordinate delay, those reports are debated on the Floor of the House, there is usually only a small attendance. In this debate on the employment of women not one Conservative member of the sub-committee has bothered to attend. One would think that when an hon. Member has sat on a Committee and attended even occasionally and listened to the oral evidence he would at least wish to make a speech on what he had heard and say what he thought about the report which he and the all-party Committee had produced.

Photo of Major Sir Henry D'Avigdor-Goldsmid Major Sir Henry D'Avigdor-Goldsmid , Walsall South

The hon. Gentleman has a long experience of these matters, and I have commented before on the skill he showed as Chairman of the Estimates Committee. We do our Committee system no service by emphasising the sparse-ness of attendance by Selection Committee reports are debated in the House, because more people read our debates than attend them. The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that this is the first day after the recess, a day when there is no Whipping procedure and a day when there is a railway disturbance. These three elements militate against attendance. The value of the debate is that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) has presented her report, which has stimulated the Department to a great deal of activity, and the Department has replied. We therefore have something for which to be grateful.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

We are never short of excuses to offer for the sparseness of attendance at this House, and never more so when we are debating reports from Select Committees. I agree that there is something in what the hon. Member for Walsall, South says, but he knows that when the Prime Minister was answering a Question a little earlier today the House was full. Where are those hon. Members now? He knows as well as I do where they are. Yet we are now discussing matters of fundamental national importance.

We all know that the standard of living of everybody depends on the maximum use of all our labour resources. The Sixth Report from the Expenditure Committee, which my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-east and her colleagues on that Committee produced, deals with how best to use more than half of our total potential labour force—namely, women. At the moment about 38 per cent. of the total labour force consists of women, the large majority of whom are married. But many more of them would go out to work—even in a three-day week forced upon us by the present Government—if they had the opportunity to do so.

The report simply underlines evidence given by various organisations showing why women, although they wish to exercise the right to go out to work, are to some extent inhibited by the discrimination and prejudice that exists against them in the trade unions, among employers and others. This evidence also points to the discrimination that undoubtedly exists in the educational services and in terms of back-up facilities, such as the provision of day nurseries, nursery schools and similar facilities.

These problems have exercised the minds of hon. Members in this House and Members of the other place for a very long time. The hon. Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward), the elderly windbag, did not know what she was talking about. She said she had not even read the report. However, she went on to laud both the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—both of whom are now engaged in massive cuts in public expenditure, designed to cut back and retard the provision of those very back-up facilities that are required to enable women to get out and contribute to the national wealth, on which our standard of living depends.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science has already told a Select Committee that she does not believe that discrimination exists against girls in education. She simply does not know. The consultative document "Equal Opportunities For Men and Women" explains that education will not be dealt with because the Secretary of State alleges that she already has sufficient power to deal with any discrimination in education.

A clear conflict of opinion exists among the three Cabinet Ministers who gave evidence to the Select Committee. I refer to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, and the Secretary of State for Employment. The Secretary of State for Education and Science said that there was no provable discrimination in education, whereas the other two Secretaries of State said that there was discrimination in employment and in other areas. The Secretary of State for Education and Science is on record as saying that she wants nothing to do with any legislation in this sense. Therefore the proposed legislation, as foreshadowed in "Equal Opportunities For Men and Women", is in many ways more restrictive than was the legislation which I myself proposed ; and the same can be said of the legislation introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) and that introduced in the other place by Baroness Seear.

The Government through their spokesman have said that legislation to deal with discrimination against women is neither practicable nor desirable. But they have now been forced to engage in what I can only term a whitewashing exercise. There is no intentioin by the Government to introduce legislation on this matter in this Parliament. We might well have an election within three weeks. The chances are that the Prime Minister will now make a run for it because he has got the country into such a mess—and we have not seen the last of it by a long way. There is not a hope in hell of getting legislation to deal with discrimination against women before we have an election. But the Government will then go to the country and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have plans…". They have been forced to produce their document because of the overwhelming evidence produced by Select Committees of this House and also by the body of all-party opinion across the board—except the Liberal Party.

It is interesting that no member of the Liberal Party has attended this debate. When I introduced my Bill dealing with anti-discrimination I invited the Liberal Whip, the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), to take part. I received a short, curt note from him saying, "It is not my cup of tea". But now, having seen the bandwagon rolling, they are quick to jump on it. I leave them to their own consciences.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East today asked the Minister how many replies he had had to the consultative document "Equal Opportunities For Men and Women". The reply given to my hon. Friend was 1,300. I would make a guess that the vast majority of those replies are to the effect that the document is grossly inadequate in scope. The Bill which I introduced was narrow in scope, and indeed any Bill introduced by a private Member must be narrow because he has not the Civil Service machine behind him ; he is not allowed to spend public money. All kinds of shortcomings inhibit a private Member from introducing a Bill. The Government have no such inhibitions. However, they have not covered an enormous area in which women are discriminated against—in social insurance, in pensions, in credit facilities and in all kinds of areas in which some cases the Government are attempting to intervene.

But not only is it inadequate in scope. The enforcement procedures are grossly inadequate. In any event, they are objected to by the trade union movement and will not be accepted by the trade unions. There are far too many loopholes and exceptions. There is no doubt that even if the legislation proposed in the consultative document were enacted, there would still be enormous areas of discrimination uncovered.

There are some people—there are some in the Cabinet and certainly there are some on the Government back benches—who, like the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), have said that the Government's proposals are a nonsense, that there is no room for legislation, and that if women are in low-paid unskilled jobs it is their own fault since the laws of the market determine that women shall be low paid and unskilled, and that we should not interfere. The Government will be in trouble with their own supporters, because the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is not alone in expressing that sentiment. There are many political skinheads on the Tory benches who are opposed to legislation of this kind. They argue that the market forces will determine the rôle of women in employment and that in any event we have to proceed to change prejudices and attitudes by means of persuasion and education. But we have been at that game for 100 years or more and we are no further forward.

The differentials between the wages paid to men and women doing comparable jobs have remained almost unchanged for 100 years. It required a Labour Government to pass the Equal Pay Act, which comes into effect in 1975. But that will be useless unless at the same time we get on the statute book legislation dealing with discrimination in employment, education, promotion and the rest.

I do not know how many hon. Members watched the "Panorama" programme last night. There was a discussion of the worth in terms of pay of a number of different people. There are many hon. Friends of mine who could and should have attended today's debate to make these points. The Government are now engaged in the battle against inflation. Whatever Government comes to power after the next election will have to have some kind of incomes policy and there will have to be some machinery to decide on relativities of pay as between one person and another. That was the problem being discussed on the "Panorama" programme last night.

Who appeared in the programme? There was a merchant banker—a man. There was a production consultant—a man. There was a car worker—a man. There was a miner—a man. There was a postman—a man. There was a ward sister, a nurse—

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

The statutory woman, even on "Panorama". We were told in captions the weekly gross pay of each of them. The merchant banker was getting more than £288 a week, and he justified it. The production consultant was getting more than £96 a week. The car worker was getting £50 a week. The miner was getting £36·79 a week. The postman was getting £25·16 a week. The ward sister one of the most highly skilled and dedicated public servants in the country, was getting £30·11. The woman was next to bottom. But the postman, at the bottom with £25·16, thought that the merchant banker should be at the top. Heaven knows, we can do without merchant bankers. There are not many fatalities or much pneumoconiosis amongst merchant bankers.

Photo of Mr Robert Brown Mr Robert Brown , Newcastle upon Tyne West

There is the odd caviare poisoning.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

The odd caviare poisoning or case of gout. But it is this kind of relativity that has to be challenged, and only Government intervention can alter that.

The Government talk about 4 million workers who have settled within the terms of phase 3. However, it is not because they liked to settle. It is because they are so weak they have to settle. They have no bargaining power. What bargaining power has the little ward sister who appeared in "Panorama" last night? She would not strike. The nurses will not strike, and all Governments know that. Therefore they can be exploited.

In the debate last week I reminded the House that when the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was a member of a Tory Government he believed, although he does not any more, in an incomes policy. When he was at the Treasury or the Ministry of Health he told the nurses, "You will be the first to suffer. You will have to accept a 2½ per cent. increase."

If we are to have a fair society and if we are to give this half of our work force a fair deal, those who cannot protect themselves and whom the unions seem to be unwilling to protect will have to be protected by the Government. To that extent there must be more Government intervention rather than less.

It was only yesterday that we received the Government's replies to the report which my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East introduced today. In my view they are very wishy-washy. When my hon. Friend read them she must have thought, "Why have we bothered?" They are non-committal. There are 15 recommendations in the report. Some are accepted in principle, but with safeguards and qualifications.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East referred to the remarks of the TUC on the recommendations. The TUC is a bit chary. It is quite condemnatory of what the report says about the protective legislation passed in the 19th century and subsequently to prevent women going into certain industries and to protect them from working excessive hours and from night work. The TUC objected to the words in the report describing this protective legislation as "ridiculous" and "antiquated".

I believe in complete equality of opportunity in employment. If women want that, they cannot opt out of anything. What woman wants to be a coalminer? If the coal board were to say that women could apply to work in a seam 18 in. high, I doubt whether there would be many applicants. There are not many men applicants. Indeed, there would not be many dog applicants if dogs could apply. I would not send a dog down a coalmine, let alone a woman.

If we are to have complete equality of opportunity, it ought to be across the board. It ought to be complete freedom of choice with no exceptions anywhere. I agree with the Government's White Paper to the extent that the exceptions must be extremely limited, and where there is a doubt it should fall on the side of liberality rather than the other way.

The Government had paid belated lip service to equality of opportunity. It is clearly in the national interest that facilities should be made available to enable women to go out to work, if they wish. There is no compulsion about it.

No woman has yet been appointed to the European Commission. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East is very much anti-Common Market, but I think that we shall stay in. That being so, the Government should take the opportunity of appointing one or two women to the Commission. There has been a recent British resignation. The Prime Minister should take the opportunity of sending my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East to take up that post. That is the kind of opportunity that is available to the Government. They have many ways, short of legislation, to show that they are practising what they are now belatedly preaching.

I hope that the Procedure Committee will look carefully at the way that we handle these debates. We ought to have more opportunities in the House to debate Select Committee reports. Otherwise, the valuable information that is available to the House will not be used to full advantage.

Technically, we have three days each session to debate Select Committee reports. That was decided by the former right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, now Lord Butler, at a time when there were fewer Select Committees than today. I think that the Leader of the House should consider the possibility of morning sittings to debate Select Committee reports, because it is clear from attendance at these debates—I have attended many—that hon. Members who attend are extremely interested. It might be worth trying the experiment of morning sittings for debates on Select Committee reports. At any rate, the attendance would be no worse than it is today.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Reports from the Expenditure Committee in the last Session of Parliament.