This is a bad Bill. If anything, it is worse than when it was read a Second time.
If it were possible to say that the Bill genuinely remedied a social problem in this country I would be in favour of it. There are strong arguments for removing the restrictions which at present inhibit women from playing a full part in the community and living full lives. Those restrictions are artificial and are based upon a view of the female sex which is now inappropriate having regard to the changes in our social and economic life and in education. If the Bill did something about that I would be the first to support it. Unfortunately, the Bill at best will be of trifling value in this respect. At worst it will be a monster and an agency for stirring up trouble, magnifying petty and personal grievances and causing bitterness where there should be tolerance and understanding.
The Bill is a product of that fashionable theory that we can alter human nature by passing a law against it. It is a theory which is beloved of Socialists and Liberals. But Conservatives, with that realism which is characteristic of them, have always been wary of it. I am sorry that Conservative Front Bench Members have condoned this measure.
I believe that the Bill is objectionable because, in order to bring about the change of attitude which the protagonists of the Bill seek, it will require a vast new bureaucracy and apparatus for overseeing the lives of British citizens, backed up with Draconian weapons, calculated to arouse bitterness amongst those people who will be subject to its provisions.
There are a great number of objectionable features of the Bill. Some of them have been referred to by the Opposition during the passage of the Bill through the House. The main objection to it is that it leaves out of account those considerations of human nature which apply to relations between the sexes the application of the notion of equality involves measurability: quantitative concepts which allow for a neat and equal division. In such a world considerations of love, patience, loyalty, tenderness, tolerance and courtesy play no part. The Bill takes no account of the fact that most women are mothers, naturally endowed as the best home makers, and better fitted than men to look after children. In the world of their homes and their families women can find satisfying lives fulfilling, influential and complete in a world in which the fact that there are few women serving in public positions is of no significance to them.
But the Bill is not for those people. It is significant that the Home Secretary has announced that he will be appointing women to be the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, because their identity shows how ludicrous the whole thing is. They are the national women's officer of the Labour Party and the wife of a prominent Conservative, two female politicians who will be seen as interfering busybodies who will ram this Bill down the throats of every business and social institution in the country.
The result will be a climate of bitterness, suspicion and mistrust in an atmosphere where there should be love and understanding. It will be the Race Relations Act controversy all over again. Matters will grow worse, not better, and before long the commission will be coming back to us clamouring for more powers in order to insist upon the acceptance of its own distorted view of life. At a time like this, a time of national crisis when we need all the concord and amity we can find, this Bill does a disservice to the whole population.