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Orders of the Day — Sex Discrimination Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:35 pm on 22nd May 1986.

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Photo of Ms Jo Richardson Ms Jo Richardson , Barking 6:35 pm, 22nd May 1986

Not with you lot over there.

Secondly, we can see no justification for the abolition, through clause 6, of the Central Arbitration Committee's jurisdiction in respect of section 3 of the Equal Pay Act. We consider that this opportunity should have been used to review and strengthen the functions of the CAC, to involve it in the provisions of clause 2, especially with regard to the recently debated EEC 1986–90 programme of action for equal opportunity. Some Conservative Members may have participated in the rather disgraceful exhibition on the Conservative Benches last week. The programme of action announced the Commission's intentions to investigate the feasibility of drafting a directive that would provide for class action in equal pay for work of equal value rulings.

Furthermore, clause 2 fails to provide for the removal of discriminatory items in collective agreements and rules, which means that they will remain unless or until they are removed by renegotiation or as a result of individual complaints and a successful decision in a court or tribunal. Such a piecemeal approach will lead to inconsistencies and confusion for everybody concerned—the individuals, the employees, the employers and the trade unions. It will encourage an increase of unnecessary legislation and conflict, with at best patchy and at worse contradictory agreements and rules. The failure to provide a centrally recognised mechanism for arbitration and enforcement will be particularly problematic in indirect discrimination cases, which have always proved to be the most difficult disputes.

Again I express my horror — that is not too exaggerated a word — over the announcement that the Government intend to delete clause 3. I had intended to say how much I welcomed the clause that was introduced in the other place by Lord Wedderburn of Charlton. My intention was to ask the Government what status is attached to the clause, but thanks to the timely intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch), who quickly managed to nail down the Paymaster General, we now know that it is to be deleted. That is outrageous, as is the removal of clauses 7 and 8.

As the Government intend to repeal protective legislation, clauses 7 and 8 were designed to provide a different kind of protection by the laying down of standards and guidelines. I hope that the Paymaster General intends to listen in Committee to the arguments for the retention of the three clauses. They are extremely important. Without them, the Bill will be horrendous for many women.