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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

The bakers themselves do not want these restrictions to be removed. As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North well knows, bakers already work the longest hours of any group in the industrial sector.

The Baking Industry (Hours of Work) Act 1954 was implemented after decades of conflict and dispute in the baking industry. The Equal Opportunities Commission and the bakers' union have both opposed the repeal and have called for the Act to be extended to women. We do no more at this stage than call upon the Government to follow their advice.

Before concluding, I wish to refer in passing to two or three points that the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned as additions that he will introduce to the Bill. I cannot think why they were not included when the Bill was printed for the House of Lords. It would have been interesting to have the benefit of their debates upon these quite difficult points that the Government will bring forward.

First, we support the idea of equal treatment in retirement, which has great benefits for women who want to go on working and with respect to equalisation for men. I believe that both that and the decade for retirement has to be seen in the context of a consideration of the whole question of pensions. I know that some hon. Members say that retirement has nothing to do with pensions, but that is how people outside see it. They want to know that the pension for women at 60 is preserved. Men have been agitating for a long time—I know that it is costly—for their pension age to be brought down to 60. I understand that this is not something one can do in a flash.

In order to deal rationally with the question of retirement the Government must consult—indeed, they probably have already done so or will do so — the Department of Health and Social Security about pensions provision and ensure that as a result of the differences there are no discrepancies and dilemmas.

I am opposed to the removal of single-sex training courses. I did not even guess that the Paymaster General might be going to do that—or did I get this wrong?