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Orders of the Day — Sex Discrimination Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:21 pm on 22nd May 1986.

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Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh 7:21 pm, 22nd May 1986

The hon. Gentleman's intervention shows one of the fundamental differences between Conservative Members and Labour Members. Labour Members have no sense of humour and no sense of occasion. On an issue such as this, the hon. Gentleman is trying to bring in some petty party point.

There is a more serious reason why I am speaking in this debate. For many years I have worked in personnel in factories. More specifically, in connection with clause 5, I am married to the baker's daughter. In that context, I have a little more experience than my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General, who introduced the Bill.

The underlying principle of the Bill is the Government's philosophy that we must seek equality. I found it destroying to listen to the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) speaking from the Opposition Front Bench—not for equality but for discrimination in favour of ladies. That is the absolute negation of what the European Community has wanted, what the hon. Member for Ryedale said, and what the Government have set out to achieve.

In all my years in personnel, I have found it strange when writing contracts of employment, when engaging people and dealing with such matters in factories where people did identical jobs—usually the ladies were better than the men—that we had to have legislation enshrined in the contracts in such a way as to destroy job opportunities and not to create them. Today we must all try, whatever our political stance, to improve job prospects and opportunities for those who are unfortunately unemployed.

It is never easy for the Opposition to look across at the Government Benches and point a finger at the Tory party when it comes to sex discrimination. We have a lady Prime Minister.