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Orders of the Day — Sex Discrimination Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:54 pm on 22nd May 1986.

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Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire 7:54 pm, 22nd May 1986

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning that. He is absolutely right. The problem is that, so often, women feel that they have to set up their own businesses to give full expression to their abilities. That is sad because there is a great place for women in small businesses. I do not mean the smallest of businesses but those which employ between 200 or 400 employees. Often, it is only the large businesses which have the courage and perspicacity to employ women of calibre and ability in managerial positions.

When we consider schools we appreciate the problems and subtle discriminations that occur. We have often said that the quality of school leavers, especially males, is bad, but what is happening in our schools is not understood. A few years ago the male school leaver, who did not have great managerial ability and who did not aspire to a managerial position, would leave and take a job in a factory or another labouring job. Now, the male school leaver aspires towards managerial jobs even though he may not have the ability for such a job. The boys stay on longer and look for a better job. I do not blame them for doing so but they often look for a job which is beyond their ability.

Girls tend to leave school at a younger age than boys and take the jobs that the young men would have taken some years ago. That is subtle discrimination. Employers may say that they get young men of 19 coming from school, who cannot read or write properly. The girls come to the employers at the age of 16 or 17 and they can read and write and are very bright indeed. The girls are leaving school earlier than boys yet they may have a good deal of ability and could stay on for higher education and achieve more.