Equal Pay

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 16th October 2014.

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Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives 9:30 am, 16th October 2014

What steps she is taking to ensure equal pay in the workplace.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Education) (Women and Equalities) , The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

The gender pay gap is falling steadily over time, and the full-time pay gap has now been almost eliminated for women under the age of 40. We are promoting pay transparency through the Think, Act, Report initiative and encouraging girls and young women to consider a wider range of careers, including better-paid jobs in science, technology and engineering, through the Your Life campaign.

Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but how can we judge what progress is being made without the hard data? What can she do to ensure that employers, particularly larger employers—surely it is within their capacity—publish the data so that we can make those kinds of judgments?

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Education) (Women and Equalities) , The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

My hon. Friend is right to point out that transparency is a really useful tool in being able to make progress on the pay gap. As I have said, with the Think, Act, Report initiative, to which more than 250 companies are now signed up, two thirds are now publishing more information on gender equality, and we are encouraging more and more to undertake equal pay audits. He might also be aware that Graziamagazine—I am sure that he is an avid reader—has been campaigning for further progress on pay transparency, particularly in relation to section 78 of the Equality Act 2010. I think that there will be a significant debate on that in the months running up to the election. As he will know, our party has signed up to that campaign, as I hope others will in future.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

As the Minister indicated, one of the reasons for the pay gap is the under-representation of women in high-paying careers such as IT. Wednesday was Ada Lovelace day, celebrating the world’s first computer scientist. In the intervening time, we have gone from 100% female to only 17% female in this area. What progress is the Minister making in changing that?

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Education) (Women and Equalities) , The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this issue. I praise her for the work that she has done in highlighting the importance of women in engineering, science and technology careers. I mentioned the Your Life campaign. We are working alongside the different professional bodies within these industries to encourage more young women to study these subjects at school, because that is absolutely crucial if they are to be able to go on to study them at university and go into such careers. We are focusing particularly on significantly boosting the number of girls taking physics and maths A-level. This is work in progress—there is a lot more to do—but we have significant projects under way to deliver it.

Photo of Gloria De Piero Gloria De Piero Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

Equal pay for people with disabilities is a well-established right. If Lord Freud’s views on this matter do not represent the views of the Government, why is he still a Minister of the Government?

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Education) (Women and Equalities) , The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

As I said in yesterday’s debate on the national minimum wage, great shock has been expressed in all parts of the House about Lord Freud’s remarks, which in no way reflect the opinion of the Government. It is therefore quite right that he has apologised in full for those remarks. It is right to set out on the record that people in all parts of the House believe that the minimum wage should be paid to anybody in work, whether they are male, female, disabled or not disabled. Whatever their characteristics, it is absolutely vital that that is the case.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

The Church of England measure that we are going to consider in this House on Monday provides in clause 2 for an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 that says:

“The office of diocesan or suffragan bishop is not a public office.”

Why on earth are the Government allowing the Church of England to bring forward a measure that would carve it out of equality measures just at the time when it is finally allowing the ordination of women bishops?

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Education) (Women and Equalities) , The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question; he is an avid campaigner on these issues. I think there is great joy about the new measures on women bishops that will come forward for debate on Monday. We need to look at what requirements are needed by religious organisations, as there may well be some cases where they need particular provisions to be made. I will happily look into the issue and write to him.