Work and Families Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 25th April 2006.

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Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Shadow Minister, Education, Shadow Minister (Children), Health, Shadow Minister (Women), Trade & Industry 5:30 pm, 25th April 2006

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his full reply, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for her support. She talked about a wet towel. The Japanese have a saying about a "1,000 aspirin job"; this was definitely a 1,000 aspirin amendment. I have a wonderful mental picture of the Minister hiding behind the Pregnant Workers Directive; that was very funny.

This is a complex situation, and I understand that there needs to be a simple method of calculating statutory maternity pay for employers. I do not doubt that for a moment; I am the last person to want to increase the burdens on industry. However, there is an injustice here, and not just between two women on the same remuneration package. The Minister talked about pregnant women on low earnings whose bonus boosts their earnings, but there are also lots of women who do not have any bonus at all.

The Minister said that only 1 per cent receive more than £1,000 per week, but he and I both know that some of those women receive considerably more. That was not the idea of statutory maternity pay. That money could be put to much better use. However, I understand that, because this is a complex issue and the Minister will need to look at legal advice—particularly on the Pregnant Workers Directive—this cannot be resolved now. Therefore, in good faith and knowing that the Government will continue to look at this issue, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.