HL Deb 05 May 1970 vol 310 cc121-63

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill gives to women, for the first time, the right to the same terms and conditions of employment as men and, by so doing, removes a longstanding injustice. I feel I am privileged to-day to take part in what is in the nature of an historic occasion. In an age when machine power has largely displaced the need for muscle power, women can compete on equal terms with men in most fields of employment. Yet outside a few white-collar occupations women are still looked upon as second-class labour, and paid accordingly. Other countries

* See col. 164

have made efforts to end this injustice by special legislation and other means. In particular, the member States of the European Economic Community are bound by the Treaty of Rome to observe the equal pay principle, and a great many other countries have ratified the International Labour Convention on equal remuneration. The Bill will put this country to the fore among those which are trying to make equal pay a reality, and will enable us in due course to ratify the International Labour Convention. The concept of equal pay for women commands a wide measure of support throughout the country. Employers are ready to concede the justice of it and trade unions want it on behalf of their women members. The Government believe that the time is now ripe to give this concept the force of law. The Bill that I am presenting to you to-day, my Lords, provides a comprehensive legal framework 'that will enable both sides of industry to make the necessary adjustments in an orderly way.

Before I turn to the detailed provisions of the Bill I should like to say something about its general approach. In the past, the main debate has centred on whether legislation should provide for equal pay for work of equal value, or equal pay for the same work. The latter definition is clearly too narrow. On the other hand, the Bill has been criticised because it does not rely solely upon the I.L.O. definition of equal pay for work of equal value. The Government have carefully considered the possibility of legislating in these terms, but have rejected it on practical grounds. In order to assess the value of women's work it would be necessary to evaluate the jobs not only of all women, but also of all men in the working population, as only in this way could the relative value of men's and women's work be satisfactorily established. Such an operation would be quite impracticable, if only because there are insufficient trained staff available to do the evaluation. But even if it were possible, it would not be desirable because it could have the incidental effect of upsetting pay differentials between men, and it is no part of the Government's purpose to do this. The Government have therefore sought an approach which is more practicable and will ensure that as many women as possible get equal pay.

My Lords, the Bill which I am commending to you is designed to eradicate discrimination in pay in specific identifiable situations, by prescribing equally specific remedies. A woman seeking to establish her right to equal pay will be able to take advantage of two specific sets of circumstances. She will be able to claim equal pay under the Bill where she is doing work which is the same as or broadly similar to that done by men, or where her work, though different from that done by men, has been found to be equivalent to that done by men as a result of a job evaluation exercise. In addition to her right to equal pay in those two situations, a woman will be able to benefit from the Bill's third main provision, which removes discrimination on grounds of sex in collective agreements, wages regulation orders, and employers' pay structures. Dealing as it does with these three main areas of inequality, the Bill provides women with a measure of protection against discrimination which goes beyond anything in the law of other major countries.

Let me now outline how the Bill sets out to achieve these objectives. Clause 1 deals with discrimination in so far as it affects the situation of an individual woman. It provides that where men and women are employed on the same or broadly similar work or where they are employed on work which, although different, has been rated as equivalent as a result of a job evaluation exercise, they are to receive equal treatment. This right to equal treatment is to include not only the equalisation of pay but of all terms and conditions provided for in a person's contract of employment. The Bill thus provides for equality in such things as holidays and sick pay, and even the right of access to promotion and training opportunities, where these arise out of the contract of employment. The area in which a woman may draw comparisons with men is normally limited to the establishment in which a woman works, but is widened to cover more than one establishment if such establishments are owned by the same employer and have common terms and conditions of employment.

Clause 2 provides for the enforcement of the requirements of the first clause. Any dispute arising under the same work or job evaluation provisions can be taken to the already existing industrial tribunals, either by the woman concerned or by her employer. Powers are also provided in this clause for the Secretary of State to take a case to the tribunal, if she feels that the woman concerned has a good reason why she cannot take the case herself. The industrial tribunals which were set up in 1965 have provided a speedy and easily accessible method of settling questions in the employment field. They already deal with disputes in regard to such matters as redundancy payments, the selective employment tax and industrial training levies. They have built up a considerable expertise in matters affecting employment and are therefore eminently suitable to deal with questions about equal pay. The tribunals will be able to hear cases up to six months after a woman has left her employment, and will be able to award arrears of pay, subject to a maximum of two years. The tribunals will also be empowered to award damages where there has been failure on the part of an employer to provide a woman during a past period with some type of payment in kind, such as the free use of a house or the right to use a company car. Such damages, my Lords, will be only in respect of the actual loss suffered by the woman.

Under the provisions of Clause 1 it will be for a woman to make a case to the tribunal to show that she is entitled to receive equal treatment by virtue of doing the same or broadly similar work or work rated as equivalent to that of men. However, once a woman has established such a case, Clause 2 provides that the onus of proof is then on the employer to show that any difference in treatment between the woman and the men concerned is due to a "genuine material difference" between their cases, and not to discrimination on grounds of sex. Employers will thus be able to continue to distinguish between a man and a woman on genuine grounds such as seniority, merit, level of output and so on, provided that they also distinguish between a man and a man in the same circumstances.

Clause 3 provides for the removal of discrimination on grounds of sex in collective agreements and employers' pay structures. This clause has effect in two ways. It provides that where a collective agreement contains, after December 29, 1975, separate men's and women's rates for any class of work or worker, the woman's rate will have to be raised to the level of the men's rate. And where an agreement or pay structure contains a rate applying specifically to women only, then that rate must be raised to the level of the lowest men's rate in the agreement. The Industrial Court is given the duty of dealing with disputes about collective agreements and pay structures. Any party to an agreement or the Secretary of State, may refer a case to the Industrial Court. Any amendments made by the Court to terms and conditions laid down in a collective agreement will become part of the individual contracts of employment of the workers concerned. Similar provision to that in regard to collective agreements is made in Clauses 4 and 5 in regard to wages regulation orders and agricultural wages orders.

Clause 6 defines certain exceptions to the requirement of equal treatment. Where there are laws governing women's employment, employers will not be required to give equal treatment to the extent that the law lays down special conditions for the employment of women. Clause 6 also excludes retirement pensions from the requirement of equal treatment for men and women. There are considerable difficulties in the way of defining the principle of equal treatment in this field. Where women are covered at present by an employer's pension scheme, their treatment usually differs from that of men, often in a way which favours women. This is because women usually retire at a lower age than men, and yet on average they live longer. However, when this matter was discussed recently in another place, it was apparent that there was a wide measure of support for a proposal to include some provision in regard to pensions in the Bill. The Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity has undertaken to consider this possibility, and if she decides that an amendment to the Bill is desirable and is feasible, it will be introduced in this House.

Clause 9 lays down that the Act will come into force on December 29, 1975, and empowers the Secretary of State to provide by order, subject to the approval of Parliament, for the partial implementation of equal pay by December 31, 1973. The Secretary of State would be able to exercise this power if she considered that progress towards equal pay was taking place too slowly. The purpose of such an order would be to require employers by the end of 1973 to raise the pay of any women who will be entitled to equal pay in full at the end of 1975, to not less than 90 per cent. of the men's rates to which they will become entitled. The Bill is extended to Crown servants by the last sections of Clauses 1 and to the Services by Clause 7, and to the police by Clause 8.

That brings me to the end of the detailed provisions of the Bill. I should like, in conclusion, to make these additional points. The Bill has been criticised on a number of general economic grounds. It has been said that equal pay will give rise to unemployment among women because employers will prefer, when there is no financial advantage in employing women, to employ men. I do not see why this should be generally true. Depending on the nature of the job, it may sometimes be advantageous to employ men and sometimes women. In any case, women form one-third of the working population and any significant general displacement of women by men is out of the question. There will, no doubt, be some redundancies among women in specific cases, but in an expanding economy their labour will be absorbed elsewhere. It is not the experience of other countries which have introduced equal pay that it has resulted overall in less employment for women. On the other hand, we hope that the introduction of equal pay will stimulate employers to make more efficient use of their female labour, and the resultant saving in costs should go a long way towards paying for the increase in women's pay. It has also been suggested that many women will work for fewer hours if, following equal pay, they can earn as much as they did before in a shorter working week. This may be so in some cases, but it should be balanced by the fact that higher pay for women will encourage many who do not work at present to seek employment and persuade others who might otherwise have given up employment to remain at work.

My Lords, this Bill is a substantial step forward on the road to full equality of rights for women. It marks the end of a long-standing injustice. I commend it to this House in the belief that it will command a wide measure of support on all sides. I conclude by paying tribute to those in this House, in another place and outside who have argued for many years past for the right of women to equal pay. It is the purpose of this Bill to make that right a reality. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Phillips.)

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, a merciful Providence has arranged that women and men are not equal, but it should be no part of the case to-day of any speaker, I should have thought, to try to discover differences for which I think we ought all to be thankful; differences indeed which are sometimes to be found happily confounded. Your Lordships may remember Disraeli's opinion that "owing to fogs and their social system, the British people require grave statesmen". Yet we have here in this House many noble Baronesses who prove quite often that a mixture of talent with gravity is more to the liking of the House, and this is particularly true of the clear explanation we have had, both clause by clause and also in opinion at the beginning and at the end, from the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, of this Bill, which I think is a Bill of deceptive slimness.

It is possible to exaggerate the claims of women over the centuries, but certainly for many years a view obtained that a woman's place was in the home. It is incredible to recall that as late as 1891 the Court of Appeal should have ruled, in Regina v. Jackson, that a husband cannot legally detain his wife in his house. Two years before this Ibsen's play, The Doll's House, had opened in London to crowded and excited audiences. It has been said that when the wife in that play, Nora, finally left her husband and slammed the door shut behind her the echo of that action was surely felt throughout society. My Lords, that may be. Three years earlier, the T.U.C. had passed a resolution on equal pay for equal work, but in fact two world wars were needed to compel recognition of the natural justice of this claim. A Royal Commission was set up by the late Herbert Morrison and reported in 1946. In 1955 the Conservative Government introduced equal pay for the Non-Industrial Civil Service, for non-manual local authority workers and for teachers—measures which were to take final and full effect in 1961. Now to-day the Government introduce this Bill, not just for equal pay but, as the Long Title says: to prevent discrimination, as regards terms and conditions of employment, between men and women. Your Lordships will agree, I think, that it would be wrong to duck the basic problem, the definition of what the Bill seeks to achieve. The noble Baroness has told us that the Government have rejected the Treaty of Rome definition as inadequate and consider the definition of the International Labour Organisation as too indefinite. So it is that the Bill, in Clause 1, defines "like work" as work "of the same or a broadly similar nature" or which has, "been given an equal value" by job evaluation. If either of these two definitions is satisfied, then the jobs must be treated equally in terms and conditions of employment.

In all fairness, I should add that this was a conclusion on which the Royal Commission of 1946 had reservations. But that Report was published a quarter of a century ago, and much has intervened. In the last decade, 46,000 more university places have been found for girls. The university authorities may have found these formative years somewhat bracing, but we on this side of the House are proud to have played our part by establishing seven of these new universities before the Conservatives left office in 1964. We believe that it would be tragic not to recognise this step forward.

Increased automation in the home; the loneliness, so often, of modern town life; the spread of adult education, and to-day, with ever-rising costs, plain financial need—all these things have increased the desire of women to work; and the demand, particularly from teaching, hospitals, banks, textiles and food concerns, remains formidable. These are a few reasons why I hope that the simple principle of the Bill may prove acceptable to your Lordships. It is essential, however, that the Bill should be understood and accepted by both sides of industry, and there are parts which, despite the noble Baroness's explanation, remain vague or obscure.

Clause 1(2) lays down that a contract of employment shall extend equal treatment to men and women "in the same employment", and this is to include "associated" employers with common terms and conditions of employment. We all know that many employers are bound by national agreements to pay similar basic rates but that in fact their employees take home different amounts of money. Many is the job which carries a differential because the job happens to be in the London area. Those of your Lordships who live in East Anglia will appreciate this point, in that the financial benefits of the development areas very often allow in those areas terms of employment which cannot be found in the East Anglian region. Yet East Anglia, so often thought of as the land of cold winds and low incomes, seems to offer indefinable values which people increasingly desire, so that this region has outstripped all others in population growth.

I would say to the noble Baroness that the House will want to know what are "common terms and conditions of employment", and we shall certainly probe for a more accurate definition of "associated employer". As drafted, this subsection could make demands which companies operating branches in the more remote areas might find they could not face, and might strain a perfectly reasonable pay differential which has grown up for a variety of reasons, and produce a situation with which industrial relations found they could not cope. It is easy to criticise the wide terms of the Government's definition, "work of the same or a broadly similar nature", but I submit that, after improvement in another place, this definition is just about as right as we are likely to get it, providing a broad framework for negotiation and, when necessary, leaving freedom for the judgment of the tribunal.

However, my Lords, the definition of job evaluation in Clause 1(5) is, I think, still open to question. The two main advantages of this comparatively new idea are vital to the future prosperity of our country. First, by calculating the value of the job and not of the person concerned these schemes can bring rational agreement on wage and salary structures, and can avoid the damage of leapfrogging pay claims. Secondly, the more complicated analytical schemes really do afford opportunities to re-assess jobs; and for our country, short of raw materials and dependent for our prosperity on utilising every scientific advance, this surely is vital. But the Bill advises the evaluation of jobs in terms of the demand made on a worker under various headings (for instance effort, skill, decision). The Prices and Incomes Board Report, No. 83, on this subject makes it clear that this will be a most unusual form of job evaluation—calculating only in demands on the person—and that Report shows that normally many other demands are taken into account: responsibility, man-management, judgment, and experience, to name only a few. How the Bill can talk about giving an equal value to jobs if this would have been so if different values had not been set for the work of men and women, when the Government's own Report makes it perfectly clear that in job evaluation this should never be done, is something which remains a mystery to me. And though this subsection has already been improved in another place, it would be of the greatest assistance if any of your Lordships with knowledge of this field could advise on this subsection at the next stage of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 5 describe the methods of enforcement, and deal with collective agreements and wages orders, about which perhaps I might say a little more, with your Lordships' help, in Committee. But at this stage may I just submit two thoughts to your Lordships? There is no provision to prevent frivolous claims, and we on this side of the House do not believe that the Minister should have a statutory right to become involved on one side in a dispute. With nearly 9 million women at work to-day, it may be that at first the tribunals will be overwhelmed. It should also be noticed that under Clause 2(6) the onus of proof is to be placed on the employer. This may well be right, but it would foment trouble if a series of frivolous cases were brought for reasons other than the justice of equal treatment.

While the Bill specifically empowers the Secretary of State to refer a case for a woman who shrinks from doing so, it is extraordinary that no mention is made of other representations before a tribunal. If there is no chance of representation by an organisation, a trade union or a colleague, there may be need for Ministerial assistance, but in another place that suggestion was resisted. I ask the noble Baroness whether she will look again at these points. The Bill will need to be read and understood by both sides of industry, and if people see only one right of representation written in they will assume that it is the only one which exists.

Despite several improvements, the Bill is not entirely easy to understand. I wonder whether a reading of lines 20 to 31 on page 5 would readily convey the meaning that the words are only a long-stop to ensure that any collective agreement not covered by the Bill must have its lowest women's rate equal to the lowest men's rate. The form of Clause 1(1)(b) is something which I suppose is familiar in both Houses of Parliament, but for the public to be told that in this Bill women should be treated as men and men should be treated as women is logic which could be open to unfortunate misunderstanding.

There is a major omission from the Bill. It may be called the Equal Pay Bill, but it is almost completely silent about equality of opportunity. The most obvious practical step which could have been taken is the amendment of Part VI of the Factories Act 1961, which, among other things, by forbidding night work effectively prevents women from taking a full part in three-shift, 24-hour operations. On Second Reading in another place, the Minister, Mrs. Castle, said: There are some unions which still argue very strongly that the restrictions should be retained, and I know employers who are against night work for women on social grounds."—[OFFICAL REPORT, Commons, 9/2/70, col. 922.] Certainly, the need to strike a balance remains, but a year's exemption which the Minister can grant is insufficient to a firm laying out millions of pounds on a new factory. Men's reactions to a continuation of this special treatment is also a factor which I do not think should be underestimated, and we should consider whether women in, for example, nursing, who have no regard to what night hours they have to work or the weights they should lift, will not see the continuation of this part of the Factories Act as a bar to women at work.

For many occupations are, in truth, still the preserves of men. The noble Baroness told us that there can be equality of opportunity if training, for instance, is covered by a contract of employment; but for many women that is really cold comfort. Women may not enter the Stock Exchange. Ten days ago the quota system for women candidates to medical schools was criticised in this House by my noble friend Lady Brooke. According to Cmnd. 4245, there are only seven women members of public boards. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has been, and I expect still is, a member of the National Union of Teachers. That is a union which is remarkable for its predominance of women members; but on an executive committee of 44 only three are women. I feel sure that I carry right reverend Prelates with me in this argument, and I trust that your Lordships will agree to write some provision into the Bill to ensure that equality of opportunity shall go hand in hand with equal pay.

On this matter the Donovan Report was quite specific. Paragraph 349 declared that the removal of the restrictions on women from training and skilled work were in the long run even more important than equal pay. And paragraph 354, while recognising the difficulties of which early marriage is the most obvious, concluded that the obstacles are reinforced by prejudice among men, which fosters, the unwarranted assumption that nothing can be done. I think this opportunity should be seized to alter that assumption.

I submit that certain responsibilities must be accepted if this Bill is to succeed. For the Government, a closer study of the costs will be needed. At the moment, estimates range from a 3½ per cent. to a 6½ per cent. increase in the national wages bill, which is a difference of some £600 million. But the Prices and Incomes Board reminded us that job evaluation is something which is invariably accompanied by increased costs. We have been told that Clause 9 of the Bill provides for an order to raise women's pay rates to 90 per cent. of men's by the end of 1973, if the Minister sees fit; and subsection (2) requires equal pay to be back-dated to a maximum of two years.

Most important of all is the cost of the differential which will have to be made up to some women if they are to catch up and if this Bill is to work. The decade 1955 to 1965 saw annual wage increases of 3 to 8 per cent. My goodness! my Lords, those pale into insignificance with the wage increases which are being given to-day. Benefits under this Bill will be dissipated, so some of us believe, while taxation continues to discriminate against the married woman. Furthermore, if the Government are going to close their minds to widening the wording of the Bill to include equal opportunities, that may increase the demarcation between the employment of men and the employment of women; and, though equally paid, women may still receive their money in low-paid employment.

I suggest that to employers, unions and individuals will fall the responsibility for fair dealing and control: fairness in refusing to evade or wrongly avail oneself of the Bill; control because we are only human, and prejudice will continue to play its part. But, as the noble Baroness has herself said, better opportunities for women in work could more than pay the account for this Bill, and within the next five years all of us together have an opportunity of ensuring the Bill's success. If this were the hallmark of all industrial relations, then our products would have little to fear in the years that lie ahead.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I should like briefly to join in welcoming this Bill as being one further stage towards what might be called the emancipation of women, or bringing women up to the same level of men from the point of view of employment. It is an interesting point that the professions have accepted equal pay for quite a long time, and doctors, lawyers, accountants and civil servants have equal pay. When one comes down to some of the less well-paid occupations, I believe that workers on London Transport and people like that are paid the same whether they are men or women.

I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, on the question of opportunity for women to get better jobs than they get now. This does not quite arise in the Bill, but I think it is very important. I am thinking of such people as scientists, technologists, technicians and draftsmen. I do not want to go deeply into numbers, but the difference in numbers between men and women is extraordinary. I will give one example. There are 104,000 male draftsmen employed in industry, but there are only 1,000 women draftsmen. That would seem to be a job which a woman could do just as well as a man, but lack of training and lack of opportunity mean that they do not get jobs of that kind. In the same way, I saw in a survey made by P.E.P. that in the case of jobs worth £2,000 a year there is a differential of 20 to 1, while in the case of jobs worth £5,000 a year the differential is 50 to 1. That seems to show there is something wrong with the opportunities for women to go into those jobs.

I should now like to come to the schools. I think that from an early age a girl should be trained to apply for these better jobs. The other day, as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has already reminded us, we talked about the number of women who can become doctors. I think the biggest proportion of women medical students is about 25 per cent. of the total entry, and one of the reasons for that, it would appear, is because of the difficulty of girls getting into medical schools. Their teachers do not teach them that sort of thing. It is so very easy to say, '"Of course, nobody applies to come", but they are not going to apply if they are not taught to apply. That is one thing which I think could be done very much more now; girls could be trained to apply for these jobs. I am quite certain that if more applied they would be accepted and would be found to be as good as men, and that would be a very good thing both for industry and for the women involved. At the present time, there is a rather poor attempt being made to make more training places available for women by turning some of the male colleges into co-educational colleges. That may be a good thing from many points of view, but it does not make more places for training. One would rather see new colleges for women being built than more places being made available for women in male colleges by cutting down the number of men who go there. That does not seem to me to be the right way to proceed at all.

The Bill puts right certain anomalies, but there are just one or two things that I should like to mention, if I may, which I think deter quite a number of women from going to work who would otherwise do so now. As the noble Baroness said, women make up about one-third of the labour force. There was a time when, before family planning and such like things came in, it was not possible for women to go to work because they were bearing children from the age of 20 to the age of 40. But that does not occur so much as it did; and what one would like to see as a form of encouragement—it has been talked about a great deal for many years—is a woman taxed separately from her husband, so that she is able to keep the money she gets.

One would also like to see a sufficiency of day-nursery places and nursery schools for the children of women who wish to work though they have small children. One would also like to see a third thing, that is, some form of tax relief for domestic help for women engaged in really important jobs, like, if I may mention it to the noble Baroness, the profession of teaching. I think they should get some form of tax relief to enable them to employ domestic help while they are teaching. I know that these are possibly not things that we should talk about in this House—we cannot deal with finance—but it is very difficult to deal with a subject like this without making some reference to it.

My Lords, to come to the Bill, I have not a great deal more to say above what has been said already. Personally, I would prefer the definition in I.L.O. Convention No. 100 of 1951, Equal pay for work of equal value". I should like to see that Convention ratified by us soon, because I think the only other country which has not yet ratified it is Holland. In Clause 2, I think I should prefer conciliation to reference to an industrial tribunal in the case of dispute. A more friendly and easy way of coping with a dispute would seem to be for the Department of Employment and Productivity to send one of their conciliation officers to a factory or to an office where there is a dispute, and to decide it there; and, supposing that were to fail, it could then go to arbitration.

There is one other thing that I do not quite understand. What is going to be the position as regards pensions?—because at the present time a woman receives her retirement pension at 60 and a man at 65. That I think goes back to 1940, under a war-time Bill dealing with widows' pensions. If we are going to give women equal opportunity and equal pay, I wonder whether men and women should not get their retirement pensions at the same age; because at the present time women live a good deal longer than men, and if they are going to be housewives, which a great many are for most of their lives, they are going to be working quite hard until finally they cannot cope with doing any more. I am not at all sure whether it is really fair, right or proper that they should get their pension five years before men get theirs.

There are, I think, one or two dangers in the Bill, which have been referred to briefly. One is that, supposing there is equal pay, you may find firms preferring to install expensive machinery rather than to pay women the higher wage, and in consequence there might be unemployment among women. In the same way, some people may take advantage, I think quite unfairly, by saying that women have a higher sick rate than men, and that therefore, if they are going to have to pay women the same wages as men, they would rather employ more men than women. I am merely pointing out what I believe to be dangers; I am not saying that I agree with them at all. On the other hand, to make the picture a little more encouraging, suppose that women can break into what are at the present time jobs for men only. That may break the monopoly of the men, and the general wage structure may come down to a rather more normal figure than it is in some of the men-only jobs at present. So I think that should counterbalance what I have said about the other points. My Lords, there is nothing further I want to say about the Bill. I wish it a very speedy passage through this House.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, I quite agree with my noble friend that this is an historic occasion; and, indeed, for that reason I hope to touch on part of the history of this measure. On looking at this House, the only thing I regret is not seeing the Bishops' Bench full, so that they—and they probably realise that they are the last people in the country to recognise equality of opportunity—may learn from, or have the benefit of listening to, some of the observations that have already been made or which will be made on the denial of equal opportunity to women. I was impressed last week, when we were discussing a sex issue, to find that the Bishops' Bench was absolutely full. I hope the right reverend Prelate's colleagues do not find this too dull a subject.

The interesting thing about this measure, which is of such great importance, is that it is receiving rather a cool reception from the women workers of the country. The fact is that, Hope deferred maketh the heart sick". During this century—in fact, since 1880, when the T.U.C. supported the recommendation—millions of words have been spoken and millions of words have been written on equal pay by Governments of all Parties. They have convened committees; they have convened a Royal Commission, and women stood and waited hopefully. How stupid they were! Because very soon after they learnt that these committees and the Royal Commission were not preparatory to action but to temporise, in order to hold the pay pass against women. And I very much doubt whether this Bill, which my noble friend agrees is only another step forward—because, after all, it does not include the Rome recommendations—would be before us to-day were it not that a woman Minister, and a forceful and determined one at that, is the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. For there was little evidence that any of her male predecessors had this cause at heart. In fact, they adopted a rather cynical attitude, I thought—and I spoke to most of them—and there was this curious feeling that the country would never be ready for it and would never be able to afford it.

But, even more important, I believe, is the fact that during the last few years the industrial woman worker has become more restive and militant. I recognised this in Trafalgar Square last year when women from the Midlands and the North joined Londoners in demonstrating for equal pay. It was evident again on that historic occasion when the striking women machinists from Ford's—relatively un-supported by men, although there were one or two male trade unionists—came to Friends' House to put their case. It may seem immodest to say so, but I am very pleased that I had the privilege to address both those meetings. The noble Lord who spoke for the other side mentioned the fact that the professional women were given equal pay in 1955. Perhaps he is too young to recall that it was not the justice of her case which gave the professional woman equal pay in 1955; it was because, her patience exhausted, she demonstrated in the streets, where she was joined by all the women Members of Parliament from the other place. We got into the streets for them and demonstrated; and only when the Government of the day recognised that we women were feeling very strongly about it did they give way and give the teachers and the civil servants equal pay.


My Lords, will the noble Baroness give way? I introduced a Bill for equal pay for teachers. I was not in the least put out by the demonstrations—indeed, there was only one. I had no difficulty in my Cabinet whatever. All the members agreed. We had determined some years before to do this when we got the opportunity. I think the noble Baroness is exaggerating.


Not a bit of it, my Lords. I have no doubt that the noble Viscount finds great comfort in so thinking; but people like the honourable Member for Tyneside, Dame Irene Ward (and I with her) collected carriages from all the stables in London to point out that this was an anachronism. We drove around London, had great meetings and demonstrated; and only then did the right honourable gentleman eventually say that perhaps the time had come to introduce a Bill. I must confess that women would not have stooped to such methods unless their patience had been exhausted.

My Lords, from this I think it will be gathered that this Equal Pay Bill has not been born quickly and gracefully but has been extracted from the body politic with the maximum of strain and stress for women. For this reason, having regard to the opposition, it would be absolutely foolish to-day to believe that this short Bill, limited as it is, alone can provide an effective antidote to the entrenched custom and prejudice which have been the powerful enemies of equality of pay and opportunity for women. I should like to tell the noble Lord who spoke of the various qualities of the two sexes that I have never supported the proposition that men and women are equal—because I have never attended a man in labour. It is quite absurd for people to say that men and women are equal. They are physiologically different and emotionally different. To say they are equal is quite nonsense. It is more realistic to recognise that men and women are different and then to respect and to legislate for those differences.

But it seems that in industry these differences are exploited; for example, the nimble feminine fingers in the factory. I think I have mentioned before that the great Ernest Bevin in war time used to say that if men had the nimble fingers that the women had to produce the armaments and pieces of machinery, they would demand a bonus. As I have said, the feminine differences, whether shown by the nimble fingers of the woman factory worker or by the ministrations of a nurse in a hospital ward, are always exploited as a source of cheap labour.

What I regret about this Bill is that women will have to wait for another six years before they receive equal pay. They have been the drudges of industry for too long. I know that my noble friend on my left is sympathetic to equal pay; but the T.U.C., who have been far from blameless in the past, are now, with new leaders, a new approach and in new times, anxious to help women escape from further exploitation. I understand that the T.U.C. argue that it is practicable to reduce this six-year period to one of two years. If that is completely unacceptable to the Government, why cannot they follow the lead of the Common Market countries which adopt a three-year period for the implementation of equal pay? Having listened to the noble Lord who led for the Opposition, I feel deeply that there is a risk that by delaying its implementation for nearly six years the Act may be amended to the detriment of women. My advice to Barbara—if I may address her in that way here—is to strike while the iron is hot. Over a period of six years, male prejudice in all the political Parties will have no difficulty in rallying its forces and raising its ugly head once more. I believe that just the hint of a trade recession could provide an excuse; and I speak from all the experience gained over the years when our great enemy has been prejudice.

I understand that the cost of introducing equal pay in the industries concerned will range from 0 per cent. to 18 per cent. In engineering, for example, the figure is only 2 per cent.; whereas in retail distribution it is 13 per cent. and in clothing 18 per cent. This is the measure of the exploitation of the shop assistant and the garment worker. And the employers who make the loudest protests are those who have made a fortune out of the sweated labour of women. No doubt those industrial sharks—and I speak strongly—will try to evade the Act in every possible way.

There is one further matter which occurs to me. I shall not ask my noble friend for an answer now; but I should like a letter on this subject for I feel it is important. One method of evasion will be to provide more work in a woman's home by introducing machinery. I am told that in many working class areas these days people are kept awake by machinery which has been introduced into the next door house. What protection is to be afforded to the woman home worker when these methods become widespread? Will she be paid at the same rate as the factory worker?

The United Nations Association has stated that this Bill would lead to a hardening of current categorisation of women's work and may make it even more difficult for women to get jobs. That has been said before; but I do not attach too much importance to it. I believe that there should be no difficulty in meeting the costs of equal pay if we make use of the people available in industry regardless of sex. This Bill, by making women's labour more expensive, will make employers consider more critically how they are employed, and gradually the old acceptance of what is man's work and what is women's work will fade into a more realistic assessment of human capabilities. That is what we are aiming at: for human beings to be enabled to fulfil themselves. We should not allow sex to determine the future, or the contribution, of a human being.

Recently, when I spoke about discrimination practised against women medical students, I sought to make the point that the bar to equal opportunity presents a more formidable obstacle than inequality of pay. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, mentioned a few figures but I wish to put these four on record. In 1967 apprenticeships in science and technology for males numbered 9,630; for females the figure was 110. For draughtsmen it was 17,450 for males; for females, 350. For skilled craft workers the figure was 271,650 for males and 5,430 for females. In view of this blatant discrimination, may I ask my noble friend whether we may assume that the training and day-release facilities will now be the same for the boy and the girl? The argument that women are less reliable and are not prepared to take their job seriously is completely refuted if we examine the figures for absenteeism. The figures are highest in the docks and mining where men are employed exclusively. I thought this question of opportunity was emphasised by Miss Nancy Seear in an article published in The Times Business News of April 27. She wrote: No waste of manpower in this country begins to rival the waste of womanpower … In a country living on its wits, with half the wits in female heads, the under-utilisation of the potential earning power of women is a frivolous extravagance. My Lords, I wish to say something about night work. I listened to the noble Lord opposite who spoke about this matter and I hope that I shall convert him—perhaps he has not given very serious attention to the subject. I am very concerned over the suggestion that women should be called on to do night shifts as a condition of equal pay. Women have a natural commitment to bring up the family, and that is the most important service which they provide for the community and one which should not be underestimated. We read pieces in the papers about the man helping in the home and with the washing-up and so on, and we are proud and pleased to think that the nicest husbands do this. But, as I have said, it is the woman who has a natural commitment to bringing up the family. It is she who feels instinctively, biologically, that she should be there to help. I believe that a woman's maternal functions are of national importance. I believe they merit a reward, rather than a handicap, and that women with dependent children should receive the rate for the job for day work without being offered any alternative. I emphasise that—they should not be offered an alternative, because many women might be subjected to pressure at home; they might be subjected to pressure from all directions, and be prepared to do night work because that would bring in more money. I support the trade unionists who understand this; who understand the pressures which might be brought on the rather worn-out woman in the home, where she does so much work, and who know that she might be pressed to do night work.

Finally, I should like to ask two questions. As 65 countries have signified their support for the International Labour Convention, why has Britain failed to do so? Is it because we are introducing a measure which does not fulfil the Rome recommendation? I did not understand that; I was under the impression that a measure of this kind would justify us in signifying our support for the International Labour Convention. I should also like to know why the Government have not given equal pay to their industrial women civil servants, where there is a clear definition of job and the Government have direct responsibility. Surely these women have not to wait for another six years when the Government gave equal pay to their teachers and to their civil servants in 1955.

The noble Lord opposite mentioned the cost of this Bill to the Government and the employers. That should be the least of their objections, because this is the amount by which women workers have subsidised successive Governments and industries for many years. Therefore surely the cost must be regarded as in the nature of unpaid wages. For years, or at least since 1880, let us say, women have been receiving a wage which is smaller that the rate for the job; therefore how can we, in equity, say we cannot pay what, after all, are unpaid wages? I think the Government are extremely fortunate that the women are not demonstrating for the payment of equal pay to be retrospective. If they had asked for that, it would have been very difficult, as I think my noble friend would agree. Therefore I hope that, since at long last the justice of their claim has been recognised, justice for them will not be delayed.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, after all that has been said so far, there is perhaps little fresh to be added to this debate. I rise simply to welcome this Bill. In essence, I think that it is about equality and justice and the respect of human beings one for another. The difficulties which may arise from the Bill have already been underlined. It is of course true that in England for a very long period of time we have paid lip service to the principle of equal pay, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, reminded us, it has taken a long time for it to reach the Statute Book. Now we hope that this concept is finally going into the Statute Book and that will be an enormous step forward.

I share the concern of those who have spoken on the question of discrimination in the actual appointment to jobs. There sex discrimination is probably seen at its worst. I think it is fairly certain that if young people of the same age applied for the same job, preference would be given to a man rather than a woman. The reason for this is, I believe, something which we ought seriously to consider. While we deplore, it, this kind of discrimination goes back to the very beginning of history. I hope very much that one result of this Bill will be that, having got the principle of equal pay established, we shall be able to give real thought to what are the reasons for the kind of prejudices and attitudes against it which men so easily adopt. If the Bill does nothing more than clear the air, that will represent an enormous step forward.

I take the point, already made by two speakers, that in this whole realm the Church has a great deal to put in order. I wish that my brother Bishops were here to-day in full force because I suppose I am the worst person to have to take part in this debate. I have been for nine years the Chairman of the Churches Council for the Women's Ministry. I have fought for equal pay for women workers in the Church and this has now been established but, of course, there has not been full opportunity. We are in the absurd position within the Church that everybody agrees that there is no earthly reason why there should not be equal opportunity but nobody is ready to do anything about it. I hope that this may yet take place, but I am bound to say that one of the facts which we find in the life of the Church is that parishes—and here I suppose one can only blame the men—always opt for a young curate rather than for a woman worker. This discrimination, which has no kind of reason behind it, worries me.


My Lords, may I interrupt the right reverend Prelate on that point? That was what was said about women doctors. It was said that nobody wanted a woman doctor. You have to present the woman to people to see whether they want her. You cannot assume that they are not wanted.


My Lords, I take the noble Baroness's point. But in fact this has happened. Our trouble is that women are not being presented to parishes, because the men will not let them get near them. The opportunity for women to become vicars of parishes and to become Bishops and even Archbishops is a question which perhaps does not come into the scope of this debate.

I warmly welcome this Bill. I hope that the fears expressed about its effectiveness in operation will prove groundless. But I believe that it will be if, and only if, we go on to really try to understand the reasons for the attitudes and prejudices, which as I say go back to the beginnings of history, that we shall be able to make a move forward in making sure that not only will there be equal pay for equal work but also equal opportunity all the way along the line.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for the very clear way in which she went through each clause of this Bill. I found it a great help, as I am sure other speakers have done, too. I should like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, how very much I enjoyed his speech. I thought it was excellent, and I look forward to hearing him again in Committee.

I have always felt that the obtaining of real economic equality would be even harder than was the obtaining of political equality—in other words, the vote. The latter is easier to define: women have the vote or they have not. Financial equality is much more difficult, I almost said, to define, but possibly that is not correct. By financial equality I mean this. Any job, from the highest to the lowest, in any category or profession carries so much money per week per month per year. The sex, colour or race of the person doing the job and whether or not that person has dependants seem to me to be quite other matters. To my mind, none of them has any effect on what the job is worth and should not be taken into account in job evaluation. Obviously if this were accepted women would have economic equality as the vote gives them political equality. Obviously this is what the First Secretary is trying to achieve. It will have to be achieved if men and women are to be treated the same financially. And so we have this Equal Pay (No. 2) Bill.

I think that every fair-minded person will wish to congratulate the Government and the right honourable lady for at last dealing with this fundamental human right. To-day the 9 million women at work in the United Kingdom form one-third of the total labour force of this country—a fact that was remarked upon by both the Minister in opening and the noble Lord, Lord Amulree. That is quite a lot of people. Many years ago, in January, 1947, I wrote a pamphlet entitled, What is She Worth? Perhaps I may inflict the last sentence on the House: The point at issue is the problem of translating the political equality of the vote—gained after the First World War—into social and economic equality, which must be the next stage. This problem has always seemed to develop in the wrong way. If we go back into the past, we see that women have made greater strides towards joint citizenship in time of war than they have in time of peace. Surely in time of peace their progress towards a full and equal share in the life and work and guidance of the community should be incomparably greater than it is in periods of destruction.

Well, I would accept that 1947 is a long time ago. What strides have we made since then? I do not know whether the Minister will have sufficient time to give me any comments on the figures I am now going to offer. If she has not, I shall understand. But my figures for the end of 1968 show that in industry more than half of Britain's working women earned less than 5s. an hour, and that only about 4 per cent. could expect to earn as much as 10s. an hour. I thought this was statistical evidence that women were second-class citizens, that they were under-privileged and underpaid. At the end of 1968, there were 1,865,000 women working in industries whose minimum rates made a distinction between men and women and were less than £8 a week. On average, women earned only three-quarters as much as men. Of nearly 4 million women covered by industrial agreements, only 175,000 had equal pay.

I submit that one does not have to be a rampant feminist to say that on these figures—1968 and not 1947 figures—obviously there was a massive waste of ability and qualifications. In 1968 there was an almost complete lack of retraining facilities for women in those industries which were short of skilled labour. T thought that this was both stupid and an outrage. I thought it was stupid because the country suffered, and I thought it an outrage because it was an insult to half the community. I am wondering whether the Minister will be able to have any better figures when she winds up, because I hope that we have made considerable progress since 1968.

I have been talking about political equality and financial equality. When this Bill becomes law, with the support, I hope, of Members from all sides of both Houses of Parliament, will this financial equality have been achieved? No, it will not. But I think that it will be the beginning of the end stage. And an essential beginning—why only a beginning however essential? Last week a business colleague said to me, "You will never devise legislation to deal with this problem. Far too many 'fiddles' are possible and people who do not wish to carry out the principle will find a way around any legislation." My Lords, I feel that there is a good deal of truth in that. I imagine that one can never draft laws to cover every possible "fiddle" that ingenious minds can devise. But if we in Parliament pass this Bill into law, all of us, in Parliament and outside, who believe in it must tackle what I think is the most difficult job of all, and one at which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, hinted; namely, the changing of climate, the reorientation of public opinion.

I should like to spend a few minutes on this aspect and a Second Reading debate would seem to be the right time to do so. I am going back to the war years, and to 1942. In 1942, in the House of Commons, it was announced that a Committee of Inquiry had been set up to inquire into conditions in the Women's Auxiliary Services; that is, the women's services. We women had been worried about these conditions for some time. We had assumed, not unreasonably, I submit, that women would be included in such a Committee. But not a bit of it! The Committee consisted of four men. One Member of Parliament rose in the House and said: Does my right honourable friend think it would be a good idea if we had an all-women Committee to inquire into the conditions in the men's services?". My Lords, it would have been no more ridiculous.

Obviously there were two possible reasons for this. Either it was assumed that women were not competent to sit on such a Committee or it never occurred to authority to think that they might do so. And I find the second reason the more disturbing of the two. But we did not have to make a fuss; this Committee of four men never even met. It was killed by ridicule and the common sense of the public, who just laughed at the silliest thing they had ever heard of. My Lords, ridicule succeeded where logic had failed.

I should like to take a second example. I come now to fire-watching, air raids and civil defence, when men and women were taking equal risks everywhere; when bombs were falling everywhere as we who lived in the South East corner of England well knew. But in this country women were assessed at seven-tenths or two-thirds the value of men. I always thought that this was a most peculiar assumption. We wondered at the time whether authority felt that smaller bomb splinters chose women and therefore the compensation should be less. But it took three and a half years of war to get this changed. It was only when the public realised how nonsensical it all was that the Government had to move and we all got the same compensation. However, the Government were careful to point out that as this Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme applied only to injuries associated with the war there was for this reason an essential difference between it and any permanent scheme of compensation—just in case we women got ideas that we were further on than in fact we were. The climate of authority was not going to change fundamentally if it could help it. But we now knew how to change this climate: by getting the public to realise that something was just ridiculous. I think this is the right way, but it takes a very long time.

What about politics, in either House? I think the same applies in your Lordships' House but, speaking of another place, once a woman is a Member of Parliament she is accepted as such in the House and deals with the same problems. But the Press ring up to ask for the woman's point of view or the woman's angles on most major issues of the day. The public expect her to deal with women's problems as well as, presumably, with male problems instead of, in their minds, expecting her to deal with all problems. In fact even in Parliament it is felt that we must have a woman on the Committee. Not always because the woman is too good to leave off but because she is a woman. I would submit that that is the right decision for the wrong reason. I do not believe that we shall get the right decision for the right reason until at least one-third of our Members of Parliament are women. Really not until women Members of Parliament have ceased to be an oddity. Why should they be oddities? Why should women bank managers be oddities? Why should women managing directors be oddities? Why should women Cabinet Ministers be oddities? Simply because there are so few of them. Simply because it is news when one is appointed.

I hope women will agree with me that when we cease to be news, in this trivial sense, we shall have come a long way—and it will be a very long way. Never mind 1947. Twenty years later, in the autumn of 1967, a woman had to go to the High Court to establish her right to stand for election to the Council of the British Institute of Management. She won her case but was not elected. To-day we have women in senior posts in industry but very few at the top. To-day the two bastions that I always cite (I apologise to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, who is not now in his place, but I know he will not take affront at this)—namely, the Church of England and the Stock Exchange—are yielding a little ground, but only gradually, and fighting every inch of the way.

To-day in industry certain jobs—the better-paid ones—are closed to women, not because men do them better but because this has been the case in the past. This is one barrier that we have to break down; the barrier of old-fashioned concept based on prejudice. At the end of last week, on April 30, I noted an example of where new ground had been broken. Both The Times Business Section and the Financial Times carried the announcement that a woman, Dr. Vera Furness, had been appointed General Manager of Courtauld's 1,400-strong research division. According to the Press, this is the first time that a woman has held such a job in British industry. And I do not see why being a consultant to Courtauld's should prevent my using that example.

A second barrier is the one that has already been mentioned; the barrier that denies women equal entrance to universities, medical schools, and business associations—in other words, denies them equal opportunity to train and equip themselves according to their ability. I believe that gradually, but only gradually, and grudgingly, this climate of opinion will be changed. And I believe that this can best be done by the power of example—which takes a long time. And brings me back to politics.

This Government have demonstrated that women Ministers are successful. No Prime Minister before has ever shown such faith in women at the top. I remember the remarks that were made when the present First Secretary went to the Ministry of Transport, and I am sure your Lordships remember them, too. But I remember also before she left that Ministry, many comments from people far removed from me in politics. In general these were to the effect: "Well, I do not like her politics but she has done a first-class job." These remarks came from men and women alike.

I believe, in the context of what I am trying to put forward to-day, that when another woman is made Minister of Transport the public will not think it strange to have a woman there—simply because of the contribution made by a previous woman Minister. And that goes for the other women in this Government. They are the proof, the visible proof, the example now accepted in Parliament and outside. Women Ministers are not oddities; they are not news in the trivial sense; they are paid the compliment of being just Ministers. And if we take the women Peers in this House, those of us who have come from another place, I think we should all say that at first in our constituencies we had to overcome this prejudice against women. Equally I think we would say also that as the years went by, and as I hope and believe, we did a useful job. this prejudice disappeared. We were the Member. I like to believe that we did not thereby lose any of our femininity—I do not think we did. And so, my Lords, we need this Bill as the first step in our end stage. We need the example of women in jobs at all levels. We need the help of Press, television and radio. Together all of us must change public opinion.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, may I add my welcome to this Bill to those which have already been given. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred to the "deceptive slimness" of the Bill. Perhaps one of the pities is that there are more women who are trying to achieve a deceptive slimness than who are even interested in equal pay to-day. If we get bogged down in discussing definitions we shall get into a battle of semantics. The Bill lays down a framework in which one can develop the whole economic pattern. But what is far more important is that it lays down a framework for what will be possible in changing the social pattern and attitudes of people. My noble friend Lady Burton mentioned the small number of women executives in industry; and indeed there are more women in medicine than in law or accountancy. We all agree that the entry for women into medicine is made far too hard and there are far too few women in medicine. In the Civil Service there are still only 8 per cent. in the administrative grades, and less than 5 per cent. of women are managers. The Government cannot be absolved from blame in this series of inequalities, because in 1968 out of a total of 7,008 people at Government training centres only around 20 were women.

One of the important matters we have to consider is the whole pattern of women's lives. When we are talking about equality of opportunity—on which I think all the noble Lords who have spoken have touched, and on which I agree with all that has been said—I feel we have to go farther back into the whole structure of our educational system and the emphasis which is put on different subjects for girls and different subjects for boys. Sons and daughters get brought up in the home with certain preconceptions about their own role in society. Although that is now breaking down in some families, it is taken for granted that it is the boy who has the career and the girl who spends her life as a wife and mother, and on whom it is not worth while to spend too much time or money on education. On the other hand, it is not the job of the boy to help in the home. It is not surprising that these children grow up into young men and women, then middle-aged and old men and women, with all the prejudices and inbuilt feelings and conceptions which come out in the working of our society.

While there are many things on which one has to fight very hard, there are some situations where if you keep on banging people on the head you may stun them but you do not always get what you want. Many men would argue passionately—and sincerely, from their own point of view—that they are not in the least prejudiced against employing women, or indeed working with them. Then they will bring out a whole list of what appear on the surface absolutely rational reasons as to why this should not be so. They say either that the woman does not get on with the people round her, or that she will always be taking time off from her job. I remember once an editor grumbling about a woman who could not come in that day because one of her children was not well. Although the woman had some work at home that she could deal with the editor complained and said: "These married women with children!". I said to him that I had heard him say to a male colleague whose father was ill: "For goodness sake, go straight off! Go back to your father; he should come first on an occasion like this." He had not seen the lack of logic in this attitude until it was put to him. I do not say that he agreed with it, but these are some of the attitudes that we are trying to change.

I believe that to-day there is a change among young people. Young men are far more ready to accept that their wives should be working if they wish to work—even if it is not absolutely economically necessary for them to do so. I do not think we have yet accepted sufficiently the tremendous importance of the contribution of the married woman to industry, production and the professions of this country, and the importance of helping her in so many ways to enable her to carry out part-time work. If her domestic circumstances mean that she can do only part-time work (and this is often so while her children are growing up) it follows that she needs to be able to undertake a course of training that is also part-time. When one starts looking into this matter, as I have done, one finds that the numbers of part-time courses for married women to re-train, or take up training, are very few and far between. It is in this area that one needs to bring a great deal of persuasion and pressure to bear. Out of a labour force of women which amounts to around 9 million, to-day 56 per cent. are married. In 1951 it was 44 per cent. In 1981 it is estimated that it will be 66 per cent.

I agree with much that has been said, particularly by my noble friend Lady Summerskill. The noble Baroness must be feeling delighted that this Bill, even with its limitations, is before us to-day, because she has carried out so much work in the past to help to bring this about. When she mentioned the point that pay should be based on the job itself rather than on who does it, I felt that there were one or two things that could be done without having a nondiscrimination Bill or even a nondiscrimination clause in this Bill. We could do away with these "men only" advertisements, and indeed advertisements of the sort one sees in The Times such as "Women's Appointments". If, on the one hand, a man does not want to apply, he does not have to do so, and if a woman wants to apply she should do so. Recently I heard of a woman engineer who replied to an advertisement and signed her letter "E. G. Smith". When she went for her interview, the men holding the interview looked at her with alarm. They were very embarrassed and said that they were very sorry because they did not know that she was a lady and they employed only men. She replied, "I am not a lady; I am an engineer". And she got the job. That is a true story. She was successful because she managed to get past the barricade, and, once they realised her qualifications they accepted her.

Another side to this is something which it would be quite wrong for women to overlook, and that is that many women neither support other women who are striving for equal pay and equal opportunity, nor accept that taking a job usually requires a great deal of discipline, which is often of a different nature from that of running a home. If a woman undertakes a job she has to be prepared to give of her best to it. It is for this reason the transition from part-time work for the woman whose family needs her part of the time, until they are grown up, is a transition both for her and for industry. One comes up against a great deal of conservatism. The immediate reaction of many employers—both men and women—is that this will not work. Nevertheless, where this has been undertaken—some of the banks do it and other firms have undertaken it—it is found to work very well. Even in, say, secretarial work there are a few employers who say they have a scheme whereby they have two secretaries who interchange; one takes one week and the other the next, but if one is away for any reason then the other takes her place. The employer does not care so long as the arrangement works properly and they keep in touch with each other.

I feel that a great many things could quite easily be done resulting in both increased production and productivity with a great deal less waste of what really is our only source for expansion of labour power in this country—that is, women. Some interesting figures were brought out by the Applied Economics Research Unit in Cambridge, under Professor Stokes, which gave a comparison between percentages of people, both men and women, in four different classes of work, comparing the situation in 1960 with a projection of what will be required in the year 2000. In the professional and technical division, in 1960 8 per cent. of the working population were employed; in the year 2000, 20 per cent. will be needed. In management, the figure is 10 per cent. for 1960; for the year 2000, 10 per cent. In clerical work, the proportion is 12 per cent. in 1960, which drops to 9 per cent. for the year 2000. The biggest drop is in manual work, where the figure was 70 per cent. in 1960 and is estimated at 61 per cent. in the year 2000.

At the moment, the year 2000 seems a long way off, but if one considers that the girl leaving school at 15 now will probably be returning to work, as a mother of grown-up children in that year, we see that it is not too early to start preparing even for this. After all, we are in many other branches of technology taking this rather longer view. I think that these very interesting figures will mean that an enormously increased number of people will be required for professional and technical work. Unless girls are given this opportunity, it is not the women who will suffer but the whole of our society. Furthermore, as we become more and more automated it surely means that as the amount of manual work required is reduced, and there is less need to depend on sheer physical strength, the lower-paid men will be in a very difficult position because they can be undercut, if the present situation continues and if equal pay does not come about in a much wider concept, by the cheap labour of women. I personally am not so concerned, as I said, with the definition as with the acceptance of it and its being worked out.

I also should like to see the length of period shortened, as my noble friend Lady Summerskill said. But if we look at the other side, it does not mean that firms cannot bring in equal pay very much earlier if they wish to do so. And one hopes that they will be pressed to do so and that, if other firms in their area do so, they will then follow suit. I do not think that this particular Bill is by any means the end of the road: it is only the beginning. And if it is seen not only in its economic context but also in its social and human context, then I believe that it will really be a landmark in our history.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I want to add just one word in this debate, since I have listened with enormous interest to all that has been said. I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness who introduced this Bill very much indeed. I should like also to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. No one has worked harder, and no one has done more for equal pay than she has; and, indeed, also the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry. But I think this is a great day for Lady Summerskill, and I should like to be one of the many people all over the country, in fact all over the world, who say, "If it hadn't been for Lady Summerskill we should not have got as far as we have; we shouldn't have got this Bill." This Bill will be a great landmark, and I think the Government must be congratulated on bringing it in. Of course, many things still remain to come. The time factor is a slow one. But, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has said, that could be speeded up by anybody who wants to bring these particular reforms in more swiftly.

When Lady Burton was speaking about the war years my mind went back to a committee which the then Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, appointed and of which Lady Summerskill and I were both members. It was a committee which came out of the experience of four men. I think there were four men; but there were at least seven or eight women, and the chairman was Miss Violet Markham. We made an inquiry into the conditions in the women's services and produced a report. It was the first time I had actually taken part in work of this kind, and I look back upon it as a great experience. We were able to make a great classification of the magnificent work being done by the women's services.

I also remember very clearly—and this is a far more recent experience—that when I was the first Chairman of the Consumer Council I used to go quite often to address meetings organised by chambers of commerce or groups of industries—the boot and shoe industry, let us say, or the textile industry, and so on. I always found myself the only woman addressing a gathering of anything from a hundred to five hundred men. I remember going on one occasion to a huge conference in Blackpool—I cannot remember the organisation concerned, but I know that a number of distinguished trade unionists and leaders of industry were present. At least 2,000 people were there, and I was the only woman. I suppose that many people there were in the higher echelons of industry, and certainly no other woman was present. I well remember coming across one woman at a meeting and being exceedingly surprised. If I ever went to a gathering of consumers, however, then all those present were women, and one would have thought that men did not consume at all.

I hope that this Bill will be supported and that we shall see a big revolution coming in the employment of women. I agree so much with Lady Burton when she said that we must change public opinion. In politics, I believe that it is still very difficult for women in any political Party, whether Labour, Conservative or Liberal, to be adopted in constituencies. There is still a strong prejudice in favour of men, however good the women are. I hope we shall be able to break down that situation, too.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, said, I hope we shall find in the years to come that there will be women in top management, in just the same way as men are in top management. My only contribution in this respect, as I speak here this evening, is that I think I am the only woman who is chairman of an agricultural auction market. When I became chairman, following upon my husband, a great many people said, "Oh, it is not a job for a woman". I said I did not agree, and the board over whom I preside, all men, were quite prepared to accept me. That is my own contribution in a profession: I am the only woman, I think, who is chairman of an agricultural auction market. My Lords, I do not want to delay the debate. I should like to close by adding my congratulations to those who have spoken, and to the Government for producing the Bill. I hope very much that it will be as effective as we all hope it will be in the future.

4.49 p.m.


My Lords, we have a woman Minister in charge of this debate; more than half of the speakers have been women, and I think it would be a pity if it went out to the world that this debate in your Lordships' House had been dominated by women and that the voice of men had not been equally heard. So I now endeavour to redress the balance. I think there is a lot to be said in favour of women, but I shall not take very long to say it; I intend to be brief. As Henry VIII is reputed to have said to one of his women, "I shan't keep you very long"! But I want to congratulate the Government on the courage they have shown in bringing forward this Bill, which although accepted more or less without objection in the two Houses of Parliament, leads to a certain amount of gossip and discussion and controversy outside. There are many people in all walks of life who say, "Yes, let us have women as equals but I do not want them to be equal with me." It will be necessary to overcome a great deal of public opposition before this measure can be fully accepted.

During the past years of our generation I think that women have been their own worst enemies. They have not joined trade unions, or demanded adequate pay, in adequate numbers. Many of them have not wanted to embark upon a lifetime's career; they have always regarded their occupation as a second line and their main ambition is to be married. Many of them, therefore, have chosen inferior jobs, not requiring an enormous amount of skill (I except, of course, the professional women), and many of them have been quite content to take part-time jobs. Unnecessarily, therefore, in many circles they have been looked upon as second-class citizens in industry. I feel that because of this, despite the provisions made in the Bill, many employers will endeavour to make out a case that their women workers are not employed on tasks equal to those of the men and will therefore seek to get a second grade wage established for the women. I sincerely hope that more of these women will join their trade unions so that they may have competent advocacy to put forward their case for equality.

One or two of the women speakers who have dominated this debate have spoken about the quite unnecessary differentiation between men and women. It is a great news item when you can say "Woman Minister", "Woman J.P.", "Woman Barrister", "Woman Doctor", and so on. Despite my lifetime in newspapers and the attraction which a heading to a story can have if it has a sex angle in it, I have never subscribed to the point of view that a woman is any different from a man. Of course I know there are little differences, and long may they continue. But in my newspaper days when I was news editor of one of the national dailies, I had a team of reporters. About half of them were men and the other half were women, and I never differentiated between whether a particular reporter I wanted for a particular job wore a skirt or trousers—they were reporters. When I was called upon to nominate certain reporters for the job of war correspondent during the war I nominated as many women as I did men. One of those women was the first war correspondent in any of the Allied Forces to cross the bridge across the Rhine. So there is really, in what one might call the professional and skilful occupations, no need to differentiate at all between men and women.

I feel that there may be some objection among the general public to this Bill on the following point—and it has been hinted at by one of my noble friends. The general public will say, "If employers are to pay women the same wages as they pay men, then they will sack a lot of the women." This may happen in a few isolated cases but I do not think it will be a general objection to this Bill. There are only half a million or so regular, long-term unemployed people in this country. There are 9 million women employed in industry in this country. The number of people employed in industry and in services is likely to increase, despite automation, because of the increasing size of the population, and I do not think that women have anything to fear so long as they can prove that they are capable of doing the same kind of job as men. In many capacities they have already proved that.

I know it will be said that although employers are required to give equal pay to women they are not required to give equal opportunities for promotion and for appointments to the higher positions. That point has already been mentioned by one or two of my noble friends. I think it behoves the women of the rising generation to attend very seriously indeed to their education. Those at universities and technical colleges should perhaps approach more closely the technical and physical sciences rather than the social sciences which so many of the women students are approaching at the moment. My Lords, I have no really serious doubt that this Bill can be successful and I wish it, with every success, an early passage to the Statute Book.

4.56 p.m.


My Lords, may I say at once that I have greatly enjoyed this Second Reading debate—not always a situation in which a Minister finds herself. I should like at once, with all humility, to congratulate my noble friends Lady Burton, Lady Birk, Lady Elliot of Harwood and Lady Summerskill, and of course Lord Belstead, on their splendid contributions. I felt all the time that they were saying the things that so many of us have tried to say for such a long time, and I congratulate them on taking this opportunity of getting these words once more recorded so that we hope they will get to the appropriate quarter.

I of course accept the proposition made by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that women are not equal. I long ago realised that I was not equal in a number of things. I am not as beautiful as many other people, or as witty or as clever. But life is like that. I do not think anybody has ever postulated the theory that women want to be equal with men. That would seem to be completely fallacious. What we have been saying for many years is that the innate abilities of women differ from those of men but that the employment prospects should be governed only by real differences and not by imagined prejudices. I think my noble friends this afternoon have rather underlined this when they have spoken about the difficulties of opportunity and the fact that women are still excluded from a number of spheres. However, I think we must sound a note of hope.

Surely women are penetrating more and more the inner circles. I must say at once that when I came to your Lordships' House I expected to find great prejudice. I thought that here was an area where males had had their libraries and their smoking rooms to themselves for many generations and would dislike women intensely, instead of which I have received the most egalitarian treatment. In fact I have been treated as a woman and an equal; and I think that perhaps this is all we have ever wanted.

Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the equality of opportunity still has to be dealt with. Nobody would dispute that. The right reverend Prelate sounded a note which several of my noble friends have taken up; namely, that we have to contend with inborn attitudes and prejudices, and these can be cured only by example, on the one hand, as the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, pointed out, and on the other, as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, pointed out, by constant action, whether militant or otherwise, often on the part of the women themselves but certainly on the part of the women who are affected by this.

I think we have all suffered from being the "statutory woman" on a committee or even, as I recall, on a B.B.C. programme called "Any Questions?" where they usually have one woman and three men. There is of course an implied compliment there, which I noticed the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, picksed up in her own television appearance when she suggested that it took two men to interview one woman successfully. I think perhaps we can take it this way until we can secure an adjustment of the balance of equality. I would say at once that there is no doubt, as the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, said, that retraining facilities for the woman wishing to return to work must be looked at. With her I agree that not only do we waste a colossal amount of talent but we shall need every one of these people if we are to be able to keep the labour force fully manned.

There is no doubt that attitudes are changing and that we no longer find the same exclusions, either in industry or commerce. In the professions, I remember going through the battles of equal pay when I was teaching, and I always thought it very ironic that I did not recall any man teacher saying to me, "You poor woman; go and sit down and let me take playground duty, or look after the children at lunch time". As I recall, we pulled our weight 100 per cent., even taking on school journeys; and there was no question that this was a demand for equal pay for completely equal work.

I think it will be very easy to make heavy weather of this point about equal work. I believe that there are areas where there is no doubt that it is equal work and where equal pay can be readily introduced. I would say at once to those noble Lords who have suggested that this has taken a long time, that this is true. But there is Clause 9, which gives the Secretary of State power to intervene if she feels that there is too slow progress towards equal treatment for men and women. This seems to me a very useful clause, which I am quite sure the Secretary of State will invoke. We must agree at once that the fact that there is a woman Minister is of course a contributing factor to the introduction of this Bill. I liked Lady Summerskill's suggestion that it was extracted from the body politic. I am glad it was a Caesarian and not an abortion, or perhaps we should not have had this Bill at this point of time. I will look into her point about the home worker and give her a reply, because I think she is on to something which I know from my own experience is an increasing practice.

So far as the question of training is concerned, while the Bill does not provide equal opportunity of employment, which does not come within the scope of the Bill—though I think this debate will do a great deal of good—it does provide for the equalisation of promotion and training opportunities to the extent that these are being provided for in the workers' contracts of employment. That will not entirely meet the case, but I think it will meet one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead.

The noble Lord also raised the point about contract and conditions on Clause 1(2). I might perhaps give an answer on this. Women cannot compare themselves with men in another establishment (I think I made this point earlier) unless both establishments are under the same employer and they have common terms and conditions of employment. Common terms means in this connection that the workers are doing the same job in both establishments and are paid the same; so that if men in establishment A are paid £15 and men in establishment B are paid £20 the establishments do not have common terms, and the women in establishment A cannot compare themselves with those in establishment B. In other words, they will not get the best of all worlds in this connection. There is no question, under the subsection, of the men in establishment A, getting £15, being raised to the level of the men's wages in establishment B, which is £20.

The Secretary of State has power to take cases to the industrial tribunal in circumstances where women may be inhibited from doing so. I think the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will appreciate that these cases may arise where a woman may feel it may be very much to her detriment if she takes a case to the tribunal. There is nothing to stop employers and unions and other people taking cases to the tribunal, or representing the women in front of the tribunal. This is common practice and there is no need to provide for it in the Bill. It will be useful to the noble Lord to know that this is on the Record in my reply.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, also raised the point of the situation where the employer and the woman are agreed that the woman is working in the same or equivalent work to the man, but the employer is paying the man more than the woman, and he admits it. Then the onus is on the employer to show that the distinction is for something different in the work, in output or some other aspect of it. As to Clause 6(1), the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was that there will be strong differences of opinion as to whether or not the legal restrictions on women's employment should be lifted. The Secretary of State believes that these differences should be explored in discussion with both sides of (industry, and she is in fact already initiating discussions in this connection.

On the question of job evaluation, a subject on which several noble Lords touched, I would say that it is impossible to evaluate one job in terms of another unless this is done on the basis of the demand that each job makes on a typical worker. I think the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, suggested that this was introducing a new principle. That demand can be assessed under various headings—skill, experience and effort are mentioned in the Bill as examples, but other headings, such as degrees of responsibility, which the noble Lord mentioned, are not excluded. I hope that answers his question. I should not like to attempt to reply to some of the excellent points raised which are outside the scope of the Bill. Equality of opportunity has, of course, had great pride of place, and rightly so. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, said, rightly, that the figures of wages reveal quite appalling discrepancies. I am sorry I am unable to tell her that the current figures are very different, but I hope that if we have a debate of this kind within another year the figures will be very different. It is, after all, one of the things the Bill is all about.

I am not quite sure whether I am now breaching a point of protocol, but I should like to thank the Minister of State for this Department for allowing a woman to introduce this Bill. As I understand it, it could and should have been the responsibility of my noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith, but he has allowed me the privilege of moving the Second Reading of the Bill, and I am grateful to him. I am happy that one noble Lord paid a tribute to the Prime Minister who, whether one accepts his politics or not—and I should not expect noble Lords opposite to do that—has given more than any other living Prime Minister opportunities to women to show that they can take the higher posts in Government. I think that should be recorded as a tribute. My Lords, this is an historic day. When we discussed the Disabled Persons Bill last week I felt that that was a charter for the disabled and chronically sick. This Bill is a charter for women, the lower paid women. It will put right many inequalities and injustices, and those who fought for it will, I feel, recognise the passing of this Motion to-day as a great and memorable achievement.

On Question, Bill read 2a; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.