HL Deb 08 December 1971 vol 326 cc797-876

3.6 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON rose to call attention to the Report of the Civil Service Department on the Employment of Women in the Civil Service (CSD Management Studies 3); to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they propose to take towards implementing the recommendations of the Report and whether they will seek to encourage employers in both the public and private sector to apply the principles embodied in the Report; also to take note of the O.E.C.D. Report (1971) on the re-employment of women; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise, not without some trepidation, to move the Motion standing in my name on a subject which is fraught with serious and to some extent passionate views.

Before I turn to the Civil Service Department's Management Study on the Employment of Women in the Civil Service, I would make some remarks on the purpose of this debate. Noble Lords will have seen that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth (and we are very glad to see him back; I think it is gallant of him, when he has so recently been ill, to be here on this occasion), and I decided between us, because he had an Unstarred Question on the Order Paper for a long time, that we would combine forces so to speak, and put his Motion on the Order Paper for the same day. Although the Motion to be officially debated by the House is actually mine, we shall be able in the course of this discussion to take into account the noble Lord's Motion, which focuses on a particularly important aspect of the subject of my own wider Motion; namely, the employment of qualified women in part-time work.

Your Lordships may also have noticed that at a rather late stage—and I must apologise to the House for this—I amended my own Motion to ask the House also to take note of the O.E.C.D. Report on the Re-Entry of Women to the Labour Market after an Interruption in Employment. My reason for doing so is that it is an extremely valuable study and is so informative that I felt it might he helpful to your Lordships to have your attention drawn to it in advance, in the event of your not having already read it. Our admirable Printed Paper Office obtained a supply within a few hours, so that copies are now available.

At this point I would mention that it is unsatisfactory that a study of this importance should have received virtually no publicity in this country and little attention from Government or other bodies. I must freely admit that the same thing happened when I was in Government. I remember the Report of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, on oil pollution, which no-body in this country had ever heard of. So there is a particular reason why I am anxious to draw attention to this Report. The author is the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. She has done a first-class job and I found it a valuable Report. I am very glad, despite the fact that she had an important debate yesterday, that she is to participate in the debate to-day.

While my remarks, therefore, will be directed mainly to the Civil Service Department Report my view of it is greatly strengthened by the Report of the noble Baroness, that they have a wider relevance in that a number of the principles contained in the Civil Service Department Report are of general application in industry and that there is a great deal more urgency in the need to face the issues that will arise, not merely now but also in a more acute form in the next few years. I am also aware that there are a number of other reports—for instance, from the T.U.C., the Labour Party and P.E.P. and if I do not mention these it is because I must limit the length of my speech, if I hope to maintain the principle announced by the Committee on Procedure.

But I am glad that a number of noble Lords who are male—and I stress "who are male", because I am never quite sure whether Baronesses are Lords or Ladies—are taking part in this debate, and that my noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith, as Secretary of the Post Office Engineering Union, at one time part of the Civil Service, should be winding up, because he is very well qualified to do so. The reason why I stress that it is right that men should take a lead in this matter is because it is men who dominate the Labour Party, and it is for men to face the issues a great deal more fairly and more generously, in the interests both of justice to women and to the advantage of the commuity as a whole. While I should not wish to be drawn into a discussion on "Women's Lib.", I am bound to say that it is a great mistake for anyone to write off the underlying case which has been put forward by Germaine Greer and others.


My Lords, I wonder whether I heard the noble Lord correctly. I thought he said that men dominate the Party to which he belongs —the Labour Party. I do not know whether he was implying by that that women dominate—as I am sure the noble Baroness would like to believe—the Conservative Party.


My Lords, I must apologise. I meant the "labour market"; but I suspect that it is true of the Labour Party, and even more true of the Conservative Party. The attitude of the general public to "Women's Lib." is hostile or indifferent, as it was to the Suffragettes, and it is this sort of indifference which in the past—as it will be in the future—has triggered extremist gestures. The fact remains that, while women may dominate in the home to-day, the labour market (and I stress "market") is still dominated by men. Industry, much less than Government, has been far too slow to recognise t he undoubted case for changes in attitude.

Here I should like to make clear that, though I am discussing the Report of the Civil Service Department, the Civil Service have been far ahead of the great majority of organisations in this field. A great deal is owed to the unions, particularly to the C.S.C.A., who took a lead in negotiating equal pay: and I shall have a word to say about equal pay later. But the fact remains that there is still an old-fashioned view, best summed up in a statement recently made by someone who ought to have known better, that it is a privilege for women to be married and have children, but this is not a privilege which is shared by men". A similar remark was made to a young woman of ability who applied for a job in a large private organisation. They admitted that she was well qualified, but said that it would be unfair to give her the job when there were so many men graduates after it. I may say that she is now a civil servant—and that is one up to the Civil Service. There was a further example that I might mention, of somebody who applied to join the Foreign Office. When she said: "What happens when I get married?", she was told: "Of course, you will have to resign. You cannot take your husband like a tame gigolo round the world." I appreciate that there are particular problems where the Foreign Service is concerned, but what I object to is the use of the words, "Of course"—the automatic assumption.

Turning to the Report, I should like to congratulate the members of the Committee, Mrs. Kemp-Jones, the Chairman, and others. In particular, I would single out one of the two non-Civil Service Members, Mrs. Ward-Jackson, of the John Lewis Partnership. One of my reasons for interest in this matter is the long association that I had in industry in the John Lewis Partnership on the personnel side, where the extremely progressive view existed, and had existed for many years, that women were capable of filling the highest posts of management and that it was necessary to adjust patterns of employment, so far as possible, to the social needs of women.

This Committee—and this is my third reason for interest—was set up in my time, when I held the job now so admirably held, if I may say so, by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. I was enthusiastically in favour of setting up the Committee: and I must on this occasion break the rules, at least to the extent of saying that the initiative—by no means an easy initiative—was that of Sir William Armstrong. I think the Report is an excellent one, and in saying that I should like to do what the Committee did; that is, to congratulate the Secretary, Miss Conn, whose contribution was obviously valuable. I will not speculate on her present role in the Government service, but I certainly regard this as a most valuable Report. I realise that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has not had long to consider the Report, and he may not be able to tell us final decisions. He will have some negotiations to carry through and some old-fashioned attitudes to overcome, but he may be able to tell us something about the attitude of the Government.

First of all, let me quote one sentence from the introduction. It is pointed out that the Service undoubtedly loses many valuable trained people among women who resign to start and bring up their families, and in the future it is likely to lose a greater proportion of its staff in this way. It is noticeable that still there are extraordinarily few women in this much jester organisation who reach the highest ranks. The second argument—and I stress this—is that if all members of the Service are to be treated on the basis of equality, the conditions of service ought to reflect the different social patterns under which most men and women live their lives.

I should like to comment briefly on the various recommendations. First of all, there is the important recommendation of equality of opportunity. There are still too many jobs which are considered unsuitable for women, as a result of old-fashioned attitudes and, indeed, sheer prejudice. On the last occasion when we debated this subject, two years ago, when I was answering a Motion, moved, I think, by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth (I have been in the noble Earl's position in this matter), I quoted an example of a business refusing to allow women to work in organisation and methods because they might have to go into warehouses and it was not suitable for them to do so. I therefore strongly support the proposal that all jobs should be open both to men and women, and that appointments should be made solely on the grounds of suitability and actual qualification, without a pre-bar to the application. Women should be able to fill a job, taking one applicant with another, if they are capable of doing so. Obviously there are certain types of work which may not be suitable, but they are much fewer than many people realise.

I do not know whether I mentioned this in the last debate, but I remember that one of the most attractive WAAF officers I saw when I was an Air Force Minister was an engineering officer, and she looked just as good and feminine working on the engine of an aircraft as she might have been if she had been working in the officers' mess. Whether or not there is discrimination which leads to fewer women in top posts, the fact remains that the responsibilities of marriage greatly complicate careers. It is a major purpose of this Report, and indeed of my argument, that we should seek, so far as possible—one cannot do it entirely, but we can do it much more—to diminish these difficulties, and the Report suggests how this might be done. A crucial factor here is the difficulty that concerns a married woman whose husband in the course of his career has to move, and here the assumption is that automatically the woman must resign and must leave for ever. The Report of the Committee suggests that in such circumstances a period of unpaid leave of up to three years should be freely granted so as to enable the woman to return to the Civil Service.

There are a number of other proposals dealing, for instance, with greater flexibility in the face of domestic affliction, and this applies not only to married women but to single women, for it is practically always the woman who has to cope with elderly parents and frequently has to make the sacrifice of her career. It is she who makes the sacrifice, and what I am suggesting is that the community ought to make stronger efforts to diminish the effects of that sacrifice on her life. It is, I am bound to say, a piece of gross social injustice that only men—and I am conscious of this myself—would tolerate. We automatically expect that in such circumstances the woman will give up her job. We all know of such cases. We need to recognise this, and it is perfectly fair to say that if a man is confronted with a similar situation, as sometimes happens, this again ought to be taken account of, if necessary by unpaid leave and again, if necessary, by opportunities for reemployment, which I shall come to in a moment. Let me hasten to add here that once again the Civil Service are generally far ahead of most employers in the justice and the consideration they give, aided by highly responsible union attitudes; but there is a need for recognition by management of an obligation not to regard these problems simply as a nuisance by telling them to go away, and forgetting about them and disposing of them like that but by trying to make it possible to preserve the opportunities and provide careers so far as is humanly possible.

This brings me to the subject of maternity leave. Here again I strongly support the recommendation in the Report that up to three months' paid leave should be given and that unpaid leave should be given for a much longer period. I must apologise yet again for referring to the John Lewis Partnership, with whom I have no association at all. They have had this system for many years. Indeed, it was well understood that if a women became pregnant, legitimately or illegitimately, the one thing that could not happen to her was to have her position terminated on grounds of pregnancy. It may have been necessary for her to retire, and indeed most women may wish to retire from business at that time, but the proposal is that those who are qualified' for sick pay in the Civil Service, as we had in the John Lewis Partnership, should be entitled to up to 13 weeks paid leave. The very competent medical service of the Civil Service should be in a position to supervise this and it should be regarded as the right and normal thing. There is of course the question whether the indivdual will return to work at the end of the day; but we found no difficulties about this. With good personnel management, provided there is a clear and honest intention, which one ought to be able to judge, this system can be absorbed. Even if there is an occasional abuse, it is worth putting up with that abuse rather than depriving others of the advantages of maternity leave. I hope that this will be one of the subjects to which there will be no objection. I know that many people express the view that what is made available to married women ought to be made available to married men. I would certainly support any proposals that men who have babies should be given three months' paternity leave or maternity leave, as the case may be.

That leads me to a further recommendation, and one that is dealt with at great length and with great clarity by Lady Seear in her Report; and that is the question of re-entry into work when the children are older. There are suggestions about creches—I am not sure that the State ought not to provide nurseries—and there is an interesting proposal relating to the Civil Service. But let me comment particularly on one aspect of the matter: the problem of the working mother, and especially the case for part-time work. This is dealt with. interestingly, in both the Reports I have mentioned—the need to take into account the special problems of those who have to send children off to school and perhaps meet them when they come back. It is a fact that most managers find part-time work a complication; they consider that it is better to have full-timers. There is this natural and emotional instinct of the boss to want his subordinates to be always available, and this is certainly one area in which some change of attitude is necessary; but I am bound to argue—and I know this from practice as a manager—that if you can organise it you may often get the work done better and at less cost by a trained part-timer than by somebody who is full-time but possibly less good.

There are many jobs of course that have to be full-time, but there are many more jobs which, with intelligent planning in the management field, can be done part-time—and this is a much wider range of work than most people admit. This subject, again, is discussed in the O.E.C.D. Report. May I suggest certain obvious jobs: research jobs, data processing and certain kinds of personnel management. There is a whole range of these jobs, and many others. I would particularly draw attention to one suggestion—I am not quite sure whether it is mentioned in the Report. It is what is sometimes called "twinning": having two people doing one job with the day divided between them. This can be a positive advantage, because they may well be fitter and fresher than if they worked all day in the same job, and it may add to efficiency. Furthermore, when questions of leave crop up there will be continuity. This is a serious suggestion which has been worked in several places and which again management ought to be prepared to face.

I have already referred to responsibility for the elderly and the infirm and I support the recommendations for special leave. But I should like now to draw attention to the very important chapter in Lady Seear's Report on the need for retraining on returning to work, for proper counselling and, above all, for the opportunity to obtain a grade within the capacity of the individual, instead of automatically, as so often happens, returning in a lower grade. I appreciate that this raises difficulties for the unions, but it seems to me a piece of elementary justice, and I hope that in the interests both of efficiency and justice these recommendations are vigorously pursued and that there is full consultation with the unions on them. When it comes to retraining, here again there are worthwhile proposals on which I shall have a brief word to say when I come to the wider question. I would only ask that although for obvious reasons it is left basically to Departments to provide such retraining and readjustment and provide information, the Civil Service Department will none the less coordinate and keep up the pressure.

Finally, my Lords, on the Civil Service Report I support, and particularly ask the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal whether he can accept, the recommendation that within two years of the publication of the Report there should be a review of progress on the operation of the recommendations and that we shall have an opportunity to study this review. I say this because it was only two years ago that I answered a similar debate, and while there has been some progress, of which this Report is an example, I have a horrid feeling that if I were still in the position which the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal is occupying I might not he able to report the progress which, somewhat optimistically, I had in fact forecast on that occasion. I fully acknowledge the difficulties of this matter. I beg the noble Earl not to allow himself to be optimistic and put a case where he has any doubts as to whether it will be fully fulfilled in the spirit.

Let me turn briefly to the wider issues and the extent to which these recommendations are relevant in industry. One of the great values of the O.E.C.D. Report is that, on the one hand, it reveals the lack of provision for the re-employment of married women; and, on the other hand, it also makes clear that many of the jobs at present available will, as the result of technological progress—the introduction of computers and so on—disappear. Therefore we may face a crisis as a result of which living standards will be lower than they might be and individual family standards will, in particular, be diminished. The Report reveals different practices in different countries, and while the level of employment of women in British industry is probably higher than in most countries (and this was made clear in a survey some years ago), we are not among the leaders in making proper provision to help those who wish to go back to work. Not surprisingly, Sweden, where manpower shortages, if I understand the Report correctly, have been greater, appears to have been the most active. But then they are far ahead of us in the whole matter of industrial training. Whereas some progress has been made in training and re-training facilities in this country, it is still regrettably small—and I fully acknowledge that this was so under the previous Government—and meets only a small part of the need. It is particularly true, if the O.E.C.D. Report is to be believed, which I think it is, that retraining is particularly aimed at men and there are less retraining arrangements for women. I know that the Department of Employment have set up counselling and other facilities, but that is nothing like enough. Of course it is not their fault; the new National Employment Service, based on the consultative paper published by the previous Government, provides an opportunity, and I hope that the Government will press forward with this and provide the services that arc lacking to-day. This is why I hope that the Civil Service itself will give a lead so far as their own people are concerned in the matter of training and placement.

I want particularly to reiterate the need to get over the objections that are always raised and that are based partly on ignorance and, I am sorry to say, prejudice. One of the areas that is weakest in the field of personnel management is in proper personnel costing. It always surprises me that advanced firms, who carry out very sophisticated costings of certain of their operations, totally fail to cost certain vital functions and they do not really know whether they are getting value for money. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the section in the Report of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on costs and benefits. There are some quite simple equations—which are too long to be read out now—which can be adapted for testing the true cost and the true benefit of employing part-timers and others. In this connection, I should like to ask the noble Earl if he will ask his very able management services people to have a particular look at these yardsticks. I have no doubt that they can be refined further, and it will be interesting to carry out some experiments with them. No doubt the noble Baroness will be very willing to co-operate with them in such a venture.

Let me rapidly approach my conclusion, for this is a subject on which one could talk at great length. There are a number of valuable reports, but there are two or three main issues which have to be borne in mind. It is not my intention today to seek to introduce Party politics. The whole of what I am saying today is meaningless if unemployment continues at the present heavy rate. Clearly, this will distort the whole picture. I do not seek to press the Government on this, but full employment is an absolute essential for further progress and the overcoming of prejudices in this area. Secondly, I am bound to draw attention to the serious doubts that have recently been expressed—and I have noticed Vincent Hanna's articles in the Sunday Times— as to the progress in the introduction of equal pay. There is serious reason to believe that evasion, conscious or unconscious, is taking place with regard to equal pay. It is essential that top management should take practical action to draw up and publish their policies, and to see that they are understood throughout the organisation, to positively encourage the recruitment of women from outside the company and also to encourage the training and promotion of those in employment into jobs which are not just the lowest paid, as is so often the tendency. Equal pay for equal work at the lowest level is not part of social justice if it fails to reflect the abilities of people concerned.

There is a need for a change in attitudes, for men to accept bigger responsibilities in this area and also bigger responsibilities in the home. It is a fact that many young married men learn to cook, and they ought to be willing to take their share fully in domestic life. I am not sure that they ought not to have domestic training atom; with women. But equally, many women fail to be encouraged to take further education, whether in mathematics or whatever, which will enable them to develop their full ability. There are those who believe that a woman's place is wholly in the home, and I would not wish to persuade those who take on great domestic responsibilities, and are happy and content in fulfilling those responsibilities, necessarily to take employment outside. In any case, there is a wide area of opportunity in voluntary social work. I fully acknowledge that the responsibilities for bringing up a family are of the first importance.

Equally, there are many women who would like to work who could add to the national wealth and to the living standards of their own family. Justice demands that they should do so. We need a clearer recognition of the realities. There is still too much of a lazy management attitude and still too much male prejudice which is, to some extent, supported by female prejudice. This needs to be overcome. There is a whole range of obstacles that women have to overcome which I have not time to discuss to-day in regard to insurance, mortgages and credit. I could also touch on tax law and, particularly, education.

I end by saying this. I ask the noble Earl to report on progress, to listen carefully to the arguments and to press those arguments forward among his colleagues. Above all, I ask him to ensure that the Civil Service as a whole recognises these principles. If he believes that they are valid and fundamental, we shall get across that there is real discrimination, a failure to take into account the different social patterns. I believe that this will gradually begin to right some serious injustice over a steady period—it will not come quickly—and add to the wealth and prosperity of the community. I beg to move for Papers.

3.40 p.m.

VISCOUNT HANWORTH had given Notice of his intention to call attention to the need to encourage the part-time working of qualified married women in industry, the professions and the Civil Service; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, first I should like formally to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for suggesting that my Motion should be coupled with his. It was originally down for a long time as an Unstarred Question. Of course, his Motion is wider than my Question was and I am very happy that the two should be combined together. I am going to be brief to-day because I think that other noble Lords will fill out the broad canvas which I hope to paint, and also because I am only just out of hospital, and in fact am on doctor's special leave for this occasion. I would therefore ask your Lordships' indulgence if I leave at a rather early hour before the end of the debate. It is not formally necessary for me either to move, and therefore also to withdraw, my Motion.

I first raised this question in November, 1969, on an Unstarred Question. I am not a feminist and I delayed asking for a date for my original Unstarred Question because I wanted the matter to be given serious consideration by both employees and Government, and I wanted, if I could, to get speakers who could speak from both those angles. I was somewhat discouraged from pressing the issue because of our unemployment figures. I am old-fashioned enough to think that in the main the man still has to support his wife and family and that if we cannot afford to give both equal rights, that of the family man should predominate. However, this is no reason for delaying the implementation of the findings of the CSD Management Studies in the Civil Service and in the wider fields. I think this for two reasons. First, anything which we may hope to do will take some time to have effect and by then we may reasonably suppose that the present crisis of unemployment will have been solved. Secondly—and I cannot emphasise this point too strongly—our ability to give increased wages and to meet the many urgent needs of social welfare, such as better hospitals and housing, depends solely on our productivity.

There is so much cake which has to be shared out among competing priorities and no Government can overcome this fact. The more people who work efficiently for the longest possible period, the more cake there is likely to be. It is only a temporary collop in our economic system which causes unemployment, and the fundamental principle which I mentioned just now remains true. Thirdly, to those who suffer and remain sceptical about unemployment righting itself within the next two years, I would say that I believe the greater opportunities for the part-time employment of women will in the main fill in those gaps where there is a real shortage and which otherwise would remain unfilled. I also think that many married women who are working full-time, often I think to the detriment of their children and family life, will decide on part-time working if the conditions are right.

Why do I feel that part-time working is important? Apart from what I have already said about productivity I would base my case on two principal reasons. First, we are giving an increasing number of girls university education and it is a great pity and an economic loss to the nation if, because of family ties, we can use their ability for only a very limited part of their lives. Secondly, many married women feel frustrated if they cannot have interests outside the home, yet are reluctant—and I think rightly so—to leave their children for the length of time which a whole-time job requires. Those who do so when their children are older find it difficult to come back into their profession after an absence which is much longer than would have been necessary had part-time employment been available. I believe, incidentally, that many women are better wives and mothers if they have interests outside the home.

The next point one must consider (and of course the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has touched on this, and so does the Management Study) is the practicability of part-time working. This has already been demonstrated in two professions: teaching and nursing. Yet until shortages of staff occurred it was said that it was utterly impossible. Even to-day it is said that part-time research is impracticable. If this is really so one might suppose that our university dons might well give up their research and concentrate on what some of us would think was their primary task: that of teaching their students. However, to be rather more serious, I would maintain that parttime working for married women could be accepted, at least to some degree, in almost all professions. It has some important advantages for the employer. First, one can reasonably hope to get a far higher degree of talent than would otherwise be possible. Secondly, if for example one employs two part-time secretaries, the chances are that one will seldom be without one of them.

What needs to be done? As I have indicated, we need a willingness among employers to accept the concept of part-time working. But several other things can be done to make the position more practical for the woman herself. These include day nurseries for children, extra unpaid leave to help with the period of the children's holidays, and, where possible, flexibility of working hours. Training to help women who are coming back to work after some years away while their family is young is a very real need. All these points have in fact been mentioned in the CSD Management Studies Report.

Another important consideration is of course finance. At present in the higher income groups there is a positive tax disincentive for the wife to work because of both partners' earned income being treated as one.


My Lords, I dislike interrupting the noble Viscount, but I think we owe it to the Government opposite to say that there was a change in this direction in the last Budget.


My Lords, I fortunately was told about this beforehand, but I was just making the remark that this was an extremely important matter, and I hope that this point will be supported by the Opposition because one must remember that those in a high income group can be presumed to be doing a job of considerable importance to the nation. So I do not feel that this matter ought to raise any Party question whatever. Furthermore, I would say just this. The people who are rich to-day are not those on fixed incomes. However much you have as a fixed income, your spending money does not compare with that of the very large number of people who are able to make capital gains and obtain an income from other sources.

Finally, my Lords, to show that the Civil Service should long ago have started to put their house in order I should like to mention a case which has just come to my notice. It concerns a woman who since 1968 has been working as a part-time clerical assistant during the busy season in one of our Government Departments. She obtained two increments in salary and an entitlement to sickness benefit. Because of the postal strike she did not start work until later this year. This was because they could not employ her until the postal strike was over. As a result, her service was deemed not to be continuous and she had to start again at the bottom of the salary scale and without entitlement to sickness benefit.

My Lords, I have no illusions whatever that, however much assurance we may get from the Minister, it will be an uphill battle for a year or two, or perhaps longer, to get the provisions of this management study implemented in the Civil Service and in areas outside, and I very much hope that all those who are speaking to-day, and other Members of the House, will help over these two years to keep this matter constantly in mind.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, with your permission, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for an extremely good "puff" for my publication, and to assure your Lordships that I get no royalties. The debate so far, led by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, has concentrated most generously on the aspect of justice for women in employment. I want to focus on a somewhat different angle. I want to look at the question of womanpower as part of the national manpower problem. We in this country have to live on our wits, and half the wits are in female heads; though one would never think so, looking at the way women are distributed throughout the labour market. One-third of the people in employment are women, but only about 5 per cent. of the senior posts are filled by women. This figure occurs again and again. In industry, for example, in the scientific and technological grades women are in a very small minority; and in skilled grades where they could be of the greatest assistance—for instance, as draughtsmen—only one per cent. of the "draughtsmen" in this country are draughtswomen, although in Sweden, more than half of the "draughtsmen" are draughtswomen.

Women, in fact, start at the bottom of the ladder and stay there. They are to be found overwhelmingly in the semi-skilled and unskilled jobs, both in the office and in the works, with very little opportunity for advancement. The fact of the matter is that we operate two labour markets: one for men and one women, with a very small overlap area between them. It is this, of course, which restricts the opportunities that women get. This is bad enough at the present time in terms of the waste of manpower resources, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, pointed out, this position, left to itself, will get worse, and not better, unless positive action is taken to put it into reverse. It will get worse for a number of reasons; and primarily, of course, because of technical change. Just because women are at the bottom of the pile, both in the manufacturing industry and in office work, their jobs are the very jobs that will be most affected by automation and further mechanisation. Indeed, the Applied Economic Department at Cambridge, working on long-distance man-power forecasting and comparing the year 1960 with the year 2000 (and of course anybody who forecasts as far ahead as that is bound to be wrong in detail; but in this case I think almost certain to be right in general trends), have forecast that whereas in 1960 only 8 per cent. of all employed persons were in the professional and technical area, the level in that category will rise to 20 per cent. by the year 2000. And of course it is girls leaving schools now who will be the returning wives in the year 2000. It seems a long way ahead, but it is not as far off as it may seem.

On the other hand, in both clerical work and manual work, in which women are so largely found, there will be a diminution in the proportion employed. Do not let us forget that, of all girl school-leavers, nearly 40 per cent. enter office work of some sort or another. Yet according to the Cambridge forecast the proportion will fall over those 40 years from 12 per cent. of the whole to 9 per cent. of the whole, and there will be a fall of 9 per cent., from 70 to 61, in the numbers employed in the manual worker grades. So, unless positive action is taken to bring about change, we may find ourselves crying out for people in the technical grades while women may be looking for work; but it would be difficult to "marry up" the two because the women would lack the basic training and qualifications needed for the jobs that were available.

Indeed, only a few weeks ago I was told by one of the staff of what I regret I must call that "male stronghold", the Engineering Training Board, that in the future unless they could call upon women it would be virtually impossible to fill the growing number of technical job vacancies. We can already see. from figures in Western Germany, how this process is taking place. There, in the 1960s there was a diminution in the manual worker grades in numbers for both men and women, and there was an expansion in the white collar sector for both men and women. But there was a far bigger reduction in the women manual worker grades than in the male, and a far bigger expansion in the white collar sector for males than for females. The fact that the two sectors are changing does not in the least mean that the personnel will be interchangeable, because of this very important sex difference. What all this boils down to, my Lords. is that we need gradually—and it can be gradually: it does not have to happen overnight; indeed, it cannot so happen—to work away from these two separated labour markets to an integrated labour market, in which the one vital question is: has the person applying for the job the right qualifications? If so, that is the person for the job, irrespective of sex. When I was studying this question in Sweden (I apologise for quoting Sweden so often in this connection, but as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said, they are indeed very advanced in this matter) I went to a steelworks, and also to a chemical works and a heavy engineering works. The question that I found was being asked quite specifically—and this is, I think, the key question that I should dearly have liked to ask in every company up and down this country—was "What job in this organisation could not be done by a woman solely by virtue of the fact that she is a woman?" This is quite a different question from asking. "What jobs could be done by most women?" or, "What jobs could not be done by most women?" The essential point on which to focus is in what jobs is the mere fact of femininity sufficient to rule a person out for consideration for this particular job? In the steelworks where they had asked this question they had found that in fact there was only a small number of jobs in the foundry where the female sex was by itself a reason for not considering a woman for the job in question. So the movement should be towards a gradual integration of women in the labour market. But we are at present a very long way from it, and there are many obstacles in the way. If we are to advance in that direction there will need to be changes in actions and in attitudes. And let us make no mistake about it, my Lords, attitudes—very deep-seated attitudes in many cases—are, in part at any rate, at the very heart of the matter. There is no question that prejudice runs like a scarlet thread through this whole problem. There are, however, certain specific things that Government can do. There is, indeed, a long list, but I wish to-day to focus only on four particular points to which I would draw the Government's attention.

Just because it is so much a matter of attitudes and the eradication of prejudice, and indeed of ignorance, it is necessary that we should start early in the educational system to change people's point of view on what is appropriate work for men and what is appropriate work for women. Here I should not like entirely to follow the lead given by the Swedes, and I am rather relieved to be able, for a change, to say this. In Sweden, officials at the Ministry were going laboriously through their children's textbooks in the schools and were prohibiting the use of textbooks which showed a picture of mother doing the washing-up while father read the paper. They believed that such inculcation of different sex roles was prejudicing the minds of the children before they were able to make up their own minds. But quite apart from the fact that, speaking as a teacher, I should be extremely hostile to any Ministry telling me what textbooks to use, I am not sure that we want to approach it in quite that way.

But I do think we want to look very seriously at the ways in which in the schools we can try to begin to bring about changes that need to be made. There is a good deal that could be done, even among quite small children, in encouraging interchangeability of activities both at home and at work. More specifically, there is a lack of information. Girls simply do not know, very often, what the possibilities inside the conventional male labour market may be; and it is true that on the rare occasions when there is an opening for a woman inside the male labour market it is not always so easy to find someone to fill it, because women, ignorant of what the position is, have not prepared themselves in advance. Here we do need very much better guidance at school, and we need to have it much earlier, at the stage at which girls are making up their minds what subjects they will take and what subjects they will drop. Our Youth Employment Service is doing its utmost, but it does not get access to the youngsters early enough to influence vital decisions. I think this whole field of information about what children do at school and what happens later on in the field of work should be introduced much earlier and much more thoroughly inside the schools.

Then there is the very important question of helping the older woman coming back into employment. In the future, we are going to rely on these women. Already over 50 per cent. of the women in employment are married, and the figure will rise to 66 per cent. over the next decade. It is the returning wife who will be the backbone of the female labour force in the future, and these are the people we want to encourage to use their abilities to the utmost. Many of them did not have opportunities in their school days or immediately after, or were unaware of the importance of seizing the opportunities. They need to be helped, for our good, for the good of the country and the economy as a whole, and not only for their own good.

I do not know, speaking as a single woman, what happens to wives while they are at home; I do not know what being at home does to them. But I do know that as I went from country to country doing the study to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has referred, I found the same thing being said all the time: that there was a great loss of confidence, a loss of nerve, a feeling that coming back into the labour market they might not be able to cope. Also, of course, there was a great lack of information about the changes that have gone on in the field of employment since the time they left work and while they have been at home bringing up their children. There are many ways in which these women could be helped, but action needs money and it needs resources, and it needs somebody to be giving a great deal of attention to the problem of reaching them while they are still at home and doing everything possible to see that during that time they do not completely lose touch with the world of work and what is going on outside. For women at a certain level the Open University is a very good thing. But if we get these reforms in the manpower service that the Secretary of State has been talking about, I would urge that this problem of the woman at home contemplating returning to work should he a major responsibility for someone within this service and not just a marginal activity to which they give time when other things are not so demanding.

Money is also needed to get them back into employment. I should like to recommend to your Lordships for support and consideration what is already happening on a small scale, the development of what are called New Opportunity courses, which make clear to women what the position is and help them to sort out the problems involved in returning to work. It is being done in other countries. It is being done on a small scale here, and I believe that more time and help should he given.

Connected with this is another specific point that I want to raise now. I had intended to raise it as a separate question, but this debate gives me an opportunity to do so now. It seems to me quite extraordinary, if we accept that these returning women are of great importance to the economy, that it should be the policy to restrict the grant paid to married women students living at home. These people are trying to train themselves to the maximum of which they are capable; and that is precisely what we want them to do. Yet, for some extraordinary reason, the education authorities have chosen to economise on these very women. There have been two increases in student grants since 1965, but the married woman student living at home has not had an increase at all. Husbands, my study tells me, though not prepared to stop a woman from returning to employment, are not always madly keen about the process. If the woman is undergoing training, attending a university course, then not only are there disruptions at home but to some minor extent, at any rate, the husband's life is not going to be quite so comfortable as before. But if, in addition, the husband finds himself out of pocket because his wife is taking a course, then in many cases that course will be curtailed or abandoned altogether. This seems ridiculous economy. While we are talking about this question of opportunities for women and the need to make the best use of women, can we not consider whether this is a wise way to treat a woman trying to make up for defects of education and training in previous years?

Finally, the remaining point to which I would direct your Lordships' attention —and it is implicit in everything I have been saying—is that what women are wanting more than anything else is not so much equality of pay (though, of course, we want that) as equality of opportunity. When the Equal Pay Bill was going through the House, many of us—and it may have seemed somewhat ungrateful, in view of what was being done—thought that that legislation dealt with a symptom and not with the real cause, the real root of the problem. We were asking that, along with that legislation in regard to equal pay, there should be included an antidiscrimination clause that would open up job opportunities for women as well as opportunities for equal pay. Indeed if equal pay becomes a reality, and if women's jobs in the women's labour market contract and an increasing number of women come into the labour market, the position of women may be worse instead of better. It is vital that the opportunities should be there, as well as the opportunities for equal pay.

In the Second Reading debate on the Equal Pay (No. 2) Bill, Mr. Robert Carr, as he then was, the Secretary of State for Employment as he is now, said in criticism of that Bill: First, there is the silence of the Bill on the vital question of equality of opportunity for employment. The Bill is intended to prevent discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment between men and women, but it leaves untouched some most important aspects of discrimination. For example, it does not apply to freedom of opportunity to apply for or to enter any form of employment, or to be admitted to training courses… Similarly, there is no reference in the Bill to discrimination by professional bodies or by trade unions as regards membership or equal treatment of men and women members. Such discrimination can be a bar to employment…The fact is that access to good employment is the greatest need for women…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 9/2/70, col. 936.] Mr. Carr at that time was in a position only to protest; he is now in a position to act. May we ask the noble Earl to draw his attention to his views at that time, and to ask him whether his views have changed, and, if not, whether he is willing now to act?

My Lords, these are just some of the ways in which action could be taken to move us in the direction in which we wish to go. Not everything can be done by legislation or by administrative change. Because it is so much a matter of attitudes, because the questions of men and women at work and their relationships at work are a facet of the much wider and deeper problem of the relations between men and women, it is only when there are changes in the hearts and minds of men that we shall really make great progress. The extent to which prejudice, unrecognised, is rife is illustrated day after day. May I give one small example from some years ago? I was sitting on an otherwise all-male committee, a very respectable committee of very responsible people—I was what I think is called the "statutory woman". The question arose of an appointment being made by the committee, and for a variety of what seemed to me good reasons I thought, and said on that occasion, that it would be better to appoint a man. A very progressive member of that committee turned to me and said, "Miss Seear, I will have no discrimination. I would rather have a first-class woman than a third-class man any day". The point is that nobody else on the committee saw the degree of discrimination in that remark—indeed, I am not certain that your Lordships have seen it either. But this attitude of prejudice is at the heart of the matter. I do not know what lies behind it. I can only say that in my own experience I have not found prejudice among men who are both intel ligent and mature. But when you have ruled out the men who are intelligent but not mature, and the men who are mature but not intelligent, and the men who are neither, then, outside your Lordships' House, it does not leave very many.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, I should like straight away to confess that I have somewhat mixed feelings about our debate to-day. In many ways I welcome it. I welcome it because of the undoubted importance of the subject that we are discussing. It is one to which we all need to pay greater attention, and not only with the health of our economy in mind but also, longer term, with the health of our society in mind. I welcome it, since it will enable me to express the views of my Department and of the Government on the Report on The Employment of Women in the Civil Service, which is mentioned in the Motion. I welcome it not least since it has brought within our sights the study which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has just completed for the O.E.C.D. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that it is very surprising that that study—of which I must humbly confess I was not aware until two days ago—has received so little publicity up until now. I welcome the debate also for the tone in which the two noble Lords have opened this discussion, and also because it has brought from the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, another of those deeply informed and penetrating speeches which we are now becoming accustomed to hearing from her.

On the other hand, I am only too conscious that I am perhaps the only rank amateur in this otherwise professional team which noble Lords have fielded this afternoon. I am only too conscious of the expertise which has preceded me. and which will follow me. Being conscious of my amateur status, I have naturally refreshed my memory with the debate which the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, initiated two years or so ago. I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount on his speech. I think we were all impressed by his fortitude in coming out of hospital to deliver his speech, which is a testimony of the sincerity with which he speaks on this particular subject.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his opening remarks, referred to some of the more general aspects of discrimination which women meet with in our society to-day. I do not wish to be tempted too far on to this general ground because the Motions before us relate specifically to employment. However, I should like to remind your Lordships that significantly in many respects quite a lot of progress has been made since that debate two years or so ago. This is not a Party debate, and this is not a Party point, but I should like to remind your Lordships that the whole field of legal discrimination was very thoroughly traversed in the Report Fair Share for the Fair Sex, which was published by my own Party a couple of years ago. I am glad to say that since that Report was published a considerable number of its recommendations have been implemented—I think, broadly speaking, about one-third. Apart from that, the Government have indicated that they are considering legislation in some of the other areas, and the Law Commission have still other recommendations of that Report under consideration.

Your Lordships may remember that one of the most important recommendations of the Cripps Report—this was a Report by a distinguished Q.C., Mr. Cripps—was that a wife's earnings should be charged to tax as if she were a single person. I remember very well that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, in his admirable speech three years ago, laid heavy stress on the straitjacket which our fiscal system is clamping on the greater possibilities of employment for women, and he reverted to this matter in his speech to-day. At the higher end of the spectrum, as the noble Baroness very fairly pointed out, the position which we discussed when we last debated this matter was that despite the wife's earned income allowance it was a fact that married couples were taxed more heavily than if they were not married. The Government were pledged to end what was, I believe, a tax nonsense, and this pledge has now been redeemed for 1972–73 onwards by the new option which enables the spouses, if they jointly so elect, to have the wife's earnings (but not her investment income) taxed separately. If such an election is made, the wife's earnings will not be deemed to be the husband's income and he will not be responsible for paying tax on it. The wife's earnings will be taxed as if she were a single person and she will be given a single person's tax allowance. But the husband will lose his married man's allowance and will be given the single person's allowance only.

I believe that this makes a significant improvement—in the higher spectrum of the tax bracket, as is freely admitted—which gets around what I think was an inequity, what was represented as an inequity, and what was also an inhibition on greater possibilities for employment in this field. I would therefore claim, with due and becoming modesty, that in the field of general legal discrimination there has been some quite significant advance since we last debated this matter. There is also the prospect of further progress in that field in the pipeline. I would likewise claim that there has been a modest, but none the less significant, advance in the field of fiscal discrimination. Indeed, another point on which the critics, including the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, fastened in our last debate—the disincentive effect of S.E.T.; the fact that S.E.T. tended to restrict the employment opportunities open to at least some women—is also now on the way to being remedied. In addition—and here is proof of my perfect impartiality in this particular discussion —there has been the considerable advance represented by Mrs. Castle's Equal Pay Act. The principle of equal pay had of course been long established, and accepted for a long time by many good employers, including, not least, the non-industrial Civil Service. But the Act nevertheless represents a real advance.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who mentioned that there had been some criticism recently of the way in which and the speed at which this particular legislation is being implemented in practice. The information in our possession suggests that a good deal of progress has been made, particularly in areas such as retail distribution where the cost is likely to be heavy because of the very large number of women employed in that sector of the economy. The Government want to have as much evidence as possible about the way in which employers are responding to the Act's requirements, before deciding whether to introduce an order requiring partial implementation by the end of 1973, as the Government have the power so to do. The Office of Man-power Economics is currently carrying out a review of progress and is looking at the problems which are being encountered, and this should provide helpful information. I think that is as far as I can go in answer to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, put to me, arising from, I think, Vincent Hanna's articles. We have this matter very much in mind.


My Lords, I certainly do not press the noble Earl on this point, but it is more than a matter of Vincent Hanna's articles. I hope, in particular, that the noble Earl will take advice from, say, the Industrial Society and others who are involved. I say no more than that.


Most certainly, my Lords. I am certain that the Office of Manpower Economics will cast their net wide in this particular and not at all unimportant field.

I think, too, that advance is also represented by the growing attention, both here and abroad, which is being focused on this subject, and the noble Baroness's Report is evidence of that. On the other hand, it would be foolish of us not to recognise that this particular debate is taking place against the back-drop of a particularly difficult employment situation in this country. The level of unemployment at present—a situation which all of us hold to be intolerable—must to some extent affect and restrict the rate of advance which many of us would wish to see. Nevertheless—and here I am in entire agreement with those noble Lords who have spoken—it should certainly not deter us from examining this problem and planning for the future, as the noble Viscount. Lord Hanworth, suggested we should. This is all the more important, to my mind, since it would seem, and there is some evidence, that we are probably entering an era in which the whole employment scene in this country, and perhaps in the whole modern industrialised world, may be changing. It is against this possible scene change in the employment picture that I believe we should be thinking about and planning for the future in the context of this de bate. That said, I still claim that, although we may not be moving as fast as many speakers in this debate would doubtless wish us to move, progress has been perceptible. Nowhere has that progress been more perceptible than in the Civil Service, for which I have certain responsibilities. However, before turning to the Report, which is perhaps the main subject of our debate this afternoon, I should like very briefly to state what is my approach to the basic problems which that Report raises.

It is commonplace to talk about discrimination against women—I have already been talking in this way this afternoon—and about the need for employers to take special steps to recognise the special problems with which women in employment are faced, but I do not believe that it is really helpful to look at the situation exclusively in that way. The real problem here is the more fundamental one of how to reconcile the demands of a job and those of a home; and this can be a problem for men to-day, just as it is a problem for a great many women. Admittedly, the problem at present affects many more women than it does men. But the conflict between job and home goes far wider than merely the problems associated with the bearing and rearing of children while holding down a job. It includes, for example. the problem faced by both men and women, married or unmarried. who have to care for aged relatives. It includes the problems of one-parent families. It includes the problems which everyone faces in dealing with all those urgent and unexpected domestic crises at the same time as discharging one's responsibilities towards one's employer. As soon as one looks at the matter in this way, it becomes much more than merely a question of making marginal changes to rules and regulations to enable people to combine the responsibilities of their home and of their job. It becomes much more a question of looking quite fundamentally at the relationship between work and family life. It becomes important for employers to recognise that those they employ, be they women or be they men, have two kinds of basic responsibilities to discharge, and they are likely to discharge their responsibilities to their employers more efficiently if the employer, for his part, recognises the importance of the responsibilities of the employee outside his place of work.

We can, I think, look usefully at the problems from two angles: coping with work and, at the same time, with particularly heavy domestic responsibilities; and returning to work after a period of absence given up wholly to domestic life. In the first place, it is a question of recognising that conflicts will arise and adopting a generally flexible and humane attitude to such things as hours of attendance; of being generous about other things, such as leave for urgent domestic purposes or for childbearing; and of providing jobs with less than what are, at any particular time, considered full-time hours. Alongside these more tangible and practical needs, there is also the need to ensure that people with special domestic responsibilities are not discriminated against, or automatically assumed to be less useful because they carry extra burdens outside their place of work. I would hold that successful and happy domestic life is just as important to our society as effective and contented work life. Indeed, I would argue that one cannot be achieved without the other.

The second aspect of the problem—That of enabling people to return to work after a period away—has had a detailed examination in the admirable Report by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. As she has pointed out, women are an underused labour resource, particularly in the skilled fields, and partly because of the problems which they have of re-entry into the labour market. These problems need a different solution from those associated with combining at the same time full-time work and heavy domestic responsibilities. It is important that employers should be ready to consider on their merits the older person, who has had some previous experience, equally with the young school-leaver who is embarking on a career for the first time. But, as Lady Seear has pointed out, if girls undertake relatively unskilled work on leaving school they will find it the more difficult to obtain opportunities for re-employment after an absence in order to have children; and because of the trend towards more skilled jobs and less unskilled jobs in the future. I recognise, and the Government recognise, that it is very important that girls should be encouraged by their families and by their schools to consider occupations, while they are still at school, which are not thought of necessarily as traditional women's occupations.

My Lords, that said, I should like to turn to the employment of women in the Civil Service. I have already claimed that the Civil Service is widely recognised as a good employer, by and large, of women —not perfect, but good. As the Report itself makes clear, there is a long tradition of non-discrimination in the Civil Service, and a number of women, of course, have reached the peaks in the Service. Many are familiar to us: Dame Mary Smeeton, for example; or Miss Riddelsdell, the distinguished Joint Permanent Secretary at present at the Department of Health and Social Security. Or there is that other famous mountaineer who has reached the peaks and who on all too rare occasions adds pith and pungency to our debates, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp—perhaps better known as Dame Evelyn Sharp. That is not to say that there is not a problem here. Many of the women who have got to the top, or very near the top in the Civil Service have not in fact had to carry the burden of full domestic responsibilities as well as a job.

Be that as it may, it was felt at the beginning of 1970, I think in the context of the post-Fulton reforms, that it would be a good thing to look again at these problems in the Civil Service. This led to the Committee on the Employment of Women in the Civil Service, whose Report we are debating to-day. I should like to take this opportunity of again and publicly stating how much I welcome this Report. I should like to thank, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has thanked, Mrs. Kemp-Jones, the chairman of the committee, and those members. both from within and without the Civil Service, who contributed to this Report. Again, since the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has already broken the rules, I will continue to break the rules and recognise the personal part which the head of the Civil Service, Sir William Armstrong, has played in this process. And again possibly breaking the rules, but perhaps not so extremely, I should like to suggest to your Lordships that the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, may have been unduly modest about the part which he himself played in the preparation of this Report.

My Lords, in any event, after all those avuncular pats on the back, I stated some weeks ago that I welcomed this Report and that it was being considered both by Departments and by the National Staff Side. I am now glad to be able to make it clear that, apart from one or two recommendations which require more study—and some of these are not unimportant ones; I will come to them—we have now decided that we can accept the recommendations of the Committee. We are now discussing with the National Staff Side the detailed advice and instructions which should go out throughout the Civil Service bringing into effect all those arrangements covering agreed points. I should like to say in this context how valuable I, like my predecessor, find the consultations which we have with the Staff Side in the spirit of "Whitleyism"; and I should like to pay tribute to the degree of responsibility which we meet on the other side of the fence in those discussions. It is my hope, in fact, that we should complete the discussions about implementing the agreed recommendations within the next week or so.

My Lords, the recommendations of the Committee can be found on pages 35 to 38 of their Report. I shall be saying later that it is my hope that this Report will represent something of a landmark in our national attitude towards the employment of women, and I therefore make no apology for taking your Lordships quickly through this catalogue. I shall try to pick out the more important recommendations and make it clear where we stand on them. I shall also make it clear where we have not yet come to a firm decision; and if I do not mention any recommendation it means that we have accepted it.

The first recommendation is that it should be open to both men and women to be considered for any job in the non-industrial Civil Service. Up until now, some jobs in the Civil Service have not been open to women. The Deputy Receiver for Wrecks had to be a man. So had the Government Butler in the C.S.D. So had the Jewel House Warder, and so had the Purse Bearer and Train Bearer to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. The Committee's recommendation has been accepted, and now Departments are being told to take steps to make certain that in future, except where there is a statutory bar on the employment of women, both men and women should be considered on equal terms for all jobs, and Departments should eliminate as soon as possible any obstacles, such as accommodation difficulties, which stand in the way of doing this. Whether my noble and learned friend will then have the pleasure of having a lady to robe and unrobe him is not perhaps a question which we should profitably pursue here.


My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that point, it would be fair to point out that there are others than robers and unrobers. There are cartographic surveyors, for instance; social investigators for supplementary benefits, and so on. I should not like the House to think that it is totally insignificant.


My Lords, there is in fact a long list, and I am afraid I have been judiciously selective in picking out the plums from it.

The next recommendation to which I wish to refer, and on which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I think rightly, laid a lot of stress, is that about unpaid leave to help women who wish to continue their Civil Service career but who are forced to abandon it, temporarily or permanently, because of the husband moving in the course of his own career. The Report recommends that in these circumstances a wife should receive unpaid leave of up to three years. We attach, too, great importance to this recommendation. It goes some way to deal with some of the problems on which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has touched, since it will enable ladies to retain a foothold in their job. My Lords, we are not only accepting this recommendation: we are also going somewhat further, since we are asking Departments, wherever possible, to try to find, if necessary with the help of my own Department, another suitable job for a civil servant who has had to move in order to accompany husband or wife, as the case may be.

The immediately following recommendation, Recommendation 6, presents real difficulties to us. There are a lot of people who have special problems fitting in their leave when they want it. A good example is the wish of many people with school-age children to take their leave during the summer holidays. The position is made no easier by the fact that many married women who are working also have school-age children, and it would not be fair to give them absolute priority at the same time as other staff with school-age children have a particular need or desire for leave themselves. Nevertheless, it is important that there should not be any artificial discrimination against married women who are working, and that Departments should recognise that they have a particular problem which is certainly more acute than the problems of some other people. Leave arrangements are, of course, arranged locally and we are drawing the attention of all concerned to the need to bear this particular problem in mind in reviewing their annual leave arrangements which they will do in consultation with their local Staff Sides.

One of the recommendations—the seventh recommendation, probably the most important to people who are having to cope with a full-time job and domestic responsibilities—is that Departments should use more widely their discretion in granting both paid and unpaid special leave for urgent domestic affairs; and that it should be unnecessary first to exhaust their annual leave. The problems caused by children's sudden illnesses or by some domestic crisis, are almost insuperable for many people if they cannot get away from work, and we hope that in future there will be a more enlightened attitude to these problems which cannot be foreseen.

I should like to draw your Lordships' particular attention to the two linked recommendations, Recommendations 8 and 9, dealing with maternity leave. To those women who decide to continue full-time unbroken employment while bringing up a family, their entitlement to a suitable period of maternity leave is of crucial importance. As will be seen from paragraph 30 of the Report, we consulted the Civil Service medical adviser about this matter and the recommendations for more liberal leave which the Committee have made embody his advice. I am glad to be able to say that these recommendations are being accepted and will be carried into effect.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt but I think it fair to point out that the Civil Service already have arrangements for maternity leave and that what is now proposed is only an improvement and not a radical departure. They are nearly up to the standard of the John Lewis Partnership.


My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right; but I think that in one respect the arrangements are rather better than those of the John Lewis Partnership. But perhaps that is a point we can argue later.

I apologise for going through these recommendations but I want to get them in the open because I believe that this Report may be something of a watershed if we can set the tone in the Civil Service on these matters. I now turn to the tenth recommendation, on part-time work. I am glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, touched on this issue since it was, in the words of the Committee. "the most important and far-reaching issue "which they had to consider. It is indeed at the heart of many of the problems which we are discussing to-day and is also the area where the most entrenched attitudes are to be found, attitudes that hold that people should either work or attend to family responsibilities. I should like to see a growing awareness that we can and should regulate the hours we work in relation to our family needs. In a situation where technological advances continue to reduce the amount of effort needed to sustain and improve our standard of living, it seems that this is the time to consider the question of what we mean by a "full-time job. The Census taken this year is going to enable us to become much more precise in our consideration of employment for less than the normal full week. In that Census we were asked, not whether we worked full-time or part-time, but for how long we usually worked in the week. It is extremely important to begin to concentrate our attention on the number of hours worked and not on "full-time" as opposed to "part-time" work, the latter inevitably bearing a second-class status.

I am well aware that such a far reaching reconsideration will take time, and that meanwhile we must try to provide "part-time" jobs for those whose domestic responsibilities prevent them from working full-time. In this respect, we are, in the light of the Report, exhorting Departments from the centre, from my own Department, to consider whether they can provide more part-time jobs in the particular circumstances mentioned by the Committee, and in particular where somebody who can only work part-time has a particular quality or expertise which is valuable to the Service. We have also asked that where part-time work is available preference should be given to people who cannot work full-time because of their domestic responsibilities. On this, I would say that I was personally interested in what the noble Lord had to say about "twinning". I think that this is a possibility and that there are possibilities which can be further pursued. It will certainly be a possibility which we shall not lose sight of at the centre in the administration of the Civil Service.

My Lords, one of the trends which we can see at present is for an increasing number of women with dependant children to work. In 1961, something like one-third of the women with dependant children in this country were in employment and within five years—by 1966—that proportion had increased to just over half. This is really a startling change. I think it would be realistic to recognise that this is a trend which is likely to continue whether we like it or not. We must give increasing attention to how to overcome the problem of separation of children from their parents in daytime, which this trend undoubtedly causes. Noble Lords have touched on some of the wider aspects of this problem and I can revert to them if necessary. Meanwhile, your Lordships will note Recommendation No. 11: that we should establish at least one nursery for an experimental period of 4 years for the children of civil servants in an area outside London. We are now considering in detail how we can best carry out this recommendation.

The next important recommendation, Recommendation 15, is designed to ease the problems of single women responsible for elderly or infirm dependants or relatives. The problems facing such women can be agonizing and acute, and they, unlike married people, often have less moral or financial support in coping with this sort of problem. I personally believe that the Report's recommendation will go a long way towards easing the position here, and I am glad to be able to confirm that Departments will be encouraged to deal as sympathetically as possible with this problem, whether it involves men or women.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has drawn attention, and rightly so, to the importance of the recommendations in the Report which bear on return to work. Two of these recommendations, Recommendations 22 and 23, relate to training. These recommendations have been accepted and the Civil Service Department will be asked to make the necessary arrangements to carry them out. I am glad that this is so since I am sure myself that suitable training provision can do a great deal to ease the path of a man or woman returning to the Service after what may have been a long absence due to domestic responsibilities or problems. Training of this sort is not only necessary from the professional and technical standpoint, but can also do a great deal to build up the confidence—and noble Lords alluded to the confidence factor—of someone of this sort coming back to work after a long absence.

The other recommendations which bear on return to work, Recommendations 16 to 21, deal with the more complicated and intractable problem of reinstatement. These recommendations are still under study in my Department, still under consideration with the national Staff Side. I would ask noble Lords to accept that. I recognise the importance of the issues raised in this part of the Report. To my mind it is crucial that men or women coming back to the Service in this way come back to jobs in which they are fully stretched and which are not below their abilities and their skills. We need to make generous and liberal provision in this sense otherwise we will only breed frustration. Nevertheless, my Lords, the issues here are involved and complex, and bear on quite difficult matters of equity as between employee and employee. I would hope therefore that noble Lords will accept from me that we are as keen as they are to make progress in this field, but that we also recognise that this is one of the areas where we need to get as high a common factor of agreement as possible.

My Lords, the final point bearing on the recommendations touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was the hope which he expressed that we should monitor progress closely. In fact, what he said closely parallels the final recommendation in the Report, Recommendation No. 25, and I can inform noble Lords that it is the intention of my Department to do precisely what Recommendation No. 25 asks for. We propose to carry out this review towards the end of 1973 and we will publish our findings when we have carried out that review.

My Lords, so much for our attitude towards the Civil Service Report. I hope that it is an indication that in this, as in other areas, we are maintaining the momentum, the impetus, of the post-Fulton reform of the Civil Service. I realise that the Motions before us go wider than the Civil Service and cover both the public sector and also the private sector. I think that I have already spoken too long. If there are points covering the non-Civil Service aspects which arise in the course of the discussion, and which require an answer, I will answer them at the end of the debate; although I view this rather as a consultative discussion, and I would not propose to answer at any length unless there are particular points which noble Lords wish me to try to answer.

My Lords, may I say, in conclusion, that I am sure we are all anxious to get ahead with seeking solutions to the problems which have been raised by the two noble Lords and the noble Baroness who were the opening speakers in the debate. At the same time, I am sure that the noble Baroness is right in saying that we must recognise that there are many entrenched attitudes which must be changed before real progress can be made. Nevertheless, my Lords, it is my hope—and I think I am echoing the spirit of one of the Motions before us, if not both of them—that the Report on The Employment of Women in the Civil Service will become, outside the Civil Service, something of a landmark, or a benchmark, for the future for both employers and also employees; for associations of employers as well as for the trade unions. I believe that the Report is important in itself and important for the Civil Service, and I think that perhaps in the long run it may be even more important for sectors outside the Civil Service.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, I deem myself fortunate to-day in that I am following the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and therefore may be the first to thank him for what he has said, in so far as the Government are prepared to accept all these recommendations—with a few reservations, which I think the whole House appreciates is fair, having regard to the fact that many of them need a little further consideration. I must confess, my Lords, that when the noble Earl got to his feet I was filled with gloom. I do not know whether he realises it, but he opened his remarks by saying that he had "mixed feelings" about women and he used the same expression about smoking at Question Time. And, I thought, this is a curious man who, at his age, has not settled the problem of whether he likes women and smoking or whether it still has to be resolved.


My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that I have given up smoking.


May ask the noble Earl whether next time when these two questions arise—smoking and women—he will stand at that Box and tell the House that he knows where he stands on both subjects; and I promise that I will sit here and listen to him, and applaud.

What the noble Earl has said has been fortunate for the House. I am sure that it will considerably reduce the length of the speeches which are to come as we need not deal with so many of the details in the Reports. But this is a unique occasion. I came into the other place in 1938, and during all this period I have never before heard a debate on, let us say, women, led by two male Members. To-day the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, have led a debate which, after all, is concerned with the conditions of service of women and the removal of discrimination. Indeed, my Lords, "Women's Lib." might well be proud of you all to-day. May I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. She is a wonderful addition to our House and I look forward to reading her book. I shall use it for my bedside reading for some nights to come and I would add that I can see nothing better for women than that it should be a best seller.

There is someone else, my Lords, whom I wish to mention. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, mentioned him as though it were a hush-hush matter, but I am not going to mention him as a hush-hush matter. I am going to mention him as that man of stature—Sir William Armstrong. We are extremely fortunate in having Sir William Armstrong as the Chief of our Civil Service. Sir William was fortunate, in his turn, in having an outstanding mother. I invite those of your Lordships who have not yet met Sir William, when you do, to ask him to tell you about his mother. She is a wonderful woman and I am sure she must have influenced him. I feel sure that somehow this debate may be attributable to her influence. I am delighted to think that we shall have Sir William with us for many more years.

Of course, my Lords, this debate really is an anachronism. It is a sad commentary on human nature that when men reach high places they too often forget the idealism of their youth.


Hear, hear!


My Lords, one of the things I missed in life was not knowing the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, in his youth. I have heard so much about it.


My Lords, I was quite a boy!


My Lords, I understand that he was; good looking—everything.


Yes, my Lords!


My Lords, if the men who come to both your Lordships' House and also to another place were still inspired by the idealism of their youth, we should not, in 1971, be having this debate on the question of how to help a woman to combine the physiological function of child-rearing with a useful and rewarding career for which she had been trained. To noble Lords who ask, "Should she do both things?" I would sum up the matter in this way. Like a man, a woman has certain physiological functions; but at the same time she has a brain which can either be stimulated or be left to decay. I use the word "decay" very carefully, because a woman who is denied any stimulation to the brain often becomes a half individual, and we are now talking about the physical, mental and spiritual needs of half the adult population of this country.

I think it is appropriate to-day to recall the Preamble to the United Nations Charter which proclaims: We, the people of the United Nations, determined …to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person. in the equal rights of men and women … It was the Secretary-General, U Thant, who said: Governments cannot by themselves face the great and shifting problems of our age in isolation. The people they represent must also give life and reality to the aims and ideals of the United Nations Charter towards which we strive. To-day in this debate we are seeking to inject a small measure of life and reality into the question of equal rights for men and women. No doubt, on reading the Report of this debate many people will say: "Why has not this all happened before? Why have not women been agitating?" My Lords, some of you who have been with me in this House and in another place are by now bored to tears at hearing me talk about these matters. One is almost reluctant to say it again in case one is charged with boring repetition. But I must remind the House that the Status of Women Commission of the United Nations has been meeting since 1946. This consists of a group of dedicated women in New York who are discussing the problems we have been discussing to-day. Because of this, it may be thought that this debate should be regarded as an anachronism. On the contrary, Parliaments throughout the world, which are predominantly male, are so reluctant to ratify the recommendations of the Status of Women Commission that it seems that it will be meeting for at least another 25 years.

The fact that women have secured the vote in so many countries is only an indication of political freedom, not of political power. While the vote recognises women's equality, it does not give equality to them. To-day women are demanding release from more subtle forms of discrimination which are exercised by men in all classes and of all degrees of intelligence. Last week in this Chamber and in another place thousands of words were uttered in the denunciation of prejudice shown in Rhodesia towards black people by the whites. This House sat for two days, sat on the first night until a late hour, and the other House had many speakers on the subject. To-day, in this debate, prejudice reveals its ugly head. I had hoped to-day, after last week, to see a packed Chamber of men rising up to denounce discrimination and prejudice on their own doorstep against their own womenfolk, as they stood up last week and denounced prejudice and discrimination against the blacks. Women have a great deal in common with coloured people. In any competition, both have to climb hurdles six inches higher than do their competitors.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has given a list of industries and organisations where women are only just represented. We need only go to our universities, where we might expect an intelligent approach to this matter, for a demonstration of blatant discrimination. May I put on record a short article in The Times of last Friday. December 3, under the heading "No lib here": Universities are the natural homes of social, racial and sexual equality—or are they? At this month's meeting of the Association of University Teachers, staff from St. David's, Lampeter …will be revealing some embarrassing facts. Out of 3,281 professors at 71 university institutions, exactly 44 are women, and for historical reasons 22 of these are at London University, which embraces some formerly women-only colleges. Oxford and Cambridge apart, no other university has more than two female professors, and some of the largest, like Manchester and Liverpool, have none…. And what of the liberated spirits of St. David's, Lampeter, who are raising the issue? They have six professors. All men. I hope it will not be thought that the recommendations, which the noble Earl tells us are accepted by the Government, are conferring special favours on women. I believe that homemaking should be regarded as a tripartite responsibility, borne by the mother, the father and the State. Nevertheless, quite understandably, as the noble Earl has said, the wife and mother will always be called upon to bear the major part of the work entailed in rearing a family. Her maternal gifts are instinctive. But we also have to realise (I do not want to go too far from the matter of the debate) that the ductless glands are such that paternal instinct can also be as strong, in some cases, as the maternal, and the noble Earl who talked about the father having greater responsibility is quite right in his approach.

Unfortunately, convention always condemns the man to play what is called a "tough" part, and the poor creature has to go and fight in the playing field or do something which convention says is masculine, whereas, for the sake of his children, of his son and of these delinquent boys, how much better would it be for society and for the man if he spent a great deal more time with his children!Convention forbids him. Therefore, in this matter it is not for women but for men to try to bend convention in such a way that a father recognises that his first duty should be to stay more with his children. As I have said, the women undoubtedly must bear the greater part of the burden, and for that reason I feel that the country should welcome this Report and the fact that these recommendations have been accepted as a contribution to the home and to the propagation of the race.

As they have been accepted, I want to mention only one or two of the recommendations. The recommendation for increasing maternity leave will not prove burdensome, having regard to the decreasing size of the family. The population experts now advise women to have, if possible, only one child. Apparently in future the spinster will be such a valuable member of our community, because she has not produced children, that she may even be subsidised by the Government because her married sisters have produced babies and so increased pollution! However I suppose that we shall all be dead by the time that comes. The only objection will come from bachelors, but I never worrry about them, because in my opinion they represent a privileged minority already.

I am glad to see, and it is certainly in keeping with the problems associated with our ageing population, that concessions are being made to women who have an aged father or mother at home. Indeed, this part of the Report is geared to the social needs of the elderly and infirm. But on the subject of promotion, the Committee have done less than their duty by failing to point out that discrimination does exist. We cannot assess discrimination anywhere in terms of a table of figures. The only people who know that discrimination exists in the Civil Service are those who work there. It may be difficult for the civil servant himself or herself to complain, but Ministers are right in the middle of it and see what is happening. I have seen able women passed over for men far inferior in intelligence and ability. It is significant that to-day, though we have Miss Riddell as a Joint Permanent Secretary, there is no woman Permanent Secretary in the Civil Service. When we do produce able women, we are all statutory woman. We are women in the shop window. And men say, "Look, it is a woman "in order to satisfy their consciences. One senior Minister is a woman and one surveyor. Some of the figures which the noble Baroness gave must make men blush. The Committee try to salve their consciences in this matter by recommending that: Wherever practicable Departments should arrange for promotion boards to consist of both men and women. This enables every prejudiced Permanent Secretary to escape from his duty by calling in aid the words, "wherever practicable". The one thing that I ask should be deleted from this Report are those words "wherever practicable". I suggest that it should be a "must" that there should be a mixed committee on the subject of promotion.

I welcome the recommendations dealing with the provision of nurseries. This is not new: I saw it in other countries many years ago; and as your Lordships know, we have asked progressive hospitals to provide nurseries in the hospitals for the children of nurses and women doctors. But these things will not be done unless there is a great deal of prodding from people interested in these matters.

Finally—because most of this has been accepted—may I say this. Some of us sit back here and purr a little, and say: "We have advanced a little further". Legislation cannot abolish prejudice—prejudice is irrational—but it can create a climate of opinion in which prejudice finds it hard to grow. That is what we are hoping. We are trying all the time to get through Private Members' Bills, little pieces of legislation, in order to defeat those enemies of women, prejudice and custom. The only effective weapon against prejudice, of course, is education, where boys and girls at school and at home are taught to believe in equal human rights for men and women. My last word is this. Fathers must learn that the women's cause is the men's cause: they rise or fall together.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness who has just sat down that legislation cannot abolish prejudice; and if that is so, neither can I. A certain number of her statements seem to me to show just a touch of prejudice. I do not think I will go further on that, except perhaps to say that statistically there are other reasons why there are, for instance, more men professors than women professors. Women do get married and they like to rear their families—many women want to rear a family. I am sure that the noble Baroness would be the first to agree with me that they should have every opportunity of opting a little out of the rat race for a few years while the children are young. For all that she said about men playing their part in this —and I quite agree—the fact remains that men do not rear their children; and if the women are out of the rat race for perhaps seven, eight or ten years in the formative stage of careers, it stands to reason, without any prejudice at all, that, regretful though it may be, the men will get ahead of them. So I do not think this is purely a matter of prejudice.

I would strongly advise the noble Baroness, if she wants to attack prejudice, to attack the Athenaeum; but that is not what we are discussing to-day. The noble Baroness also referred to the fact that she would have hoped to see a packed Chamber. I agree that it is not quite a packed Chamber, but again there may be other reasons for that. It may be that the battle is already half or three-quarters won, and that to-day we are not so much discussing principles as discussing the best way in which our principles can be carried out and translated into legislation, in so far as that can be done.

I understand that the two Motions before your Lordships are being taken together, and there is, as it were, a common list of speakers. What I have to say is really about women in medicine, and therefore it comes much more under Lord Hanworth's Motion than under that of Lord Shackleton. In the Royal Commission on Medical Education our terms of reference were such that we had to consider not only purely educational matters but also medical manpower, the need for training doctors and the number of doctors who should be trained: and in this of course we had to take into account the training of women and of men, and we had to consider the total value of women to men in medicine. I should like to quote to your Lordships two short extracts from the Report of the Royal Commission on Medical Education, which was published in 1968, with regard to the entrance of women into medicine. We said: The work of women medical students is widely acknowledged to be better on the average than that of men students, though this may simply reflect more stringent selection. This is a point that I thought the noble Baroness might take up. It is obvious, even if standards of selection are as fair as they can possibly be, that if there are only 20 places for women out of a total of 100 places, it is going to be somewhat more difficult for women to get into a medical school, and the selection is to that extent more difficult. However, with regard to the entry of women into medical schools, we said, in paragraph 303: We think the imposition of an arbitrary upper limit on the number of women admitted to the medical course would imply that obstacles which at present prevent full use of the capacities of women doctors were being accepted as insurmountable. The adoption of such a defeatist attitude is in our view unnecessary and would have most unfortunate consequences for medicine at a time when women have increasing opportunities for entry to and advancement in other professions. This, I think, was a reasonably fair statement.

If I may abbreviate a good many discussions that we had on the question of women and medicine, we felt that there were at that time—that is to say, at the time when we were sitting—three deterrents to a successful career in medicine for women. One was a lack of suitable jobs, especially part-time jobs, which many women could pursue and would wish to pursue, even though still having certain family responsibilites from which they could not escape. The second was the tax situation, which was very unfair, especially to a woman married to a man in a reasonably good position, because her income would immediately be added to his and the whole lot would be charged to surtax. The third deterrent was the lack of facilities for re-training, because of all subjects medicine has, perhaps, been advancing most rapidly in recent years; and if you are out of medicine even for five years you feel pretty well out of date when you come back to it. We felt that there was an absence of reasonable facilities for re-training, again, so far as possible, on a part-time basis.

My Lords, preparatory to making these few remarks I have made some inquiries as to what extent the situation has changed since we issued our Report in 1968. I am very glad to be able to acquaint your Lordships with the fact that it seems to be generally considered by bodies such as the Medical Women's Federation that conditions have improved a great deal. The opportunities for women wanting to secure jobs in medicine have increased and improved but this, as they say, may be due to the shortage of medical manpower, rather than to any determined decisions to enable women to obtain jobs more easily. The tax situation, at any rate, has been greatly improved by the latest Finance Bill, though there is still the disincentive that it costs a family a large amount of money to secure adequate help in the house to replace a woman who is in employment. But, I suppose we cannot have everything as perfect as we should like.

Thirdly, we come to the re-training of women who have been out of, or virtually out of, medicine for some years. Here again I am informed that the Department of Health and Social Security have been extremely helpful in trying to create opportunities for women, even when their families are quite small, to keep a foothold in medicine. Postgraduate centres have been established with courses by means of which women may keep up to date in medicine when not actually practising it. Part-time jobs, not requiring too much time and responsibility, have also been made available. In these ways women can retain a foothold and come back to medicine either full-time or maximum part-time later on, when their family responsibilities are less. The bottleneck, I am informed, is not so much in the Department of Health and Social Security itself as in the hospital boards, who say that they have not the money to create the necessary number of part-time posts, supernumerary posts, and so forth. This is an area in which the Department might help, perhaps by being more definite in their recommendations to boards of governors and Regional Hospital Boards.

In a recent number of the Journal of the Medical Women's Federation, subjects related to those I am talking about to-day were discussed, and it was pointed out, with regard to suitable part-time facilities for retraining, that whereas the Oxford and South-West Metropolitan Regions had each created over 100 supernumerary posts, Birmingham had asked for two, Sheffield for three, Newcastle for four, and Leeds and Liverpool for none. I am sorry to mention names, my Lords, but perhaps there are times when it does a bit of good to do so. At any rate, the situation cannot be satisfactory if two Regional Hospital Boards have created over 100 supernumerary posts and certain others have created none at all. The discrepancy is too big to be explained away.

Finally, I am informed that if a certain amount of money could in some way be earmarked for the creation of posts of this kind it would be very helpful, particularly if the money so earmarked could in some way be made "mobile". As several Members of your Lordships' House have remarked to-day, women at this stage in their lives, when they have young families and so on, are often mobile as a result of their husband's occupation—for instance, if a husband is in academic work they may have to move from, say, Nottingham to Newcastle. When this occurs it may present very considerable difficulties, because the facilities that they may have had in one region are not necessarily available in another. I would therefore ask (though I do not expect any specific answer to-day) that the Department should look into this question of the general provision of suitable part-time retraining posts which women might hold at this period of their lives, and that some way should be found to ensure that they are more evenly distributed throughout the country.


My Lords, the noble Lord spoke of financial disincentives. Would he not agree that another serious one is that the incomes of a married couple are put together and taxed as one, so that if they are both earning a reasonable income they will probably have to pay surtax?


Yes, my Lords. I thought I made it clear that I had that in mind; but if I have not, I am grateful to the noble Lord for pointing it out.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should very much like to add my welcome to this enlightened Report The Employment of Women in the Civil Service. Although I myself have never been employed by the Civil Service, I believe it to be true that in regard to its treatment of women employees the Civil Service has often been a pioneer and is undoubtedly better than many other employers both in this country and in the Civil Services of other countries of the world. In my experience of reading reports, the answers that are given depend very much on the questions originally asked, and in this particular case if the Civil Service really wants women employees of all grades—and to-day this must mean married women employees—then I hope that it will implement those recommendations which will make it possible for a married women to do her job effectively and at the same time make a home for her family. I am therefore very pleased that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has this afternoon reassured us on these points.

The first question which must be asked is: why have women employees at all? This question has certainly been raised in connection with the unemployment situation which exists to-day. Paragraph 3 on page 8 of the Report indicates, I think, that the Service in fact depends on women employees; but surely from the point of view of the need of the country at large it is a tremendous waste of national resources for the country not to make proper use of fully-qualified married women, whether in the Civil Service, in the professions or in industry. Twenty-eight per cent. of those attending universities to-day are women, and to think that they might make use of their training for perhaps only one or two years indicates a great national wastage. May I add at this point that the fact that the Government have changed the tax system for those married women whose income was formerly taxed jointly with their husbands and which is now taxed separately is most welcome.

I should like to look in some detail at three of the recommendations which seem to apply particularly to women who are trying to do a full-time or part-time job and, at the same time, bring up a family. The first point on which I should like to comment concerns nursery schools. I cannot possibly cap the delightful story of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, but I cannot help being slightly surprised that it required a Departmental Committee to make so eminently sensible a suggestion as the proposal of having a nursery school attached to the place of employment. After all, it is the women who are apt to have the babies!I would have hoped that this proposal would be carried much further. I have looked through the tables of statistics, and it is impossible to identify how many women in the Civil Service might be able to make use, or would need to make use, of nursery facilities. If one experimental nursery is established to take 40 small children, then this must be a small number of children in comparison with the total number of women who could benefit from such a facility. The statistics of the wastage rate seem to suggest that it is women at the age of 30 or 31, when they might well be expected to have started their family, who most frequently leave their employment.

On the matter of cost, I see no reason in principle for not making a charge. However, if the nursery facility is intended to help women, there is no point in imposing so high a charge that it will take up almost all the income that a woman is earning. This particularly applies to the executive grades. If a woman is earning between £1,500 and £2,000 a year, and if after paying tax and insurance she has then to pay, say, between £4 and £6.50 a week for the nursery provision, there is not going to be a great deal of her income left. Hence I welcome the acceptance in paragraph 44 that some subsidy may be necessary.

I inquired of people who had been working in the Civil Service for some time about the possible siting of nurseries in the Civil Service. The suggestion has been made to me that it might be a good idea to have one at Newcastle, which is the headquarters of the Department of Health and Social Security. There are a large number of Civil Service Departments at Croydon; there are large Departments at Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff. I stress this point, because it is the practical difficulty of having small children and doing a job which often prevents women from continuing in a career. There is a tremendous advantage in having a nursery at your place of work and not having to do a double journey every day—taking your child to one place and then going on to work at another. At the end of the day you would have to fetch the child and then return home.

I support the hope of the Department of Education and Science in providing far more nursery schools. It will be a long time before a sufficient number will he provided for all the married women who need to make use of them. I suspect that one reason why nurseries have not been provided is really a psychological one. Many people still think that somehow it is not right for women to have children and not to bring them up entirely themselves, all day long, seven days a week. Society has a habit of generalising about women and sometimes it says, "Women ought not to work; they ought to stay at home and look after their families." They leave out those women who, for a variety of reasons—and it must be understood and accepted as valid that there are a great many reasons—wish to have a family and do a job.

When I was considering what to say to-day to overcome what I felt might be a prejudice on, the part of some of your Lordships about nursery schools, I tried to think of what would be the most appealing argument that I could put forward. I could not help reflecting on how many noble Lords must have been brought up by that splendid institution, the English nannie. "Nannie" has a great many virtues, one of the greatest being that she is able to give the small child her undivided attention and spend an enormous amount of time on the child. If I may say so without disrespect to either nannies or mothers, "Nannie" is probably able to devote far more time on bringing up children than the average mother. Imagine the mother in the home with all the household tasks that there are to do. Obviously, the amount of time that she can give to playing with small children is limited in the course of the day.

This brings me to my second reason why the climate of opinion ought to be such that we ought to welcome children going to nursery schools. Not only are there people in those schools who can give a small child their undivided attention, but frequently they can provide far better facilities than at home. There is far more space in which to play, and there is no reason whatever for supposing that the child cannot be equally happy. I am not in any sense suggesting that every child should be brought up by the State; all I am saying is in this particular way the employer, or the State, can supplement what the mother does without any injury to the child.

Now may I turn to responsibility for the elderly. I read with great interest paragraphs 52 and 53. Inevitably in society, it is nearly always the woman who has the care of elderly relatives. In the case of women in employment, this frequently falls to them when they are in their forties. Possibly by this time they are holding down a responsible job, and it is almost certainly when they have reached the stage when their family is almost grown up. Suddenly, the woman finds that she has to care for someone who is very dear to her but old, ill, quite possibly bereaved and needing companionship as well as care. Later on, frequently she finds that she has to nurse someone over a long and deeply distressing terminal illness. It seems to me that this enlightened provision to be able to take unpaid leave, to be able to take off a day or two when there is a crisis, a real need, is something that is invaluable.

My last point deals with women returning to work after a period of bringing up a family. Among my many contemporaries I was one of the few people who did not support my husband in our early married days. I was at a party of postgraduate students about a fortnight ago and I was interested to find that almost every student was being supported by his wife. This is really a quite common custom. Perhaps this is not so in your Lordships' House, but let me assure you that, up and down the country, this is common for the first two or three years of married life. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Plan, will agree with me that it is very common for medical students to be supported by their wives. It is also something which is very common for lawyers, so there you have two dignified professions. After a period of three or four years the wife starts her family and decides to give up work. Ten years later she returns to her work. This is a common pattern. The Department of Education and Science was extremely successful in persuading a large number of women to return to teaching. The medical profession has been successful up to a point in getting a number of nurses who have been in very short supply to return to nursing.

One of the most important factors is the attitude of the employers. I well remember a friend of mine who was an economist who decided, having brought up three boys, that she would return to work. She said that when she returned from her first interview she had never felt so humiliated in all her life. She felt as if she were a 15year-old being asked to make the tea. She said: "Here am I; I've had fifteen years of total responsibility in my own home, bringing up my family and taking vital decisions. I went in there and felt as if I were about two inches high. Even if they had offered me the job, I wouldn't have taken it." I think this feeling exists to a large extent. You have to bring yourself to go for the interview, and if the reception at the other end is not a favourable one you simply will not take the job—even when it is a job society very badly needs you to do, such as nursing or teaching.

I hope that, when the Civil Service implements these proposals, in approaching them it will not look on everything that has to do with married women, or women in general, as a sort of branch of a welfare department, because somehow we require to prop up the poor in our society. It seems to me that women who choose to do a full-time job and bring up a family are doing valuable work, and the attitude in the Civil Service should be that it is an accepted part of the establishment department to ensure that these proposals are carried out.

In conclusion, my Lords, I would say only that I think that if we look at the attitude that was taken to women who worked during the war we shall realise that adequate provision was always made when it was necessary to have their help. The terms of this Motion go far beyond the Civil Service and the need to keep women in employment in those two vital professions, by tradition dominated by women, teaching and nursing, as well as in industry to-day. I very much welcome this debate, not only because it provides an opportunity to discuss an important Report, but because I believe it will help to create a climate of opinion which will encourage women to have professional careers as well as to bring up a family and so make their full contribution to society.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, I would wish to join in the general welcome which has been given to this debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Shackleton and, I think I might fairly say, supported by his successor in office. We are indeed delighted that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was able to announce the acceptance of so many of the recommendations; and I quite understand that other recommendations need careful consideration and negotiation, no doubt, where matters of equity as between one member of the Service and another may be in question. We should once again remind ourselves of the magnitude of the problem we are considering this evening. We do not yet have the benefit of the Census figures, but I hope that with modern computerisation we may have an analysis of the figures much more rapidly than has been the case in the past. But we know enough already to realise that well over one-third of the total labour force in this country consists of women and that more than half of these are married. And I was much interested when the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said that a very high proportion of the women also have dependent children. So we are dealing with an extremely important position. I was particularly happy that Lord Jellicoe made it quite clear that the Government have accepted the first of these recommendations, because in a sense this is the most important of all. It is that everybody shall be considered for any particular post strictly on merit and on suitability, and that therefore no applicant should be barred from a job solely because one is a woman, or in certain cases because one is a man.

I was interested in this because in the last year I have had the opportunity of attending two international seminars on this subject of women at work, one in the Federal Republic of Germany and the other more recently in Moscow. In each case the participants were women of some standing in their own country, from both East and West Europe—in other words, from the two main economic systems. I found this very stimulating because we had some lively discussions on the different attitudes towards women at work in the two kinds of society. In the Eastern countries it is of course taken for granted that a woman will work after marriage and after child-bearing, and that every facility will be made available for her by way of nurseries, public laundries, and in arrangements at did factory for her domestic requirements. That in itself is fairly common knowledge. What I found more interesting was the much greater lack of discrimination between men's work and women's work. It was interesting to be told, for example, that in the Soviet Union approximately one-third of qualified engineering workers are women, that about one-third of the agricultural and veterinary officers are women, and that in medicine nearly three-quarters of the medically qualified personnel are women. There may be degrees of qualification; nevertheless, three-quarters of the total medical force in the Soviet Union are women. That means, among oilier things, that they have a more highly developed industrial medical service; but that is by the way.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness knows very well (although I do not know whether it has any bearing on what she is saying) that this of course was a very deliberate policy. The Soviet Union lost, I think, about 10 million men during the War.


My Lords, I am entirely in agreement with the noble Lord on that point. All I am pointing out is that this is so, and that in a country of that size they are able to get along with women as engineers, veterinary surgeons and doctors, without having found that the service necessarily suffered in consequence.


It can be done, my Lords.


It can be done: precisely. Therefore, my Lords, I was especially happy to feel that the Government are setting an example in this matter and saying that people should be judged on their merits and suitability, without necessarily having regard to whether they are men or women.

I was also interested in our discussions between East and West in some other attitudes which differ from ours. For example, in the Soviet Union women are entitled to retire on pension at a very much younger age than are men. In other words, that country has the concept, as it appears to me, that a young woman can tackle the double job of looking after a home and doing another job when she is at the peak of her physical vigour, but that later on she should be given, if she wishes, the opportunity to retire somewhat earlier than a man. This of course has an important bearing on the structure of family life because it means there are quite a large number of relatively active grandmothers who can make life easier for the younger women who work outside the home. This is not entirely without significance, I think, in the family pattern.

On the question of nurseries and looking after one's own children, again we had great arguments because most of us who came from a Western pattern of society adopted what was for us the normally accepted attitude that a child needs a mother, or an effective mother substitute, in the early years. To that, with quite genuine astonishment, the Soviet and other Eastern women responded by saying: "After all, most women have not been trained to look after young children. If they have been trained to do so, they should not confine their skills to their own children; they should be in nurseries or nursery schools looking after a larger number of children"—an argument not entirely easy to refute. I should be interested to see whether, not a nursery school but a nursery, presumably (because there is a difference between the two) could be established for those working in the public service. I hope that it might not necessarily be confined to the Civil Service, in the narrow sense.

Here again, however, there are problems that arise. A nursery school, of course, is child-orientated and is concerned with the upbringing of the child; a nursery is mother-orientated and is established primarily to enable the mother to leave her children there while she works. There are differences, and my own experience—and I have had some experience in this field—leads me to suppose that for children up to about two years of age one is sometimes apt to be employing skilled womanpower, at very great expense, in order to release unskilled womanpower. There may be a distinction to be made between looking after young babies, where there is a danger of cross-infection, and so on, which really absorbs a great deal of skilled attention simply in order to release mothers who may not be doing skilled work, and looking after slightly older children. Perhaps the Civil Service Department might take the lead in working out the cost/benefit, in terms of womanpower, for different age groups of small children.

Leaving that interesting but relatively minor matter on one side, the type of thing that interests me especially is the prospects of training for work and the prospect of promotion once a job has been obtained. I think that there is a good deal of prejudice—more, I grant, in private industry than in the public service—about training women, because it is supposed that they will marry and therefore the expense of training will be a less good investment than if it is bestowed upon a man. This is part of the difficulty with which one has been faced in the medical profession. However, it is not only true of the professions; it is also true of industry. It is difficult for a girl to obtain an apprenticeship or training in various types of skilled industrial work. This is partly because of the concept of women's work, on the one hand, and men's work, on the other. There is still a good deal of prejudice in this sphere. I believe there is a feeling among certain men in industry that if a woman can do a job then a man loses something of his sense of importance; the job is felt to be not quite so good as he thought it was if a woman proves that she is capable of doing it. With the steady elimination of work processes which require considerable strength, and the replacement of heavy manual labour by machines, there should be all the more opportunity for women to join in. One just wonders whether in fact there will be.

When it comes to promotion I think there are both genuine difficulties and difficulties that are due to prejudice. In the sphere of genuine difficulties I fully accept that the pattern of a woman's working life, where she is apt to leave in order to start a family at a relatively early age, makes it more difficult, and I think we should consciously face this difficulty in order to secure a remedy. The modern tendency for even earlier marriage than hitherto, and the consequent starting of a family at a very young age, means that quite often a woman retires, at any rate for a temporary period, at a point where she has not yet obtained a particularly responsible position. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, rightly said, when that woman wishes to return to work people are apt entirely to overlook the way in which she will have matured in the interim. She is regarded as someone who, having left at a certain point, should, at best, be reinstated at about that point. This is an entirely mistaken idea: she should surely be reconsidered and re-interviewed as the person which she has become and not as the person she was when she left, maybe in her early twenties. She may well need a course of re-training and bringing up to date, as the noble Lord, Lord Platt, rightly said in the case of medicine; but her maturity as a person ought to be taken fully into account. Quite often it is not.

There were some interesting observations in the P.E.P. Report Women in Top Jobs as to the deleterious effect on a woman's career of leaving the Civil Service or the B.B.C. temporarily for family reasons in her late twenties or early thirties, which was the very time when, among the men, the "high flyers were being identified and encouraged. This again is a fact of life which one has to accept. but one would ask that those responsible for reinstating women should give them the benefit of the doubt when they can, and recognise that while they may have lost out by comparison with their male colleagues who have established themselves, they should at least be given credit for much wider experience and responsibility, even if of a different kind.

But, my Lords, there is also still the difficulty of prejudice in the woman's career. We have surveys conducted in this country into the position of women in relation to managerial jobs in industry and commerce, particularly in industry. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned that only some 5 per cent. of women in these occupations are in any kind of managerial job, which of course is far below the total proportion of women working in these spheres. To some extent, I think it is quite clear that there is discrimination not only against women but by women against themselves. There is a certain amount of self-discrimination. This again one must recognise. There are women, with whom one has sympathy, who quite frankly do not wish to have positions of too great responsibility in their work because they want to spread their interest between their work and their home. However, one would urge that because this is true of many women it is not true of all women, and therefore the individual woman should be looked at in relation to her own character and circumstances, and if she is capable of taking a really responsible managerial job she should be given that job. I am quite certain that in this particular sphere of promotion to managerial positions there is still a great deal of prejudice and that this should be overcome.

Finally, my Lords, there is the problem of the relationship in marriage between husband and wife and how far this should affect the prospects of either of them. I remember when I was a Minister in the Foreign Office I looked around and tried desperately to find some woman who could be posted as an ambassador, because I felt we had fallen well behind the Scandinavian countries in that respect. We did have one very distinguished woman in the Diplomatic Service who was an ambassador designate, but unfortunately she fell dangerously ill and was unable to take up her post. We have never yet had a woman ambassador and I feel this is rather to be deplored. When I made inquiries I was told, "Oh well. Minister, any of the women who might have been suitable have married". I swallowed slightly and said "Well, that may be so; but I suppose it would be possible for their husbands to accompany them, and it would be at least possible that if a man knew that his wife was going to be an ambassador somewhere he might be willing to adjust his own career". However that situation has still not come about.

I was much interested in the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the changing pattern of the working day and the working week. I am sure this is something that we must consider carefully. And we should try to consider it as far as possible in relation to family life, because I believe that among the younger generation there is a modification of sex roles in the family, and that 20 years hence this subject may be debated in a very different way from the way in which we are debating it tonight. I should have said that we shall reach full equality when a couple can sit down without any kind of embarrassment on either side and discuss which of them has the better career prospect; which of them, therefore, should concentrate on a career, and which of them per contra should concentrate rather more on running the home. I do not think we have reached that point yet, except possibly in a few families. We still have the concept that it is primarily for the man to sup port his wife and primarily for her to look after his comfort.

I was particularly happy to remind one or two noble Lords, who apparently had not quite grasped the fact, that on the financial side the professional woman, at any rate, is now to be in a much better position than previously. I was very sorry to note from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that the one good and shining deed of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Barber, seems to have passed them by. He has in fact met this longstanding problem of the woman whose earned income was aggregated with that of her husband and who therefore found it very difficult to pay for the domestic substitute and extra expenses involved if she worked outside the home. As from the next tax year this will be put right.


My Lords, I thought I did say that the latest Finance Bill had put this right, but that it was still nevertheless an expensive matter to pay for adequate help.


My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon if I misunderstood him; I thought he also subscribed to the idea that this reform had still not been carried out.

What I think one really wants in educational training, financial arrangements, and psychologically, is to regard every person, man or woman, as a person, as an individual, and to judge them simply on that. And because the Civil Service Department Report I think goes a long way in that direction I welcome it very much indeed. I think it is an admirable Report. I think it has a most refreshing tang of commonsense about it, and I am delighted to learn from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that the greater part of its recommendations are to be accepted.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we must all feel indebted to my noble friend, the Leader of the Opposition, for having tabled this Motion. The Report of the Civil Service Department rightly lays stress on the many anomalies which women still have to suffer, especially through the employment hazards of their sex, such as the need for maternity leave, for part-time work because of duties to their children, reinstatement after a period of absence through domestic responsibilities, and many other considerations. But I believe a great advance has now been achieved by the Government's acceptance of most of its recommendations, lukewarm though its acceptance of some of them may seem to have been. I suppose we must accept that certain disabilities are inevitable in many occupations where women are not self-employed but are liable to their employer. Our Civil Service has the proud record of a pioneer approach to the many problems which are hound to arise wherever the employment of women operates on a large scale. I am optimistic enough to suppose that many of these chronic disabilities may he swept away when the time arrives that the Civil Service is able to boast of a dozen or more Evelyn Sharps employed in its service.

How can this happy state be accelerated? We all know that qualifications for the Civil Service are still to a large extent dependent upon academic qualifications, and so long as women are restricted in their chances of entry into the older universities so long must it be a slow haul before they can reach their rightful place in the top echelons of industry and the professions. In both Oxford and Cambridge women still find themselves outnumbered at least five times by men in their chances of entry. Indeed, it is said that even to gain an ordinary entry into any one of the all too few women's colleges a girl needs to attain a standard at least up to the scholarship level required by the men's colleges. Only when we have made available a number of places for women at least equivalent to the number now available for men shall we be able to claim that some of the disabilities now facing women in training for professional life have been removed.

There was a time not so long ago, and well within my recollection, when the prospect of women's entry into our teaching hospitals was equated with the hospital team's prowess on the rugger field. Even sonic of the most liberalminded leaders of the medical profession, whom I still recall with affection and admiration, gave unashamed expression to this point of view. The London School of Medicine for Women owes its origins to the alarm felt by doctors at the prospect of women's entry into their profession. Some of the more enlightened hospitals later agreed, as an experiment, to admit a small quota of women students. A few of the teaching hospitals tried this for a brief period and then reverted back to an all-male entry, presumably as a result of reverses suffered by the hospital's team on the rugger field. But all this nonsense was swept away by the war, and especially after the war, with the advent of the National Health Service. Soon even the most obdurate advocates of an all-male entry into our medical schools were forced to admit that all their gloomy forebodings had been based on an inherent prejudice against the entry of women into the medical profession at all. And now that all the London teaching hospitals have had to accept the admission of women, it can be safely assumed that any effects on the prowess of their rugger teams have been satisfactorily evened out all round.

What is true of the medical profession is still true of other walks of life where women are self-employed. We are still tied to an archaic approach to these problems, to elemental prejudices that still die hard. Women ought to be accorded just the same opportunities, the same range of entry into academic distinction, as are now enjoyed by men. Their own personal problems of marriage, of the bringing up of a family, must be left largely for them to decide and must not always be dictated to them by men. We still to some extent think as if we were living in the period before the pill was discovered. Before we can hope to achieve equal standards of morality we must cease dictating to women what is good or bad for them. We must, in all fairness, give them the right to judge for themselves. We are still thankful to recruit our nurses from the ranks of women, despite all their disabilities and the so-called "wastage" involved by marriage. And in our heart of hearts we know that male nurses can never completely replace women.

I believe that in the ranks of industry and the professions women of talent, of merit, of outstanding personality are just as badly needed as are our nurses. It is for our community to-day not only a basic need but a long overdue act of elemental justice. To-day, new roads are opening up, radiating to new horizons. The men's colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, those sacrosanct male preserves of centuries—though the vast majority of them are still far younger than your Lordships' House—are now solemnly deliberating whether or not they should open their doors to women students. With enormous efforts they have now succeeded not only in admitting women guests to dinner in hall but allowing them to remain in college up to the hour of 11 p.m., or even, in some colleges, up to midnight, without requiring the presence, incredible as it may seem, of a chaperone, which used to be obligatory in my younger days. Soon, I am convinced, their doors will be wide open for the admission of women students on full terms of equality with men. When that time comes, women will he able to share a heritage which I still believe to be of enormous value in our public life. The test of their entry will be sheer intellectual merit alone—merit regardless of sex. And their future careers, once equal opportunity of academic attainment has been given to them, whether in industry or in the home, can be safely left for them to decide.

There is a moral training, an intellectual discipline inherent in academic life, just as there is in the nursing profession. This discipline is of enormous creative value in the building up of homes and the rearing of children, just as it is in public life, in industry, and in the professions. There are still rampant in our midst ideas of blind mediaeval obscurantism, which, partly through our love of tradition, partly through our innate conservatism, deny these opportunities, merely through the hazard of sex, to half our population. We still have a long way to go before women are given the same opportunities of advancement in the professions, in industry and in the public services as are to-day enjoyed by men. This Report is one of the hopeful signs on the horizon. But only when all the existing disabilities of women have been swept away shall we be entitled to call ourselves a truly enlightened, civilised community.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, I must confess that I have no special qualifications for participating in this debate this afternoon. I decided to do so because I thought the subject was so important and I was anxious to see these recommendations implemented, and also because I have the greatest admiration for those women, some of whom now sit in your Lordships' House, who have fought such a gallant fight for so many years to achieve these results. I also felt it should not be left to the women alone to carry the standard, so to speak. Most of us will know married women who are anxious—indeed, in some cases quite desperate—to find employment outside the home. For the sake of their brains they have to get away from the kitchen sink, the washing machine and all the daily chores. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said earlier that men arc beginning to help in this field, and I think that this is true. Most men do play their part, but I think one has to do it day in, day out, really to appreciate what the mental effect on a woman is. Some women can find what they want in the way of part-time employment, but many others become frustrated, and when that happens, as has been said already in this debate, it reflects on their self-respect, on their morale and ultimately on the happiness of the home. That is why I entirely agreed with the noble Viscount. Lord Hanworth—to whom we are indebted, with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for initiating this debate this afternoon—when he said that women make better wives and mothers if they have interests outside the home.

I was much struck in the debate on the Address a few weeks ago by the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. She was saying, if I understood her correctly, that married women should share automatically, and by law, in the wealth and earnings of their husbands. The noble Baroness is not here at the moment and I do not know how far she would like to carry those ideas, but in principle I am sure she is right. On the Continent, and I think in other countries in the world, a wife often does already so share. I do not know whether she shares during the lifetime of the husband, but certainly under the Code Napoleon, she shares on his death. We have lessons to learn from this, and I very much hope that the proposal of the noble Baroness will be followed up. It may be thought that my support for this proposal is not strictly relevant to what we are discussing this afternoon, but I think it is indirectly relevant because it all goes to show how important it is that a wife should have some financial independence from her husband, whether that independence is based on a sharing of wealth and earnings, or whether—which is obviously more satisfactory if it can be arranged—by herself earning the money by full-time or part-time work. Ideas about a married woman's role in life are changing very rapidly, and society has to adapt itself in order to meet these ideas.

There is one further aspect of the problem which has not been mentioned —at least not while I have been in the Chamber—and I think it is important. If a wife is frustrated, and if she can fulfil herself in no other way, then she may turn to the only alternative which is open to her—she will have another child. By that I mean that she will probably have a third, a fourth, or a fifth child, and so on, which she would not otherwise have had. When you bear in mind that we have to expect another 13 million people in these islands before the turn of the century—a terrifying figure—it is obvious that anyone who can be deterred from having children should be, if they do not really want them. I am sure the noble Baroness who is to follow will support me in that.

I have no personal experience of industry or the professions, but I have spent a number of years working in Whitehall, and I should think, given the flexible approach by the Government of which we are now assured, that there is great scope for the employment of more married women, both on a full-time and on a part-time basis. There are many difficulties, and these are mentioned in the Report, as are the recommendations for surmounting them. I notice that one idea I had has been omitted, and that is that women who work in the Civil Service should be able to work part of their time at home, and certainly during the children's holidays, which is probably the most difficult period for them. But that is a detail, and in general I welcome this excellent Report, and I am delighted that the Government are going to implement it.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, I want to raise one point on the last sentence in the introduction to the Report, which states: …modifications should be made in the rules governing reinstatement to make it easier for women to return to suitable work when their children are older. That raises the whole question of pensions and superannuation in the Civil Service, which I understand is now in the melting pot. No doubt it is of importance to men who may leave the Civil Service and later return to it. But if it is important to men, it is even more important to women. I say that for two reasons: first, because more women are likely to have to interrupt their Civil Service career for domestic reasons; and, secondly, because when men so interrupt their career they probably earn as much or more than they would earn if they remained in the Civil Service, whereas the women who interrupt their career for domestic reasons earn nothing at all. I hope that this special importance of pensions policy to women will be considered by those who are recasting the pensions and superannuation scheme for the Civil Service.

6.22 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a valuable debate this afternoon upon a very large subject indeed. We have approached it through the Report which has been rendered in respect of the Civil Service Department, and the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, indicating the acceptance by the Government of its recommendations has, I think, met with very widespread approval among your Lordships. Because we have approached the subject in this way, having in the centre of the picture this Report from the Civil Service Department, it may be that our speeches and our consideration have lacked a sense of the urgency which might have attended it had we been looking at the whole field of the employment of women, with which this debate is concerned. As noble Lords have said, the Civil Service has a good record in this respect, and we have been able to-day to consider the questions which are covered in the Report in the way we have been doing because there is such a long record of reasonable treatment of women in the Civil Service, with a reasonable degree of opportunity and of course, for a number of years now, with the establishment of the principle of equal pay. So that, in so far as we have been looking primarily at the Civil Service, we have been looking at the problem against a background which, judged by contrast with much else that operates in our society, is a favourable and an enlightened one.

I was very glad of the indications of the present situation in regard to the new recommendations, which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, gave, and in this connection I was very appreciative of the tribute, which was paid by my noble friend Lord Shackleton and by the noble Earl, to the Civil Service trade unions. I do not think there can be any doubt about the need, even within the framework of the Civil Service, for such a Report as we have before us. I am bound to say that I have some reservations about it, and while, as I said, I welcomed greatly the speech of the noble Earl and his indication of the Government's attitude towards the recommendations, and while I felt his speech to be excellent so far as it went, he will not be surprised that in a number of respects, particularly when one went outside the sphere of the non-industrial Civil Service, I felt he did not go far enough. But I welcome the Report of the Civil Service Department as a considerable step forward, although I still have some reservations about it.

I agreed with my noble friend Lady Summerskill, who has explained to me that she has had, of necessity, to leave our debate to keep another appointment, that we must not treat too complacently the question of equality of opportunity for promotion. I agree that this is a complex matter, and at this stage I am merely expressing the hope that we shall not be too ready to accept the view that all is as good as it can be in this respect. I appreciate, too, the difficulties about Recommendation No. 6. The order of selection for annual leave is a very sensitive matter, and I can well understand that this recommendation caused some difficulties when it was discussed between the Official Side and the trade unions in the Civil Service.

I think I also agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that the nursery experiment, welcome though it is, is a somewhat limited and timid one. I agreed with her, and endorse what is stated in the Report, about the necessity for a subsidy to ensure that such a service can be used by those who need it, hope that the noble Earl will give consideration to the possibility of this experiment being conducted on a rather wider scale than is suggested in the Report, partly for the reasons given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and partly for the reasons given by my noble friend Lady White. That having been said, and those reservations having been made, I think we must all appreciate in particular the spirit in which this Report is written. and the concern which it expresses both with equality of opportunity, and with the aspects of working life which need modification, particularly in the case of women, but also, as was so rightly pointed out by the noble Earl, where men are concerned.

Part of the background against which we consider this whole subject this afternoon is the movement known as Women's Liberation. It is a movement which, I say frankly to your Lordships, I view with a very great deal of sympathy. It embraces a number of trends and themes, not all of them completely consistent. But that is not surprising or unusual in a movement of protest, such as the Women's Liberation movement is, against the position and treatment of women, which I am bound to say I regard as necessary and justified, even though I do not associate myself with, or support entirely, some of the propaganda gestures with which it is expressed. When one examines the thinking of Women's Liberation, one realises that in many ways it is a protest not only against the way in which women are treated, but against particular aspects of the treatment of human beings which bear, for social, historical and traditional reasons, particularly hardly upon women.

I therefore welcomed most warmly the point which was made by the noble Earl when he referred to the necessity for employers to recognise the responsibilities which employees have outside their place of work. Of course, these are likely to be more marked in the case of women, but they also exist in the case of a number of men; and the guiding principle surely should be that as much consideration and flexibility as possible, and the widest range of choice, should be given to men and women according to their individual circumstances.

But while saying that to a large extent this is a question of the treatment of human beings, it is of course also true that there is no doubt that women are disadvantaged and discriminated against in many respects—and I am moving now beyond the Civil Service position and looking at the wider picture. I wonder whether I might take, as an example, one category. Let me take the category of women between the ages of 30 and 45 who, because of widowhood or because of the breakdown of marriage, find themselves with sole responsibility for children and who want to make a career in which they can find some satisfaction of their abilities and a reasonable material reward. I think it will be found that any woman who is in that position finds herself up against a very substantial number of difficulties indeed. Quite apart from the emotional disturbance which will almost certainly have accompanied her finding herself in this position, she is I think reminded, in her efforts, of how many of our practices and regulations, social patterns and opportunities, are all based, half consciously, on the concept of the two-parent family and on the assumption that everybody fits into his proper social and educational slot quite early in life.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who has of course made very great contributions to the whole of this subject, not merely in the Report which is mentioned in the Motion before us but in many other studies which have placed all of those who consider the problems of women deeply in her debt, will I think agree with me that a woman who is seeking a career in the circumstances I have described represents a rather special and perhaps extreme case of the problems of reentry—extreme in the sense that such a case underlines the difficulties which face almost all women contemplating re-entry into working life. Indeed, I think that in such cases individuals can find themselves subjected to strains and difficulties which really society ought not to place upon any individual, and which can be faced and overcome by perhaps only very strong characters.

My Lords, I wonder to what extent it is the intention of the Government to seek to promote the application of the prin ciples in this Report, and the excellent spirit of it, in other parts of the public sector. I hope that the Government intend to apply the principles, in the first place, in the industrial, as distinct from the non-industrial, Civil Service. I hope they will bring them to the attention of local authorities. I hope they will bring them to the attention of the B.B.C. The B.B.C. seems to me from my studies to be rather a sad case. I derive my information about it from the careful and authoritative study by Political and Economic Planning, to which some noble Lords have already referred, entitled Women in Top Jobs, which suggests that in the 'thirties the B.B.C. was a pioneer in the employment of women and in giving them extended responsibilities, but that the generation of women who entered the B.B.C. at that time, or who rose swiftly in the B.B.C. at that time, are now themselves at the point of retirement and that there do not appear to be successors coming on to take their place. Indeed, if this information is correct, this is a sad example of an actual falling back in the kind of advance we had hoped to see.

I hope, too, that the Government will bring this Report to the attention of the nationalised industries. I think I am right in saying—I certainly was right when I checked on this a little while ago—that on the hoards of the major nationalised industries one does not find a women serving in either a full-time or a part-time capacity. I myself had the privilege of serving on such a board a few years ago, and we then had a part-time woman member—a very highly valued member of the board. She has I think ceased to be a member of that board, and so far as I am aware there are no women on the boards of nationalised industries. So, even in the public sector, where on the whole the situation is relatively favourable, there are questions which need to be asked and areas where one should like to see the recommendations of this Report being examined, not only in the letter but in the spirit, and in its implications. But, of course, when one turns to private industry it is there that one finds real causes for anxiety.

I very much liked, if I may say so, the concise expression of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that we are a country that must live on its wits and that half the wits of the country are in female heads. Of course, as she knows, and as I think anybody knows who has looked at this matter at all, the degree to which we fail to use the abilities of women in industry as a whole is extreme. A minority of women, mainly in non-manual occupations, have equal pay; but for most women in industry it is inequality, and marked inequality, which is the rule—and, after all, my Lords, we are talking about a very large number of people. One married woman in three works outside the home; well over half the women who work are married women; and we rely upon women, married and unmarried, for a very large section of our labour force.

But when one turns to look at the relative pay or relative earnings of married women, one finds a very unsatisfactory situation. The Trades Union Congress, in its Report this year to its women's conference, published some figures of women's hourly earnings as a proportion of men's hourly earnings, and made a comparison with the countries of the Common Market. If they had made a comparison with Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries, the picture would have been even more striking. But to summarise the position—and I should say that the T.U.C. itself points out that there may have been some slight relative improvement in the period since 1969, to which year these figures relate—if we look at these figures we find that women's hourly earnings over virtually the whole of manufacturing industry are 58 per cent. of men's average hourly earnings—less than three-fifths of men's average hourly earnings. This 58 per cent. in the case of Britain compares with 69 per cent. in the case of the Federal Republic of Germany, 77 per cent. in the case of France, 73 per cent. in the case of Italy, 61 per cent. in the case of the Netherlands and 68 per cent. in the case of Belgium. Only Luxembourg, at 54 per cent., falls below our percentage of 58. That is one mark of the unequal position which women occupy in industry. It derives, in so far as we are talking about this differential in hourly earnings, from two major sources. It derives in part from the fact that women's pay generally is still below that of men for work which may be regarded, broadly speaking, as equal.

I am not going to enter into the semantics of the various ways in which equal pay is formulated; but I think there can be no doubt that it is still the situation that for work which is broadly equal most women are paid below the corresponding male rate. This is the situation with which the Equal Pay Act was designed to deal. I was interested in what the noble Earl said in reply to my noble friend about the slow progress to equal pay. I am glad to know that this inquiry undertaken by O.M.E. is in train. It would be useful if the noble Earl could tell us, not necessarily to-day, when it is likely that the O.M.E. survey will be completed and when a Government decision will be made about the advisability of an order calling for an interim situation to be achieved.

This is a field which is fraught with difficulties and complexities. It is fairly common knowledge that there are ways open to employers to evade the intention and spirit of the Equal Pay Act. In the end it is trade union organisation among women which will be the most effective instrument in securing equality of pay. For a variety of reasons, in the past women have not had such a high proportion of trade union membership as have men. This is a situation which is slowly and steadily righting itself. A greater interest by women in trade union organisation is much to be welcomed. But that is only part of the problem: that is only a part of the reason why women, as I showed earlier, receive less than three-fifths of the hourly earnings of men. The other reason, which was set out so vigorously, so authoritatively and so completely by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is the exclusion of women from the better paid manual work—and their exclusion in other fields, too; but I am talking about manual employment at the moment. I think that the noble Baroness might agree with me that although the progress over the last few years towards the achievement of equal pay in the sense of pay rates has been slower than we should like, the progress towards the widening of women's opportunities of employment (and I am thinking particularly of the manual sphere) has been slower than we should like over perhaps the last twenty years. Indeed, there has been very little progress in widening the field of women's employment over the last twenty years in the sense of giving them real access to the better-paid manual work.

The Trades Union Congress has shown its concern about this. Here again, trade union action is, I think, a large part of: the method required to rectify this situation. But the trade union movement itself puts tremendous emphasis upon the need for training opportunities for women in industry to be improved. It regards the improvement of women's education, the improvement of their training opportunities and the raising of standards of education and training for women as one of the keys, at any rate, to the improvement of the situation. Here of course is a sphere in which the influence of the Government and the lead of the Government, both by example and by precept, can be very valuable.

My Lords, I do not wish to detain you for much longer, but I am bound to say that it is not only in respect of pay and earnings that women are at a disadvantage. One could recite the figures which apply to sick pay, and still more to occupational pensions, where women, particularly in the manual sphere, come off even worse than men. Of course, consideration of the position of women in industry raises some of those very issues with which the Civil Service Department Report deals: the question of maternity leave, of part-time employment, of consideration by employers of the position of working wives and other issues which have been raised. This is a field in which we really must make more rapid progress than we have been making over a fairly substantial period of time. We need to make more progress towards equal pay; we need even more urgently to make progress towards widening the opportunities of advancement open to women.

Of course, there are obstacles. The present level of unemployment is itself an obstacle. A high level of unemployment always injects great confusion and great irrelevances into this question of the advancement of women and the expansion of their opportunities. A high level of unemployment buttresses every prejudice and magnifies every obstacle against the extension of the opportunities for women to advance. One still finds the downright, openly-expressed prejudice. Only a few days ago I saw, as perhaps did other noble Lords, a report in the newspapers of a gentleman who said, "I am an Englishman and I think that most people like me would never work for a woman or a black." I thought that that was rather an unfortunate expression of opinion coming, as it was reported to have come, from a person concerned with the personnel function in a large company. But it is not only a question of open prejudice. Indeed, I think that there are many women who prefer the openly-declared prejudice, even the hostility, to the kind of protective and patronising attitude with which they are so often met. But the situation is changing and it is changing fairly quickly. The outlook of young women to-day towards employment and towards seeking greater opportunities of employment is very different from the attitude of a generation ago; and the attitude of the mothers of young women and of schoolgirls at the present time is very different from the attitude of the mothers of those girls a generation ago.

I am bound to say that when we feel discouraged at the slow progress that is made it is worth while recalling—and this was going through my mind during the debate—that it is, after all, only about a hundred years since women started to be employed at all in the Civil Service. And, as one would expect, they started in the Post Office. In 1871, Mr. Scudamore, an eminent Post Office official, explained why he was in favour of extending the employment of women. It was because they were quick, they were docile. they were cheap, they could spell (better than the men, anyway) and to quote his words: They were also less disposed than men to combine for the purpose of extorting higher wages and this is by no means an unimportant matter. When one reads in some of the evidence of that time that women were too timid to do any work except the most routine, such as the redirection of letters—and they could do that only after the letters had been examined by a male clerk to see whether or not there were any objectionable and obscene expressions in them —and that they were quite incapable. whatever encouragement or training they were given, of progressing to work in any degree more responsible, one sees that there has been some progress over a hundred years.

My Lords, it is up to us to keep that progress going and to try to give a greater impetus to it in the next few years, not only in respect of the public service—where the situation, although not perfect, is far better than in many other places—but also in industry generally. As I think the noble Lord said, certainly as he implied, the present traditional social attitudes result in waste from an economic and a social point of view. It is not only the rules and the laws, it is also the attitudes and practices which have to be changed. I believe that this Report, especially if it can be used in the way I have suggested, and if we can use it mindful of the great progress that needs to be made in the general field of manual industry, can assist in assuring that that progress goes on.

6.51 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that I may have your Lordships' permission to reply, from the Government side, to this debate. I am quite sure that I have your permission to reply very briefly. First, I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Segal, and to my noble friend Lord Vernon as I did not, unfortunately, hear their speeches. I have a report of them and if there are points arising from their speeches to which they require replies, I will see that they are sent. I also apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, who, I am told, made not only one of the best but also, by a long chalk, the briefest of the speeches in the debate.


And the most difficult to answer.


I must confess my Lords, that I was at a party, but I should also say that I was the host, and I felt that I had to make at least a brief and temporary appearance in order to start things going.

Speaking on behalf of the Civil Service Department, I should like to say that I appreciate the general welcome which has been extended to this Report. I think it a Report of considerable quality, and it is shot through with a great deal of common sense. I was very glad to see the general recognition of this, and to hear expressed in the debate a welcome to the fact that I was able to confirm that we accept the majority of the recommendations as they are, on the understanding that there are certain restrictive areas of difficulty which we shall have to iron out. I am confident that we shall be able to do so in negotiation with those concerned.

I must pay tribute to the quality and the informativeness of what has, I think, been a very useful discussion. As I mentioned earlier, the debate has been of a consultative nature and noble Lords will not expect definitive replies to their questions. But I will study the Report of the debate carefully and see that the various proposals are followed up. I will have examined, and will myself carefully examine, the proposals which have been made in respect of education; nursery schools—a great deal of emphasis was laid on this aspect of education—and the cost and benefits of re-entry. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked whether my Department would have a study initiated on that part of the noble Baroness's Report. I am glad to be able to say straight away that we will do so.

There were, however, two questions in the summing-up of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, with which I should like to deal very briefly. He asked, first, about the Industrial Civil Service. The Report does not cover the Industrial Civil Service; there, as he knows, the problems are very different and more akin to those in the industrial world. This is partly because the trade unions representing the industrial civil servants are not confined to the Civil Service. I believe that in the Industrial Civil Service we could stand comparison with most enlightened industrial employers, but we shall be considering, in the light of this Report, what further improvements are appropriate and financially possible. I should perhaps remind noble Lords that we are moving towards equal pay for women in the Industrial Civil Service and we have already abolished separate scales for women's work. Most women in the Industrial Civil Service are in fact in the traditional catering, domestic and cleaning work; but I should like to emphasise that we welcome craftswomen and girl apprentices.

I think that here we must recognise one factor: that, at least in the past, the trade unions have had strong views on the work of men and women. We all recognise this, and we can make effective progress only in consultation with the trade unions. To put it briefly, we expect the recommendations in the Report on the Non-Industrial Civil Service to be generally applicable to women in the Industrial Civil Service. But, inevitably, some distinction will remain so long as industrials are treated differently from non-industrials. However, I would confirm that we are examining this area in consultation with the trade unions.

My Lords, there is also the question, implicit in the Motion before us (it was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and reverted to by the noble Lord, Lord DelacourtSmith), of the application to industry generally of the principles embodied in the Report. It might be thought that advice which is appropriate to the Government as an employer of women could be translated automatically to industry generally; but the noble Lord, Lord DelacourtSmith, knows as well as I do that this is not the case. In the Civil Service, for example, there has always been a greater degree of security for the employee than exists in employment generally. As an employer, the Government have been fortunate in being able thus to develop personnel policies on the assumption of a more stable and longterm work force than most other employers would dare to hope for. The significance of this, and the other differences, which I need not go into now, in terms of the Report is that it may be more difficult for companies than for the Civil Service to contemplate making the sort of adjustments that are necessary if they are to comply with the principles of the Report.

There may also be less incentive, at least for some of them, to make those adjustments. We must also expect that, even where the difficulties are overcome, there will be a considerable degree of variety in the way in which these improvements are applied. Nevertheless, I would emphasise that there are many reasons why I commend this Report to employers generally, and to employers outside the Civil Service. As I see it, the Report identifies areas of difficulty in the employment of women who have domestic responsibilities and makes proposals about resolving those difficulties. Those proposals are not necessarily the only solutions, nor necessarily the best for general application. But what is important here, and what I can most heartily commend, is that employers who employ married women in any number should consider in a really systematic way, as I think has been done in the Report, the difficulties as they find them and the kinds of solutions they might adopt. I think that this is the moral to be drawn from this Report in its wider application.

My final point is this. The noble Lord, Lord DelacourtSmith, wished to see that the momentum was maintained and that progress in this field was kept up. I accept that, and my responsibility so far as the Civil Service is concerned. But I am certain that this is going to call for a great accent on personnel management and career development, and that we shall not get the detailed implementation of what, in certain respects, is a detailed set of proposals successfully carried through without a considerable management effort. I am certain that it cannot be done in the Civil Service without a management effort of this kind; and it cannot be done outwith the Civil Service without an equivalent management effort. All I would say in conclusion is that I will look again carefully at the debate and write to noble Lords who have made specific suggestions which seem to require answers. I undertake to do all I can within the Civil Service and outside to keep up the momentum in this particular field.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I know that it is customary to say that a debate is good but I think that this has been a particularly good one, rather in the mould of the debates we used to have several years ago, before the House became so active and crowded, ending at a respectable hour, time for an Unstarred Question afterwards, and ending in an enthusiastic and much appreciated reply from the Leader of the House. I will not say that I am entirely surprised, but I am genuinely delighted by the reaction of the noble Earl himself to this Report—and I involve in this comment his Department and the Government. In certain respects some of it does not represent such vast progress. I noticed that nearly 40 years ago the Working Party on women recommended in almost precisely the same terms on maternity leave. None the less the spirit in which it has been received and the fact that action is to be taken is the important thing. The noble Earl can be well pleased with his performance and the House well pleased with the reaction of the Government.

I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I tend on these occasions to concentrate on those who are present, but to all who took part I am very grateful. I knew that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, was ill, and I think that it was very good of him to come here at all. I think that he should be pleased with the result. The contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was outstanding and of great interest, and if it has done nothing else than publicise this little known work of hers, I think this debate would have been justified on that ground alone. The noble Lord, Lord Platt, raised the difficult questions of discrimination on the medical side. I hope that these questions will be pressed hard as discrimination gradually disappears.

The speeches of the noble Baronesses, Lady Young, Lady Seear and Lady White, show the high calibre of the recent recruits to your Lordships' House. If I do not mention the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, it is because I did not hear her. Like the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, at that time I was also doing my duty on an important commemorative occasion. I am sorry I did not hear her and also the noble Lord, Lord Vernon but I heard him around midnight last week and I think that it is high time that his name was moved higher up on the list of speakers.


My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Lord on his choice of language? I said "a party" in good plain English. Translated into "Houseof-Lordese" it is "an important commemorative occasion."


My Lords, when the noble Earl has been Leader of the House as long as I was, he will also be able to talk in such obscure language.

May I say, in conclusion, that this is a matter of profound social and economic importance. I think that we are progressing. To-day represents real progress. I know that my noble friend Lady Summerskill never believes that progress is being made; but I think that to-day, rather against her natural instinct, she found that some progress was being made.

I would say to the noble Earl that when my noble friend advised him to make up his mind both about smoking and about women, I know perfectly well that he has made up his mind on the latter subject, as I have. I am bound to say that those who advocate so strongly what we believe to be economically right as well as socially just, do not wish and do not believe it is necessary for brains to dispense with charm. Having served in the personnel field I attach great importance to having charm in women personnel officers no less than other qualities that the noble Earl and I so value in the opposite sex. I am fortunate that in my firm—let me hasten to add, not now the John Lewis Partnership—that charm is to be found. But nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in your Lordships' House. Only the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is within my range of vision at the moment but I am sure that among the noble Baronesses behind me we find both the qualities which ought among other women to be put to the service of the community and that charm that we mere men, but we hope equal citizens, value in them. My Lords, I beg leave to withdrawn my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.