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Petitions (Equal Pay)

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 9 March 1954

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I beg to present a petition signed by some 80,000 citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They wish to protest against the continuing injustice of unequal pay for equal work, and in pursuance of this they

"humbly pray that your honourable House will be pleased to introduce legislation to establish equal pay for equal work as between men and women in the public services, and thus implement the principle which has been accepted by your honourable House in 1920, 1936, 1944 and 1952.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, etc."
To lie upon the Table.

My petition is somewhat larger than that of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward). It is a petition on behalf of 1,282,000 signatories and represents a petition from the Staff Side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council, the National Union of Teachers, the National and Local Government Officers' Association and the National Federation of Professional Women Workers. This Petition is supported by the Trades Union Congress, which is on record as saying:

"That this Congress is of the opinion that the General Council should now make the strongest representations to Her Majesty's Government and acquaint them with the strong demand of the whole trade union movement for tangible progress to be made without delay."
I believe the Chancellor is aware of that recent resolution.

If it were in order to do so—which it would not be—I should refer to the fact that the Petition is headed by 12 signatories of members of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, but I am in order in referring to the fact that a Motion on this subject was passed in this House in 1920 and was accepted without a Division. The Anderson Committee on the Pay of State Servants in 1923 emphasised the justice of the principle, and in 1936 a Motion was passed by this House. In 1944 this House carried by a majority of one—afterwards reversed, the principle of equal pay for women teachers. A Royal Commission has reported in favour of it since the war, and it will be remembered that I moved, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) seconded, a Motion on 16th May, 1952.

I have armed myself with the Standing Order. With great respect, I trust that I am within its terms, because it says that I can refer to the number of signatures attached to the Petition and the material allegations contained in it, as well as reading the Prayer of such a Petition. If I am out of order, perhaps you will tell me.

That is the reason why I asked whether it was in the Petition. It is in order if it is in the Petition.

That is so. I will read the Petition. It says:

"To the honourable Commons of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, the humble Petition of citizens of the United Kingdom…"
It says that,
"Her Majesty's Government has accepted the principle of equal pay for men and women in all public services, that the House of Commons on 16th May, 1952, called upon Her Majesty's Government to announce an early and definite date by which the application of equal pay for equal work for men and women in the Civil Service, the teaching profession, local government and other public services will begin."
It concludes:
"Wherefore your Petitioners pray that steps be now taken to meet the wishes of the House expressed on 16th May, 1952, by implementing the principal of Equal Pay in the Civil Service, the Teaching Profession, Local Government and all other Public Services without fail during the year 1954.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.…"
To lie upon the Table.