Skip to main content

"Equality For Women" (White Paper)

Volume 885: debated on Thursday 6 February 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many representations he has received following the White Paper "Equality for Women"; and whether he will make a statement.

About 180 organisations have commented on the White Paper, and the Home Office has also received about 30 letters from individuals.

Most of those commenting on the White Paper as a whole welcomed its proposals on scope and enforcement. Many have also commented on particular aspects of the proposals, and their views are being considered in the preparation of the Bill.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his general determination to proceed with his White Paper proposals as a whole, whether or not he is following the recent precedent set by the Conservative Party. What consultation has my right hon. Friend had with the TUC on the possibility of making intent rather than effect the main criterion of discrimination? What proposals has my right hon. Friend for making industrial tribunals more approachable by appointing more women to them?

I am aware of the TUC's representations, suggesting that effect is more important than intent, and I am considering them sympathetically at present. On the second point raised by my hon. Friend, I indicated in the House, or certainly at the time of the launching of the White Paper, that I regard it as very desirable that the number of women sitting on industrial tribunals should be substantially increased, certainly when they are considering cases of this nature and also as a matter of general principle. I hope that it will be rare for an industrial tribunal to consider a case under the Sex Discrimination Act—as I hope it will then be—without a woman member as part of it.

In view of the groundwork done by the Conservative Government and the fact that the Government White Paper was published last summer, is not the Bill taking an unconscionable time to appear?

Frankly, I found a little of the groundwork done by the Conservative Government faulty. I do not like to inject party political points into Home Office affairs, but since the hon. Gentleman asked me straight I shall put it to him straight. I thought it necessary substantially to extend the scope of the Bill and to make the enforcement powers more adequate. In terms of the White Paper, which was welcomed more than were the previous proposals, this required amendment of those proposals. A Bill of this nature is fairly complicated, but I hope to be able to publish it towards the end of this month.