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Equal Pay

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

5. What discussions he has held with stakeholders on equal pay across the public sector; and if he will make a statement. (98414)

Hon. Members will be aware that the Office for National Statistics announced last week that the pay gap between men and women is at its lowest recorded level. I am sure that the whole House will welcome that. However, there remains more to do. The Government have issued a clear action plan to respond to the women and work commission. I have chaired meetings with Baroness Prosser and the general secretary of the TUC to discuss how we can continue to narrow the pay gap. I intend to continue to meet interested parties, including the CBI, to discuss how we can continue to narrow the gap further.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. What are the Government doing to help public sector employers to break down the barriers faced by women in the labour market and narrow the pay gap?

It is important to engage employers on the matter. We have started to build up a set of exemplary employers from both the public and private sectors that have good practice initiatives to improve the situation. We are building on an initiative fund, which stands at approximately £500,000 at the moment, to increase the number of senior, quality jobs that are available part time. We are setting up funding for a network of equality representatives and trade union reps to champion equality in the workplace.

Why is the gender pay gap among part-time workers bigger in the public sector than it is in the private sector?

That probably reflects the negotiation techniques that have been used in the past—I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is aware of them. The recent Cadman judgment stated that pay related to years of service had definitely worked against women. The Government are having to take that into account.