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Gender Equality (Public Procurement)

Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 1 April 2008

10. What adaptations her Department has made to its public procurement policies and practices and its guidance to local authorities to take account of the gender equality duty. (197691)

Communities’ procurement policy emphasises to practitioners and stakeholders the importance of focusing on a raft of social themes, including gender equality. Local authorities are responsible for taking their own procurement decisions, subject to their legal duties, including the duty of best value and public procurement law.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. The Labour Government have done a lot to help women at work, but there remains a stubborn equal pay gap and segregation between male and female job opportunities. Will the Minister take into account the recommendation of the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee report “Jobs for the Girls” on the £125 billion of public procurement, and its recommendation that public bodies, including local authorities, could be subject to legal challenge for breaching the legal duty to promote gender equality if they do not use their purchasing power to ask suppliers and contractors to demonstrate an active commitment to equality principles? Will he also ensure that that guidance is given—

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. She is quite right to get across to the House the real changes in recent years around equalities legislation, not least the right to flexible working, maternity leave, paternity leave and the minimum wage, which has made a real difference—a disproportionate difference, in fact—to women. In terms of what more we have to do, much remains to do around equal pay with local authorities, 47 per cent. of which have implemented an equal pay review. Only 3 per cent. of them, in all, are still to begin that work. We are supporting them with £500 million of capitalisation to assist local authorities in this process. That, however, is just a beginning, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government has already announced that we will provide further capitalisation for the future.

Will the Minister accept that the politically correct gobbledegook to which we have just listened is incomprehensible to most people in this country? Will he assure me that the guidance will be written in English, and will he try to address the House in that language in future?

I am not sure which bit the hon. Gentleman did not understand of the fact that it is only under a Labour Government that you get the right to flexible working, it is only under a Labour Government that you get rights around maternity and paternity leave, and it is only under a Labour Government that you get a minimum wage. I hope that is not too complicated for the hon. Gentleman.