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Government Equalities Office

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 28 January 2010

5. What information the Government Equalities Office collates on the gender pay gap for (a) full-time and (b) part-time workers. (313705)

The Government Equalities Office uses data collected by the Office for National Statistics in the annual survey of hours and earnings to monitor the gender pay gap. In 2009, women working full time were paid 12.2 per cent. less than full-time men; women working part time were paid 2 per cent. more than part-time men. Comparing all women—full and part time—with all men, the pay gap is currently 22 per cent.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. In recent times, one disappointing thing has been the growing pay gap in the private sector. That is possibly a result of the financial restraints currently operating there, but it is still unacceptable. Will the Equality Bill have a material impact on that pay gap in the private sector? Is there any evidence that other parties will offer their support for that step forward?

Overall, during our period in office, the pay gap has reduced from 27.5 to 22 per cent. We are passing pleased about that, although the Equality Bill is intended to jump that process up a lot of gears. Our proposals have not had wholehearted support from the Opposition, to put it bluntly. The proposals hinge on the need to make pay structures in business transparent, so that we can compare business with business, sector with sector, like with like, and see where the imbalances are. Only when such imbalances are visible can they be pushed out. The short answer is that we were not supported in that admirable endeavour by Her Majesty’s Opposition.

Is it not ludicrous that the Government give tens of millions of pounds to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to lecture the rest of the country about the gender pay gap, yet the Equality and Human Rights Commission itself pays women more than men?

I am groping hard for the logic behind that question—was “ludicrous” the word the hon. Gentleman used. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has had a lot of input into making the right measurements available so that the hon. Gentleman, as well as I, can know what the pay gap is, so that he can join forces with me to ensure that women are given equal pay in the very near future.

Let us get real about low-paid women workers. The national minimum wage has increased the earnings of many more women than men. Will the Government Equalities Office keep a close eye on the impact of a minimum wage on the gender pay gap for low-paid workers, and make representations to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to use the minimum wage as a key driver for equality?

Of course the minimum wage has had an enormously advantageous impact on low-paid women, despite the best endeavours of the Tories to stop it getting on to the statute book. It will continue to have a good effect, as will a number of other proposals that we have. Perhaps the most telling fact is that the Tories will oppose all the steps we take to advance equal pay, even though it is clearly known that the most important single measure to get children out of poverty is to give women equal pay. That does not affect the Tories, but they still oppose it.