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Gender Pay Gap

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 28 October 2010

In 2009, the gap between the median hourly earnings of men and women working full time was 12.2%. Including men and women working part time raises this figure to 22%. Those estimates are updated on an annual basis and the Office for National Statistics will provide estimates for 2010 in November. The Government are committed to promoting equal pay and taking a range of measures to end discrimination in the workplace.

I recently enjoyed watching the film “Made in Dagenham” and it struck me that it is now 40 years since the Equal Pay Act was enacted. Will the Secretary of State update us on what she plans to do to narrow the pay gap between men and women?

I had the opportunity of meeting four of the women who were campaigners in Dagenham, and they are as feisty today as they were 40 years ago. We need to address several issues when considering the gender pay gap. It is appalling that we still have such a gap 40 years later, but it is not simply about a legislative approach. Extending the right to request flexible working to all, introducing flexible parental leave and encouraging a wider range of choices in career options, especially for girls and young women, will all play their part in ending the gender pay gap.

I represent an area with the widest gender pay gap, where women earn only two thirds as much as men. I am especially concerned about the effects of the comprehensive spending review, including the number of women who will be made unemployed by the decisions taken and the cuts to housing benefit. What will the Government do about the gender income gap, not just the gender pay gap?

The hon. Lady raises the issue of the comprehensive spending review. Of course, we have had to introduce these measures as a result of decisions taken by the last Labour Government, which she supported, which have left this country in a parlous financial condition and meant that we have had to address this significant deficit. As a Government, we have been looking at equality impact assessments of the decisions in the spending review. It is interesting to note that when the Opposition spokeswoman on these matters was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the then Labour Government did precisely zero equality impact assessments. They made no proper assessment of the equality impact of their decisions.