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Gender Pay Gap

Volume 600: debated on Thursday 15 October 2015

10. What assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the responses received to the Government Equalities Office’s recent consultation on closing the gender pay gap. (901565)

As I have said, the Government are absolutely committed to eliminating the gender pay gap for good. Our consultation closed on 6 September. We received nearly 700 responses, including from 200 employers and business organisations, including the CBI. The responses from employers have been extremely positive, recognising that we all have a stake in the issue. We will consider the responses and bring forward new regulations shortly.

As my right hon. Friend knows, this subject is of great importance to me, but it leads to a broader question: what are the Government doing to ensure that the pipeline to senior management and director level for women is encouraged, because we still have a 32% earnings differential between women and men in large organisations, which is considerably larger than the 19% alluded to earlier?

My hon. Friend might be interested to know that the gender pay gap in her constituency is 18.2%, which is just below the national average. I agree that this is an important issue. We have more women on FTSE 100 boards than ever before. In fact, we now have no all-male boards in the FTSE 100. Women now make up more than 25% of those boards. However, there is much more to do. She is absolutely right to talk about the executive pipeline. We have to get more women into management and executive positions, and we are currently looking at that issue.

I welcome the Minister’s commitment to introducing regulations on compulsory reporting. There is clearly a way to go when the UK’s gender pay gap is 19.1%, which significantly exceeds the European Union average of 16.4%. But does she agree that publishing alone will not be enough? If the information is to be useful, it needs to be consistent, standardised and readily available to workers and their representatives.

I welcome the hon. Lady to her position on the Front Bench. I entirely agree that transparency is important, but the next thing will be what employers, organisations and others do with that information, and how it drives change so that the gender pay gap is eliminated. Also, as we heard from one of her colleagues earlier, it is about how we ensure that women are represented in greater numbers throughout all our workforces.

I am glad that the Minister agrees that the information should be accessible and meaningful, and companies must know that the Government treat this matter with the utmost seriousness. Will she therefore explain why, in the very week that the Prime Minister was proclaiming his support for action at the Conservative party conference, Conservative MEPs were voting against a recommendation that companies should disclose their gender pay gap? Is she not worried about the message that that sends out?

I cannot remember another occasion when a Prime Minister has turned up to something like a CBI conference and chosen the issue of the gender pay gap to highlight. I think that sends the greatest signal. With regard to our MEPs, the view that was taken was that this is a matter for member states, and we could not have a stronger signal from the top of this Government downward that, in this member state, this Government and this Prime Minister intend to tackle the gender pay gap and eliminate it.

Will the Minister organise a meeting in her office to which she can invite the chief executives of the largest employers with the largest gender pay gap and the chief executives of the largest employers with the smallest gender pay gap so that one group can learn from the other?

I thank my hon. Friend for that very practical suggestion. I am sure that my officials have taken a careful note of it, so we will go away and see how and when we can make it happen.