I am delighted that our consultation on closing the gender pay gap has had such a positive reaction, receiving around 700 responses, including more than 200 from employers and business organisations. We will publish the Government’s response to the consultation shortly.
I thank the Minister for her reply. Excellent work has been done on tackling the gender pay gap, but regional differences remain. In my constituency of Telford, women in full-time work earn 16% less than men in full-time work. What further action can be taken to address that kind of discrepancy?
The gender pay gap regulations, when published and put into practice, will help, because they will get employers to start thinking about these issues, and reporting on them. I encourage my hon. Friend to host an event in her own constituency. As a proactive and new Member of Parliament, she can highlight best practice and show the advantages of narrowing the gap. She might also like to think about the breakdown of the businesses within her constituency and work out how we can get more women and girls to participate in sectors such as manufacturing and financial services.
The north-east has one of the highest gender pay gaps in the country owing in part to the disproportionate numbers in the public sector, which has been cut, and in the sort of low-paid jobs that the Prime Minister yesterday called “menial”. Does the Secretary of State agree that failure to publish a response to a consultation six months after its publication is disrespectful to the many organisations and individuals who responded to it in the hope of doing something about the situation?
I am really sorry to hear the hon. Lady make those points, because they are not worthy of her. First, on the north-east, she is wrong. The gender pay gap in the north-east fell by 0.4 percentage points between 2014 and 2015. People want us to get the Government response right and to ensure that we have thought through the regulations and their impact. I have said that we will publish the response shortly, and that is exactly what we will do.
I hope that the Secretary of State, and indeed the whole House, will welcome the establishment of the all-party group on women and work, of which I am vice-chair. I know that she sent a member of staff to it the other day. Will she resolve to work with the all-party group to look at the challenges faced by women returning to work after having children or caring responsibilities, the impact of which is often seen in the gaps in their income, their progression and their career?
I thank the hon. Lady very much indeed. I warmly welcome the all-party group. Another group has also been set up on women and enterprise. I really welcome the fact that parliamentarians are setting up these groups, which will work on a cross-party basis. Of course Ministers and I will work with all of them. She is absolutely right. Evidence was given to the Select Committee which showed that, if women take more than a year’s maternity leave, it becomes much, much harder to get back into the workplace; we must change that.