Dawn speaks at the Equal Pay and Gender Pay Gap opposition day debate 1 July 2015
My hon. Friend is making a compelling case for why Members on all sides of the House should support the motion. The Secretary of State said that she supports the motion in principle. Should we just urge Government Members to support us?
Seema Malhotra - Shadow Minister (Home Office)
I continue to urge the Government to follow our lead. They have a few hours in which to do that, and I am sure all Opposition Members would welcome it.
I want to share a couple of cases of stereotype-busting by women who have entered different professions or jobs, starting with my sister. I do not have daughters, so I may just talk about sisters. I have three sisters—perhaps that can be a new dimension of the competition today. My sister is an engineer. She works with racing cars in America and is often the only woman involved in any particular race. She started out life, as I did, at the Green School in Hounslow. Being a racing car engineer was not part of the careers advice. Being a politician was not part of my careers advice either. I remember asking whether we might invite a politician to speak at the school and was told that we did not really want to be political.
I want to share the story of someone I met yesterday, a young woman called Caitlin, who is on an apprenticeship. She is a fork-lift truck driver, among other things. When I was shown how to operate an electric forklift truck by her in Feltham, I can honestly say that she was an inspiration to me, as someone who is busting a stereotype in the work she is doing. She is setting a true example, leading and encouraging others to take the pathway to a career in logistics.
I welcome the Government’s consultation, and I look forward to continuing debate and dialogue on this issue. I also want to support today’s call from Opposition parties for an annual gender pay check for this simple reason: there is no point in having a target, as aspiration or a process without a method of delivery being put in place behind it. I believe that this is a proportionate measure—one that would fit in well with the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and one that would make a useful contribution to ensuring the achievement and the outcome of gender pay equality that we all wish to see.
The Secretary of State is advancing some powerful and valid arguments. One possible way in which people can tackle the pay gap is to take their employer to a tribunal, but the Government have introduced tribunal fees, and, as a magistrate, I have observed that that has deterred many women from taking their employers to court. The number has fallen by 68%. How does the Secretary of State think we might change that statistic?
Nicky Morgan - Minister for Women and Equalities:
I respect the hon. Lady’s experience as a magistrate. The fees were introduced during the last Parliament to reduce a £71 million burden on the taxpayer, but, as she may know, on 11 June the Government announced the start of a post-implementation review. We will consider how successful the policy has been in achieving its original objectives, which include the maintaining of access to justice. Of course, those whose claims are successful can recover the fees.
The important question that we shall discuss today, however, is how we can prevent the need for employees to go to tribunals. There should be no discrimination in the first place, in the context of both equal pay for equal work and closing the gender pay gap. I think that the hon. Lady should wait and see how our review progresses.