Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1973 May 15 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

HC Select Committee [Anti-Discrimination (No.2) Bill]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Committee
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Special Report from the Select Committee on the Anti-Discrimination (No.2) Bill [Parliamentary Papers 1972-73, vol.I, cc.35-50]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1600-1730.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 10897
Themes: Education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Employment, Science & technology, Women

Tuesday, 15th May, 1973

Members present:

Mr. Richard Hornby, in the Chair.

Mrs. Joyce Butler.

Mr. Patrick Cormack.

Mr. William Hamilton.

Mr. Douglas Houghton.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim.

Mr. Rees-Davies.

The Rt. Hon. Robert Carr, Secretary of State for the Home Department, a Member of the House; The Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education and Science, a Member of the House; and The Rt. Hon. Maurice Macmillan, Secretary of State for Employment, a Member of the House, examined.

Chairman.

Hornby

249. Mrs. Thatcher, Mr. Carr and Mr. Macmillan, thank you very much for coming to the Committee today. I think it will be helpful to the Committee to have you together, as you have suggested. As you know, our task in this Committee has been to advise the House of Commons on the Anti-Discrimination (No. 2) Bill, which the House referred to us. In considering this Bill, we have also had the advantage of evidence taken, and of two reports published in another place, and it will be convenient if at any time we may refer to those proceedings there as well as to the Bill before the House of Commons. In view of the debate yesterday in another place, it might be convenient if I were to ask you, Mr. Carr, as Home Secretary, if you would like to begin by making any statement of the Government's intentions with regard to legislation, if any, in this field?—

Carr

First I should like to say on behalf of my colleagues and myself that we are delighted to come. We hope that it will be useful and certainly we want to do our best to make it so. As far as the Government's position is concerned, Lord Colville, the Minister of State in my Department, made a statement about the Government position when the Bill came forward for debate in another place yesterday. What I want to say is quite simple and short at this juncture. That is that the Government are persuaded that legislation can assist in this task of removing discrimination against women, certainly in the field of employment and training associated with employment and probably—but with less certainty and clarity we feel—in the field of education. No doubt you will wish to question us about those two areas, but I repeat, we are persuaded that legislation has a useful part to play. If I may say so, the debates in this House last year, again in this session, and those of the Lords together with the work of your Committee and the Committee in the House of Lords, have helped us to be so persuaded. I hope that you will feel from that point of view that Parliament and its instruments have indeed played a part in this process.

However, we feel that neither of the present Bills, either the Bill that you are considering or the revised form of Baroness Seear's Bill in the other House really meets the full need of the situation. No doubt you may wish to question us about that in more detail, but all I should like to say at this juncture is that we believe that although the Bill in another place is very much changed and in our view very considerably improved following the Select Committee's work, there are still gaps in it. There are also still uncertainties in it and things which we believe are not right in it. We do not believe that they can be put right by amendment of either of these Bills in the timescale which is available in this session of Parliament. We think that a good deal more thought is to be given to the area of machinery, and there is much more consultation needed with unions and employers, also in the field of education with the education authorities, the vice-chancellors and all of the people involved in the administration of education at different levels before we can properly advise or give Members assistance in making drafting amendments to either of the Bills which are before Parliament now. We think there is more work to be done, [end p1] and it cannot be done in the timescale necessary to take your Bills and help in any way in amending them.

Therefore, we propose that we should carry out this further work urgently, based on the work of your Committee and the Select Committee in another place, and seek to produce a detailed consultative document which would be the basis for future legislation as soon as possible. As Lord Colville told their Lordships yesterday, it is difficult to be precise about when we could produce that consultative document. As he said, and I confirm, we would hope to be able to produce it by the end of the summer. In other words, we are going to work urgently upon this. If we manage to produce it by the end of the summer and consultations go well, then we hope that there could be reasonably early legislation, but it is not necessary for me to say to Parliamentary colleagues that nobody can commit the contents of the future Queen's Speech. I cannot give a promise that this will be in the Government's programme for the next session of Parliament, but we are aware of the importance which you and Parliament generally and many members of the public outside attach to this subject, and therefore we intend to get on with this work quickly, to reach the stage when we can be sure about what we believe ought to go into legislation, then to seek the earliest opportunity we can find for introducing it.

Mr. Cormack.

Cormack:

250. I am a little disturbed about this, because you say you are going to consider what we are doing, but you cannot really consider it until we have completed the work. We are not going to be in a position to report; we are still taking evidence this afternoon and next week and for weeks yet. If you are hoping to produce the Government's conclusions by the end of the summer, how can you do anything other than bypass the work of this Committee?—

Carr

I assure you, Mr. Chairman, that this is one of the factors in saying that I could not promise when we could produce our Green Paper. I am sorry if I did not make that clear in my statement. I should like to assure you that we want your report. If I can urge you so far as it is proper for me to do so and possible for you to take any notice of it, to report as urgently as possible so much the better. I assure you that we want your report, and we would not dream of producing our own Green Paper until we had had your report and sufficient time to give it proper weight.

Cormack

251. So there would be no question whatsoever of your producing anything or even beginning to do so until you had heard what we had to say?—

Carr

Certainly we would not go firm in our thinking, let alone in our printing, until we had had time to consider what you had to say.

Mrs. Butler.

Butler

252. But you have gone firm in your thinking to the extent of telling us now that whatever we produce, based on this Bill, you would not regard as satisfactory, and presumably you would not give time to it because you say it is not capable of amendment?—

Carr

I do not think I was saying quite that; what I meant to say was something a little different. We are now in May. Under our procedure bills go through a session and are completed in the session or are not completed in the session. Whatever proposals you make we believe that further time will be required to consult with people in the education and employment areas before we can be precise in the way in which one has to be precise in drafting a bill and carrying that bill to the stage of being an act of Parliament. I know that the Select Committee in another place took evidence from the trades union side and I think from the employers' side. However, they did not take any evidence, as I understand it, from the educational world. I believe that you will be seeing representatives of the trade unions, but I am sure you would be the first to agree that while this evidence is a vital part of it, bodies such as the trade unions, the employers and those in the educational world would expect some fairly detailed consultation over the details of legislation as opposed to the principles. We believe that it is not necessary for that to take months, let alone years, but it is bound to take weeks; therefore I do not believe that [end p2] we as a Government could be in a position to advise the House of Commons as to the precise amendments needed in time to get the Bill through this session.

Mr. Hamilton.

Hamilton:

253. It has been known for a Bill to get through the House in all of its stages in one day, so it can be done?—

Carr:

That can be done.

Hamilton:

254. If the will is there. You said earlier on that neither our Bill nor the identical Bill in the Lords, nor the revised version meets a full need. Do you agree that it meets part of the need?—

Carr:

I think it meets the need amply in scope, and I think in some ways the scope may be too broad. I think it is lacking in definition, as we have seen it at the moment; it is in giving definition to some of the proposals that the detailed work and consideration is most needed. I imagine this will come out in your questioning of my colleagues and myself in our various specific fields of responsibility.

Hamilton:

255. Do you think that by abbreviating the Bill it would be possible to meet some of the need that is evidently there?—

Carr:

One of the troubles that I see is that if one proceeds in this area on too broad a front then when it comes to the Act of Parliament beginning to take effect on our society and the way in which it behaves in the two crucial areas of employment and education and training it will lack effectiveness. If it is also lacking in precision then enforcement will become difficult. For example, I think it was the experience in the State of New York some years ago, when sex discrimination was just included with racial discrimination in their Act, that the conciliating, inquiry and enforcement procedures were absolutely swamped with cases, so that effectiveness was lost. I think it is necessary to make the definitions clearer, to do a further considerable amount of work on the machinery involved in conciliation, inquiry and in enforcement, before the Bill would become an Act of practical effect rather than just a general expression, a general demonstration of intent. I am not saying that a declaration of intent, made with the formality of an Act of Parliament, is without effect on the way in which society changes its behaviour, but the Government believe it would be more effective if it could be made more precise, and if some of these matters can be thought out more clearly than there has yet been time to do.

Hamilton:

256. When the Equal Pay Bill was going through, you said that this could not be effective unless we had legislation in this field too. We have now had agreement in principle to this Bill for quite a long time. Have any consultations been going on between the Government departments here represented with the bodies concerned? In other words, you said that consultations were necessary; presumably they are already going on with the University Grants Committee, with the local education authorities and the various bodies there in fields where discrimination is blatant?—

Carr

I think we are reaching a point when perhaps my colleagues could reply more effectively than I can as Home Secretary. All I am aware of—and the present Secretary of State for Employment will be able to give the latest position—is that in the last session of Parliament, when I was Secretary of State for Employment, I put in hand a study of the problems in relation to employment. That was our responsibility.

Mrs. Butler.

Butler:

257. Have there been any studies in the Home Office about how the operation of the Race Relations Board might have a bearing on this legislation in regard to women?—

Carr:

I think I could say “Yes” to that. The word “studies” has a particular connotation, and I do not wish to mislead the Committee into thinking that research has been put in hand on this, but considerable thought has been given to it, and some of that thought has undoubtedly emerged in the evidence given to this Committee and to the Select Committee in the other place by officials. One of the things which has come out is the extent to which we believe that sex discrimination is different from racial discrimination, and needs to be tackled in a somewhat different way. This may have been some cause of frustration between officials from different departments and your Committee and the Select Committee in the other place, that we have been taking [end p3] the view that it would be too simple and therefore not as effective as it ought to be if one were to proceed to deal with sex discrimination in the same way that we thought it right to deal with racial discrimination.

Chairman.

Hornby

257a. I think we can summarise the position as follows. The Government have announced they are anxious to publish a consultative paper as early as they can, and they would welcome the outcome of the deliberations of this Select Committee before that occurs. Certainly we were anxious, having seen this Bill receive the Second Reading in both Houses, to concentrate on machinery and to see in what ways the most effective instrument could be recommended to the House. That has been the nature of our deliberations. I think in pursuit of that now it would be as well to turn to the specific departmental subjects, first to education, then to employment, and then go on to the machinery of the board of conciliation and so on?—

Carr

May I be allowed one more remark at that point. Speaking personally, I should like to underline the emphasis which you have given to machinery, because the more one thinks about this, the more the whole question of machinery for enforcement, for persuasion and education, which in the end may be at least as important as enforcement—I am not suggesting there should be one without the other—is shown to be at the heart of this matter. Therefore the more advice you can give us about machinery, the more helpful it will be.

Hornby

258. May we turn to education, Mrs. Thatcher. May I begin by saying that the Committee has taken note of certain difficulties, to put it no higher than that, in which you will be placed in the context of the Anti-Discrimination (No. 2) Bill and section 13 of the Education Act. What scope, if any, do you see for legislation in this field as it affects education?—

MT

As far as schools are concerned, virtually none. I say that because there may have been some small things one has missed. I do not think any difficulties which arise arise from a lack of legislative provision.

Hornby

259. Would you like to enlarge on what difficulties in terms of sexual decrimination arise in the field of education?—

MT

We have not found very many. It is alleged that rather fewer girls take scientific subjects than boys. I think that is so. It may be so because rather fewer girls want to take scientific subjects than boys, or because if they take those subjects they do not find that they have sufficient employment opportunities at the other end, or not as many as the boys do. You may well find also that girls who want to go on to take advanced degrees may want a commercial career in the City. Undoubtedly there are not many employment opportunities open to them. It is very difficult to know what determines the subjects the take. It may well be the traditional view that the vast majority of women may get married and bring up a family, which makes many of them choose to go rather more towards the domestic science subjects in a secondary modern or comprehensive school than towards exact sciences. In view of the geat debate for relevance as far as education is concerned, there would seem to be some sense in most girls doing some of the domestic science subjects, and there is not the time for everything in the curriculum. But none of this relates to legislation. As far as I am concerned, I have no control of the secular curriculum. We have found changes in what girls are taking over the years. Those changes have occurred not by virtue of any legislative provision but by changes in taste and the opportunities which we believe have been opened up for the girls. For example, there is a very rapid increase in the percentage of girls who are taking scientific subjects. We have done nothing about it legislatively. As the taste developed, so the facilities have been provided, and the girls have taken advantage of them.

As far as the school life is concerned, I cannot think of any legislative provision. If I may enlarge on one thing, if any allegation of discrimination were made—say, a person wanted to go to the sixth form of a certain school and was not accepted—it would be difficult to know how to deal with it. The only method I could think of dealing with it [end p4] is a final appeal case would be through section 68, when I could direct a local authority under section 68 of the 1944 Act, if that local authority had acted unreasonably. I really cannot think that there would be many cases where it would ever get to that stage, because on the whole one would just draw the attention of the local education authority to it and the matter would be put right.

Mr. Cormack.

Cormack

260. There is a real worry. We are not entirely satisfied as a result of the evidence we have heard that the facilities in single sex schools for girls are as good as those in boys' schools. Often they tend to be less good in the scientific subjects than in boys' schools, and whilst one appreciates that one does not deal with this through legislation necessarily, are there going to be intensive studies in your Department of this particular thing, and also the provision for careers advice and guidance? That seems to be a crucial subject. Your officials accepted it as such, but again I was not entirely satisfied with the answers that we received?—

MT

There is nothing in the legislation to prevent the local education authorities from providing exactly what they wish to provide within the cost limits. When it comes to a secondary school for girls, or provision within a co-educational school for subjects with appeal particularly to girls, the local education authorities have the choice of saying whether they would provide more laboratories, more domestic science, or more crafts rooms or art rooms. There is nothing in the legislation to stop them from doing what they wish to do.

Cormack

261. I appreciate that, and that one does not necessarily tackle the problem by legislation; the fact remains that it is a commonly held belief that girls are discriminated against sometimes in single sex schools because they have not the facilities of the scientific nature as their colleagues in the boys' schools.—

MT

I think if they wanted them they are there. Single sex grammar schools or direct grant schools produce some of the best scientific and mathematical work, work of excellence, and they take many scholarships at universities.

The question which comes first, which I was trying to enlarge upon earlier, is that many girls do not wish to take mathematics or the exact sciences, so there is not necessarily a great deal of point in providing large-scale facilities for them. They may wish to take more of the domestic science subjects. In a larger school I would expect to find nearly all of the subjects provided for. If there is a lack of provision in one school in laboratory work there is nothing to prevent—it has sometimes happened—a girl from going to another school for particular subjects if she wishes to take them, particularly in the sixth form. You may be thinking of girls lower down in the schools. When it comes to the sixth form, quite often we come across cases where the school will send them to a further education college which will have laboratories of every kind to deal with any particular speciality which the girl wanted to take.

Mr. Hamilton.

Hamilton

262. Were you privy to the contents of Lord Colville 's speech before it was made in the House of Lords yesterday?—

MT

I was away yesterday, and I know only what I have read in the papers, but as far as the general educational content was concerned, we worked on it together.

Hamilton

263. Therefore, may I quote from it; in column 619 he said in respect of this legislation: “We shall also consider including provisions preventing unfair discrimination on grounds of sex so far as education is concerned, particularly in regard to admissions to educational institutions catering for both sexes and to access to courses of study within them.” Clearly Lord Colville thought that in so far as there was discrimination against girls or young women in education that would be dealt with by legislation. Can you think of instances where that would be so?—

MT

I think we were thinking mainly of allegations that have been made—although I am not aware that they have been substantiated fully—with regard to entry to certain higher education courses. If those allegations are made and substantiated naturally we consider how to meet them and whether it would be possible to meet them by a general anti-discriminatory provision and [end p5] if so exactly how that would be enforced. With that in mind, I have provisionally directed my remarks to schools in saying how one possible method of enforcement might come through section 68 of the 1944 Education Act, under which I have power to direct local education education authorities or governors if they have acted unreasonably in pursuit of their statutory duties.

Hamilton

264. Have you ever had occasion to exercise those powers under section 68?—

MT

Yes, but not as far as discrimination is concerned; it has been mostly on admissions to schools, which has not been in a discriminatory context, but the parental choice context. I think I have used them seven times, which is about the average.

Hamilton

265. When you talked about the allegations of discrimination some, if not all, of those allegations, must have come to your Department. Do you examine those individually?—

MT

Very few individual allegations as far as higher education is concerned come to my Department. I cannot think of one at the moment. Most of them come up in the form of general accusations—for example, in Parliamentary questions. When it comes to higher education, I think you will be aware of the problem. No Minister has ever interfered with the admissions policy in universities or, I believe, with polytechnics, because there is another great principle here, that of academic freedom. I think that if we were to have a general legislative provision, we would need to consult about the mode of enforcing it. We would need to consult with universities, not only the Universities Grants Committee, and the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, and the polytechnics, to see whether they thought it could be dealt with by means other than legislation first.

Chairman.

Hornby

266. When you first answered my question, you applied your answer to schools specifically, and left higher education out of your answer. Were you implying that whilst your reservations as to the suitability of legislation applied there, there was a greater need for action of some kind in the higher education field?—

MT

No, I was implying that that is where we have had the greatest number of allegations. It has not always been possible to substantiate them. I think some of the problems have occurred because people have tended to assume that unless you have equal numbers of men and women taking a particular course there was discrimination. I do not accept that. The important thing to me is that people should go into a particular course on merit. If they go in on merit, it may produce totally unequal numbers among boys and girls, because the demand is different. For example, if one is considering the balance of teachers in a co-educational schools one may get curious results and from time to time one may have to advertise either for a man or for a woman teacher, to keep some balance among the staff in a school which was co-educational. Let us suppose that the number of staff was 20 and they were recruited wholly on merit, and it was found that at the end of a number of years there were 18 men and two women, and then a woman teacher wanted to leave, at that stage I think one would be almost bound to say that one should see that some women were retained on the staff. I use that as a rather “far out” example. In a way, that would be a form of discrimination, because one would not necessarily be going on merit, but one would be saying that one had to have a woman for this job to retain the truly co-educational nature of the institution or to retain it in the eyes of the other people. I think there is sometimes a little confusion of thought. Equality of numbers can be a discrimination against merit. Have I made the point clear?

Mr. Hamilton.

Hamilton

267. At what stage would you decide that they were discriminating; suppose that the figures were 18:5 or 18:6?—

MT

I do not know; that is why I put the difficulty to you, but I can imagine all sorts of people saying, “You have a co-educational school, yet you have totally unequal numbers of boys and girls, either among pupils or in the sixth form or in certain courses, and totally unequal numbers of men and women [end p6] amongst the staff” . There would be other factors coming into play, because many parents would feel that one had to have a certain number of women on the staff of a co-educational school, or a certain number of men. Again, many parents may feel that in a large co-educational school that among the heads and deputy heads one ought to have men and women, and that would not mean advertising each and every job on merit, but looking at the particular job in relation to the balance of the whole. All of these are things that we would have to work out, and consult, or provide exceptions for.

Mrs. Butler.

Butler

268. May I follow that up by asking whether the Department has a special group considering this kind of problem, as to whether there is discrimination against girls in schools and in higher education in the choice of subjects and in other ways, and ways in which discrimination can be eliminated if it exists? I understand from previous evidence that it does not have such a group. It seems to me that without some group working in this way and producing facts and figures through real research it is extremely difficult for you to deal with the kind of problem that you have just put forward, as well as many of the other points we have been considering?—

MT

Normally, if there were such discrimination, we would get a larger number of complaints about it. We have not had such complaints. The kind of statistic we get is the one I have indicated, which says that there are so many fewer girls taking science O levels or science courses than boys. That may not be evidence of discrimination of any kind. We may be told that the careers advice is not sufficiently good, and it may well be that is because the careers opportunities are not so varied in the case of girls as they are in the case of boys. One cannot necessarily give careers advice about opportunities that are not there. One may find, as frequently occurs in the case of women, that there are always one or two exceptions which are used by people to say “There you are, we are not prejudiced” when there are very few exceptions, and there remains quite a big general prejudice.

Mr. Rees-Davies.

Rees-Davies

269. I am particularly interested in what would be the right type of machinery to deal with this in the future. There seem to be two things. First there are instances possibly of genuinely unreasonable conduct in the selection of somebody, in the service as it exists. If you came across that, would you rather deal with it within your own Department by amendment to section 68 or an extension of its purpose, or would you rather it were dealt with as part of the over-all system, for example through the Industrial Relations Act, by the unreasonable conduct of one teacher towards another being imported into the existing machinery of the Industrial Relations Act as may be the case now? The second question is, obviously the questions about the girls' future academically, youth employment opporrtunities and so on are matters of changing attitudes which may take many years. It may be that in ten years' time we shall get firls who are miners. Do you envisage equally that that is best done by having your own promotional people within your Department of Education handling the educational problem of changing attitudes towards women, or again do you think that that ought to be dealt with globally, either by the Home Office or the Department of Education and Science? Those questions are at the heart of the matter on machinery. Is it better that it should be dealt with piecemeal, ministry by ministry, or should it be dealt with over-all?—

MT

I made reference to section 68 earlier in giving the example in schools, because the machinery exists, and the question was put to me. I am reminded of one of the few cases of discrimination I have ever had which has come to me and which I have had occasion to look at. I have had a complaint about the promotion of someone to be head teacher of a school. I have had a complaint that there was a tendency, when there was a comprehensive school, to assume that a headmaster would be appointed, and there had been some discrimination against choosing a headmistress. One looks [end p7] into that under powers in the Education Acts. One usually finds that for a post of head teacher to such a school there will be over 100 applications from men and about four or five only from women, although those four or five might be very good ones. But if we get a case of alleged discrimination we look into it under our powers under the Education Acts. I think it would be necessary to consult with the local education authorities about whether those powers should be extended in so far as the local education authorities or governors are concerned; in the case of a person who had acted unreasonably we already have powers to deal with that.

Rees-Davies

270. Do you think they are sufficient powers?—

MT

No, I think when it comes to the use of section 68, the powers are a little short of what they would appear to the non-lawyer. As members will be aware, the word “unreasonably” has a very specific meaning in legal terms, and it may be that the powers are not quite sufficient. But I suspect that the educational world would prefer to use the kind of machinery that we have now, because there is a very delicate balance of power between the local education authorities and ourselves. That would be one of the aspects about which we would need to consult them.

When it comes to general attitudes, I do not think we can deal with those solely in the educational system. I think there is a general climate of opinion, and all of us need to operate on it together. People tend to say that it is possible to educate people about everything. That is not using the word “education” in the sense of formal education but, rather, of the influences that come over the course of a lifetime.

Mr. Houghton.

Houghton

271. When one of your officials was giving evidence to the Committee on 10th April I asked him this question: “If you were told to get rid of discrimination in your education system, how would you set about it? Where would you begin? Tell us the first thing you would do” , and I was unsuccessful in getting a reply to that, because eventually he said: “I am afraid I do not have an answer to it because it implies there is an opinion and a policy to be pursued. My duty is to carry out a policy, not to devise it.” So I am coming to you with this question, since you are in charge of policy?—

MT

May I ask what kind of discrimination? You ask a very general question.

Houghton

272. I find great difficulty in grasping the practical element of discrimination in education. For instance, some people regard a single sex school as a form of discrimination, and in order to get rid of that form of discrimination it is proposed to abolish the single sex school or to prevent further single sex schools being set up. There is of course the degree of parental choice that comes into this matter. You are between the local education authorities and their responsibilities and their discretion and their powers on the one hand and parental choice to the extent that it can be met on the other. But between those two I assume that you have a responsibility to see that discrimination to any practical extent is eliminated from the educational system. I am asking you now, where is that? What do you regard as the element of discrimination that you would have to get rid of? If there is nothing to get rid of, what is Lord Colville talking about? I assume there is something to get rid of, and what is it?—

MT

I know of very little if anything to get rid of in the schools. The complaints that come to me from time to time are discrimination on promotion, with which I have dealt. Other allegations that come are allegations that it is more difficult for a girl to get a place in higher education than for a young man. That may arise because there are fewer women in higher education than there are men, although the proportion has been increasing quite rapidly. I think that is where the main allegation comes.

Mr. Hamilton.

Hamilton

273. Is there not an allegation about discriminating against married women students in grants, for instance?—

MT

There may be an allegation about that. I do not believe it is wholly substantiated. The Government discriminated in favour of the deserted wife and the widow in grants when it came to a certain uprating, and they put a larger percentage of the increase on to the deserted [end p8] wife and the widow rather than on the married women. You could say there is a discrimination in favour of married women in the sense that she is not subject to any means test, whereas other people who go to the higher education system are. This is largely a question of semantics, that is why I have to ask precisely what are the allegations. Incidentally, married women's grants have gone up by £ 20.

Hamilton

274. A woman student who is married to a non-student loses up to £190 a year, 40 per cent. of her grant, simply because she is married. The maximum grant of £275 is regardless of her husband's earnings. Is there not a discrimination there?—

MT

You could say that; I am arguing you could say that she has more favourable treatment than her daughter. It may well be found that a girl going to university has very much less than £275 for her grant because she is subject to the parental contribution on her father. On the other hand, the mother is totally free of any means test on her husband. You can easily get two women from the same family, and the daughter may have a much smaller grant to go to university than the mother. Who is being discriminated against there? It depends upon the starting point.

Mrs. Oppenheim.

Oppenheim

275. On the subject of higher education, the point you made about numerical disparity in higher education and the limitations which are imposed upon you with regard to how much interference that can take place, particularly with universities, the point that was made in the Cripps Committee report, was that a higher standard of scholarship is demanded of girls because there is greater competition for fewer places, particularly in subjects which are popular with girls. That in itself is discriminatory in its effects and goes right through the educational system, through careers advice, because girls are not advised to take up certain careers because of the obstacles they will face in obtaining higher education and job opportunities. Surely that is an area within secondary education where some action has to be taken by your Department to try and re-educate the attitude perhaps of the universities in particular in this matter, and to influence girls who may think that they have a great many obstacles to overcome in order to achieve higher education; to give them more encouragement to do so rather than to discourage them, which is often the case at present?—

MT

The proportion of women in higher education is increasing quite rapidly. The question is, if you want more, how do you do it? Do you do it by some means through the co-educational universities or polytechnics, or do you look at it and say that it would appear that there are more colleges for men—take the Oxford and Cambridge colleges, for example—and therefore to correct any imbalance we need to create more special colleges for women? If one takes higher education as a whole, my recollection is that I do not think women are very far behind; in fact if one includes colleges of education, which are institutes of higher education, I think—I speak subject to correction here—they are abreast and in colleges of education slightly ahead. You may say that is a discrimination in favour, or it may be in a curious way a discrimination against women because they tend to go for the college of education where there is a good employment opportunity afterwards. We are doing something about the colleges of education; we are changing their totally mono-technic image, or giving them the opportunity to change it, so that they can take in a broader range of people. That may be a good opportunity for more women to take degree courses.

Mr. Cormack.

Cormack

276. I should like to ask a general question, which avoids for the moment the word “discrimination” , because what I am concerned about basically in education is equality of opportunity?—

MT

On merit.

Cormack

277. On merit, because I think that is a very good point—the essential point that you made. Are you as satisfied as it is possible to be that a young girl entering secondary education today has as good a chance as a young boy entering secondary education of doing what she wants to do, or do you feel that in looking at this dispassionately the dice are to some extent loaded against her, because the popular impression is that it [end p9] is loaded against her?—

MT

I should think that it is harder for a girl than a boy to get to some universities because of the arrangements of some of those universities, in that there are more men's colleges than there are girls' colleges. It does not necessarily hold with regard to institutions which are co-educational or with regard to the totality; it may well be that it is more difficult for a girl to get a particular place in Cambridge or in Oxford.

Mrs. Butler.

Butler

278. What about in the schools?—

MT

In the schools I should think that the opportunities are as good for girls as for boys, from the point of view of choice.

Butler

279. And the opportunities of being advised and having facilities? Are you generally confident that they are as good for girls as for boys?—

MT

I am looking over the whole field, and there are some opportunities for boys too that are grossly inadequate. That is why we have a school building improvement programme going now into secondary schools, but I do not necessarily interpret that as meaning that there are as many physics and chemistry laboratories for girls as there are for boys; the demand may vary.

Butler

280. And you do not think legislation is necessary to solve such problems as there are?—

MT

I do not think we need legislation. If, all of a sudden, we found there were far more girls who wanted to do physics and chemistry, I think we would make provision for them, as we have already made provision for the increasing numbers of girls who are taking the scientific subjects up to O level. It does not seem to be a matter of anything other than provision.

Butler

Are you prepared within your Department to conduct a thorough investigation into this? When I asked this question of your officials I was told that this was extremely difficult because there were 28,000 schools, and so on. That is really passing the buck. Accepting that legislation may not be necessary within your own Department, are you prepared to look at this over the country as a whole and to try and discover whether the popular image is a fallacy or a reality?

Mr. Houghton.

Houghton

281. I put this point to the Minister When he replied, Lord Colville said yesterday that he would also consider including provision for preventing unfair discrimination on grounds of sex so far as education is concerned, with particular regard to admissions to educational institutions catering for both sexes and to access to courses of study within them. Mr. Hamilton has already referred to this. Lord Colville must have had something in mind. I ask you what is this discrimination that you are going to consider taking steps to prevent?—

MT

It is just the kind of allegation to which the hon. Sally OppenheimMember for Gloucester was referring, that it is alleged that there are fewer opportunities in higher education for women in certain spheres than for men, and I am very anxious that the opportunities that are there, certainly in the co-educational institutions, should be open to men and women on a basis of merit. I had thought that if we had a general provision that this must be so, the only problem then would be how to enforce it, because I know of the difficulties. One has come up oneself and see one's family come up where a girl feels that the opportunities are not as good for her on merit. I am very anxious that they should be.

Houghton

282. Is this one of the things you would be prepared to see in the Bill?—

MT

This is a safety valve. It is one of the things we are prepared to consider putting in the Bill. I shall need to consult with the higher education institutions on how to enforce it and how best to put it in a bill, and in what form, but of all people I am most anxious that the girls should have an equal chance on merit, but equally I am the first to recognise that chances on merit will not produce equal numbers of boys and girls in every university or college. There may well be more girls than boys in some subjects, and vice versa.

Chairman.

Hornby

283. I think this is an important point which is becoming clearer now. I wonder if I may summarise this with a final question at this time, and with the question of time in mind we ought [end p10] to go on to employment. Would it be true to summarise what you have been saying to the Committee by saying that you see objections in some cases and no necessity for in others legislation specifically referring to the field of education, but you can see advantages in referring to the general climate within which the educational bodies have to operate which might be helpful to the sort of opportunities which are available on merit, or might be available on merit to men and women?

MT

I can see advantages in a general provision, particularly in relation to higher education, to ensure that there is no discrimination. That is what I am concerned to do. I can see difficulties about enforcement. I believe we should consult about that with the appropriate bodies.

Mr. Hamilton.

Hamilton

284. We have not touched on the crucial point, that is, the single sex school, and the departmental officials objected to Clause 4 on the grounds that it was repugnant—I think that was the expression used—to section 13 of the Education Act. I see that Lord Colville referred to the single sex schools in England in particular, and quoted the figures of 700,000 boys and 650,000 girls attending single sex schools, representing 16 per cent. of all pupils. He did not say whether those were in fee-paying schools or in the public sector. Is there a breakdown?—

MT

I could not tell you offhand; but there is a large number of single sex schools in the public sector, and when we get plans to reorganise secondary education we get a great and vocal demand from a large number of parents to retain some choice of single sex school against co-educational schools in each local education authority; it is a great and vocal demand; it is regarded as one of the matters of parental choice, and I think many parents take the view that in denying them the choice of single sex schools one is positively discriminating against their wishes.

Hamilton

285. But they are denied that in 80 per cent. of the cases. This parental choice is a nonsense, and you must know that so long as the 11-plus exists and as long as there are local education authorities which have not got single sex schools, the parents are denied choice in those areas. I guess that most of these children are in fee-paying schools. Is it not the case that the trend in public opinion is towards co-education?—

MT

There is an increasing number of co-educational schools but I am meeting an increasing demand where we get the section 13 notices to retain single sex schools, and sometimes to set up new ones. I should be very unhappy indeed if we could not meet that demand. Some of it comes from immigrant areas where the parents prefer their girls to be educated with other girls, and not with boys. That is not the only example.

Hamilton

286. You said there was an increasing demand for single sex schools?—

MT

On section 13 notices.

Hamilton

287. Can you put in statistics to confirm that?—

MT

There is an increasing demand when I get section 13 notices; I am getting an increasing number of signatures and petitions to that effect. Oxford was an example recently where the local education authority suggested that the whole system should go co-educational and comprehensive. There were very few objections to the whole system going comprehensive; there were many objections to the system going completely co-educational; there was a great demand that we retain among the co-educational schools one school for boys and one for girls, which I did.

Hamilton

288. How many local education authorities currently have got single sex schools?—

MT

I am sorry, I cannot answer that question.

Hamilton

289. Can you get the figures?—

MT

Of course we shall try to get the number with regard to the local education authorities. (See Q.306)

Chairman.

Hornby

290. I think on this question, with time in mind, there will be opportunities to return to the subject. We should now turn to the employment aspect of the question. May we look at the question of exceptions, which I think is one of the main points we wish to consider. If there were to be legislation dealing with discrimination in employment, the question arises as to what categories if any [end p11] should be exempt from those provisions. If I may deal first with the current statutory exceptions, do you have any comment to make on the relevance today and the need for the continuance of the exceptions under the Factories Act, the Miners and Quarries Act and the Midwives Act?—

Maurice Macmillan

In considering any legislation about discrimination against women I think one would have to look at the same time at the limitations on their employment. I do not think one would maintain all of the present statutory limitations, because it would make it too difficult for employers in these circumstances, particularly in relation to shift work. It is very difficult in connection with equal pay, plus genuine equality of opportunity not to remove some of the present statutory limitations on the employment of women. I think that is one of the points on which one would have to consult with representatives of unions and employers involved.

Hornby

291. I suppose there is a certain simplicity in exempting from a bill of this kind everything that is covered under a general exemption by other statutes. An alternative suggestion by some departmental witnesses has been that it would be better to be more precise and give individual specification of those exemptions. Do you have a view on that choice?—

Maurice Macmillan

Yes, I think I would prefer to be more precise and I should prefer to have the means to lay down criteria as far as possible after consultation as to what really were genuine occupational reasons for discrimination. I think there could be two sorts, one to which you referred about midwives and other occupations in which there are reasons for having one sex or another, and the other is that mentioned by the Home Secretary, of the need sometimes to provide a service which requires both men and women to provide it effectively. It may be necessary to fill one particular post by a man or a woman in order to keep the balance of the team dealing with that particular problem. For example, I am thinking of probation officers, where many probation authorities would accept the need to have both men and women dealing with this; if there was a vacancy it might be necessary to discriminate in seeking to fill those vacancies in order to keep a balanced team.

Hornby

292. The probation officers are no statutory exceptions at the present any kind?—

Carr

I think the question of probation officers brings to the point very clearly that Mr. Thatcher made in relation to the starting of a school, the need for balance. There are men and women in the probation service and there have been for a long time. Many jobs can be done either by men or women. For example we have 65 women welfare officers in male prison establishments; the welfare officers are probation officers seconded to a prison for welfare work. We have 65 women in male establishments, so we are not saying in this area that women cannot be used for most of the work done by probation officers but we believe that we need both men and women, and therefore the whole question of balance and how one legislates for balance is one of the most important things we have to secure. Taking it to a reductio ad absurdum, if we had an area where all of the applicants had been women for some time and we had got to the state where we had no men probation officers in the area, we would really have to say that the next 10 probation officers we recruited would have to be men. That is one of the legislative problems, because there is need for balance. I am sure that what the Secretary of State for Education was saying in relation to schools applies certainly to probation officers, to a limited extent to the prison service, to the police service and, I am sure, to many services in other departments. I think this question as to how one is going to allow balance is very important. I suspect, although it is not the same problem, it is analogous to the problem which arose in Parliament when it was dealing with race relations legislation, where people said that one must allow employers to agree on a ratio of coloured workers which they were going to have in their establishments at any one time. The pure doctrine of anti-racial discrimination said that a ratio was discriminatory and was bad in theory and in principle, and yet in practice the Act had in the end—and [end p12] I believe rightly—to admit that this was possible. I am not saying that this is precisely the same problem, but there is an analogous problem in dealing with sex discrimination, to allow scope for balance between men and women.

Mr. Cormack.

Cormack

293. Could your point be made by making it possible to advertise in certain circumstances for a woman or a man? Would that not meet it?—

Carr

I think it would do so. It is essential that it should be possible to do so. It may be something which will rarely have to be made use of, but it is an essential requirement.

Cormack

294. But it is at that point that one meets it?—

Carr

I think so.

Mr. Hamilton.

Hamilton

295. Mr. Macmillan, you favour more precise definitions of exemptions, I understand. Is it the departmental view that men should be precluded from being midwives?—

Maurice Macmillan

No, we certainly have no departmental view about that. I think one of the problems of exception, that is to say, of deciding where sex is a genuine occupational qualification, is the need for guidelines, and when one tries to draw up the guidelines for making this decision we shall need to consult very carefully because many people will come to different conclusions. Personally I should like to make two separate points on this. First it is necessary clearly to look at the protective legislation to see whether this is not in conflict with what one might call the equal opportunity legislation, and secondly, apart from the question of balance to which the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Education referred, which is a relatively simple problem, to try to lay down after processes of consultation some guidelines in the legislation on what is a justification for discrimination at work, whether in favour of women or of men. I am being non-discriminatory in my definition of “discrimination” . I think that is linked with the need to separate the enforcement procedures from what one might call the educative and general arrangements for carrying forward propaganda and information, and work in this field generally. As the Committee will be aware, the capacity for legislation to change attitudes is limited on its own, and what we are concerned with in discrimination against women at work is largely attitudes including the attitude at times of women themselves. This requires something other than enforcement measures for individual cases. We mean to carry forward the sort of approach that we have carried forward in the Code of Industrial Practice, and to lay down general standards which, while not carrying the force of law, would enable industrial negotiators and tribunals to see that the practices in employment were altered so as not to discriminate overtly or covertly against women.

Mrs. Oppenheim.

Oppenheim

296. The point was made by Mr. Galbraith with regard to extending Clause 2, particularly with regard to access to overtime and shift work, which many of us would commend. Do you see a possibility of this Clause being extended in this way, as long as women were given an option in this matter? Obviously many industries give men no option. If women were given this access to overtime and shift work, one would want them to be given an option at the same time, which would put them at a distinct advantage?—

Maurice Macmillan

I think that would be extremely difficult. One of the points we would wish to cover in legislation which has not yet come up in either of the two Bills is the question of transfer within employment. If we are going to try and extend the equal pay concept into equal opportunity there is the need to guard against the possibility of either failing to promote women or of having transfers within the firm which would be discriminating against women because they limited opportunities for them, including opportunities for overtime and shift work. But I think the question of the limiting of shift work being voluntary for women as opposed to compulsory for men under the necessary union agreements is something with which legislation could not deal, and it would have [end p13] to be a matter for negotiation by the unions representing the women. I should like to put the record straight, that in the O.M.E. inquiry into the workings of the Equal Pay Act they found no evidence of any significant attempts by employers to evade it by transfers within the company, although this must become a more distinct possibility with the move towards the full implementation of the Act towards the end of 1975.

Mrs. Butler.

Butler

297. The solution is to make it optional for either men or women. Has the Department done any thinking on those lines? Could this be implemented by legislation?—

Maurice Macmillan

Again I think we are trespassing on slightly dangerous ground, in that these are subjects which are normally settled by procedure and other agreements, between union negotiators and employers. I think if we are really going to try to get equality of employment in full for women, we have to be very certain on both sides of the bargaining table they are playing by the same set of rules, and both employers and unions are aware not only of the legislative side and what penalties there may be for infringement or discrimination against women, but also bear in mind the considerations of equal opportunity in conducting their negotiations.

Mr. Houghton.

Houghton

298. With regard to departmental administration, do you still have separate counters for men and women applicants for employment?—

Maurice Macmillan

We are moving more on to job centres; we have selfservice in employment and counselling, but I am not certain of that question as far as some of our older exchanges are concerned. Certainly we have separate advice according to the nature of the work applied for; I do not think we make any discrimination

Houghton

299. If a women goes into one of your offices and wants a job, is it possible that she would be interviewed by a man, or would she automatically go to a counter where she is interviewed by a woman?—

Maurice Macmillan

The last time I went into an office I saw a woman being interviewed by a man, and a man being interviewed by a woman.

Mr. Rees-Davies.

Rees-Davies

300. I should like to ask the Minister a number of questions leading up to what is the right machinery to be used. Does the Minister agree that sex discrimination in employment is an industrial relations issue which ought to be dealt with by industrial relations procedures?—

Maurice Macmillan

I think that with the exception of perhaps the professions, which I would treat slightly differently, that is very likely so.

Rees-Davies

301. I was much impressed by the evidence given by Mr. Galbraith to the Committee on 17th April. I want to pursue that, because he takes up the evidence given as long ago as last June by Mr. Rappoport and others in the evidence to the House of Lords. If that be so, and one finds areas of discrimination in employment, have you considered with your advisers that this matter might be dealt with best by using the procedure contained in sections 37 to 49 of the Industrial Relations Act and by the network of industrial tribunals which already exist for that procedure?—

Maurice Macmillan

I think it would be difficult to rely wholly on either the Equal Pay Act or the Industrial Relations Act because there are certain lacunae in those which would perhaps have to be amended. However with regard to the type of procedures, they are very suitable; that is to say, separate legislation building on to the Industrial Relations Act, with the possibility of using conciliation machinery in the ordinary way, and with complaints by individuals to tribunals. Here there are two important points. One is I think it is very difficult—although our conciliation services should be used to the full—I do not think it is suitable that the conciliation services should be used, as it were, to prepare a case for the discrimination board. I think that would prejudice their impartiality.

Rees-Davies

302. No, but could they be used in such an example: we have heard that there is very detailed, strong and clear discrimination in certain parts of the printing trade, of which the Minister will be particularly aware from his own experience. Supposing that one wished gradually to eradicate that, do you say that your conciliation officers might be used for discussion of this subject but not for the promoton of a particular [end p14] case against a union?—

Maurice Macmillan

Yes, I think discussion of the generality of the subject would be more for the ordinary method of industrial consultation. Once a pattern had been established or legislation had been passed, my conciliation officers would be available in the ordinary way where the dispute was between the employer and union. Similarly, where it was between the employer and an individual they would conciliate in the ordinary way, but there would be no possibility of the case going to the tribunal, with an appeal from the tribunal to the Court.

Rees-Davies

303. If you had a particularly bad case which was intractable, of course they would be able ultimately to go on and secure if need be damages in the way that arises in the case of unfair dismissal under the Act as it stands at present?—

Maurice Macmillan

That is the possibility, but I think it is one which we should discuss with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. and others involved, because it is important in dealing with the attitudes of people at work not to try to legislate further ahead, or too far ahead of the ordinary working practices, and people's general attitude. I fully accept that by having a degree of legislation one can set standards and eventually change attitudes. I do not think that legislation in itself is enough to shift those social and economic attitudes about women at work that are very deeply entrenched. I think also it is important in this field to avoid preventing any arrangements which are designed to suit certain classes of women, such as married women, or women with children from being negotiated. Such arrangements with an employer are required because they have children or because they have to be at home at a certain time or for other reasons. It seems to me that there is a danger that by suggesting there are no differences between men and women at work, one is liable to produce a situation which could be unfair to certain groups of women who require certain patterns of work to enable them to work at all. I think some members of the Committee will be familiar with what used to be called the married women's shift in the textile industry, which was designed to enable them to give their children tea after they had come home from school and to get home by the time their husbands had got home from the public house. That was an admirable arrangement, which was discriminating in favour of women, but in the best possible sense, and one would not want to legislate for greater equality and so make that sort of arrangement difficult.

Rees-Davies

304. One final question on this matter of the method of technique adopted in changing the attitude, some members of this Committee and others have raised the question as to how the attitudes might be encouraged to be changed, on what is the “public relations” side. Would the Commission on Industrial Relations be an appropriate body to come forward with a report—such as those referred to in section 45 of the Act—as to the ways in which to improve the attitudes in employment towards women, or do you think that that is an unsuitable body to undertake this task?—

Maurice Macmillan

Depending on the scope of the legislation and on the nature of the criteria one would seek to lay down for exceptions and the pattern of enforcement, I think it might be advisable to have a special body which, without legislative or enforcement powers, would be there to provide the sort of advice and help with regard to the employment of women in industry particularly rather than to use the C.I.R. which handles much more general and wide-ranging issues. Again this is a matter on which I think we require detailed consultation as to the machinery, both for enforcement and to maintain the pressures on those concerned with negotiation to move away from the discrimination which undoubtedly exists.

Chairman.

Hornby

305. Mrs. Thatcher, I know that you have another engagement at 5.30 and we are grateful to you for all of the answers you gave to us earlier. If we have any subsequent inquiries to make of your Department perhaps we could get in touch with you. That being so, we shall be glad to let you go to your other work?—

MT

I am most grateful. Shall I let the Committee have the details of single sex schools separately? [end p15]

Hornby

306. Perhaps we could get in touch with you if there are any inquiries?—

MT>

I can give one quick figure: the total of maintained secondary schools is 4,913 in England, of which 1,653 are single sex schools. They are distributed round all of the regions; it may be helpful if that is on the record.

Hornby

Thank you very much.