In the House of Commons Opposition Day debate on Equal Pay, the Equalities Minister Caroline Dinenage (Conservative Gosport) refuses to give way to Stephen Doughty (Labour Cardiff South and Penarth) who tries , in vain, to interject from the front bench in his role as Opposition spokesman on Business. It was Dinenage’s first appearance in her new ministerial role – but she proved to be no push-over for the Penarth MP.
It was a test of wills in the Commons yesterday as Caroline Dinenage – newly promoted Government Equalities Minister in her first appearance in the House in her new role clashed with newly-promoted Opposition Business spokesman Stephen Doughty (Labour Cardiff South and Penarth) in an opposition day debate on equal pay .
The Labour motion before the House proposed that the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should be tasked with analysing the information and producing a report to the Government and Parliament each year.
Stephen Doughty at the dispatch box faces Caroline Dinenage
From the dispatch box Stephen Doughty told MPs women still earned on average 81p for every pound earned by men. He said “The gender pay gap is not only morally wrong and an affront to our sense of equality in this House and in the country, but bad for our economy. If women were paid the same as men across the board, our GDP [ Gross Domestic Product ] on one projection, would be up by 13%. There is also an impact on parents and families. The unequal pay challenge means that parental leave will always be seen as primarily for women, even when men want to be with their children, because of the cost of raising children, even with a partner. We need to recognise the moral and economic costs and the costs for families.”
‘ I CANNOT PARTICIPATE IN THE DAUGHTERS’ RACE ‘
Doughty went on to say “I cannot participate in the daughters race as I do not have any daughters, but I have three god-daughters and I want them to have the same opportunities and chances in life as my god-son.” and adding “Let us have the transparency, assess the data properly, remove the barriers to justice from tribunal fees, take action on childcare, education, elderly care, low wages and representation in board rooms, and let us get equal.”
Caroline Dinenage (Equalities Minister) begins winding up the debate for the Government as Stephen Doughty (Industry spokesman) listens from the opposition front bench
For the Government the Equalities Minister Caroline Dinenage (Conservative MP for Gosport) was unimpressed. She said – tactfully – that “The Opposition’s motion seems a little muddled. Where there is evidence of actual pay discrimination, we introduced legislation requiring employment tribunals to order the employer to complete an equal pay audit”.
Doughty appeared not to agree with her assertion and got to his feet to ask “Will the Minister give way?” [ i.e. could he make an interjection] .
Equalities Minister Caroline Dinenage in the face-off with Doughty
Caroline Dinenage [daughter of veteran ITV South news presenter Fred Dinenage] was having none of it, held her ground and firmly refused. She said “I have very little time left, so I am going to try to get to the end of my speech, if the honourable gentlemen does not mind….”
However it appeared that the aforesaid “honourable gentleman” (a.k.a. Stephen Doughty) did mind. There was a further interruption from a frustrated Doughty which was again elegantly brushed-aside by the blonde Conservative Minister.
Unflurried, Dinenage said to Doughty ” If the honourable gentleman will give me time, I will offer a full explanation.”
She went on to say “This is Government are already strongly building on the record of the coalition, both in tackling the gender pay gap and, more widely, in promoting policies that will ensure that women can play their full part in our economic growth. I am proud to be a member of this Government—we are taking forward that work—and delighted to have this opportunity so early in the new Parliament to present our record to the House. However, we should never be complacent about equal pay and addressing the gender pay gap.”
“Sadly, although I share so much of the sentiment of the motion, all of its suggestions, apart from a formal laying of the annual document before Parliament, could already be done by the EHRC [Equality and Human Rights Commission] without any change to legislation or any instruction by Government, which we could not in any case give to an independent body.
Delivering a coup-de-gras to the opposition benches – and to Doughty – Dinenage said ” I therefore call upon the House to reject the motion as a muddled and unnecessary add-on to what this Government are already committed to taking very seriously.”
In the division that followed Government comfortably won – thus defeating the motion.