How many pieces of silver did Peter Mandelson give the Equality and Human Rights Commission to come out in the media this morning basically saying that equality was too expensive during a recession?
Nicola Brewer (Chief Exec of the EHRC) was quoted in The Guardian this morning saying that this was no time to make companies carry out and publish pay audits that would demonstrate the disparity in men and women’s wages.
Mandelson has been sending smoke signals through the trade and right wing press for some weeks now – vilifying any part of the Equalities Bill which might be a cost. But the scandal of women’s pay (compared to men) – even now, 30 years after the Equal Pay Act – is something that this Government said it would address in the Bill.
Ms Harman keeps assuring me in Parliament that they are committed to equality but that pay audits must be voluntary not mandatory. Well – we saw how effective voluntary codes were in banking!
Clearly from these weasly words from the EHRC the Government wants to be able to point at their statement as referred credibility for backing away from any commitment to real equality. The EHRC should be ashamed of themselves. They are meant to fight for equality – not be lackies for Labour’s failed commitments.
Ironically, to mark International Women’s Day, we had a debate in the chamber on ‘Support for Women (Economic Downturn)’ – the gist of which was that women are particularly vulnerable in a recession as they usually have less financial resilience and are already much disadvantaged through things like unequal pay etc. As I said in the debate, “The needs of those who face discrimination do not stop where the needs of British businesses begin.”
But clearly Mandelson, Harman and the EHRC are going to let us eat cake!