Lynne Featherstone: even worse than Harriet Harman?

Yesterday’s papers included a story about the forthcoming sly introduction of ‘gender pay audits’ into the private sector – something even Harriet Harman didn’t manage to introduce during the execrable Labour administration of 1997-2010. Lynne Featherstone clearly wants to go down in history as an even more extreme militant feminist than Harriet Harman. The ideological objective of forcing companies to introduce gender pay audits will encourage feminists to make vexatious claims against their employers, and employment tribunals are notoriously feminist-friendly. No doubt we’ll have more ‘equal pay for work of equal value’ nonsense, where issues such as risk to life and limb, unsocial hours, time spent away from home etc. aren’t taken into account (the overwhelming majority of deaths in the workplace are of men). From yesterday’s Mail Online:

Companies will have to review the wages of all their workers if they lose an employment tribunal claim over equal pay. Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone announced yesterday that tribunals will also be able to order firms to publish details of how men’s and women’s earnings compare across their business. She told MPs that she hoped the new rules would expose discrimination in companies that pay men more than women without justification.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman had sought to introduce similar proposals, which would have forced all firms to carry out equal pay audits. These were scrapped by the Coalition in December 2010.

Mrs Featherstone said that while the Government would encourage companies to carry out such investigations, only those found to have broken the law would be made to do so. She explained: ‘This will mean that an employment tribunal which finds that an employer has discriminated on grounds of sex in contractual or non-contractual pay will be obliged to order the employer to conduct a pay audit in cases where continuing discrimination is likely. An audit would not be ordered if an audit has been completed in the last three years, the employer has transparent pay practices, or the employer can show a good reason why it would not be useful.’ She said the smallest businesses would be exempt, and that a consultation would be held this year to establish the details of the plan.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: ‘It is right to take strong action in the few cases where employers have been shown to have breached the law. This strikes a balance between promoting workplace equality and letting businesses get on with their jobs.’

‘This strikes a balance’? In the immortal words of John McEnroe, ‘You cannot be serious!’

We need to talk about Vince Cable

It seems I was premature in declaring a small victory had been won in the battle against the ideological goal of ‘improved’ gender balance in the boardroom. I’d inferred from broadsheet newspaper reports that Theresa May, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, had written to EU Commissioner Viviane Reding opposing EU imposition of quotas for women in the boardroom, that this was the government’s revised domestic position also. I was wrong, it now seems. I’m grateful to Fred for pointing me towards the following article on yesterday’s Mail Online. It concerns the coalition’s ultra-Leftie Business Secretary, and the piece is titled, “Firms face compulsory quotas if they don’t put women in top jobs, insists Vince Cable”:

Businesses could be hit with compulsory quotas to increase the number of women on boards unless they raise the number voluntarily, said Vince Cable. The Business Secretary said he was ready to introduce legal targets if firms had failed to ensure a quarter of executives at board level were female by 2015. He also suggested that if he were prime minister, half of the Cabinet would be women.

More women should be promoted in the boardroom under guidelines being pushed by The Business Secretary. Mr Cable said there were encouraging signs that firms were beginning to heed calls for gender equality – revealing figures suggesting that in the past three months, half of new appointments to FTSE company boards have been women.

He said he planned to ‘name and shame’ companies that fail to make further progress. One in ten of Britain’s biggest firms still has all-male boards. ‘It’s very, very important that women are there in numbers,’ Mr Cable said. ‘Our objective is to get a quarter of all board membership being women by 2015. Our current approach, which is trying to change the culture, trying to name and shame, I think will work. If it doesn’t, we can look at things like quotas. There is a body called the Financial Reporting Council that requires companies to declare publicly what they do. So companies will be in the future publicly identified and there will then be a role for me to go out and say publicly, “This is a disgrace, you should change your behaviour”.’

Asked whether he would introduce quotas if that approach failed to deliver the target figures, the Business Secretary said: ‘I would, yes. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate last resort. But I think the current approach that we have adopted is beginning to produce serious results, so let’s give it a chance.’

The EU has announced a consultation on how to increase women’s presence on corporate boards, warning that progress towards equality is too slow. Mandatory quotas are being threatened if member states fail to make sufficient progress. The EU’s Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has warned that on current rates of change, it will take more than 40 years for women to hold 40 per cent of board positions in Europe’s publicly traded companies.

In Britain, companies are working towards a voluntary target to increase the percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards to 25 per cent, up from 12.5 per cent last year. But business leaders have warned against compulsory quotas. On BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour the Business Secretary also took a swipe at David Cameron’s failure to meet an aspiration that a third of his ministers should be women. There are five women – all Conservative – in the Cabinet.

In a reference to the new French president’s decision to make half of his top team female, Mr Cable said: ‘If I ever finish up in Mr Cameron’s job, and who knows what could happen, you might well get a Francois Hollande moment.’

Meanwhile, Tory MP Peter Bone demanded that Vince Cable be sacked from the Cabinet after it emerged that the Business Secretary was in contact with Labour to discuss a possible alliance following the next election. At the weekend it was revealed that Mr Cable had held phone conversations with Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The appointment of a noted Leftie to such an important position, and the fact he’s still there, are indicators of how left-wing and feminist-friendly David Cameron is himself. I was warning of this two years ago, and herewith give you a chapter titled, ‘David Cameron: heir to Harman?’ from The Glass Ceiling Delusion:

120106 sample chapter from ‘The Glass Ceiling Delusion’

My open letters to Rt Hon Theresa May MP and Rt Hon Vince Cable MP

[Note added 17 July 2012: my joy at the government’s decision to remove the threat of quotas for women on boards was premature. The risk still remains. The government was merely objecting officially to EU-imposed quotas, but continues itself to threaten them if companies don’t increase the proportion of women on their boards ‘voluntarily’.]

Fresh from celebrations over the government’s decision to remove the threat of quotas for women in the boardroom – a matter reported in this blog yesterday – I read the following in today’s Telegraph:

The Department for Business and the Home Office said a ‘growing body’ of research was showing that ‘diverse’ boards made companies more effective.

Supporters of the Campaign for Merit in Business know this statement is a blatant untruth. In consequence, I’ve just posted a letter to the heads of the two departments officially spreading the untruth, Vince Cable and Theresa May. They’re virtually identical (the letters, not the politicians, obviously, you’d never struggle to tell them apart) and I’ll just include Mrs May’s letter here:

120529 letter to Rt Hon Theresa May MP

I shall post the responses from Mrs May and Mr Cable upon receipt (if any), along with details of ‘the growing body of research’ (if any). Please don’t hold your breath.