The Prime Minister failed to rule out opting out of the European Equal Pay Directive at today's PMQs prompting fears equal pay for women in the UK could be put in jeopardy.
David Cameron was asked about the subject by York MP Hugh Bayley and would only go so far as to say he would look at the issue. 130 Conservative backbenchers have called for Britain to opt out of the European Equal Pay Directive. Earlier in the day, the Conservative Fresh Start group published a “Manifesto for Change” which urged David Cameron to seize back from the EU all of its social and employment law including the Equal Pay Directive which guarantees equal pay for the UK’s 13.7 million women workers.
At Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, David Cameron told the House that he would pursue the national interest in negotiations with the European Union, and was pressed by York Central MP, Hugh Bayley, to rule out an opt-out on Equal Pay:
“Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): Let us talk about Europe and the national interest. Millions of British women would be hit by the proposal in today’s Conservative Fresh Start report to opt out of the EU law on equal pay. Will the Prime Minister rule out such an opt-out today?
The Prime Minister: As I explained at the beginning of Prime Minister’s questions, the Government have massively helped women through the single-tier pension. I will look very carefully at the proposal that the hon. Gentleman mentions and I will write to him.”
Hugh Bayley MP said:
“European Union decisions are always a compromise between the 27 member states. We don’t always get everything we want but the EU does more good than harm. Equal pay for women is just one example.
“Three and a half million British jobs depend on exports to the EU. Our standard of living is higher because we are a member. We are Europe’s financial services centre, but we’d lose investment and jobs if we opted out of Europe. And we’d have less influence over global policy on trade and climate change if we tried to go it alone.
“I am glad the Prime Minister didn’t pander to his Eurosceptic backbenchers on equal pay for women. We need to defend the good things Europe does to improve our quality of life. He says he’ll write to me about this and I look forward to seeing what he has to say.”