On Tuesday a bill was proposed by Labour MPs that would force businesses with more than 250 staff to publish information on pay difference between male and female employees. It's kind of surprising in nearly 2015 that there's still a need to force companies to fess up when they pay female employees less than male employees, but there you go.
The bill passed with a majority of 250, but astonishingly, seven Conservative MPs voted against it and one abstained. Huh? Yeah, I'm baffled too. What possible reason could seven MPs have against companies telling people if they pay women less than men? Over a career, from the age of 22 to 64, a woman earn an average of £209,976 less than men. Surely they don't think that's OK?
I decided to get in touch with them and see if they could clarify their stance on the issue. Perhaps they had some sort of insider knowledge on the issue. Among the eight men who did not vote in favour of the bill there is a mix business owners and previous ministers within the Department of Trade and Industry. Maybe they knew something I didn't.
In an attempt to create some sort of dialogue I decided to reach out to them via the medium of Twitter. MPs love Twitter, it gives them immediate contact with the people they serve. What could be better? I thought a nice group discussion might break the tension and get ideas flowing.
Unfortunately this only lead to Mr Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough, blocking me. Harsh considering the only other person who's blocked me is Jonathan Ross.
Feeling a more immediate approach was needed, I called round the eight men to see if they'd prefer to chat over the phone. Seven out of eight of them were out of their offices, in meetings, or just not available for a chat. I guess MPs are pretty busy at this time of year.
Christopher Chope, the MP for Christchurch, one of those who recently filibustered a bill on "revenge evictions" to death, was the only MP to pick up the phone. When asked about the bill, Chope said he didn't know what I was talking about, before saying that it was only a "ten minute bill", which means it's not going to progress very far before the election anyway (basically it was no big deal). That didn't really explain why he voted against it. He then told me that the considerable media coverage around his vote had yet to reach the House Of Commons – "We've had none of that here I'm afraid. Sorry I don't know what you're going on about". Then he hung up.
Of those who didn't talk on the phone, their PAs said they would email me. One did.
John Whittingdale, MP for Maldon has been the only one as of yet to get back to me and address the issue head on. In an email, he assured me that although he is "in favour of equal pay" (top bloke), he is a "strong supporter of deregulation", and "generally reluctant to place more administrative requirements on companies." Weirdly, while he doesn't like telling companies what to do, he has no problem telling gay people that they shouldn't be allowed to get married. At least he got back to me.
Hendon MP Matthew Offord, the guy who abstained on the bill, is yet to reply to my email. But he did make a statement to The Barnet and Wheatstone Press outlining his belief that the bill didn't go far enough. By only covering companies with more than 250 employees, he argued, it discriminated against those working for companies with fewer than that. "I support everybody receiving equal pay for equal employment, not a select few," he said. Which sounds kind of legit, perhaps. But why not take that first step?
So, I'm still waiting on six proper explanations. If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear, right? That goes for companies paying women less, and for MPs who don't want to talk to journalists. Hit me up, guys.
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