MPs back gender pay gap disclosure
Plans to make big companies reveal their gender pay gap have been overwhelmingly backed by MPs in a symbolic Commons vote.
The Labour-backed Equal Pay (Transparency) Bill to make employers with more than 250 staff publish information showing the difference between male and female pay were passed by 258 votes to eight, majority 250.
The vote was instigated by Opposition MPs calling both in favour and against the Bill, forcing MPs into the voting lobbies despite no-one speaking against the plans.
Labour MP Sarah Champion (Rotherham) brought the measures forward on a Ten Minute Rule motion which means they are unlikely to become law without Government backing due to a lack of parliamentary time.
Labour's analysis of the Office for National Statistics' annual survey of hours and earnings show that over a career, from the age of 22 to 64, a woman earned an average of £209,976 less than men.
The Bill would bring into effect measures in the 2010 Equality Act which were not implemented by the coalition Government, making companies publish the difference between male and female pay.
Ms Champion said the Government had failed to address the issue and stressed that the measure was not about naming and shaming companies.
The backbencher insisted that publishing the information would place a responsibility on employers to obey the law on equal pay and take steps to reduce the gender pay gap.
She said: "Pay transparency will push companies to focus on the reasons why the pay gap still exists.
"This isn't about naming and shaming, about telling companies what to do or micromanaging them, it's simply about changing the emphasis.
"Pay transparency places the responsibility on employers to be actively conscious of the law on equal pay and have policies to address the gap.
"It's a simple ask and we know this because some of the employers, although too few, do it already."
She added: "Openness and transparency are principles that this House should be voting for and that governments of all colours should champion."
Before the debate a rally outside Parliament was attended by Hollywood star Gemma Arterton, who is currently starring in a stage version of Made In Dagenham, which celebrates the female workers at Ford's Dagenham plant who went on strike over equal pay in 1968.
Ms Champion said MPs now had the chance to honour those women, some of whom were also at the demonstration.
She said: "Today Parliament has the opportunity to take a big step closer to making good on promises of equal pay, fought and won by the women of Ford Dagenham 46 years ago.
"MPs of all parties must listen to the voices of women up and down the country and support pay transparency today."
Seven male Conservative MPs opposed the Bill.
They were Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), David Nuttall (Bury North), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), and John Whittingdale (Maldon).
Fellow Tory Matthew Offord (Hendon) formally abstained by voting in both lobbies.