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Equal football pay raised as MPs mark International Women’s Day

Lewes Football Club was the first in the country to give equal pay to their men’s and women’s teams, the Commons heard.

Equal pay for male and female footballers should be “reflected nationally” as the women’s game develops, Labour has suggested.

Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler recalled how “male misogyny struck a blow” at women’s sport when the Football Association banned women’s football from its clubs’ grounds nearly a century ago – at a time when it was popular and “making big money”.

She added that female footballers have been “making up for lost time”, and welcomed moves by Lewes Football Club to pay its women’s team the same as its men’s team.

Shadow women and equalities Dawn Butler speaks in the Commons during the debate on International Women's Day

Conservative MP Maria Caulfield (Lewes), intervening during a Commons debate held to mark International Women’s Day, told Ms Butler: “I just wanted to highlight in the world of women’s football the work that Lewes Football Club do in my constituency, which was the first club in this country to give equal pay to the men’s team as well as the women’s team.”

Ms Butler replied: “That’s excellent news and hopefully we will see that reflected nationally as well as we encourage the game of women’s football.”

MPs gathered in the Commons to mark the occasion with the annual debate also focused on Vote 100, to commemorate 100 years since Parliament passed a law which allowed the first women to vote.

Ms Butler said she had marched last weekend for the “hidden history of women”, adding: “The role of women of colour in the Suffragettes movement has often been overlooked.”

She highlighted Sarah Parker Remond, the “only known woman of colour to sign the first petition for women’s suffrage in 1866”, explaining: “Sarah was an educated, independent woman of wealth – why would she be hidden from the history of the Suffragettes movement?

“There can only really be one answer: the colour of her skin. So today I’d like to salute Sarah Parker Remond in Parliament so that her name will live in perpetuity in Hansard.”

Women and equalities minister Amber Rudd, also Home Secretary, opened the debate by outlining three areas where women are “still losing out to men globally”.

She said: “The first is violence. Too many women and girls face harm and abuse.

“The second is money. More women earn less than their counterparts do.

“The third is influence. Around the world men still occupy the majority of the top jobs.”

Ms Rudd detailed the Government’s work to change matters, including reiterating the launch of a consultation focused on tackling domestic abuse.

Labour MP Stella Creasy speaking during the debate

Labour MP Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) urged Ms Rudd to give MPs a chance to vote to allow women in Northern Ireland to access abortion in their own nation.

Ms Rudd said there are “limitations” over her powers to announce such a statement.

Conservative former minister Maria Miller, chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, used her speech to question: “Is this a turning point?

“I’ve heard that mentioned earlier on. Is it a landmark year? Well I’m sure the people around the First World War and the Second World War, in the ’60s, in the ’70s, when so much of the legislation that we enjoy today was put in place, also felt they were landmark years.

“I think the reason why we might better say that this is going to be a landmark year, following all of the revelations that we’ve had regarding sexual harassment in Hollywood and Westminster, is because we have record numbers of women in work.

“And I think that economic empowerment is such an important part of cementing the changed attitude that we’re all looking for in the debate today.”

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