Adam Afriyie
MP for Windsor
Better pay for women – not gesture politics

What drove me into politics was a determination to see people treated fairly in the workplace irrespective of their gender, heritage, background or disabilities.

A job is perhaps the best stake in society that one can have. A diverse mix of people in the workplace does more to break down social stigma, disharmony and unfair discrimination as employers and employees recognise that, fundamentally, everyone shares the same hopes and aspirations.

I want everyone to be able to participate in our economy and help build our national prosperity. If we are to continue to make progress then women, men, minorities, those with disabilities and mental health challenges and those from less-advantaged backgrounds must all have the opportunity to find work, gain experience and share in the proceeds of Britain’s success.

The pay gap between men and women has fallen dramatically over the years. The question now is how do we measure any remaining gap and continue to make progress, not just for women but for everyone?

This week, a bill was brought before Parliament that would introduce new legislation to force private businesses to publish their pay records in an attempt to determine the level of any pay gap between men and women.

I simply could not support this proposal because it is nothing more than well-meaning but counter-productive gesture politics of the worst kind.

First, there simply isn’t enough time to introduce this legislation before the election.

Secondly, Labour’s proposal would place yet more time-consuming and onerous reporting regulations on businesses which undermine their profitability. Regulations kill productive jobs and businesses, since submitting regular reports to Government departments will eat into valuable time and resources.

Thirdly, why does the bill only mention gender? There may well be greater disparities for those with disabilities and mental health challenges and for those from minorities or disadvantaged backgrounds,

Fourthly, non-discrimination legislation is already on the statute books. It’s already illegal to discriminate unfairly so further legislation is superfluous.

Finally, there is a better way to analyse pay differentials that are both less expensive and more useful.

Rather than introducing a crude and bureaucratic proposal that will burden more than 7,000 British-based companies, we should surely first ensure that public bodies publish their own salary records. This is something that Governments can readily deliver and if it proves useful then a well-refined and efficient reporting structure could be rolled out to private businesses. The logical starting place is to get our own house in order first.

Treating women and minorities equally well at work is a duty. Imposing burdensome regulations is a guaranteed way of sapping the enthusiasm of those who already pay their female employees equal amounts because it is the right thing to do. And it makes sense economically.

The Internet has made it easier for jobseekers to use their collective weight to force companies to change. Already, there are websites where employees can compare their salaries to their counterparts in other companies. This is a great tool for employees to demand fair treatment. The power an employee has is to be able to seek a job elsewhere in a competitive jobs market.

Society has moved on considerably in the past 40 years. Women and minorities are treated with much more respect than they were just a few decades ago. And this is thanks to evolving social attitudes. Forcing top-down compliance undermines the goodwill and public duty that help drive change in attitudes.

I have optimism that over the next few years, thanks to improving attitudes and better workplace atmospheres in business, more women will form a key part of companies’ and management structures.

Women can be better employees than men in the same role.  Equal pay must not be a straight-jacket. It makes business sense not to pay women equally at times, but to pay them more than another male employee in order to adequately reflect their greater contribution to business success. That is the logical and positive change I want to see. And I am optimistic, that through the actions of private individuals, rather than the government, these hopes will become a reality.

It is a very stupid employer that does not employ the best person for the job, and it would be a very stupid government that introduces unnecessary legislation to force private businesses to do what they will naturally seek to do if they are to compete and stay in business.


Better flood defences for Berkshire

Adam Afriyie (Conservative, Windsor): To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps she has taken to improve flood defences in the Thames Valley in 2014.

Dan Rogerson (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for water, forestry, rural affairs and resource management): Since the 2013/14 winter flooding, over £3 million has been spent on work to restore flood defence assets in the Thames Valley and Surrey areas to help reduce the risk of flooding to communities. This has included completing eight flood defence repair projects and capital works on two weirs (Molesey and Godstow). The Environment Agency has also carried out repairs to damage on three Thames weirs, including removal of trees and blockages, and shoal clearance works across twenty sites through the Lower Thames.

During this year, the Environment Agency has also made progress in developing two large-scale flood alleviation schemes:

- The Oxford to Abingdon scheme, reducing flood risk to over 1,000 properties; and

- The River Thames scheme, reducing flood risk to over 15,000 homes and businesses and significant local infrastructure around Teddington to Datchet.

An indicative allocation of £297m of Grant in Aid has been allocated to projects within the Thames RFCC are over the next 6 years. These projects will better protect at least 25,000 households by 2021. It is planned to start the construction of 36 projects by April 2016 with a further 126 projects in development and the pipeline for construction in future years.

Improving Transport Networks in Berkshire

Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he has taken to improve transport links in the Thames Valley.

Mr Robert Goodwill (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport): The Government launched the Roads Investment Strategy on 1 December. The M4 Junction 3-12 smart motorway project to upgrade the M4 between Reading and Heathrow continues to be progressed. This month the Highways Agency is conducting a public consultation on the proposals, including exhibitions at 11 locations in the Thames Valley.

Construction of Crossrail is now more than half completed and electrification of the Great Western Main Line is also under way. Electrification of the Thames Valley branch lines, including the Slough to Windsor line, is approved and will improve local connectivity.

The transformation of Reading station was completed on time and under budget as part of the £850 million Reading Station Area Redevelopment programme and formally opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 17 July.

The programme to increase passenger capacity on the Reading and Windsor to Waterloo railway by 25% is now under way and will be completed in early 2015. 60 additional carriages are being incorporated into an extended and refurbished fleet of trains to operate as a maximum 10 carriage train length.

In July the Government announced £94.6m to support local transport projects across Berkshire as part of the Growth Deal with the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, in addition to the £36.9m integrated transport block funding announced in March for the six Berkshire local authorities, covering the period 2015/16 to 2020/21.

Labour’s plans for education will limit social mobility

Labour have announced plans that would introduce rigid criteria for fee-paying schools to meet if they want to keep tax reliefs. This will cause more problems than it solves.

In an article published by the New Statesman, I write that “We all want to see more children from less advantaged backgrounds gain greater social mobility, but this kind of visceral proxy class-war needs unpicking.”

Read the full article online here.

Windsor MP praises Government announcements to help homebuyers and small businesses

On Wednesday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne gave his Autumn Statement, outlining the state of the economy and what measures he plans to boost the economy.

According to statistics released by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the economy will grow by 3% this year.  Unemployment has also fallen, with almost 700,000 people finding work in the past year.

The Chancellor also announced several measures including changes to stamp duty to help those buying modestly-priced homes, a doubling of the small business rate relief and support for apprentices and post-graduate students.

Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor, commented:  

“The main economic figures demonstrates the success of the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan.

“The British economy is growing faster than any other nation in the G7. British employment levels are at a record high and wages are starting to rise faster than inflation as they will continue to do for the next five years.