Butler, Joyce (2 of 3) National Life Story Collection: Fawcett Collection
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Butler, Joyce 1905-2000 (speaker, female)
Maynard, Marie (speaker, female)
Part 2: In Parliament was interested mainly in housing and in problems of women. A major event during her long service (24 years) in parliament was her introduction (4 times) of a bill on Sex Discrimination under the Ten Minute Rule. Each time it was lost, but subsequently Willie Hamilton had won on the ballot and she suggested that he should take her bill. He was successful and it later became the Sex Discrimination Act. Lady Seear insists that Joyce Butler is the real "Mother of the Sex Discrimination Act" and should have the credit for it. JB was also very interested in environment issues - frequently asked questions in the House on these. Remembers very often being the only woman in the chamber putting questions on the countryside, on issues such as battery hens etc., to the Minister of Agriculture, surrounded by farmer MPs. As she was MP for a London constituency she did not find it too hard to reconcile work with family life. She could often be at home until the afternoon. The children frequently had lunch at home and au pairs and baby sitters were employed. She does not think that the children thought much about having a mother who was an MP - only occasionally did not like her going out. Neither of the children has gone into political work - her daughter is a senior lecturer in education and her son is a solicitor, but her granddaughter and her husband are both members now of Enfield Council. Both her daughter and son and their families live in the area quite close to JB. Women in Parliament - JB has not kept up to date with the number of women now in Parliament, but knows that there has been little progress in increasing the numbers. She formed no close friendships with other women MPs - probably she thinks because she was a London member and was always going to and fro from home. She remembers Eileen (??) White as being very splendid and not daunted by anyone or anything and also an aristocratic woman MP whose name she could not remember, but who also impressed her with her self-confidence. She always felt that she herself was rather timorous. Women's health problems were also a concern of women MPs and JB remembers asking questions about the cancer control campaign. As a Co-Op MP also she was a member of the Co-Op group of MPs who met regularly. If any Co-Op issues were of concern, she would also then ask questions. JB was PPS to Fred Willey when he was Minister for Land and Natural Resources - he was good to work for, but she felt the Ministry did not achieve very much and it only lasted a short time. Was also on the Chairman's Panel of the House of Commons and chaired numerous committees. Found chairing local government committees more exciting. Everybody behaves well in Parliamentary Committees - they are more professional. Local government committees were more lively and rebellious. Was Joint Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Pollution - helped to set it up. Felt it had some success in establishing thought on environmental issues in the early days. Was Vice Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party for two years - chaired the regular weekly meetings - no particular recollections. None either of the Labour Party annual conferences - just useful to get a general picture of what the Party is thinking about. In thinking back in her time in Parliament feels considerable satisfaction that many of the issues for which she fought have come either to fruition (eg: Sex Discrimination, Equal Pay etc.) and/or to the fore as important issues now (eg: environment). Particularly satisfied about the Sex Discrimination Act, although sorry that there are still so few women in Parliament. Thinks this may be because women now have many more opportunities for employment at a higher level in the professions and business. Local government at one time offered the only opportunities for women who wanted to be involved outside the home. Also economic reasons are a factor. Thinks the hours in Parliament are bad both for men and women, particularly when the Government has a small majority - many men MPs died while she was in the House. Would like to see more regular hours - not so many late sittings.
Life story interview with the late British Labour Cooperative politican, Joyce Butler (1910-1992)