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  M.   December 16, 2014

MPs could force firms to publish the difference in male and female workers’ wages after an attempt to seek it voluntarily failed.

By Anushka Asthana, Political Correspondent

Thousands of large companies could be forced to publish the pay gap between male and female employees following a vote in Parliament on Tuesday that will see a number of Lib Dems team up with Labour.

Sky News has learnt Nick Clegg’s backbenchers will be given a free vote on the proposals being put forward by the Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion.

She will warn an attempt to get companies to publish voluntarily has failed, with only five out of around 7,000 large companies actually producing the information.

Liberal Democrat ministers are likely to abstain, but sources say they expect backbenchers to support Labour as the policy is already a manifesto commitment for the party.

Ms Champion told Sky News: “Whilst I am delighted to bring this Bill to Parliament and stand up for equal pay for women, I am so frustrated that equal pay still doesn’t happen automatically.

“Almost 50 years ago the women of Ford Dagenham went on strike for equal pay. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970.

“It is nonsensical that despite outward commitments by many governments and many companies, equal pay for men and women is still a goal rather than a reality.”

If MPs back the plans then it will place on record that Parliament has voted for the legislation.

However, it will still need to go through a second reading in February if it is to become law.

It comes as Grazia magazine and the Unite union hold a rally outside Westminster – along with some of the original Ford Dagenham workers.

Gemma Arterton who starred in Made In Dagenham – the musical based on the true story – is also there.

She told Sky News she had experienced pay discrimination as an actress.

She said: “It’s always quite tricky with acting because – especially in the movie industry – if you’re very famous then obviously you’re going to bring a lot of people to see the play or the film.

“However, it’s not equal pay for equal work.

“I’ve definitely been in movies where I’ve been on set exactly the same amount of time as another actor and been paid an eighth of what they are being paid.”

The rally will also see speeches from representatives of two of the companies that do publish the information – PwC and Genesis Housing.

One Tory source said the party supported transparency and was supportive of efforts to close the gender gap.