By Jonathan Davies

Prime Minister David Cameron is to press ahead with plans to close the gender pay gap in the UK by forcing large firms to publish their salaries for men and women.

A consultation on the move, which was first announced towards the end of the previous government, will begin today (Tuesday). The Prime Minister hopes it will "pressure" the country's biggest businesses into raising wages for female employees to bring them in line with their male colleagues.

Mr Cameron says he hopes the plans will completely close the gender pay gap "within a generation".

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the pay gender gap was at its narrowest in November since records began in 1997. In April, the gap was 9.4%, down from 10% a year earlier.

David Cameron said the move will "cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women's wages up".

Writing in the Times, the Prime Minister said new National Living Wage, announced by the Chancellor George Osborne in last week's summer Budget, would play a big role in closing the gap.

"This will primarily help women, who tend to be in lower paid jobs," he said. "It will help close the gender pay gap.

"But we need to go further, and that's why introducing gender pay audits is so important."

Labour said it supports the plans, but criticised the government for taking so long to act on gender pay inequality.

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “Lord Davies’ successful voluntary approach demonstrates the value of encouragement as opposed to using the law.

"Businesses recognise the value of having a diverse board that reflects society and their customers. That is why we have reached this important milestone on time.

“But we must not let our guard drop. Progress has relied on making sure new appointments are diverse, and this must continue as women appointed since the Davies report begin to end their terms on boards and replacements are sought."

Yesterday, data from recruitment firm Norman Broadbent, claimed that Lord Davies' target of women making up 25% of FTSE 100 boards would be met by October.