Topical Questions

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th March 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North 12:00 am, 29th March 2018

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

If I may, I will briefly return to the issue of gender pay gap reporting. Tomorrow is the deadline for employers in the public sector to report their gender pay gaps, and all other employers with more than 250 staff must report by next Wednesday. I have this morning’s figures from the update of gender pay gap reporting, and I can inform the House that we have 98% registration and 81% reporting from the public sector and 82% registration and 45% reporting from the private and voluntary sectors. I hope that employers will take this opportunity to accelerate their reporting, because it is unacceptable in 2018 that there are still differences in the amounts that men and women are paid in industries from finance to beauty, and we intend to take action.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North

As the local elections approach, will the Minister tell the House what steps the Government are taking to tackle online abuse of women in public office?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

This is such an important question. We all know how terrible the growth of online abuse has been, particularly towards women, and when we want to encourage more women to participate in public life, it is shameful that it takes place. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has ordered a Law Commission review to ensure that what is illegal offline is illegal online and the appropriate action is being taken to follow that up.

Photo of Dawn Butler Dawn Butler Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

Many women will have slept a little more soundly last night after the decision by the Parole Board not to release the rapist John Worboys. The Government argued that a challenge was highly unlikely to succeed, but the brave survivors and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, proved the Government wrong. Will the Minister explain why, given the clear evidence that Worboys was a danger to women, the Government refused to take action?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this issue, which is so important. I know that everybody feels enormous sympathy and concern for the victims of this terrible atrocity. I welcome yesterday’s result. We need victims to be supported and to feel that the law works for them. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor has said that he will look at making sure that in future there are changes to the Parole Board to ensure that there is much more transparency in such incidents.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee

What is being done to ensure fair access to apprenticeships and work in all sectors for marginalised groups in society?

Photo of Andrew Griffiths Andrew Griffiths Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and there are few in this House who have done more to champion apprenticeships and the benefits that they can bring, particularly to young people. We want all young people and everybody in work to benefit from the apprenticeship scheme, which is why we are committed to having 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. So far, we have achieved 1.2 million. It is also why we are spending some £2.45 billion in cash terms, double the amount we spent in 2010.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West

Have the Government made any assessment of whether local councils are meeting their duties under the Equality Act 2010, by keeping pavements clear of obstructions and safe for disabled people to walk?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

It is essential that disabled people can go about their daily lives. Particularly as we move towards the local elections, it is important that they can get out, so that we can ensure that everybody participates in voting. On the hon. Gentleman’s specific question, I will find out from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government whether it has made any such assessment.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

On equality in politics for women, does the Minister for Women and Equalities agree with some senior Members in this House that the next leader of the Labour party, for instance, should be a woman and that perhaps that implies that the next leader of the Conservative party must be a man?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Those are not matters for the Minister for Women and Equalities. Who knows, she might have a personal interest in these matters—I do not know? Let us hear from her anyway, because it is very interesting.

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

I step forward gingerly following that introduction, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend will know that on the Government Benches we believe that merit should be the decider for high office, while believing that women should be equally represented. We feel that our selection process and our promotion process allow both things to take place, and we are proud of the party that has had two women leaders and two women Prime Ministers.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

As one of the MPs who was happy to support the Guide Dogs Talking Buses campaign, I was pleased that the Government agreed to introduce legislation. The key question is: when will the regulations come forward that make audio-visual information mandatory on buses?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. I will have to look into it and get back to him.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

This is National Autism Week, and I should like to ask the Minister whether she is aware that girls are often picked up as being on the autism spectrum much later than boys. Will she urge her colleagues to ensure that, like Sweden, we have a good, early and specific test for autism in every primary school?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the fact that this is National Autism Week. We are all wearing our badges with pride, and I hope that he will take part in the Back-Bench debate on this subject later today. He is right to say that girls get diagnosed later and less frequently than boys, and this is something that we are looking at very carefully as we renew our work on the autism strategy.

Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford

Sir Robert Devereux, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions who oversaw the increase in the state pension age for women born in the 1950s, retired in January. My constituent, Paulette, a former NHS worker, wants to know why, having made national insurance contributions for 45 years, she will have to work until she is 66 to get a pension of £159 a week, while Sir Robert has retired with a taxpayer-funded pension of £85,000 a year at the age of 61.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

As the hon. Gentleman will know, this issue has been debated widely and extensively in this House. I would ask him to contemplate what inequalities would be produced for men, and indeed for women born in the 1960s, if changes were made to the pension arrangements, which have effectively been advertised since 1995, for women born in the 1950s.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

The appalling abuse of Alice Terry on social media overnight demonstrates the totally unacceptable direction of travel of political debate in this country. Does my right hon. Friend agree that no party should have any problem whatever with signing the respect pledge?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I was shown the sort of abuse that Alice Terry received overnight, and it was particularly horrific and persistent. A lot of my colleagues on the Government Benches have stated their support for her, and I would urge some—not all—Opposition Members to take more action to speak out against such abuse because, as Lord Bew’s independent review of this issue has shown, a lot of it comes from the hard left, also known as Momentum.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

The 113 MPs, including me, who wrote to the Home Secretary last year enjoyed some momentum and made progress when she agreed to undertake a review of the feasibility of exclusion zones around abortion clinics, but it is all gone a bit quiet since the evidence deadline passed. When can we expect the conclusions, and will there be good news for the vulnerable women who simply want to have their NHS treatment in anonymity and for the regular pavement users—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. I am sorry. I do try to help the House by extending the envelope for topical questions, but it is not fair if Members then ask very long questions—[Interruption.] Forgive me; I do try to help Members, but Members must help one another.

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

The hon. Lady will know, because we have spoken about this, how much I care about it. I thank her for bringing the matter forward. The consultation has concluded, and we are now looking at it. I will make sure that she is one of the first to know when we decide how to bring it forward.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader

Gender pay gap reporting has made me angry, not just because companies need to do more but because we all need to do more. Does the Secretary of State agree that we should all check whether we have gendered expectations, particularly of children, and that those of us with influence should be very careful about how we treat young people?

Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women and Equalities

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. One of the benefits of gender pay gap reporting is that it reveals what has been hidden before. In a lot of issues to do with gender, this is about making certain elements much more transparent than they were before. The hon. Lady might be angry, but I take the view that we need to take action. Taking action will do more than being angry.