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Over the past week, we have been holding a number of brilliant International Women’s Day celebrations, including a lively debate here in the House, the launch of The House magazine’s list of the 100 most influential women in Westminster, and last night a fantastic event at the US embassy celebrating brilliant transatlantic women. I was hugely inspired by the year 9 girls looking at careers in science with the Prime Minister last week at No. 10. We have a brilliant generation of young women coming through.
I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work she is doing to improve opportunities for women in this country and across the world. However, what steps are the Government taking to support and encourage disabled candidates seeking office in the forthcoming local and police and crime commissioner elections?
We want to encourage more people with disabilities to come forward. They often face extra challenges and costs. That is why we have extended the EnAble fund, to support disabled candidates in local elections and police and crime commissioner elections.
Can the Minister confirm that the disproportionate impact on women was specifically considered at the recent Cobra meeting dealing with the effects of coronavirus? Our country’s social infrastructure has been weakened by this Government’s cuts—86% of the cuts have fallen on women. The gig economy and zero-hours contracts have affected women more than any other group, hence the rise of in-work poverty. Caring responsibilities and volunteer work in our country are built on an army of women and grand- parents—the system is dependent on unpaid work by older women. What provisions have the Government made to address the adverse impact on women?
We have shown that we have delivered for women. We have a record number of women in work. We have more girls than ever studying science, technology, engineering and maths, with a 30% increase at A-level and an increase in the number of women studying STEM degrees. I suggest to the hon. Lady that her party should show a bit of leadership by enacting a female Labour leader.
On Sunday, I played netball for the first time since university at Clanfield sports and community centre with mothers and children. What is my hon. Friend doing to encourage more women and girls into sport?
We want to get more women and girls embracing sport and physical activity. Sport England’s “This Girl Can” campaign has already inspired 3.9 million women to get active. Sport England is encouraging more women to work in sport, including coaching and volunteering. We are hosting the Euro women’s football championship next year and the Commonwealth games in 2022, which will no doubt encourage even more women and girls to take up sport.
TUC analysis shows that 70% of the 1.8 million workers who do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay are women. Over a third are in insecure work or on zero-hours contracts, including many in my constituency. Will the Government agree to the TUC’s calls for the threshold to be removed as part of the emergency powers being brought forward?
My Department is looking at everything to support people to stay in work. Our welfare system treats people as individuals and all genders equally. However, the upcoming legislation on this issue will be suitable for looking at everyone. For those on universal credit, that will be the right way to adjust for the money that they need. If people need any further help or support, they should contact their jobcentre. If they are unable to attend due to self-isolation, they should let their work coach know. We are prepared to support everyone through every eventuality, while protecting public health.
If schools and nurseries in Hyndburn are forced to close because of coronavirus, the burden of care will inevitably fall on women. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that they will be supported, especially if they end up losing money due to caring responsibilities?
Schools and nurseries need to take the latest scientific advice, which at the moment is to stay open. Employees are entitled to take time off work to help someone who depends on them in an emergency, and that would apply to situations to do with coronavirus—for example, if they have to look after their children because the school is closed. There is no statutory right to pay for that time off, but some enlightened employers will pay.
Has there been any discussion with the Department for International Trade regarding the fair payment of women farmers in any trade deals post Brexit as a foundational principle?
We are determined to ensure that we protect our fantastic food safety standards in any trade deal that we do. The hon. Gentleman will welcome, as I do, the fact that the US has lifted its ban on British beef, benefiting British beef farmers—particularly the Ladies in Beef group, which represents women beef farmers.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There was a despicable cartoon about the Home Secretary in the weekend’s Guardian. She is doing a brilliant job—fighting crime, getting our new immigration system in place—and it is the hypocrisy of those on the left that, when it is not a woman they agree with, they do everything they can to undermine her.
A consultation on accessible housing was announced in June 2019 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, but has not happened. Can the Minister say when the consultation will take place, and will he meet me and representatives of wheelchair users to discuss it?
We have been working across Government on accessible housing provision, and will consult in a matter of weeks on options to raise the accessibility standards in new homes. The consultation will consider making high accessibility standards mandatory, recognising the importance of suitable homes for old and disabled people. I would be delighted to meet the hon. Member.