Clause 1 - Payment of maternity allowance: Ministerial office

Part of Ministerial and other Maternal Allowances Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 11th February 2021.

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Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham 4:15 pm, 11th February 2021

It is a pleasure to follow North East Fife’s super gran, and to reflect on the views of Stella Creasy and my hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory that there will be no equality until fathers are able to step up. I will move on to speak about that a little later. My hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price has dealt with her amendment sensibly and I have a huge amount of sympathy with the points she has made, so I hope that it will be properly addressed by the Minister.

I want to say a little about the equalities impact assessment proposed in new clause 1, because it has raised broader issues about paternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave. It is clear from today’s debate that fathers have been a bit of an afterthought. A report published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in December 2020 found that 73% of men feel stigmatised over taking just the two weeks of paternity leave, never mind any longer, and 95% of men said that their workplace culture prevents them from taking extended paternity leave and that really needs to change. In fact, a report by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has found that the proportion of fathers taking paternity leave actually fell between 2018 and 2019, from 32% to 31%, and that just 1% of parents take shared parental leave, according to the most recent figures available.

We have a huge leadership role to play here. The Minister indicated on Second Reading that this issue will be rectified later, and I look forward to her re-emphasising that commitment shortly, because at this important stage, messages from the Dispatch Box are necessary to show all of us that fathers are important, and that equality for mothers and fathers will not be achieved until we allow them to step up.