Topical Questions

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 22nd September 2021.

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Photo of Ruth Edwards Ruth Edwards Conservative, Rushcliffe

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister for Equalities, Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (jointly with Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

I am delighted to announce the appointment of LGBT business champion Iain Anderson, who will work with the Government, building the evidence base on how to ensure that LGBT people can be themselves in the workplace. Among his first priorities will be kick-starting a business-led mentor network, including small and medium-sized enterprises, supporting the global LGBT conference and engaging businesses to highlight the economic case for LGBT inclusion.

Photo of Ruth Edwards Ruth Edwards Conservative, Rushcliffe

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way to tackle geographic inequality is by making sure that people can get great jobs and have fulfilling careers wherever they live? Will she join me in backing the east midlands freeport business case, which would create 60,000 jobs across the region?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister for Equalities, Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (jointly with Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

I do agree with my hon. Friend, and I point out that the Government are doing just that with our plan for jobs, which included £895 million to recruit an additional 13,500 work coaches by March 2021—which we achieved. She raises an important point and we are, of course, glad to support her region and all regions across the country.

Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West

Next month, this Government will cut the £20 uplift to universal credit. However, this summer, a staggering seven in 10 UC claimants seeking support from the StepChange Debt Charity were women. StepChange also reported that from October 70% of women receiving UC will see their monthly spending exceed their income. How will the Minister respond to a callous cut that disproportionately impacts women? Better still, will she support cancelling the cut altogether?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister for Equalities, Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (jointly with Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

We have had multiple debates on UC, and we have been at pains to say that this extra £20 was a temporary measure brought in because of covid. We are looking after the public finances, we are doing the right thing by taxpayers and we are doing everything we can to support vulnerable people in this country.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting my constituents Thomas Gill and his parents, who suffered major injuries as a result of a car being driven by a female driver who was under the influence of drink and drugs. Thomas raised his concern because the sentencing was so low and young women were getting more lenient treatment than young men. Could the Minister assure him that we are equal under the law?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I was very sorry to learn of the injuries sustained by Thomas, and it is right that this matter is raised by my hon. Friend. I can assure him and the House that equality applies to all aspects of justice—it always has and it always will.

Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

On top of the injustices suffered by 3.8 million WASPI women and the widening gender pensions gap, today’s National Audit Office report finds that the Department for Work and Pensions underpaid 134,000 pensioners, many of whom were women. What steps are the Government taking to tackle the gender pensions gap? Will the Minister agree to meet me to discuss how we can try to tackle that?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Government are doing huge amounts to tackle the gender pensions gap. Automatic enrolment is transforming the situation. Women used to be at 38%; they are now at more than 80% of savings on an ongoing basis.