Topical Questions

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 8th June 2022.

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Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss Minister for Women and Equalities, Foreign Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

I commend the women’s organisations, such as Women’s Aid, that have come out in recent months to support single-sex services for women who have suffered violence and abuse. Service providers know that single-sex spaces are crucial to recovery from abuse and violence for many women and children. The Equality Act 2010 recognises this and allows for the restriction of single-sex spaces on the basis of biological sex. The law is clear, it is on their side and we will defend it.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

Reducing inequalities is about much more than protected characteristics. Outcomes for education, health and prosperity in Blackpool are among the lowest in the entire country, and they are particularly poor for men. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that those who live in Blackpool can enjoy exactly the same life chances as those who live in more prosperous areas?

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)

In March, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced that Blackpool would be a transformational regeneration place, which means that the Government will partner with Blackpool to address social inequalities, improve productivity and deliver co-ordinated cross-Government support for local priorities. We have already announced measures to support that, including cracking down on rogue landlords and Homes England partnering with Blackpool Council to find exciting new opportunities for regeneration.

Photo of Steven Bonnar Steven Bonnar Shadow SNP Spokesperson (DEFRA Team Member)

According to an equalities assessment undertaken by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the UK Government were aware that women and girls were more likely to be harmed by cuts to the UK foreign aid budget. The Tories’ recent international development strategy lists their new approach as being framed around education, empowerment and ending violence against women and girls, but it does not detail any explicit funding commitments for that. What discussions has the Minister had with her colleagues in the FCDO about the impact of the aid cuts on women and girls?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss Minister for Women and Equalities, Foreign Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

I was very clear in my appearance at the International Development Committee that we are restoring the budget for women and girls for development, including providing 12 years of education for all girls.

Photo of Sarah Atherton Sarah Atherton Conservative, Wrexham

Last week, I held a reception in Parliament to launch the first female-only veterans charity in the UK, Salute Her UK. Although there are more than 1,800 veterans charities, this is the only one run by women for women. We know that female veterans have specific needs, so what discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Office for Veterans’ Affairs to better support female veterans?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss Minister for Women and Equalities, Foreign Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her championing of female veterans. She is absolutely right that we need to deliver services to female veterans that meet their needs and honour their fantastic contribution to the armed forces. That is why the Office for Veterans’ Affairs will commission new research to understand why female veterans need support and the barriers they face.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

Last year, the Ministry of Defence pledged to develop a strategy on rape and serious sexual assault, which is long overdue. What conversations is the Minister having with colleagues in the MOD about the strategy and the wider treatment of women in our armed forces?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss Minister for Women and Equalities, Foreign Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

We are working very closely on this issue. It is vital that female service personnel are treated fairly and with respect.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Conservative, West Worcestershire

One of the most unequal workplaces in the land is the other place, where an eighth of the seats are reserved for men only. Will the Minister support a rapid change in the law, so that hereditary peerages go down through the first and oldest child, as the Crown does, rather than the oldest son?

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)

My hon. Friend is referring to the reform of succession to the hereditary peerage, to which I am sympathetic, but which raises a variety of complex issues. Various approaches have been proposed in both Houses to address the issue of male primogeniture for hereditary peerages, but there is not yet a consensus on the way forward. I am happy to work with her to look at the issue.

Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

This week is Carers Week, and I hope the Minister will agree that unpaid carers make an invaluable contribution to our society but are often unseen. Will she commit to making being an unpaid carer a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, as Carers UK has called for?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I cannot give that commitment, but I look forward to joining the hon. Lady and others at the reception this afternoon with Carers UK, because there are many important issues regarding how we can support unpaid carers.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Shadow Minister (Education)

The cost of a full-time nursery place for children under two has risen by 16% in the past five years, and for the first time in decades, the number of women leaving the workforce has increased. Does the Minister for Women and Equalities think that this Government’s failed approach to childcare, which is pricing some women out of work and others out of parenthood, is remotely acceptable? What recommendations is she making to the Treasury and the Department for Education to sort out the problem?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss Minister for Women and Equalities, Foreign Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

We are absolutely determined to bring down the cost of childcare and to fix the regulations that make the costs so high. We will be bringing forward proposals very shortly.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Government promised that a comprehensive women’s health strategy would be published last year, but we are still waiting. Meanwhile, waiting lists continue to soar. Given that the number of women on waiting lists for gynaecological services is in excess of 570,000—a 60% increase on pre-pandemic levels—is it not time that the Government stopped constantly trying to protect the job of a lame duck Prime Minister and got on with resolving the day-to-day issues affecting women in our country?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

As I have said in answer to many questions this morning, the women’s health strategy will be published shortly. We had over 100,000 responses, we published our vision document in December and we will be publishing the women’s health strategy in the coming weeks. [Interruption.]