Topical Questions

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at on 12 July 2023.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

In February this year, we announced the STEM ReCharge pilot to support parents and carers back into science, technology, engineering and mathematics roles. Since then, we have recruited and trained the first cohort of engineering and technology returners in the midlands and the north of England. They have received personalised training and support to help to get them back into the workforce, and we are now recruiting a second cohort, who will use insight and lessons learned from the pilot to develop new guidance, so that STEM employers across the UK can benefit from the full wealth of the returning STEM group.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

The summer holidays, which are approaching, see a spike in domestic abuse. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that people know there is help available? Will she lend her support to the campaign I am running in Basingstoke with the police and crime commissioner Donna Jones to help to make sure that victims of domestic abuse in north Hampshire know they are not alone and that there is help there?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I agree with my right hon. Friend. It is important that people know where to go for help when they have experienced domestic abuse. The Government are providing police and crime commissioners with dedicated ringfenced funding for at least 900 independent sexual violence and domestic abuse advisers and will fund an additional 100, bringing the total to more than 1,000 by 2025.

Photo of Martyn Day Martyn Day Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

The cost of living crisis disproportionately affects disabled constituents who are reliant on specialist diets and equipment and now face increased food and energy costs. Will the Minister confirm what cross-governmental action the Government can take to better support disabled constituents with those additional costs?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Government recognise the challenges for disabled people and those with health conditions. The £150 disability cost of living payment should be seen as one part of the overall package. The benefits calculators on gov.uk will help people to claim the wider benefits that are out there—that is just one of the payments.

Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon

Last week, I hosted the Institute of Physics and its campaign to increase diversity in physics, which is the second most popular A-level for boys but only the 16th for girls. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to encourage more girls to study physics beyond GCSE?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

Studying STEM A-levels such as physics can boost potential earnings and, with a growing demand for students with STEM qualifications in the jobs market, it is important that girls take that opportunity. We are therefore working with the Department for Education in funding the Inclusion in Schools project, which is designed to increase the uptake of A-level physics among students from under-represented groups, including girls.

Photo of Gill Furniss Gill Furniss Shadow Minister (Transport)

Homelessness is on the rise, and it disproportionately affects young LGBT+ people. The youth LGBT+ homelessness charity Albert Kennedy Trust has reported a 58% increase in new referrals over the past four years. Will the Minister work with Cabinet colleagues to better understand the specific challenges that people in the community face with homelessness and look at what more can be done to support them?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. I am pleased to report that I have met colleagues in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and we have held a roundtable to discuss exactly those issues. One of the key elements, which we really need to do, is to gather the data so that we can better understand some of the causes and what the solutions might be to help those people.

Photo of Andrew Lewer Andrew Lewer Conservative, Northampton South

How many discussions has the Secretary of State had with Department for Education colleagues about forthcoming guidance on trans-identifying children?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister for Women and Equalities, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I have been working closely with the Education Secretary, because it is important that we get the guidance for schools right. It must show schools how to be compassionate to pupils questioning their gender in a way that is compliant with the Equality Act 2010, including ensuring that single-sex spaces are maintained and the safety and wellbeing of all pupils is not compromised.

Photo of Amy Callaghan Amy Callaghan Scottish National Party, East Dunbartonshire

Conversion therapy should be banned entirely, not with a voluntary loophole, as this Government intend, which we know means that conversion therapy will be open to coercion. The loophole is so large that it will leave any Bill meaningless. Will the Minister commit to a full ban on conversion therapy, as supported by organisations such as Stonewall and Time for Inclusive Education in Scotland?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

The hon. Lady raised some important points. That is exactly why we have taken considerable care to engage with a whole range of stakeholders to consider all the issues that need addressing. It is precisely because of those points that we are going for pre-legislative scrunty so that all of those issues can be looked at again, to ensure that we present the very best Bill to help people who are subject to these horrible crimes.

Photo of Mark Menzies Mark Menzies Conservative, Fylde

GambleAware figures show that the number of women seeking help for problem gambling doubled between 2015 and 2020, with up to 1 million women deemed to be at risk. Data also shows that women are less likely to participate in sports betting; instead, they are more active in online bingo and casino-style games. What work is my right hon. Friend doing with Cabinet colleagues to highlight the risk of online gambling, to reduce stigma and to help women seek treatment?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

My hon. Friend raises a really important point. We recently published the gambling White Paper, in which we address a number of those issues. Stigma is a very important one. We want people to come forward and get the treatment they need. We are also introducing a statutory levy on gambling operators to ensure that we have the prevention and treatment needed to help those suffering with gambling harm.

Photo of Sarah Green Sarah Green Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales)

Earlier this year, the Government cut almost £6 million of funding for a Save the Children programme providing education and other services to girls in Afghanistan, despite a promise to put women and girls at the heart of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s work. Will the Secretary of State work with colleagues at the Department to deliver on the Government’s commitment and reinstate that funding?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

Educating girls is one of the top priorities under the British Government’s international development strategy—indeed, it is the way to change the world. Over the last five years for which figures are available, the British taxpayer procured a decent education for more than 8 million children in the poor world.