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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:49 pm on 23rd April 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Gale Baroness Gale Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues) 5:49 pm, 23rd April 2018

My Lords, the contributions from my noble friends Lady Lister and Lady Crawley and the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, have made the case quite clearly for why we need this proposed new clause, as laid out in Amendment 17. It explains in detail the importance of including this in the Bill, and would require the Minister to report to Parliament whenever there are new or amended EU laws in the area of family-friendly employment rights, gender equality and work-life balance for our parents and carers.

As the other noble Baronesses have explained, there is concern that the UK could fall behind the EU on gender equality and employment rights if we do not automatically, in a sense, have to follow EU laws. The amendment would allow Parliament to be informed on EU laws and consider whether to incorporate them into UK laws. I am sure the Minister, like the noble Baronesses who have spoken, believes that there should be no weakening of maternity or paternity rights, adoptive parental rights or the rights of pregnant and breast-feeding women, which we discussed in Committee.

I hope that the Minister will give guarantees tonight in relation to the amendment. Equality rights need continual progress and amendment. That is why it is essential that we look at what the EU is doing and whether that is something we could, and would want to, incorporate into our laws. We are asking tonight for reassurance from the Minister that equal rights, which have been hard fought for over many years, will not be watered down in any way. The amendment would continue to offer protection, as well as ensuring that women’s equality rights do not fall behind those in future EU laws. I hope the Minister will give a positive reply.