Live Women and Equalities Questions House of Commons


Live Women and Equalities Questions

Live coverage of questions in the House of Commons to women and equalities minister and home secretary Amber Rudd and her team of ministers.


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the last year leaving the customs

union provides an opportunity to

0:00:000:00:00

enhance this growth, particularly as

manufacturing exports outside of the

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EU are growing so fast.

Questions to

the Minister for Women and

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Equalities.

One, Mr Speaker.

Thank

you, Mr Speaker. With your

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permission, I would like to take

questions one and two together. The

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centenary fund has paid out £2.5

million so far, £1.2 million was

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given to Bolton, Bristol, Leeds,

Leicester, London, Nottingham. We

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are also funding the first-ever

statue of a woman in Parliament

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Square, Millicent Fawcett.

I thank

the Minister for her answer, she

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will know, I am sure, that the

Sheffield female political

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Association founded in 1851 was the

first woman's suffrage organisation

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in the UK. Will she therefore join

me in supporting the bid prepared by

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women across the voluntary arts and

education sectors to the fund and

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will she wish them well in their

ambition to use the centenary to

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encourage opportunities for women

who feel disengaged and

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disempowered?

I thank him for his

question. I am delighted to

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congratulate him and to welcome the

women of Sheffield in their bid to

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the centenary fund, I hope it will

do exactly as he says, encourage

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more women to engage in political

life in general.

Will the Minister

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confirm what level of support the

Government or contracted company is

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providing smaller women's groups to

encourage them?

Yes, I am happy to

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tell him that we have a website that

will set it out. It is women's

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centenary fund, whether bidding

process is set out, two types of

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grants available, larger ones up to

£125,000, and smaller ones start at

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£2000, that will give him and his

constituents the information they

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need to apply for the grants.

Are we

in danger of missing the point? The

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best way to celebrate the centenary

of women's Suffrage is to get more

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women to register and vote when

elections turn up?

My honourable

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friend is right, it is absolutely

imperative more women participate in

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political life, both in terms of

voting and participate in this place

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here. But we can do both things,

celebrate the centenary and in our

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celebrations, make that point

repeatedly so we get more women

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involved.

A recent study

published... Apologies. Question

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number three. My apologies.

Thank

you. The UK Government's record on

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the qualities as one of the best in

the world and leaving the EU will

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not change that. The Equality Acts

and equivalent legislation in

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Northern Ireland provide a

cornerstone and in some places go

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much further than EU requirements,

for example, world leading approach

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to gender pay gap reporting. We do

not need to be part of the EU to

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sustain our record in this area.

A

recent study has found the UK's

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voting record has historically

placed business interests over

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women's rights. Post Brexit Britain,

what steps is the Government taking

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to ensure that this business

interests will not be placed above

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equality?

The Government has a proud

record of protecting and enhancing

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women's rights, predating the

membership of the EU, for example,

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the Equal Pay Act of 1970. The index

in the EU placing us six out of 28

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and the gender pay clap were -- the

gender pay gap reporting policies go

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beyond the EU in many ways.

Rather

like an employment rights, the UK

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has been right at the forefront of

advancing the quality across the

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world, will she confirm that simply

is not going to change?

Yes. We have

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a proud record, a proud history,

proud tradition in the UK supporting

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workers, protect civil liberties and

champions human rights, leaving the

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EU will in no way affect that

historic tradition of which we can

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all be proud.

Number four, Mr

Speaker.

The Equality Act 2010

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provides protection from harassment

for employees. The coalition

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government repealed the third-party

harassment provisions in section 40

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of the act because they were

unnecessary and overcomplicated.

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Employers have a legal obligation to

protect workers and they may be

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liable if they fail to take

reasonable steps to prevent

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harassment of workers by third

parties.

I referred to my members

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interest, I am not on the menu in

the hospitality sector, research

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with cabin crew is showing the

majority experience sexual

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harassment, demonstrating why

section 40 of the qualities that

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2010 is vital. Will the Minister

commit to end implement this and

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focus on a zero tolerance approach

to any sexual harassment in the

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first place?

I am most concerned and

she should be reassured they are

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covered already by the Equality Act.

The reason those provisions were

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repealed in section 40 was because

they required not one but three

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occasions of harassment and we know

that in the three years that the

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provisions were in place, they were

used only once, so we having -- we

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have tried to improve the euro.

It

is encouraging to hear my honourable

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friend's response. -- tried to

improve the law. We have to be

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encouraging, and am I reporting,

with the workplace, and also make

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sure the unethical use of

nondisclosure agreements are not all

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working to stop people bringing

forward these claims of sexual

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harassment -- and on the most

reporting.

I thank her for her

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question and with her expertise, she

knows too well the challenge we have

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in advertising the rights people

have in the workplace and I am

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particularly concerned with

nondisclosure agreements. We know

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they can be used for lawful reasons,

to protect client confidentiality,

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but they cannot be used to shield

employees from claims of harassment

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or discrimination and any work her

committee can do to help the

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Government in advertising that, I

would very much welcome.

I know from

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my many battles in the coalition

government, some successful, some

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not, that the Conservatives of

session with deregulation often gets

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in the way of protecting vulnerable

workers and teachers that obsession

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that is the real reason those

provisions in the Equality Act were

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repealed, I was in the discussions

at the time -- the Conservatives'

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obsession with deregulation. It is

time to look again at the issue and

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by all means, improve on the

provisions there originally, as

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suggested.

I very much paid tribute

to the honourable lady for the work

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she has done as a minister and that

she continues to do in the House. We

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will keep this under review of

course. The point I made about the

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section 40 amendments was because

the general protection exists under

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the act but we will continue to look

at the evidence and we are very

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clear, discrimination in the

workplace, harassment, it is simply

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not on and it is against the law.

We

have to be very clear about this

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because the Government repealed

section 40 of the Equality Act 2010,

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there is no statutory protection of

the third-party harassment, so if

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the Government is committed to

protecting women and girls, will

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they show this by either reinstating

section 40 or at the very least

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introducing stronger legislation to

ensure protection against

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third-party harassment?

I hesitate

to correct the honourable lady, but

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it is simply not true, there is a

general protection against

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harassment in the workplace, it is

in the statute, the 2010 statute,

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general protection. If there are any

instances members across the House

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have of particular types of

harassment or discrimination, I and

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the Home Secretary will be always

willing to listen, but the Equality

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Act protection workers, and it does

not require three occasions of

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harassment, it requires just one.

Number five, please, Mr Speaker.

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Thank you. No girl or woman should

be held back because of her gender

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or background. This is why the

department forger Digital Culture,

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Media and Sport has identified

period poverty as a priority for the

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tampon tax fund which in 2018 and

2019 totals £15 million and we have

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encouraged its to address this

issue.

In Stockton South and across

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Teesside, residents led the free

period campaign and persuaded local

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authorities to provide free sanitary

protection for women and girls

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living in poverty. Which you meet

with me to work out how it would be

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replicated in other parts of the

country?

I am delighted to hear the

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council have started this innovative

project and in fairness to the

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Scottish colleagues, the same is

happening in Aberdeen as well. I

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look forward very much to hearing

the results of this pilot and I

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would be happy to meet the

honourable gentleman to discuss it.

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I was pleased to hear the student

union in Lincoln sales sanitary

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products at Costa before VAT, will

the Minister acknowledge this is a

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necessity and will she accelerate

the timetable for removing the

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tampon tax? Yes or no?

I'm very glad

our current university is leading

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the way on this but she knows we are

constrained by our membership of the

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European Union, she shakes her head

but I'm afraid that's the law. What

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we have done is lowered the race to

the lowest possible level, 5% and

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what is more, we are using that

money specifically for women and

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girls, funds to help them and the

moment we leave the European Union,

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I know my Treasury colleagues are

looking exactly at the issue.

Mr

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Speaker, it's a stain on our society

young girls and women are

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experiencing period poverty and its

tragic are government appear to have

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an ambivalence to it, although I

welcome the latest announcement.

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Will the Minister agree to work with

me in an innovative scheme I am

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running with a local supermarket

currently in its infancy to see how

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we can work towards the elimination

of period poverty?

I'd be delighted

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to meet a tizzy discussed it,

because it is portents -- meet her

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to discuss it. We are trying to

gather the evidence on it,

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particularly with schools. On the

issue of the VAT charged on tampons

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and other sanitary products, it is

something we want to address and the

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moment we leave the EU, we can do

so. In the meantime, we are using

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the money raised by the lower VAT

rates to help women and girls,

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particularly firms dealing with the

violence against women and girls. We

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have a general programme, 12 sub

themes including period poverty and

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I hope the money will be of good

use.

Last week, the Minister asked

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us to remember the suffragettes

change to the grills. I ask the

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Minister today to remember the women

change to the House because of

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period poverty or those changed to

poor housing because of universal

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credits or to a abusive partner

because of the closure of refugees,

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will she help tackle those issues?

This government, led I'm I say --

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led by a female Prime Minister,

something the opposition have never

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entrusted their leadership to, this

government is proud of helping women

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and precisely why we are bringing a

ground-breaking use of legislation

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forward this year to tackle domestic

abuse and help their victims and the

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children of those victims. It is one

of a long programmer to try to help

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women who are not just victims of

crime but also in the economy, more

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women in the workplace than ever

before and we all know financial

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independence is a key indicator when

it comes to ensuring women are not

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stuck in the terrible relationships

she has described.

Question number

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six, Mr Speaker.

I do like to groove

this question with question seven,

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eights, 13 and 15. More than 7500

employees have registered their

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intention to report and more than

1000 have published their data, the

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most recent data publicly available

on the government website. There is

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still over a month until the public

and private sector deadlines and we

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expect reporting to increase it

never can sleep.

One challenge that

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we face is employed as sometimes

deliberately conflate their pay with

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equal pay to avoid scrutiny of their

conduct -- fair play. A prime

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offender is the BBC, 70 MPs wrote to

the Secretary of State for culture

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to use their power for men and women

to be heard on this subject. Will

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she exercise her freedom of speech

and have a word?

I thank the Lady

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for raising this matter and it has

been instructive to see how the BBC

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has responded to this. I'm happy to

confirm I will take forward her and

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advice and have a word.

Will the

Minister confirm what sanctions will

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be put in place for those companies

who do not meet their obligations to

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publish the gender pay data by the

deadline?

An important question from

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him, we've put the legislation in

place, its ground-breaking, to

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ensure we close the gender pay gap.

See HRC will be overseeing any sort

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of sanctions that are necessary. I

hope it will be intention to use

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persuasion and demonstration of the

law to get participation but they

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can use the full force if they find

it's not being complied with.

What

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measures are government undertaking

to work with private sector

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business, civil society and others

to close the gender pay gap?

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Incredibly important we address

closing it and I think the

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transparency is one of the key ways

we achieve that. Having this

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compulsion on reporting on the

gender pay is an important first

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step but we will take it further,

engaging with businesses to see what

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measures they will put in place to

address the gender pay gap. When I

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talk to businesses about this, when

they realise they have such a pay

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gap, to some is a revelation, they

are moving to put in training and

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other measures to address it.

Only

three universities have so far

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reported on this and on a day when

academics are bravely standing up to

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defend their pensions, Canada

Minister tell us when she expects

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the pay gap will be eliminated in

our universities? -- can our

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Minister.

I urge them to address

reporting the pay gap, it is the

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law. A word on another matter, it is

important this dispute between

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students are effectively, the

universities and their staff is

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resolved because people need to get

their degrees and I would urge them

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to get back to work.

Only 1000 out

of 9000 companies obliged to publish

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data about the pay gap so far have

done so, what will the Minister do

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to ensure they meet their

obligations so we get the full

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picture?

It's a vital data and we

are proud of it because it has been

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introduced by a conservative

government. We will contact private

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and public sector companies to make

sure they report but it's an

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important first step, only 1000 so

far, I would urge the Gentleman not

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to make perfect the enemy of the

good.

When the Minister has a word

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with the BBC, will it be her

contention that it's the men that

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are overpaid or at the women that

are underpaid?

That is almost a

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philosophical question from the

Right Honourable Gentleman. My

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priority is equality, the point I

will be making.

I've always thought

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of the member for Shipley as a

philosopher. Of some distinction!

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Alan Mak.

Question number nine.

I am

proud to be part of the most diverse

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Parliament in history and my

honourable friend who asks this

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question is making his own

contribution by being the first

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British Chinese member of

Parliament, for which I welcome him.

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We are commissioning evidence to

identify strategies to overcome

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barriers to participation and for

our centenary fund, we support

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projects to get all women involved

in all levels of government and

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ultimately stand for elected office.

I thank her for her answer and kind

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words, 12 women Conservative

councillors currently serve on my

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council giving over 100 years of

collective service. Will she

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continue to support women elected

into office at local government

0:18:590:19:03

level and congratulate my friends

locally for their service?

Such a

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good question, it is important we

also encourage women to participate

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more in local councils. Only 32% of

local councillors are women, I'd

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like to see the numbers arise. I

would like to share thanks and paid

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tribute to councillor Gwen Blackett,

soon to retire from haven't council

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following 45 years of service and I

would like to congratulate her and

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other who has served as well.

The

first woman to be elected to this

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Parliament was of course counters

Markowitz, an Irish nationalists. Is

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the Home Secretary looking forward

to a presentation of the portrait of

0:19:420:19:45

the Countess next week by the Irish

Speaker to this Parliament?

Well,

0:19:450:19:51

yes, I am looking forward to that

event and make sure it's in my diary

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so I can join the Lady for the

event.

Splendid! Order, topical

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questions, I look forward to the

presence of the Minister for Women

0:20:020:20:06

and Equalities, that will confer

some additional glitter on our

0:20:060:20:10

proceedings. Anna McMorrin.

Question

number one.

I'd like to update the

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House on the work we're doing to

support people back into paid work

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after time spent with carers. Of

which are 90% of course are women.

0:20:230:20:28

We know too often people with skills

and experience struggled to get back

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into jobs after taking time out of

the labour market to care for

0:20:330:20:38

children and family members which is

a huge loss for the economy. Which

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is why we've committed £5 million to

support people back into work in

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last year 's spring Budget. We

announced a new measures for

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returners and I'm pleased to inform

the House programmes for people

0:20:510:20:54

wanting to return to jobs in social

work and health professions and a

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programme for those wanting to join

the civil service after the break up

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and running. Next month, we will

launch practical guidance to help

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private sector employees to get back

to the right skill level. I will

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continue to expand opportunities for

those who want to return to

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employment and will continue to give

updates.

Tomorrow in my constituency

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of Cardiff North, I am hosting a

pensions inequalities meeting for

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those born in the 1950s. When will

the government support these women

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all over the country shamelessly

exploited and robbed of their

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pensions?

This was legislation

passed in 1995 to create an equality

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between men and women. Those who

seek to change the legislation would

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be effectively creating an

inequality between men and women on

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an ongoing basis that has a dubious

nature in law and an inequality

0:21:520:21:57

between 1950s born women and 1960s

born women.

In this important

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centenary year, what steps is the

government is taking to tackle the

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online abuse of women in public

life?

Well, I thank her for that

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question. It is so important to

protect women particularly who get

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the largest share of abuse from

other type of attacks that can put

0:22:180:22:23

them off participating in public

life. That's why the Prime Minister

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announced a review that the Law

Commission will be doing to ensure

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what we say, that what is illegal

off-line is illegal off-line, is

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actually the case and the law is

following that guidance.

Mr Speaker,

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I welcome the draft domestic

violence and abuse Bill and are

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looking at new initiatives, I hope

it considers the impact of

0:22:510:22:55

government policy domestic violence.

Therefore I ask Will the Secretary

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of State that the commitment will

include the abolition of the 4% tax

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on survivors of domestic violence

and ensure it's included in this

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draft a Bill.

I'm grateful for her

question, I will refer to colleagues

0:23:090:23:14

who are doing the specific matters

in relation to child maintenance and

0:23:140:23:19

make sure we write to her with the

specific response on that point

0:23:190:23:22

within a week.

89% of those who take

time out of work to fulfil caring

0:23:220:23:30

responsibilities are women and

employers have a huge role to play

0:23:300:23:36

in helping women to return to work

when they wish to. And she set out

0:23:360:23:40

plans to publish guidance for

private sector employers?

I agree

0:23:400:23:48

this is a priority, for individuals

and employers, families and the

0:23:480:23:52

economy, which is why we have

allocated £5 million in the last

0:23:520:23:57

spring Budget to make sure we set up

programmes for training, guidance

0:23:570:24:02

and supporting businesses and

employers and achieving exactly

0:24:020:24:04

that. I will have further

announcements on this.

The

0:24:040:24:13

Department for Education are

currently reviewing relationship and

0:24:130:24:14

excellent education. I wonder, has

the Minister taken an opportunity to

0:24:140:24:20

discuss with education colleagues,

to emphasise how important it is to

0:24:200:24:28

identify FGM and child early forced

marriage as I priority area in the

0:24:280:24:31

curriculum going forward.

I'm

incredibly proud of this government

0:24:310:24:35

has made that commitment and we are

going to be consulting on its to

0:24:350:24:40

ensure we get it right. It's

important to distinguish between

0:24:400:24:45

relationship education which will be

compulsory in primary schools and

0:24:450:24:49

sex education in secondary schools,

but the early as the Lady highlights

0:24:490:24:53

of course will be considered as part

of it. But this government has done

0:24:530:24:58

a lot to address the scourge and

unpleasantness and horror of forced

0:24:580:25:02

marriage and FGM.

0:25:020:25:08

Could administer update the House on

for the government is doing to

0:25:080:25:12

improve female eligibility for auto

enrolment?

In 2012, overall

0:25:120:25:21

participation of female employees in

workplace pension was 58%, but this

0:25:210:25:24

has now increased to 80%, above men.

In her constituency, there are 1020

0:25:240:25:32

employers who have enrolled 6000

employees into an auto enrolled

0:25:320:25:38

pension, including a large

proportion of women. I will update

0:25:380:25:41

the House regarding all

constituencies shortly.

What steps

0:25:410:25:49

of the government taking to ensure

that in job interviews women are not

0:25:490:25:53

asked about their family plans or

their childcare arrangements?

I

0:25:530:25:58

think I can honestly say that I was

as shocked as she not out was to see

0:25:580:26:03

about that and I will be discussing

it with the HRC and finding out what

0:26:030:26:08

further communication is needed to

employers to ensure that doesn't

0:26:080:26:10

take place, because it is clearly

not allowed.

Businesses have got

0:26:100:26:19

just two weeks to file their gender

pay gap reports. It's clear

0:26:190:26:29

some excellent investigative

journalism from the Financial Times

0:26:290:26:31

that some businesses have filed

incorrect data. Is done

0:26:310:26:35

deliberately, what will my right

honourable friend do?

I thank my

0:26:350:26:40

honourable friend for raising the

issue. It is important to get right

0:26:400:26:44

the gender pay gap reporting. It is

a vital tool for ensuring we close

0:26:440:26:51

the gap. I will be turning to the

appropriate group to ensure this is

0:26:510:27:05

properly handled.

With reference to

the BBC and the gender pay gap, I

0:27:050:27:08

have also been looking at the

diversity of background of the

0:27:080:27:10

senior management of the

organisation, but unfortunately they

0:27:100:27:20

are not playing ball.

With the

Secretary of State have a word with

0:27:200:27:24

them? Looks like I'm going to have a

few things to take forward with them

0:27:240:27:27

and I look forward to coming back

and setting out what those

0:27:270:27:30

conversations have revealed.

Following the consultation that

0:27:300:27:35

ended last September, when will my

honourable friend bring forward

0:27:350:27:39

proposals to remove costs as a

protected characteristic from the

0:27:390:27:43

equality act 2010?

I thank him for

his question. He has done so much

0:27:430:27:49

work on this issue. We are clear

that discrimination on the basis of

0:27:490:27:54

caste is not acceptable. We are

considering the results of a

0:27:540:28:04

consultation from last year as we

speak. The government will be

0:28:040:28:09

responding shortly.

Can I ask what

discussions the government has had

0:28:090:28:16

with minority women's groups?

I have

had a number of conversations with

0:28:160:28:25

minority women's groups. When I go

out to discuss issues to do with

0:28:250:28:30

integration, I always make a special

point of engaging with women's

0:28:300:28:33

groups and finding out what we can

do to help them. Often there are

0:28:330:28:37

concerns at the sort of concerns he

and I might have about our own

0:28:370:28:41

families, access to jobs, access to

language courses, access to general

0:28:410:28:46

public services. The Communities

Secretary will shortly bring forward

0:28:460:28:51

an immigration strategy which I

think will address some of those

0:28:510:28:55

concerns.

Regarding social media

companies, can I urge her to don her

0:28:550:29:09

ministerial hat and look at what

companies can do proactively to

0:29:090:29:12

ensure women are not put off going

into public life?

He is right. The

0:29:120:29:18

issue of abuse of women online puts

people off. I recently visited the

0:29:180:29:30

West Coast to discuss high levels of

crime online with internet companies

0:29:300:29:36

and that was productive. We've got

them to agree to a number of

0:29:360:29:40

additional measures.

Will the

Minister consider criminalising

0:29:400:29:47

upskirting, to end this degrading

and humiliating premise?

Upskirting

0:29:470:29:54

is a modern phenomenon which the law

has not quite kept up with modern

0:29:540:30:01

habits. It is an issue of which I'm

much aware. My Police and Crime

0:30:010:30:09

Commissioner campaigns on this

thoroughly. The government is

0:30:090:30:14

considering this. Perhaps I could

meet with the honourable lady to

0:30:140:30:17

discuss this with her?

What ongoing

work is the government doing to

0:30:170:30:23

tackle domestic violence?

At I can

reassure my honourable friend that

0:30:230:30:29

we take domestic violence very

seriously and we will shortly bring

0:30:290:30:32

forward a consultation ahead of a

new domestic violence Bill, which we

0:30:320:30:37

will bring forward, which will

address this heinous crime and I

0:30:370:30:43

believe start to reduce the amount

of domestic violence we are seeing

0:30:430:30:47

in this country.

There is strong

anecdotal evidence to suggest that

0:30:470:30:52

women are missing days at school due

to period poverty. May I ask what

0:30:520:30:59

has been, Saint, what research are

you looking at and when will it be

0:30:590:31:04

published to the House?

Last summer,

we asked for help from the

0:31:040:31:17

Association of School and College

leaders Forum and the received a

0:31:170:31:21

limited response. We're trying to

produce an analysis of our absence

0:31:210:31:26

data, to look for evidence of period

poverty and we will publish the

0:31:260:31:31

findings of that due course.

Further

to the Minister's earlier answer, if

0:31:310:31:36

the state pension ages of men and

women were to be different, with

0:31:360:31:42

that infringe equality legislation?

Potentially yes.

Will the Minister

0:31:420:31:50

explained what plans the government

will put in place to protect the 200

0:31:500:31:56

women and children who are turned

away from refugees every single day?

0:31:560:32:07

-- refuges.

We take very seriously

the issue of refuge. Sometimes what

0:32:070:32:21

happens is when a woman applies for

one refuge, doesn't get accepted at

0:32:210:32:26

that one, she goes on to the second

or third and that counts as one

0:32:260:32:30

being turned away. Are they share

his

0:32:300:32:32

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