Topical Questions

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons am ar 7 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Scottish National Party, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

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 the light of some of the commentary about the employment tribunal’s judgment in the case of Professor Miller and Bristol University, I want to clarify the fact that antisemitism must continue to be challenged wherever it arises. We have seen people in this country use their views on Israel as an excuse to display antisemitism. We have seen that in protests on our streets, and also in our universities. It is therefore important to stress that this ruling does not change the fact that while academics have the right to express views, they cannot behave in a way that amounts to harassment of Jewish students. Disguising that as discourse about Israel would be no more lawful than any other form of antisemitism. The Government will consider the ruling carefully, and we will continue to do all in our power to protect Jewish people throughout our country.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Scottish National Party, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

On Monday, my hon. Friend Hannah Bardell hosted a very positive event marking the start of the Football v. Homophobia month of action. Will Ministers join me in thanking all those involved in the campaign—which includes LEAP sports and the TIE campaign in Scotland—and offer their wholehearted support for making football a safe and welcoming sport for LGBT people?

Photo of Marco Longhi Marco Longhi Ceidwadwyr, Dudley North

I hear more frequent use of the word “microaggression”. As an engineer, I know that “micro” means something extremely small. It is tiny. In fact, it is one millionth of whatever a standard aggression might be. Has the Minister a view on this, and does she recognise it as a new phenomenon? How big a priority might it be?

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

As my hon. Friend will know, I too am an engineer by training, and we engineers have to stick together. We are very sceptical when people introduce to the lexicon terms that are not helpful to the real work of tackling serious criminal behaviour. I am not a fan of that term, and my hon. Friend will be pleased to know that microaggressions training was removed from the Government Campus prospectus in November 2022.

Photo of Ashley Dalton Ashley Dalton Shadow Minister (Equalities Office)

Under the Conservatives, police-recorded rapes have soared to record highs while convictions have fallen to record lows. It emerged last week that the Conservative police and crime commissioner in Cheshire victim-blamed girls wearing short skirts for this epidemic. Why are these attitudes still tolerated in the Conservative party?

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

Those attitudes are not tolerated in the Conservative party. I have not seen the remarks the hon. Lady refers to, but I am sure that we can investigate. However, I will push back on what she said about rape statistics. The fact is that, for the year ending March 2023, the crime survey for England and Wales shows a 5.1% reduction in the number of adults experienced domestic abuse—a statistically significant decrease—compared with the year ending March 2020.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

Last month I received a letter from my local NHS trust regarding children’s services at Southend Hospital. It referred to women and “birthing people” going into labour. Can my right hon. Friend clarify whether the term “birthing people” is required language under the Equality Act 2010? If not, does she agree that it should not be used, because it is dehumanising, confusing and insulting to many women?

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)

This Conservative Government and this Conservative Prime Minister have been clear that biological sex matters, and language is important too. We have issued guidance to trusts because there is evidence that clinical damage and harm can come with the removal of the use of the term “woman” from literature. I would be happy to write to my hon. Friend’s local trust to point that out.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows Scottish National Party, Motherwell and Wishaw

Scope has noted that potential changes to the work capability assessment might force disabled people into ill-suited employment, and it is worried that huge numbers of people will end up being forced into doing exactly that. What steps is the Minister taking, with her Cabinet colleagues, to ensure that disabled people are not forced into jobs that are not suited to them?

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

The hon. Lady joined me yesterday at the disability action plan event, where many stakeholders welcomed the changes and opportunities in disabled people’s lives. Many disabled people want to work, and we at the Department for Work and Pensions will always ensure that we listen to their wants and needs and that they will never be forced into anything that is not suitable for them.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation

At 5 pm today, women’s groups and other community groups in Gosport will be staging a peaceful protest about the Lib Dem council’s decision to completely end all live CCTV monitoring. They are worried about the impact on people’s safety. Does the Minister agree with them?

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

It is important that people understand that CCTV and street lighting are important in helping women to feel safe on the streets. I fully understand the campaign and I am glad that my hon. Friend is supporting it. We are doing everything we can in Government to reduce violence against women and girls.

Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Llafur, Bedford

Will the UK Government redouble their efforts to ensure that the humanitarian needs of women and girls in Gaza are being addressed, in line with the UK’s commitments under the international women and girls strategy, the women, peace and security national action plan, and the international development White Paper?

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 am working closely with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on this issue. We are very concerned about the events taking place in both Israel and Gaza and we want to see the violence end. The hon. Gentleman will know about all the work we have been doing on preventing sexual violence in conflict, for example, and we will continue to do everything we can to minimise any impact on women and girls.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Ceidwadwyr, Bexleyheath and Crayford

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking with Cabinet colleagues to help increase the number of female-led businesses?

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

Female-led businesses often face particular challenges, and in the Department for Business and Trade we work with the British Business Bank to ensure that those businesses continue to have access to finance. We have the Investing in Women code and a taskforce for women-led entrepreneurs. We hope that all these actions together will help improve the lives of women in business.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Chair, Petitions Committee, Chair, Petitions Committee

Will the Minister make a statement about today’s report by the Patient Safety Commissioner addressing redress for victims of sodium valproate and mesh?

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)

The hon. Lady will know that the Government commissioned that report from the Patient Safety Commissioner to look at options for redress, specifically for those affected by sodium valproate, but also for those affected by mesh. The report has been published only today, so we will look at the details closely before reporting back to the House.