We want to put women at the heart of our economic future. Although we have had to make difficult decisions, we are ensuring that the reductions made are shared fairly, while still protecting the most vulnerable in society.
Not only are Welsh women being hit particularly hard by the cuts but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) said, on April 6 more than 9,000 families in Wales will discover that they will be hit by a change to working tax credits that could mean the loss of up to £3,800 a year unless they increase their hours. Does the Secretary of State have any comprehension of how hard it will be for those families to increase their hours, especially in retail, and what is she doing to fight their corner?
As the hon. Lady knows, the Government’s top priority is an economic recovery that provides jobs for everybody, including women. In difficult times, the Government have been helping families with the cost of living. For example, we have been freezing council tax, while the Welsh Labour Government have refused to implement a similar policy in Wales, and extending free health care and child care. We have increased that entitlement in England. I challenge Labour, in power in Wales, to match that record.
Many of the claims made about the effect on women of the reform of the welfare state in Wales have unfortunately been repeated in reports published yesterday by Cuts Watch Wales which, despite making claims about the effect on Wales of changes to the welfare system, state that there is no evidence to back up those claims. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is unfortunate that many public sector organisations, supported by the taxpayer, have agreed to be mouthpieces for Labour party propaganda on this issue?
I always condemn organisations funded by the taxpayer being propaganda mouthpieces for the Labour party, so I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. He must remember that the Government are providing flexible parental leave, working with employers to end the travesty of the gender pay gap, establishing a women’s business council and providing enterprise mentors to help more women to start their own businesses. We have a proud record on women. [Interruption.] And as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities has just joined us on the Front Bench, I would like to offer her my congratulations on her work on this front.