Skip to main content

Workplace (Women)

Volume 558: debated on Thursday 7 February 2013

The number of women in work is higher than at any time in British history. We propose a new system of shared parental leave and extending the right to request flexible working to all workers, which will further promote female participation in the workplace by increasing flexibility and choice. We are also committed to seeing more women in senior positions in the UK’s top companies, initially focusing on board representation.

In the last tax year men paid £92 billion in income tax whereas women paid £36.8 billion, which is 60% less. Normally I am in favour of lower income taxes, but in this case will the Secretary of State explain what else he is doing to help to equalise those figures and, most importantly, bring an extra £55 billion into the Exchequer?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work she has done through the Working Families charity to promote shared parental leave and on female participation in the finance sector. It is not entirely a problem that women are paying less income tax; raising the tax threshold will help low-paid women in particular to pay less tax, which is one of our objectives. Female participation and promotion and women rising to the top in business are also key objectives of our policy, and that will produce the equality for which my hon. Friend strives.

Warm words butter no parsnips. The cost of child care holds women back from entering the work force. Does the Secretary of State regret his decision to support the reduction in child care tax credits and will he now push for that to be reversed?

The Government are supporting women with young children, and families in general, to the tune of about £5 billion through the child care element in tax credit and free early years tuition, which for low-income families has been extended to two-year-olds, as well as tax relief on employers’ schemes. That amounts to very substantial support for child care.

The number of women in the workplace has been increasing for some time, of course, but in Wirral women public servants faced with the threat of redundancy and women leaders of small business tell me the cuts to Wirral council are threatening their job security. Will the Secretary of State ask his colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government to have a rethink about some of the heaviest cuts that are falling on places such as Merseyside?

It is never good when people lose their jobs, and I always regret that, but the simple fact is that in Wirral, as in other parts of the country, the number of public sector local and national Government jobs lost is far outweighed by the number of jobs created in the private sector; over 1 million have been created over the past two years.