To ensure that the Government Equalities Office is at the heart of this Government’s work, the Prime Minister has agreed that it will join the Cabinet Office from 1 April next year. This machinery of government change will provide a permanent home for the Government Equalities Office in line with the key recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee earlier this year. It will enable the GEO to have even more influence and leverage within the Government, working with the Race Disparity Unit, the Office for Disability Issues and others to drive meaningful progress on equalities. This will be a step up in the work that the GEO can do to reduce inequality in the UK.
Across all parties, nearly 50% of Havant Borough Council’s councillors are now women. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to encourage more women to stand for election at local government level?
The women’s centenary suffrage fund supports initiatives across England to engage women in local democracy. We will also be funding an Ask Her to Stand event. We funded one in July that was attended by more than 300 women, many of whom were interested in becoming councillors. I congratulate my hon. Friend’s borough on the progress that it has made.
I am pleased that the Minister for Women’s duty was to be here at 10 o’clock. I wonder whether that will still be the case at 11 o’clock. A shocking new report on maternity support for female offenders by Dr Laura Abbott, a specialist midwife and academic, has highlighted a real gap between what is recognised as being needed and what is actually provided for pregnant women in prison. Can the House be assured that specific mandatory provision for pregnant women and new mothers in prison will be included in any future framework?
The hon. Lady raises an important point. We know that quite often the care given to female offenders in prison does fall short, and I will look at the specific issue that she raises. Clearly, we need to ensure that the best maternity support is given to them.
I thank my hon. Friend for her question and for highlighting her constituent Erin Rodgers. The Government support offer is available to all those wishing to grow a business, regardless of their age, gender or ethnicity. We back the Start Up Loans Company, which has been providing funding and incentives to support new entrepreneurs since 2012. It has delivered loans totalling £446 million, 39% of which went to women. I wish Our Little Globe every success for the future.