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Covid-19: Female Entrepreneurship

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2020

What assessment she has made of the potential effect on the economy of increased levels of female entrepreneurship after the covid-19 outbreak. (903362)

The Government’s Rose review into female entrepreneurship found that £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men. We must take the opportunity, as we recover from the covid crisis, to help make this happen.

I recently highlighted to my right hon. Friend that very point about the £250 billion, and, as part of that solution, I have been working to try to deliver a set of women’s business hubs across the UK, which I know the British Library is also working on. What other steps can she take to ensure that part of the covid recovery benefits women across the UK and encourages more female entrepreneurs?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work for the all-party group on women and enterprise. He is absolutely right: we need to make sure that, as part of our levelling-up agenda, this is a cross-UK phenomenon. We have growth hubs across the country. We are also working on mentoring schemes and on trying to ensure that investment is available right through the UK to help those start-up businesses get going.

My right hon. Friend has shown real passion and commitment to female entrepreneurship, which will be absolutely crucial as we seek to recover from covid. Unfortunately, those same women will not be able to start up their own businesses or to be assisted to go back into the wider workforce unless they can have reliable, accessible, available childcare. What specific discussions is she having across Government to ensure that that childcare is available? We recognise that there are challenges around social distancing and the hours that schools can operate, but will she please enlighten us on what she is doing?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about the vital importance of childcare. We also need to ensure that the flexible working practices that have developed during this covid crisis are available to both women and men following the crisis. We are making sure that educational settings are open as soon as possible. More than 90% of nursery schools and colleges were open on 4 June, and I am working very closely with the Secretary of State for Education and his Ministers to ensure that we reform childcare and make more places available.