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Topical Questions

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 26 May 2021

The UK is using our presidency of the G7 this year to champion women’s and girls’ rights at home and around the world with an independent Gender Equality Advisory Council to bring fresh ideas and new voices to the heart of G7 discussions. The council met for the second time last week, and I look forward to hearing its recommendations to G7 leaders in June. It is important that women and girls are at the heart of our plans to build back better.

In the recent Queen’s Speech there were many opportunities to level up across the country, including in my great constituency of Wolverhampton South West. What is my right hon. Friend doing to see that we can unleash the potential of some of our more deprived areas to build back better after covid?

We are determined to tackle the scourge of geographical inequality. That is why we have taken on responsibility for the Social Mobility Commission, which is going to focus on the three Es—employment, education and enterprise—and we are currently recruiting a chair to spearhead that agenda.

How will the Secretary of State ensure that the voices of survivors of so-called conversion therapy and the people who support them will be heard in the consultation on a Bill to outlaw all conversion therapies, which have no place in all settings and all LGBT+ statuses, regardless of whether someone is consenting or coerced? (900715)

My hon. Friend the Minister for Equalities has already met survivors of conversion therapy, and we are determined that they should be closely involved in the consultation we are holding on the forthcoming legislation. I completely agree with the hon. Lady: it is an abhorrent practice that we need to stop in the United Kingdom.

In Redcar and Cleveland, and across the country, the pandemic has left many people without the certainty of work, but particularly those disabled and differently abled people who already feel disadvantaged in the jobs market. We have announced an ambitious plan for jobs, but can the Minister point to specific interventions he is making to help more disabled people into work in Redcar and Cleveland and the wider Tees Valley? (900711)

There has been an 800% increase in Disability Confident employers in the Durham-Tees Valley area. The newly re-elected Conservative Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, and our new Hartlepool MP are utterly committed to ensuring that more disabled people get access to work and into work.

In the UK, two weeks’ parental leave and pay is in place after stillbirth, but there is no such support for anyone who has experienced a miscarriage before 24 weeks of pregnancy. Will the Minister support my calls to the UK Government and allow families to grieve for their profound loss by legislating for paid leave for everyone that experiences miscarriage? (900716)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that point. We have looked at seeking to change the rules about neonatal leave. Any grieving situation is incredibly difficult, but as we work towards the employment Bill, we will make sure that we can come up with a rounded view for anybody that is grieving.

Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said to the Select Committee that she ended the role of her LGBT advisory panel because there were basic disagreements over the rights of trans people to self-ID. Argentina, our co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, whose conference we host next June, has legally accommodated self-ID for trans people since 2012 without a problem, and now more members of the coalition are following Argentina’s example without a problem. How is she going to find a new panel that both has authority and agrees with her in the continuing refusal to accept the right of trans people to self-ID? Can she explain how Britain can host a conference entitled “Safe To Be Me” without supporting the right to be “me”? (900712)

The former LGBT advisory panel’s tenure ended on 31 March 2021. I am grateful to its members for the important insights that they have provided on important policy areas such as ending conversion therapy and the impact of covid on LGBT people. The Prime Minister has appointed Lord Herbert as special envoy for LGBT rights. That role will have an international and domestic focus, and I am confident that we will be able to work with our international partners on this issue. We believe that the current provisions in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 Act allow for those who wish legally to change their genders to do so, so that it is safe to be them and they have the right to be themselves. We have therefore decided, as we have said before to my hon. Friend, that the Act will not be changed.

My constituent Julia was breastfeeding her child in a park when a stranger started taking long-lens photos of her. She and I were shocked that there was nothing that could be done about this unwelcome intrusion. Does the Minister think this is an acceptable situation and, if not, will she support action to prevent this kind of voyeurism? (900717)

I thank the hon. Member for raising this very important topic. This is totally unacceptable behaviour and I hope he will welcome the Government’s forthcoming violence against women and girls strategy, which we will be publishing later this year, drawing in the views of more than 180,000 members of the public to help shape our policies for the coming decade. This is unacceptable and we will deal with it.