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Topical Questions

Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 30 March 2022

“Inclusive Britain” is the Government’s response to the report by the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, and it sets out a groundbreaking action plan to tackle negative disparities, promote unity and build a fairer Britain for all. This includes developing a new model history curriculum by 2024; working with a panel of academics and businesspeople to promote fairness in the workplace; and developing a new national framework for how the use of police powers is scrutinised at local level. The measures in the action plan will help to level up the country by tackling the drivers of persistent ethnic disparities in education, employment, health and criminal justice.

The Minister will be aware that a recent survey of 27,000 parents by Pregnant Then Screwed found that about two thirds are paying more for childcare than they are for their rent or mortgage. This is pushing many mothers out of the workforce or into working fewer hours. Does she agree that the Government need to address this as a matter of urgency if we want to keep women in the workforce and in well-paid jobs?

I agree with the hon. Lady that childcare is a very important issue if we want to keep women in the workplace. We have spent more than £3.5 billion in each of the past three years on our early education entitlement and we continue to support families with their childcare costs.

T3. I welcome the Down Syndrome Bill and fully support its passage through Parliament. How will the Minister ensure that from the perspective of equality the Bill will not have the unintended consequence of prioritising support for Down’s syndrome over other genetic and chromosome disorders? Some of those, although not as well-known, are thought to be just as prevalent, if not more so, and certainly no less impactful for the families affected, for example, 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. [Interruption.] (906393)

Order. I ask Members, please, not to walk in front of other Members while they are asking questions.

The Government are committed to considering the overlaps and linkages of the experiences of people with Down’s syndrome and those of people with other genetic conditions, such as 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, in the development of the guidance. The national call for evidence will ensure that the guidance also benefits people with other genetic conditions too.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. First, may I associate myself with the warm and supportive remarks made from all across this House to the hon. Member for Bridgend?

Women are bearing the brunt of the Conservative cost of living crisis. At the sharp end, as the Women’s Budget Group has said, they are the “shock absorbers” of poverty, cutting essentials for themselves so that their kids do not go without. So will the Minister inform the House as to what assessment her Government have made of the financial impact of the Chancellor’s autumn Budget last year and his spring statement last week?

The Treasury looks at all impacts in the round, and the financial statement the Chancellor announced last week would have had an equalities impact assessment, which would have taken into account all the various measures and their impact, based on protected characteristics.

In practice, it is disappointing that it did not include that analysis and the Minister does not appear aware of the impact of her Government’s policies on women. I can enlighten her: put together, the 2021 autumn Budget and the 2022 spring statement take £28 billion from the pockets of women over the next six years. That is £1,000 for every woman in the country. So why is her Government still refusing to impose a windfall tax to reduce bills for everyone and provide up to £600 for the households who need it, many of them run by women?

I simply do not recognise the figures that the hon. Lady is putting forward; it is not right to say that we are taking money out of the pockets of women. We have put forward a spring statement and a financial package that is looking after the interests of everyone in this country, because we look after people irrespective of their sex, gender, race; we look at people based on socioeconomic characteristics in particular and those who are most vulnerable or disadvantaged.

T4. I have been fighting hard to keep body image up the agenda. The Advertising Standards Authority has closed its call for evidence. The Select Committee on Health and Social Care has started an inquiry on this and the online harms Bill has the chance to address body image. That being said, what action has the Minister taken following the Select Committee on Women and Equalities report, “Changing the perfect picture: an inquiry into body image”? (906394)

I thank my hon. Friend for his continued work on this important issue. As we all know, poor body image can affect lifestyle choices, and physical and mental health, and is associated with lower confidence and low aspirations. So we have been taking steps to ensure that young people have the skills to keep themselves safe, through our work on media literacy and promoting understanding that the online environment is not always reflective of reality.

T2.   Hymenoplasty and so-called “virginity testing” are disgraceful forms of abuse against women and girls. I was therefore pleased when the Government committed earlier this year to banning them. Will the Minister update the House on when this legislation will be introduced so that women and girls are protected from these inhumane practices? (906392)

The Government are committed to safeguarding women and girls, which is why on 18 November 2021 we tabled an amendment to the Health and Care Bill to ban virginity testing, which passed unopposed in the House of Commons.

T5. There is no doubt that our first female Prime Minister led the way by showing women that they can reach the highest office and do the job well. What steps are the Government taking to encourage more women to seek elected office? Will the Minister consider a similar accolade to that of the Falkland Islands and celebrate a Margaret Thatcher day? (906395)

I would be very supportive of a Margaret Thatcher day, but I think that is more a question for the Prime Minister than for me. My hon. Friend will know that all parties do quite a lot to support women into elected office and across the House we can agree that that is an important thing to continue.

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I would like to point out that the British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on