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Topical Questions

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2020

As we recover from the covid-19 pandemic, the Government will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed, which is why the Prime Minister announced that we are setting up a new commission on race and ethnic disparities, and why we will be hosting an international LGBT conference once international travel allows. We will work to support businesses to maintain some of the positive changes we have seen, such as greater flexible working, which benefits women, men and their families.

In the light of that answer, I refer the Minister to the latest report by the Social Mobility Commission, which highlights that in the past seven years there was little or no action by successive Governments on a third of its recommendations, including on ensuring that child poverty is not exacerbated by universal credit, which received the lowest, red rating, based on evidence showing that 72% of children living in poverty live in households where at least one adult is in work and that black, Asian and minority ethnic children are more likely to be in poverty. Given the total lack of leadership by the Minister’s UK Government, as highlighted by the report, will she take ownership so that her Government can finally step up and ensure that that report, and the millions of children in poverty, are not ignored?

The most vital tool in social mobility is education, which is why we are absolutely determined to get children back to school and to support children who are not in school through virtual lessons. I encourage the Scottish Government to follow the leadership that we are showing.

Nobody’s chances in life should be limited by the colour of their skin or their ethnic background. What progress is the Prime Minister’s race disparity commission making, and when might we start to see results? (903401)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and touches on why the Government have set up the commission: to understand why disparities exist, what works and what does not, and to present recommendations for action across Government and other public bodies. It should report by the end of the year.

The Government ran a consultation on ethnicity pay reporting that closed back in January 2019. Nearly 18 months on, the Government have failed to publish a response to the consultation and have said twice in replies to written questions on the issue that something will be published “in due course”. That is not good enough. Mandatory pay gap reporting will be one small but significant step towards addressing pay equality, so when will the Government finally publish their response to the consultation and take urgent action to introduce mandatory pay gap reporting?

Pay gaps are caused by a range of factors. The hon. Lady is right that we ran a consultation on this issue in late 2018; I will write to her to provide her with an update.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in celebrating the good news that the so-called “rough sex gone wrong” defence will now be outlawed? (903402)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It was a disgrace that that was being used as a defence in criminal cases of murder. I pay tribute to Members from all parties who have run an effective campaign and congratulate the Ministry of Justice on taking action on the issue.

I am pleased that the Prime Minister is in the wings to hear this question. We know that the Disclosure and Barring Service sometimes bars people from work for decades and is, frankly, unfair and discriminatory; we know that the Windrush scandal is still ongoing, and there is dither and delay in the Home Office; and we know that in health and care services there has been a disproportionate impact on those from BME communities, especially among women in nursing and care roles. We do not need another commission to decide this; what we need is some action. What is the Minister going to do about it? (903400)

The right hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about the Disclosure and Barring Service. It is something we are looking at, but it is important that we look at this across the board, and that is why we have set up the commission.

I have a short question. Being out of school really impacts on children’s opportunities. Can the Minister commit to getting every single child back to school in September? (903403)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is vital we get our children back into school. My right hon. Friend the Education Secretary is working very hard on this, and we are doing everything we can to make it happen.