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Topical Questions

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 22 July 2020

I have been clear that the Government are committed to tackling the abhorrent practice of so-called gay conversion therapy in the UK. As the Prime Minister reiterated earlier this week, this practice has no place in civilised society. Our action will be determined by research looking at how best to define conversion therapy, the scale of the issue, where it is happening and who it is happening to. When that research is complete, I will bring forward proposals to ban conversion therapy, making sure that our measures are effective so that no innocent people have to endure such tortuous practices.

As we approach the summer holiday recess, it looks like we all need it. With that in mind, what steps are the Government taking to tackle the effects of body-image issues on young people? Will the Minister meet me to consider the merits of a law that requires a logo to be displayed if an image of a human body or body part has been digitally altered in its proportions?

We are working closely with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the issue of body image and its impact on young people. I would be happy to organise a meeting, possibly with those Ministers who are leading on the issue. I also welcome the work that the Women and Equalities Committee is doing on the subject.

Last week, the Government published details of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and announced its chair, who has previously said:

“Much of the supposed evidence of institutional racism is flimsy.”

Yet we know that black workers with degrees earn on average 23% less than their white counterparts. The need for action is urgent. Inaction is costing members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities both their livelihoods and their lives. What assurances can the Minister give the House today that her Government are serious about finally ending institutional racism?

It is important to clarify that Dr Sewell who chairs the commission has not denied that structural racism exists. However, he understands that disparities have a variety of causes, such as class and geography, which the commission will be examining in closer detail, and it is the findings of this commission that will address the issues that the hon. Lady rightly says are urgent and need addressing.

May I welcome the race disparity commission, and as someone who has worked alongside many brilliant organisations to root out entrenched disadvantage, can my hon. Friend assure me that the work being done will build the evidence base so that the policy is based on outcomes, not outrage? (905193)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The national conversation on race has been distorted by some seeking to exploit racial tensions without any recognition of the progress that we have made as a multi-ethnic democracy and society. Guided by the evidence, this commission will improve and inform the conversation. It will use data to look at complex and interdependent factors in the round to better understand why disparities exist and what action can be taken to reduce them. The commission will be producing evidence-based recommendations.

The new report of the Federation of Small Businesses, “Unlocking Opportunity”, identifies a number of barriers faced by ethnic minority-led businesses, which contribute more than £25 billion to the UK economy. Will the Minister raise the report’s key recommendations with colleagues at the Treasury—in particular, the setting up of a dedicated scheme to help EMBs access external finance, helping them to flourish and our local economies to thrive? (905191)

Yes, as a Treasury Minister, I will be considering the findings of that report, so I thank the hon. Lady for raising that matter.

Gender pay gap reporting has been suspended because of the coronavirus crisis. As the economic downturn is likely to disproportionately affect women, does the Secretary of State agree that it is important that gender pay gap reporting starts again immediately? (905194)

The key priority during the coronavirus crisis is to make sure that we keep women in jobs, and that has been our No. 1 focus as a Government. Of course, it is vital that we address the issues that cause the gender pay gap, and we continue to help more girls study maths and science, which I talked about earlier, and we also continue to address discrimination in the workplace.

Last year, the UK Government consulted on extending—[Inaudible.] By 2019, the UK Government committed to improving redundancy protection. However, no legislation—[Inaudible.] Will the Minister provide an update on what progress has been made or is it, as I fear, that there has not been any? (905197)

It is always a pleasure to ask a question of the Minister. There are strong links between alcohol and domestic violence. Covid-19 shone a spotlight on the high levels of domestic violence in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There is a real risk that the ongoing economic crisis will lead to a surge in high-risk alcohol consumption. In that context, what steps is she able to take to prevent alcohol-related domestic violence? (905204)

We are absolutely clear that alcohol is no excuse for domestic abuse or any other kind of abusive behaviour. We are acutely aware of the need to put victims at the heart of our approach to tackling domestic abuse at this time. We are working closely with domestic abuse charities, the domestic abuse commissioner and the police to understand the needs of victims of this type of abuse and how we can best support them.