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Topical Questions

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 13 July 2022

The use of rape and sexual violence by Russian forces in Ukraine is central to their appalling war tactics. We are campaigning internationally for sexual violence to be treated as a red line in war, akin to the use of chemical weapons. We have sent a team of experts to the region to collect evidence so that those who commit these appalling war crimes can be held to account.

Sadly, Lib Dem-run City of York Council is continuing with its restrictions, which have an impact on blue badge holders, and is dodging decisions on city centre parking. This is causing a huge disadvantage to rural communities in my constituency who have poor transport links. Does the Minister agree that city centres should be accessible to all?

Yes, passionately, and the Equality Act 2010 sets out ways in which local authorities should ensure that. I will make sure that departmental colleagues know of my hon. Friend’s concerns.

I welcome the Minister for Equalities to her place. She sure has a lot to catch up on, whether that is finally addressing LGBT+ hate crime or finally publishing a women’s health strategy. She will be aware that her predecessor resigned last week because of the Conservative party

“creating an atmosphere of hostility for LGBT+ people”.

That is a damning charge from a sitting Conservative MP. Does the Minister agree with her predecessor?

The Government take all hate crimes seriously, and we have robust laws to respond to them. While police have recorded an increase in hate crimes targeting LGBT communities, the biggest drivers for this are an improvement in police recording and the increased willingness of victims to come forward. It is taken very seriously by the Home Office, and we are working with the police on it.

T2. The Devon local authorities on the Social Mobility Commission’s index start with South Hams, which is 49th out of 324, yet North Devon is 238th. What is my right hon. Friend doing to level up such regional inequalities? (901091)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: one of the biggest issues that we face in this country is geographical inequality. That is why we have appointed Katharine Birbalsingh as head of the Social Mobility Commission. Her school, Michaela Community School in Brent, is fantastic at helping to level up among all groups of people. We want to see more of those types of schools all around our country.

T3.   E-scooters can be difficult for people with sight loss to identify and avoid, especially when they are ridden illegally on a pavement, because they operate quietly. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the illegal and unsafe use of e-scooters on people with a visual impairment? (901092)

I will be meeting the Department for Transport’s disability champion this very afternoon, and I will take that question to discuss with her.

T7. Will my right hon. Friend congratulate my constituent, the jewellery designer Monica Vinader, whose roots are in North Norfolk and whose head office is on the Holkham estate, on winning the 2022 Queen’s award for enterprise and sustainable development? Does she agree how wonderful it is to see women in business promoting ethical and sustainable business practices around the country? (901096)

I am pleased to say that I have been to the Holkham estate and seen her fantastic business operating in rural Norfolk. We need to turbocharge rural economies, and we need to get more women into business; we know that if women set up businesses at the same rate as men, it would add £250 billion to our economy. She is a fantastic businesswoman.

T4. Some black women in Southwark are disproportion- ately at risk of HIV, but are statistically less likely to access designated sexual health clinics. Does the Minister agree with the report of the all-party parliamentary group on HIV and AIDS that access to PrEP needs to be improved for this group specifically, through maternity units, at GP clinics and in community pharmacies? (901093)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We need to make sure that we are protecting people from HIV.

I first got involved in politics when I was 16. One of my many motivations for joining David Cameron’s Conservatives was his socially liberal stance on LGBT+ issues. One of our party’s proudest achievements, in my view, is introducing same-sex marriage. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, whatever the outcome of the leadership election is over the next few weeks, she and her Department will continue to prove that the Conservative Government are on the side of LGBT people?

I was proud to vote for and support gay marriage, which has been a very important step forward for our country.

T5. Given that almost a third of kinship carers have a disability or a chronic condition, and a given that a child in kinship care is twice as likely to be black as white, it is clear that kinship care is an equalities issue. Will the Minister meet me to discuss my Kinship Care Bill, and how we can help the kinship carers who step up to support a child in crisis? (901094)

Order. I want to hear the question answered. [Interruption.] I am sorry; I could not hear it. Please, Minister, try again.

I apologise for the confusion, Mr Speaker. The answer to the hon. Lady’s question is yes: I am happy to do that.

Excellent. Thank you.

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