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We are glad that there are no changes in respect of the status of the staff of those bodies. One point I should make is that these are small ships and I see much greater scope for exchanges and secondments. In one of the groups, two of our staff will shortly be on maternity leave and rather than go out to the wider market it makes sense to seek support from the House itself.

I have one further comment, which affects the Lord Speaker. It is said that the role of the Lord Speaker in approving members of delegations should be similar to that of Mr Speaker. That is a proper principle, but the implementation may be a little more difficult because currently all the initial nominations from the selection committee are referred to Mr Speaker and he can change not only the balance between the two Houses but between individual Members. It may be that the Lord Speaker or a representative will have to attend at that stage.

Overall, this is a welcome initiative. I hope that it will lead to greater involvement by the Members of your Lordships’ House in these very valuable inter-parliamentary bodies.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I am on the executive of the CPA. I certainly welcome the support from the House of Lords’ authorities expressed here. These are very important bodies and, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, pointed out, they perform a valuable function. I certainly have learnt a great deal through both the IPU and the CPA. I want to emphasise how important it is that these executives are representative of both of our Houses of Parliament and of all parties. The IPU and the CPA, in particular, urge good governance in dialogue with parliamentarians in other countries. Their own executives should, therefore, reflect our own parliamentary make-up.

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However, the CPA executive, with which I am most familiar, has only three Peers out of 24 members and of those 24 members 12 are Labour, 11 are Tory, and I am the only Lib Dem. There are no Lib Dems from the House of Commons, no one from any other party and no one from the Cross Benches on the CPA executive. It seems to me that this is a good opportunity to ensure that the executives of those bodies now become more representative of our Parliament in all its make-up, just as we urge should happen in other Parliaments.

Lord Jopling: My Lords, I most warmly support everything that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. Perhaps I may say a word to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. Years ago, I ran the British-American Parliamentary Group for 14 years and I remember at that time we had on the executive both Mr Ming Campbell as well as a member of Plaid Cymru. In regard to that group, I think the noble Baroness’s criticism was met.

I begin by declaring an interest. Like the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I have been associated with three of these bodies, with the exception of the Irish body, over the past 44 years. I am currently on the executive committee of the British group of the IPA and I ran the British-American Parliamentary Group for 14 years.

I warmly welcome the Motion. As the noble Lord said earlier, there was always great resistance to the transfer of funding from the Treasury to the House. That was because most of groups felt that if they mustered a lobby from all the groups of distinguished privy counsellors that would be a good way to bully the Chief Secretary of the Treasury into being more lenient over the money he gave to them.

The noble Lord was quite right when he talked about the benefits that spring from the activities of the groups. I know that parliaments in many parts of the world have benefited hugely in terms of good governance from the discussions, meetings, experience and advice that they have obtained from Westminster and its parliamentarians.

I hope very much that the Motion will encourage many more Peers to take part in the activities of these groups. One problem has been that many Peers were unaware of the activities of the groups. I suggest to the authorities of the House and to the House Committee that more could be done to draw the attention of your Lordships to these activities. I have been aware of the difficulty in persuading your Lordships to participate in these activities. I came to this House 11 years ago. As a member of the executive of the IPU it sometimes appeared to me that practically no Peers had applied to take part in these activities. Quite often, I have found myself scurrying round the corridors and the Library here trying to find people who might take an interest in these activities.

If the Motion is carried, it will allow the House to be much better informed about international affairs. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, one reason why some Peers have been very reluctant to take part is that, while their expenses for rent and secretarial

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assistance continued, until quite recently these activities have not been reflected in allowances of the House.

The House has recognised the work of these groups. There is a reference to that in the joint note that has been sent on behalf of all the groups. There is a comment at the end by the secretary of the British-American Parliamentary Group—it says he is the chairman, but he is actually the secretary because the chairman is the Prime Minister—who is also the Father of the House, the right honourable Alan Williams, raising the question of expenses, which inhibits the participation of Peers.

I say to the Chairman of Committees that paragraph 4 (vi) of the report is rather opaque. However, I imagine it means that that business will be attended to and all the expenses for the overseas activities of the groups will be paid in the same way as expenses are paid for the annual conferences of all the groups.

Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, made the point that there is a woeful shortage of representation by your Lordships on the committees of these groups. The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Group has more than 30 per cent but the IPU, the British-American Parliamentary Group and the CPA have considerably less. Clearly, these groups will have to change their rules. I suggest to the House that we leave it until the next annual meeting for them to change the rules to increase the participation of your Lordships on the executive committees. It seems rather messy to do it in the middle of the year, as it is now, and it ought to be left until then.

Finally, on the participation of Mr Speaker and the Lord Speaker in the appointment of delegations, when I was involved with the British-American Parliamentary Group, we did not refer that to Mr Speaker but did it ourselves. Whether those rules have changed, I am not entirely sure, but I do not think that it matters one way or another whether they are endorsed by Mr Speaker and the Lord Speaker. If changes are to be made, they would be only minor ones in my experience.

As I began by saying, this is a welcome move and I commend it to the House.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken to the Motion. The noble Lords, Lord Anderson of Swansea and Lord Jopling, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, have brought to the debate their great experience of working in these groups. It is most valuable for the House to know about that. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, about the value of these groups and of the visits they make.

Needless to say, noble Lords have mentioned expenses allowances for attending such groups. I can tell the House that this report does not directly touch on these matters. However, the Senior Salaries Review Body, in its most recent review of parliamentary pay, pensions and allowances, published in January this year, has asked the House to reconsider the current arrangements for claiming expenses when away from Westminster on parliamentary business. That is to say that it has recommended that the House,

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This is a matter for the House Committee in the first instance, and we expect to consider it fairly shortly. I hope that that covers that particular point.

As to whether the groups may not have been happy in the past that the funding should have been transferred from the Treasury to Parliament itself, I understand that they are now happy—especially when one takes into account the figures that I gave in my opening remarks about an increase in the budget now, as opposed to a possible reduction which would have taken place under Treasury rules.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, made points about representations on the executive. As I said in my opening remarks, there will now have to be 30 per cent membership from this House on both the executive and in all other activities. That will lend the opportunity to get the balance right on that, as well as the role of the Lord Speaker, which will, of course, be important.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked whether particularly important conferences would perhaps get extra funding other than what I announced in my opening remarks. I understand that that would be the case if there were special conferences. I hope that I have answered all the questions that have been asked.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Women: Government Policy

11.58 am

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: rose to call attention to the impact of Government policy on the lives of women and girls, and their priorities for the future; and to move for Papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, once again we have the opportunity to commemorate International Women’s Day, and I thank the Labour group for agreeing that women’s equality be the subject of the Labour debate. It is again heartening that there has been such positive response from Members across the House. I am also honoured that we are to hear two maiden speeches in the debate from two such eminent Members of the House, that the Leader of the House is to reply to the debate and that the two Opposition Leaders are taking part.

2008 is a special year: a year of the big “0”s. It is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a day on which women’s achievements across the globe are celebrated. It is the day when consideration is given to the advancement made by women in their ability to play a full and active role, politically, socially and economically. It is also the 100th anniversary of Socialist International Women, the largest international women’s organisation in the world, of which, I was proud to be vice-chair for many years. It is the 90th year since the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918, when women over the age of 30 secured the right to vote, 80 years

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since women have had the vote on equal terms with men and just over 100 years since the first woman councillor was elected.

However, it is a special anniversary for your Lordships’ House. It is the 50th year, almost to the day, since the enactment of the Life Peerages Act 1958, Part 3 of which stated that a life peerage may be conferred on a woman. One Member of your Lordships’ House, opposed to the Bill, asked where the emancipation would end. I dread to think what his reaction would be today with a Lord Speaker, a Leader, two Chief Whips, a Convenor and an Attorney-General who are women, and with 33 per cent of our Front Benches women. The Life Peerages Act 1958 set the scene for the Peerage Act 1963, which permitted female hereditary Peers to sit in the House of Lords in their own right. The late Lady Darcy de Knayth was one of the original intake. She loved your Lordships' House and we will miss her greatly.

The stepping stones to achieve those Acts were not crossed without a struggle, whether it was the heroic actions of the suffragettes, referred to by Queen Victoria as “this mad, wicked folly” of women’s rights, or the Daily Mail’s article under the heading “Stop the Flapper Vote Folly” which said that,

In the words of the Sunday Pictorial:

Eighty years later, we are still awaiting the battalions, but there have been substantial improvements in the numbers of women MPs by the introduction of positive measures to allow more women candidates. However, the House of Commons, which has 126 women MPs, still trails behind your Lordships’ House in which there are 143 women.

Those comments were nothing compared with the panic that set in with the passage of the 1850 Act, which declared that in legislation, “men” shall include “women”, followed by the Reform Act 1867, which changed the words “male person” to “men”. That could have technically meant that women were enfranchised and might even vote.

As expected, a way was found to stop that happening by asking the courts to intervene. They ruled that such an interpretation did not apply to the vote and, not surprisingly, women were denied that right. At the same time as those negative reactions, other important changes were being made, including the infant custody legislation, prior to which a child only had one parent—its father. In 1882, a wife was given the right to own property.

However, the most significant piece of legislation at that time was the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, parts of which are still on the statute book. It stated that a person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function, holding any civil or judicial office, post, profession or vocation. On Second Reading in your Lordships’

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House, the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Birkenhead, stated that many would find the content of the Bill disagreeable.

Since then, the progression to gender equality has gone through many stages. The hard-fought-for Equal Pay Act 1970 was amended in 1984 to include the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. That Act was a major breakthrough in the debate to improve women’s pay, but as the TUC women’s advisory committee said at the time,

That was a very far-sighted statement and one that, unfortunately, could equally be made today—some 37 years later.

In 1975, the Equal Pay Act was incorporated into the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, which established the Equal Opportunities Commission. The contributions of my noble friend Lady Lockwood and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, as first chair and vice-chair of the commission—I am delighted that both are speaking today—were fundamental in compelling government departments and agencies to think more seriously about provisions for women, such as maternity care and pension rights. They also provided a base for the many campaigns that have brought us to where we are today, organised and participated in by the many women's organisations in the UK and women in the trade unions who became expert in promoting and working towards gender equality. We have a number of representatives of women’s organisations in the Public Gallery today. Their strength of purpose has been shown in a capacity to adopt campaigns against a background of dramatic transformation in the lives of women and their families.

Family structures have changed. The development of new partnerships and the growth in the number of stepfamilies and more intricate family arrangements have shaped the income, working patterns and living standards of families. There are many more working families, with 70 per cent of women now in employment. The Government have produced a package of practical measures to support these working families totalling well over £3 million per day through working tax credits to help working parents to cover 80 per cent of childcare costs, maternity pay and a tax and benefits system to enable many thousands of lone parents to move from welfare to work. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of childcare places and 47 per cent of new mothers work flexitime.

This year has seen the biggest review of our equality institutions since the Sex Discrimination Act. We have seen the establishment of the Equality and Human Rights Commission bringing together the elements of gender, race, disability, sexuality, religion and faith and so providing the capacity for the first time of intersectional action. We have seen the delivery of the Women at Work recommendations with the Government’s action plan to tackle the gender pay gap. There has been implementation of

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the gender equality duty, the equalities public service agreement and, very importantly, the establishment of the Government Equalities Office to strengthen further the Government’s ability to deliver across the entire equalities agenda.

It is clear that the Equality and Human Rights Commission under the chairmanship of Trevor Phillips and the vice-chairmanship of my noble friend Lady Prosser is going to be a real force. Its initial statements have taken on the controversial subjects of violence against women and Sharia law as well as looking at the hidden opposition to hiring women who are pregnant or likely to be pregnant. Maternal profiling is illegal but research has shown that 70 per cent of recruitment agencies tried to avoid hiring women who were pregnant.

The commission will also have the responsibility of ensuring that the gender equality duty that came in last April will be enforced. The duty requires all public authorities to promote gender equality and challenge unlawful sex discrimination and harassment, rather than depending on individuals to make complaints. It places the legal responsibility on public authorities to demonstrate that they treat women and men fairly. The gender duty has the further important role of putting violence against women on the agenda. Public bodies will need to set objectives for addressing violence in consultation with stakeholders such as rape crisis centres, women’s refuges and women’s organisations.

Gender equality must be a part of the wider equalities agenda and the Government have announced a public service agreement on equalities. From April this year this cross-government PSA will address the disadvantage that individuals experience because of their gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief. The PSA should ensure the integration of gender equality into a coherent package of measures to reduce discrimination.

Last week, as chair of the Women’s National Commission, I went to New York to head the NGO delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. The main theme considered at the commission was the important issue of gender-responsive budgeting and the empowerment of women. Gender-responsive budgeting highlights the resources committed to policies. It is not a separate budget but raises awareness and understanding that budgets will impact differently on women and men because of their different social and economic positions. It asks where all the resources go, what impact the allocation of resources has on gender equity and what impact government expenditure has on everyday lives.

The Government continue to work with both the Women’s National Commission and the Women’s Budget Group—a group of policy-makers and economists—on promoting gender equality in the UK. The Treasury has undertaken a pilot project on gender analysis of expenditure and my honourable friend Angela Eagle, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, is promoting work on improving gender analysis of tax and spending policies over the forthcoming year. These are tentative but important steps, appreciating that it is a long-term process, but

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nevertheless the start is encouraging. So it is clear that the impact that government expenditure can have on women's everyday lives is fundamental.

The Ministers for Women outlined as part of their priorities for the future the importance of supporting families and tackling violence against women. These are major areas of work and all credit to the Ministers for the speed with which they identified priorities and, through the Women's National Commission, consulted women's organisations on them. The priorities establish a commitment to tackling the pay gap between women and men, improving financial and employment support for families, and continuing to improve the quality, availability and affordability of childcare.

All these have budget implications. For instance, and although improving, the persistent pay gap now stands at around 17 per cent of mean hourly rates for full-time work, and for part-time work, mainly undertaken by women, it is still unbelievably at 35 per cent. The gender pay gap is not just bad news for women, it means that women's abilities and skills are not being fully used to the benefit of the economy. Women are over-represented in lower paid sectors, which have been identified by the Fawcett Society as the 4 Cs: cleaning, caring, catering and cashiering. But without proper costings being identified in budgets, there is no clear picture of the impact of women's unequality and the case for investment to save these costs.

If we look at the Ministers' second priority to tackle violence against women, there is clearly an economic impact. The health-related cost of a rape is now calculated at £73,487 per case, and adding up the health, criminal and justice costs, loss of employment costs, housing and so forth, the cost of domestic violence to public services is estimated to be around £23 billion each year. Furthermore, violence against women is the most common cause of depression and mental health problems in women, and treating the related physical injuries and mental health problems cost the NHS almost £1.4 billion a year.

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