The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My Lords, first, I am sure that noble Lords from other parts of the United Kingdom will wish to join me in extending to Welsh noble Lords our warmest greetings and best wishes on St David's Day.
The future of the United Kingdom is not a matter that can be left to negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Scottish Government alone. Any change in the status of any of the nations of our union must affect us all. The people of Wales-and, indeed, the people of Northern Ireland-are not mere spectators in all this. Wales's First Minister has proposed holding a constitutional convention so that we can redefine what a modern United Kingdom should look like. What do the Government think about that idea? If such a convention is held, should it not be held before the Scots hold their referendum?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, we are faced with the position where the Scottish Government have said that they wish to proceed with a referendum. We have serious doubts as to the legality of that; that is why we have proposed in our consultation document that we should engage with the Scottish Government to see whether we can get an appropriate order to allow such a referendum to take place on a legitimate basis.
However, it has been accepted by successive Administrations that no part of the United Kingdom should be forced to stay within the United Kingdom against its wishes. That is why, first and foremost, the Government wish to ensure that we succeed in winning the referendum for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom; but I wholly accept that any other arrangements for how powers may be distributed within our United Kingdom have implications for all parts of it. Therefore, the more we can discuss it among different parts of the United Kingdom, the better.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, bearing in mind that it was this Government who set up the Silk commission to review the case for devolving fiscal powers to the National Assembly for Wales and further constitutional changes-with high expectations, I might say, of positive outcomes-is not the devolution process now becoming an open road to greater independence, which very few Welsh people want: in fact, only 7 per cent of them, according to the latest BBC/ICM poll?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I thank my noble friend for drawing attention to that poll, which shows that the wish for independence in Wales is very much a minority interest. He is right to draw attention to the Silk commission. The first part of it will look at the fiscal powers and whether there should be greater accountability in the way in which money is raised by the Welsh Government and the Welsh Parliament. Thereafter, it will look at the other powers. I cannot accept that devolution will lead to independence. Rather, I think it is important that, where people have their own domestic agenda, they should be able to order its priorities, be it in the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Scottish Parliament.
Lord Wigley: My Lords, is the Minister aware that an opinion poll published by the BBC today shows that some 80 per cent of the people of Wales support the independent NHS policy being followed by the Government of Wales, and does he accept that it is in the context of the substance of policy that these matters should be judged? Is he aware that the First Minister of Wales suggested at the British-Irish Council meeting of 13 January in Dublin that there might be a role for this second Chamber of Parliament in a quasi-federal United Kingdom? Can he say whether the Government have ruled out that possibility in the Bill that may be forthcoming in the next Session and whether the Long Title of that Bill could facilitate such a consideration?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I have seen a number of the details of the poll published this morning by the BBC, which shows an overwhelming opposition to independence. As I indicated in answering questions on Tuesday, your Lordships' House will continue to give the scrutiny that it has given since 1999 to non-devolved matters, and I expect that to be the case in any reformed House.
Baroness Gale: My Lords, the Secretary of State for Wales, the right honourable Cheryl Gillan, has indicated that she may look at proposals to align Welsh Assembly constituencies with the new parliamentary constituencies, with 30 constituency seats and 30 list seats for the Assembly instead of the 40 constituency seats and 20 lists seats at present. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, said in reply to a question from me in Grand Committee on 22 November 2011 that no change would be made without proper consultation. Is there a date for such a consultation and have any discussions been had with the First Minister, Carwyn Jones? Does he agree with me that any changes to the Assembly boundaries must be made with the full consent of the Welsh people, through a referendum, in keeping with the spirit of devolution?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I cannot give any date that the noble Baroness seeks but I reaffirm the important principle of consultation, which must not be solely with the Welsh First Minister and the Welsh Government. Issues such as parliamentary constituencies inevitably involve a range of issues and, not least, the different political parties.
Lord German: My Lords, does it not behove us all, if we want to remain part of the United Kingdom, to make the case for the United Kingdom? Perhaps I might say in the comradely spirit that existed last Saturday that the English need to be aware that saying to people from the rest of the United Kingdom, "Shove off and do your own thing" is not the right approach. Can we make the case for what it really means to be members of the United Kingdom? What would my noble and learned friend place at the top of his list of reasons for why we should remain part of the United Kingdom?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I am sure that almost everyone in your Lordships' House would wish to remain part of the United Kingdom, and it might be useful if we all thought about that question. I believe not only that we each benefit economically from belonging to a wholly integrated market of 60 million but that in celebrating and promoting a shared heritage and shared cultural, social and fundamental political values, and defending them effectively in an uncertain world, we are simply better off together.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, yes, the polls show an overwhelming rejection of separatism, but does the Minister agree that if the union is to be fostered, and if we want to have a real case for it, more must be done in the spirit of solidarity to tackle the levels of comparative poverty in Wales and the poor health of the people of Wales? Greater investment must be made in infrastructure: for example, in the railway lines west of Cardiff to show that Wales does not end at Cardiff.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, something that came over strongly to those of us serving on the Calman commission was that one of the strengths of the United Kingdom was not only its pooling of resources but its ensuring that, where parts of the United Kingdom are doing less well, we are able to address them because we have the strength of being part of one united kingdom.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, reference has been made to health service policy in Wales. Will the Minister give an assurance that, as Welsh responsibility in areas such as that are looked at, greater attention will be paid to the implications for cross-border issues, where a divergence of policy-for example, on the health service, on farming or on so many other issues-can create real problems and potential conflicts for those who live on the border between England and Wales?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I can say in response to the right reverend Prelate that from discussions with colleagues who are Peers or who represent constituencies in Wales, I am acutely aware that there
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what they will do to encourage co-operation between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health to improve access to occupational health services including early intervention physiotherapy.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My Lords, the Department of Health and Department for Work and Pensions work closely together on improving the link between health and work, including helping to improve access to early intervention services for people at work with health problems. It is the responsibility of local and national health service and public health organisations to commission services to meet the needs of their community, including the provision of physiotherapy services.
Lord Harrison: My Lords, given that this country loses some £7 billion each year because of back and neck pain suffered, and given that some half a billion pounds is lost through NHS staff suffering in the same way and that the proper and timely application of physiotherapy would help enormously in returning people to work, can the noble Lord ensure that physiotherapy services are well funded and provided for in a timely fashion and that, in the development of government policy, the left hand of the DWP knows what the right hand of the NHS is doing?
Lord Freud: My Lords, I share the noble Lord's concern about having adequate physiotherapy services. We are making quite a lot of strides in the combination of helping people to stay in work and getting them back to work and good health. There have been a lot of pilots, which I could go through if there were time. A lot of work has been done on this and it is right at the forefront of our concerns. We will be trying to optimise the position as we look at our response to the sickness absence review.
Lord Addington: My Lords, my noble friend spoke about the link between the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions. Will he ask the Department of Health to make sure that if somebody has a soft tissue injury, which is usually what we are talking about, not only are they allowed to see a person who is qualified to assist them with it-usually a physiotherapist-but they are encouraged to do the exercises they will be given? If you think that treating
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Lord Freud: I will not talk about the prodding too much, my Lords, although we get plenty of that here. One of the most valuable developments has been the self-referral process. There has been a lot of experimentation and piloting in relation to self-referral to physiotherapy and it has all been found to be very valuable. Patients have been empowered and highly satisfied with the results, with a lower level of work absence. The service provision has reduced costs and has substantially reduced the quantity of medicines prescribed as a direct result.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: Do the Government recognise that, given that on average 17 days' sickness absence can be related to musculoskeletal disorders, the placement of physiotherapy in the workplace, as has happened in Rhyl in North Wales, can result in a decrease in sickness and the maintenance of people in work? Rhyl's experience is of 82 per cent of people being able to remain in work, but that requires joined-up thinking between employers, health services and the benefits system.
Lord Freud: My Lords, that is absolutely smack on what the sickness absence review is looking at and whose recommendations we will be examining. The noble Baroness mentioned Rhyl. There have indeed been some quite remarkable improvements in this area. The project with which I was most impressed was in Lincolnshire, where triage was available on the same day. Advice, triage and signposting dramatically reduced the level of absence from work and, indeed, reduced the number of sessions of prodding that were required.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, one of the long-standing issues around occupational health services and intervention physiotherapy, particularly those which are accessible through the workplace, is the tax treatment of the cost, and in particular, whether it is an assessable benefit on individuals. I imagine that the likes of Barclays Bank have a way round this, but can the Minister say what the Government's general approach is?
Lord Freud: As you know, my Lords, I always find it difficult to say what the Chancellor may or may not do at any time in the future, so I will avoid that. However, I will point out that there was a recommendation in the sickness absence review to have some of those services tax-allowed by the employer. The recommendation is there and we will clearly look at it.
Baroness Fookes: My Lords, my noble friend will, I am sure, be aware of the pioneering work undertaken by Tomorrow's People in putting employment advisers into doctors' surgeries entirely on a voluntary basis. Is he happy with the extent to which this now exists, or could more be done?
Lord Freud: My Lords, various pilots, in particular those around putting employment advisers into improving psychotherapy services-the IAPT-seemed to go very
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The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, the Government have made it clear since first taking office that we are committed to breaking the cycle of crime and reducing reoffending. We set out our proposals on how we will achieve that in the sentencing and rehabilitation Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle, and in subsequent government proposals and initiatives.
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: I thank my noble friend for that Answer and declare an interest as I am involved with the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust. Given that we know that treating drug and alcohol dependence is one of the most effective ways of reducing reoffending, what is my noble friend's department doing to ensure that spending on drug recovery programmes will remain at the levels we have seen in recent years once responsibility for this funding moves to the Department of Health in the form of Public Health England, and that that will not result in a decreased emphasis on these vital programmes?
Lord McNally: My noble friend raises a problem that always emerges: if you go for localism, do you lose the central control on an issue? She is quite right that spending, or the commissioning of drug treatment services in the new public health system, will move to local authorities. However, the public health grant will be ring-fenced and the public health outcomes framework will include specific indicators on the completion of drug treatment and reoffending to make sure that my noble friend's fear, that somehow there will be no spending on drugs programmes if left at the local level, will be averted. It is always a risk that localism will make its own decisions, but I hope that the priorities in funding and the checks on how it is spent will mean that her fears are unfounded.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, I preface my question by inviting the Minister to join me in paying tribute to the life of PC David Rathband, who paid the ultimate penalty for preventing crime. Does he agree that the best way to prevent reoffending is through creating a fear of being caught, and that that is achieved by the presence of police officers on the street? Will this be achieved by reducing budgets to such an extent that the number of front-line police officers will be reduced?
Lord McNally: My Lords, I probably experienced the same feelings as every Member of this House, and indeed every member of the public, when I heard the news this morning about PC Rathband's death. It is an immense tragedy that reminds us of the risks taken by everyone who dons a police uniform in our service-and some pay the ultimate price. I gladly share the noble Lord's sentiment.
Of course the fear of being caught is one factor that deters crime. That is why we continue to give full support to our police services. The rehabilitation revolution attempts to address another problem: that of persistent reoffending. We are considering whether measures can be put in place to break the cycle. Evidence from various initiatives and pilot projects suggests that we can.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, on the theme of reducing reoffending, does the Minister agree that for women who have committed petty offences, the use of community sentences, combined with other forms of support, is more likely to be successful and is far less expensive than short prison sentences-not least because often children are involved who need to be taken into care and home-supported as well? If the Minister agrees, and with the Corston report already five years old, what steps are the Government taking to promote and adopt this approach urgently as a crucial part of their penal policy?
Lord McNally: My Lords, I fully support what the noble Baroness said about the treatment of women offenders. I have said before at the Dispatch Box that we have far too many women in our prisons. We will shortly launch a consultation on community sentencing. We are also, as the original Question suggested, moving a lot of this treatment to local authorities, with the funding and encouragement to take a holistic approach. As the noble Baroness rightly said, it is better that drug and alcohol dependency and other factors should be treated holistically.
Baroness Trumpington: Will the Minister very briefly tell me whether he agrees that the lack of reading and writing abilities among prisoners makes it difficult for them to get jobs when they leave prison? Will he therefore encourage more educational facilities in prison?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I think the House will be very pleased with the Minister's comments in response to the Question today. I will ask him about Project Daedalus, which he will know about. It is an excellent scheme aimed at helping inmates at Feltham young offender institution not to reoffend after their release. It was set up under the previous Government and has the great support of the present Mayor of London, who said that it looked as though there had been a "substantial reduction in reoffending". In these circumstances, why have the Government decided that this excellent scheme will not continue after May this year?
Lord McNally: It is true that the Mayor of London made claims for the success of the scheme. He was a little too broad-brush in his claims, but the scheme was successful. We are piloting a number of projects and trying to draw lessons from them that we will roll into future projects. Not all pilots can be kept going permanently. We try to learn from them and develop them into national policy.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, we recognise the importance of continuing to provide accommodation for our service personnel and their families, and anticipate no fundamental change to that principle. Accommodation provision is currently being examined in the future accommodation project as part of work on the new employment model. It is too early at this stage to speculate as to what changes are likely to be forthcoming, as all proposals are still in development and will not be reported upon until late autumn this year.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. As he will remember, during the passage of the Armed Forces Bill I drew attention to the poor state of accommodation of Armed Forces personnel. Does my noble friend agree that subsidised housing is, as has been quoted, a "staunch pillar" of the military covenant? Will he explain to your Lordships' House how forcing married soldiers living in Army accommodation out of their homes is consistent with the military covenant? Will he confirm reports that the new employment model will cut housing entitlement to eight or 10 years' service? Finally, does he agree that within the employment model that he describes, under which soldiers will be able to buy their own homes, it should be a choice not a requirement?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the provision of accommodation near the duty station continues to be seen as an important enabler of operational effectiveness, and there are no plans to remove entitlement to it based on a defined point in a service person's career. As my noble friend said, accommodation is a fundamental part of the Armed Forces covenant, and noble Lords will recall several valuable improvements made to the covenant during the passage of the Armed Forces Bill through your Lordships' House last autumn. It is much improved as a result.
Lord Dannatt: My Lords, will the Minister give whatever assurance he can, further to what he has already said, particularly bearing in mind that the Army's policy is one of encouraging accompanied service, that nothing that is being planned or considered
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Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I absolutely agree with the sentiment behind the noble Lord's question that we owe our service personnel a great deal. As I have already stated, the forces accommodation project is under way. All options are being considered, and it is too early to pre-empt the outcome of that project. We will develop a future employment model that is affordable and balances the aspirations of service personnel with the demands that service life makes of them.
Lord Burnett: My Lords, I am delighted to hear that all options are being considered by my Government. Will my noble friend consider making available a house purchase deposit loan scheme to members of the Armed Forces? All of us in the House will realise that mortgage lenders require very high deposits these days.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, my noble friend will, I suspect, know that the MoD continues to support the Armed Forces home ownership scheme pilot. We also encourage service personnel to explore the three main products available from the Government to help to purchase a property: FirstBuy, New Build HomeBuy and HomeBuy Direct. Service personnel now have the highest priority for access to FirstBuy schemes. Additionally, we are working with mortgage lenders and their professional bodies to develop guidance for their dealings with members of the Armed Forces, while assisting personnel to enter into the UK housing market by offering a long service advance of pay to those eligible.
Lord Rosser: In the light of the Minister's response, will he therefore confirm that it is the Government's view that reducing the numbers entitled to Armed Forces housing accommodation would be acting outside the spirit and intention of the military covenant, which is there to help to ensure that Armed Forces personnel are not disadvantaged as a result of the unique nature and demands of military service?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the covenant has been referred to several times during this small debate. Accommodation is a fundamental part of that covenant, which not only addresses service accommodation but is about doing our best to help those who are leaving the services to find suitable housing. That is why housing is specified in the Armed Forces Act 2011 as one of the issues that must always be covered by the Secretary of State's annual reports on the covenant.
Lord Glenarthur: My Lords, will my noble friend say what proportion of current service quarters have been judged recently to be substandard, and what progress has been made in bringing them up to date?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, perhaps I may put it the other way around. The proportion of service family accommodation at grade 1 or grade 2 condition is 96 per cent, which is moving in the right direction. It is not entirely satisfactory but it is progress.
Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the ways of resolving this difficult problem would be to ring-fence within the MoD the budget for accommodation? The Armed Forces Pay Review Body has asked for that for many years, because whenever there are cutbacks it is the accommodation budget that gets attacked and reduced first. The accommodation that we ask some of our service personnel, both single and families, to have as their homes is a disgrace.
Baroness Verma: My Lords, it is a great privilege to open this debate, and as always your Lordships' House has shown the great importance that it attaches to celebrating International Women's Day by the number of speakers who have signed up to contribute to this debate. Women matter, and they should matter, to every Government, every economy and every family. Like so many of your Lordships, I have been involved in issues around girls and women for as far back as I can remember. This annual debate generates huge global interest and I should like to thank in advance all noble Lords who will speak today. Great Britain has been at the heart of global change for women and girls, and we must remain eternally grateful to women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, whose vision was one of women as equals, women having power and influence over the direction of their lives.
The theme today is the "contribution of women to economic growth", so let me start by saying that we have made progress. Many will argue that there has not been enough progress, and that of course is true. However, while we continue to challenge and break down those barriers, we must also celebrate the achievements and the progress that has been made and illustrate what it is possible to achieve. This is a vision that is shared by all political parties in the UK, and we have much to thank the previous Government for. It is therefore right that we pay tribute to their ensuring that issues on gender remained high in their political programmes.
We must thank particularly the women in the Labour Party who have led from the front on issues such as early years childcare and the new types of apprenticeships which give girls and women access to training in traditionally male-only sectors. They looked at flexible working and maternity and paternity leave, and they paved the way on the work to end violence against women and girls. I am pleased that so many of those senior women are here today.
This Government are working hard on improving on those initiatives and introducing many more. The Prime Minister recognises how important it is that we build a society-our country-on the principles of fairness, accessibility and equality of opportunity. However, we also know that we have to take difficult decisions in difficult economic circumstances and therefore need to respond to restoring the economy. That is where we believe that women will have a huge role in contributing-a role which will define not just progress but the success of a changing economy.
No country can afford to ignore half of its talent and human potential. For example, if women's entrepreneurship in the UK matched that of the USA, we would have an extra 600,000 women-owned businesses here that would add £42 billion to the UK economy. I come from a small and medium-sized business background. I set up my first business at the age of 19 and know the difficulties that I faced then, 33 years ago. Sadly, many of those difficulties have not gone away. I am therefore pleased that the Business Secretary's Entrepreneurs' Forum includes 13 women members among its 20 members. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has also ensured that we have 5,000 women business mentors to assist women who want to start up a business or take their businesses to the next level. It is crucial that networks and mentoring become as embedded in how women approach business as they have been for men.
The Government are also establishing a Women's Business Council. Senior business leaders will advise the Government on how to improve the business environment for women. We are providing up to £2 million over the next three years to support women setting up or expanding businesses in rural areas. However, as not all women want to set up an enterprise, we also need to deliver a work programme that helps unemployed women to develop skills and gain relevant qualifications. That could be worth up to £20 billion each year to our economy.
What we are learning from around the world is that no tool is more effective for economic advancement than the empowerment of women. That is why it is crucial that career choices in schools are improved so that girls are aware of the full opportunities available to them. It is great to see that six in 10 higher-level apprentices in the UK are now female. Arguably, one of the greatest transformations to have occurred in the English higher education system is the increased participation of women. As someone who was not allowed to go to university for cultural reasons, I was-and remain-determined that those choices should always be available to anyone with the competence for higher education.
I turn now to the sensitive subject of pay. The Government are determined to see greater transparency in pay so that we can overcome the continuing issues on the gender pay gap. In September 2010 we launched a new voluntary framework for gender pay reporting with BT, Tesco, Eversheds and the CBI. The "Think, Act, Report" framework asks private and voluntary sector employers to help tackle the pay gap through greater transparency on pay and other issues. We are also working very closely with business not only on extending the right to request flexible working to all employees but to ensure a minimisation of any administrative costs to business. Our impact assessments calculate that this will produce a net benefit of over £222 million over 10 years.
We know that women, given the opportunity, contribute very positively at the top levels of business. We are therefore extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Abersoch-from whom we all look forward to hearing later in the debate-for his work on getting more women on to boards. Through his work with business we have seen within a relatively short time a positive shift in the right direction, with women making up nearly 15 per cent of FTSE directors, from 12 per cent previously. Over a quarter of all board appointments are now female, and 90 companies in the FTSE 100 have both genders on their boards. This is a move in the right direction. However, we want more women to break through the glass ceiling and reach the top of our biggest companies.
Nevertheless, we cannot negate issues that still need to be urgently addressed, and I turn first to the issues of violence against women and girls. The Government are very committed to eradicating all forms of abuse and violent behaviour. We know that that will not be easy but we also know that we must do all that we can to achieve this goal. On 25 November 2010 we published our Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls action plan, which set out our vision over the spending review period. A detailed range of supporting actions was also published last year, including a full response to the review of the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, of the way in which rape complaints were handled.
We have protected Home Office funding of over £28 million for specialist services until 2015. In addition, the Ministry of Justice has committed to £3.5 million each year for three years for rape crisis centres. We will also maintain levels of funding to support specified national functions; for example, £900,000 per year, over four years, to support national help lines.
An indicative figure for the minimum and overlapping cost of violence against women and girls in the UK is estimated to be around £36.7 billion per year. Sadly, more and more incidents among teenagers also seem to be occurring. We therefore relaunched the teenage relationship abuse campaign last September. To date, we have had 170,000 visits to the website and a high level of participation in the online discussion forum. We have also provided £1.2 million to be used to form a new network of support for young victims of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation, including by gangs. However, we believe that there is still an under reporting of sexual crime. We are working closely with police, the CPS and other agencies to ensure that victims feel they are fully supported when they come forward.
I know that a number of noble Lords were concerned about the issue of stalking. This deplorable invasion, through horribly sinister means, often has far-reaching consequences on how people manage their everyday lives. The Government's consultation on stalking, launched last October, closed on 5 February. We are currently considering the responses to the consultation and will respond very soon.
I have not touched on a number of areas in my opening remarks but in my closing speech I shall talk about the work that we are doing internationally and, of course, respond to points that noble Lords raise in the debate.
The Government are strongly committed to ensuring that all departments take into account the impact that their policies will have on women, and through inter-ministerial meetings departments we are working actively for positive outcomes. As Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, famously stated:
I wondered whether I could find a phrase other than "my Lords" to address the House collectively in an International Women's Day debate. There is, of course, the term "noble sisters", which we can take to embrace the men who are going to speak today, just as we have to accept that the words "my Lords" cover women too. Perhaps today they might do the reverse and accept that the term "noble Baronesses" covers them also-if the term "noble sisters" is too radically feminist for them.
The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, has asked us to celebrate the contribution of women to economic growth. That is a good thing to do in our women's day debate and, of course, it does not just concern women's role in the workforce, as the noble Baroness, said, but the whole of women's lives in society. Where the noble Baroness and I may part company is on the question of whether this Government deserve that much credit for their contribution to the position of women in our economy today. Expecting to be congratulated on now supporting policies which any enlightened person or organisation might do, and some of us did decades ago, is perhaps going too far.
It would be churlish of me to remind the noble Baroness, for example, that her party branded me and the London Labour Party as "loonies" because we embraced workplace nurseries, the expansion of childcare and employers supporting their employees with childcare and job sharing as positive measures to support women in the workplace. We heard from all quarters of the Conservative Party that this would be the end of civilisation as we know it and would undermine the family, but I rejoice at a sinner repenting.
Of course, I congratulate Conservative women on their achievements in increasing the number of women representatives in Parliament, for example. However, it is worth saying that, come the next general election, it is possible that unless both of the parties in the coalition take positive action to address the gender imbalance of MPs and prospective candidates, when Labour makes its gains-which I think it will-this may be disastrous for the representation of Liberal Democrat women MPs in particular, because they are in marginal seats. It will also not be good for women Conservative MPs. That is a matter of great concern for our democracy. I think the parties opposite need to address that issue very seriously indeed. Perhaps they might look at the examples that we continue to set in the Labour Party about how one increases the number of women representatives in Parliament and other places.
In the few moments left to me I should like to reflect on the lessons from the struggles that women have had. As we used say in my women's group at the LSE in the 1970s, the personal is political. So I am going to look at a struggle that took place where I grew up, in Manningham, which is in my title. Samuel Cunliffe Lister, the first Baron Masham-not related to our dear noble Baroness, Lady Masham-is celebrated in Bradford as a former industrial giant and a benefactor to the city. There is a statue of him in Lister Park, the local park. Many may be aware of his great monument: the Italianate splendour of the towering chimney of Lister's Mill, Manningham, which still dominates the city skyline more than 100 years after he breathed his last. He may have been the head of a dynasty of worker-bashing mill owners, but a closer look reveals that he could have been responsible for helping to create the Conservative Party's deadliest rival, the Labour Party. I am referring to the Manningham Mills strike, lasting from 16 December 1890 until 27 April 1891-nearly 19 weeks. This was a war of attrition that was symbolic, in all aspects, of the clash of interests between capital and labour, particularly among the textile workers in the West Riding. The dispute was initially around pay but escalated into a dispute about solidarity, freedom of speech and how the Poor Law criminalised the poor. Unfortunately, the workers in that strike were starved back to work and returned after 19 weeks with the reduced wages that they had been offered.
However, the lesson for us today is that the unintended consequence was that tens of thousands of workers in the mill industry-the strike was led by women, which is why it is important-joined trade unions. Two years later, the Independent Labour Party was founded in Bradford. I claim for the women of Bradford the fact that we helped to found the Labour Party and all the consequences that have led from that. The lesson we might take from that today is that we need to pay tribute to the brave working women who have improved working conditions throughout the past 100 years or so-the women of the match girls' strike, the Asian women in Grunwick and the women of Dagenham. We should pay tribute to those women in this debate and be grateful to them.
This Government and their policies for women, particularly working women, are an example of where the reality does not match the rhetoric. We know that
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Baroness Northover: I remind noble Lords-I should have done this at the very beginning of the debate-that this is a time-limited debate, and when the clock hits six minutes noble Lords have had their time. Could we be as disciplined as possible, because there is another major debate and a Third Reading following on after this?
Lord Dholakia: My Lords-and the noble Baronesses I can take a hint-next week we will celebrate International Women's Day. As I look around me I see more women represented in our political system. However, there is just one major omission. Is it not time that women are also represented on the Bishops' Benches? Perhaps the right reverend Prelate could tell us what progress has been made on that front.
I welcome this debate because it gives us the opportunity to examine contributions that women make in the field of economic growth. We can no longer define economic growth in the narrow context of self- interest. To a great extent our economy is part of globalised structures and institutions which require transparency and ethical standards. Remove these elements and you remove the confidence of the community in such structures. But where do women fit into such structures? The evidence is for all to see; women are grossly underrepresented at every level, and that just cannot be right.
I suspect that for far too long decisions affecting women are often taken by men. This is not just peculiar to our country. It applies almost universally. Women are more vulnerable to poverty than men, and access to job opportunities and promotions in global markets is essential if they are to be empowered to work their way out of poverty, deprivation and disadvantage. We already have examples of good practices. The Commonwealth is paying special attention to the needs, constraints and interests of women in trade policies and liberalisation. I recently attended the Commonwealth Business Council conference in Perth in Australia. This was attended by more than 1,400 delegates. One of the striking features was the increase in attendance of women delegates and their participation in debates, which clearly identified the role they could play in promoting equality and elimination of poverty.
One element identified by delegates was about trade liberalisation. This is not to be confused with free trade and the complete absence of regulations. Trade liberalisation, together with proper international regulation to protect vulnerable communities-for example, women-who tend to work in the informal sector, and children, can lead to benefits especially in the present economic climate. If one pays decent wages to workers throughout the Commonwealth, even marginally, more money can be used by impoverished communities to enhance their own and their children's education. This will increase people's own buying power. Those communities should not be seen as pools of cheap labour and a threat to domestic labour; rather they are untouched markets, potential consumers and ultimately, valuable participants in the growth of the world economy. We ignore the role of women at our peril. Women are more vulnerable to poverty than men and access to global markets is essential if women are to be empowered to work their way out of this misery inflicted on them.
Poverty has arguably existed as long as man has. Most people have come to accept that with the rich there will be the comparative poor. However, today we are all being faced with a world where nearly one-fifth of the population is living in extreme poverty and the wealth and power rests with a few. On this International Women's Day, each nation has to be reminded about Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:
There is one another issue I wish to address. I thank in advance the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, for some very valuable work she has done on the matter of domestic violence. In 2008, the Government stated that in the UK the estimated cost of domestic violence to business alone through absences, loss of productivity and rapid turnover of employees is £2.7 billion-a figure mentioned by my noble friend Lady Verma in her opening address. Medical and social costs add a further £3.1 billion, bringing the total cost to £6 billion every year. Similar figures have been produced by the United Nations in its brief The Economic Costs of Violence Against Women, which concluded that,
We need to look very carefully at how we address this issue because it is right that if we want to live in peace and prosper, we cannot ignore the role of women in our society. At every stage we look at it, discrimination and disadvantage form part of their daily routine. This is the challenge we face. It is a time for action, a time for change and a time for building a safe and decent society.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, said she would deal with international issues when she wound up and so, tempted as I am to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, in political
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I do so because today's debate may bea week early for International Women's Day but it is perfectly timed for me. I am less than 48 hours out of Kathmandu and a parliamentary placement with VSO, volunteering in Nepal. I would like to record my thanks to VSO for enabling me to undertake that work-it has been in that country for nearly 50 years now-and particularly to record my admiration for the young volunteers, most of them women from the UK, who I saw working as part of the International Citizen Service scheme in deprived and remote isolated communities in Nepal, teaching sexual and reproductive health, far from their own comfort zones, in partnership with Nepali volunteers in a way that was truly impressive and made me extremely proud of then. I also declare my non-financial interest as a trustee of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
That visit to Nepal reinforced my belief that the empowerment of women is a hugely powerful driver of growth, both economic and general. One has only to look at the contribution of women in the tiger economies of Asia to understand how that has happened. Yet within the context of the developing world, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if today I speak less about economic empowerment in action and more about the barriers to that economic empowerment. There are women with debilitating, disfiguring and blinding neglected tropical diseases; women who are tied to water and fuel collection for hours every day; girls who never make it to the start of primary education, let alone the completion of secondary education; women who are trafficked; women whose migrant husbands infect them with HIV; girls who are married off at obscenely early ages and bear children when barely in their teens and then suffer from obstetric fistula or prolapse-and are then rejected by those husbands. These women have no opportunity to pursue their aspirations, or to contribute to the economic development of their communities.
I would like to say a word or two about forced marriage, a fundamental breach of the most basic rights of self-determination. It is a global problem, on every continent, with perhaps 10 million cases a year, including an estimated 8,000 in England alone. Too often and in too many countries the legal age of marriage is a number on a statute in a capital city, but far from the reality of life for girls in the villages in that country.
I pay tribute to the work that the FCO, DfID and the Government Equalities Office are doing to combat forced marriage throughout the world, and I particularly welcome the Prime Minister's personal commitment in this area. Forced and early marriage cannot be written off as simply a cultural or religious practice that we should avoid confronting out of some misplaced sense of respect. No major world religion condones forced marriage, and silence serves to keep the issue hidden and unchallenged. Predominately, forced marriage reflects and drives poverty. Families struggling to get
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We must build on the progress that was made at CHOGM last October and with the recent call for action at the UN in New York. Countries from Sierra Leone to Pakistan are passing relevant legislation, and international NGOs are working to ensure that our collective efforts prevent forced marriage and do not just prosecute it. I pay particular tribute to the work of Plan UK; in countries such as Bangladesh it has worked with local people on a sustainable campaign to achieve community support for the right of young girls to a childhood and thereby the chance of an education, health and, ultimately, economic empowerment.
I came back from Nepal intensely conscious not only of the affluence and comfort of my own life but of the barriers that women face and of the tremendous use that they make of opportunity when it is given to them. I saw a project run by an NGO, the Social Action Centre, where women had been encouraged to be open about their HIV status, to gain treatment and then to undertake livelihood projects and thus revolutionise their lives.
However, I also heard of women and girls who are banished from the home to the cowshed every month during menstruation and who sometimes freeze to death when they are there. I heard of women who are trafficked to brothels in India, women who never make it to school because of hookworm, elephantiasis, trachoma or other neglected tropical diseases that are cheap to treat. It is only when we achieve the basic rights for those women that we will allow them the opportunity to contribute economically to the development of their own communities and countries.
The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: My Lords and-dare I say?-noble sisters, I thank the noble Baroness for initiating this debate. Economic growth is an issue of justice and, of all the struggles in history, justice for women, whether legal, social or economic, remains the longest and most protracted.
Anyone speaking from these Benches needs to acknowledge that although its founder recognised the fullness of women's citizenship from the beginning of the Jesus movement, women were gradually deprived of equality as the church ceased to be a house-based structure based on economics and adopted a hierarchical, patriarchal structure. If women are to be in the House of Bishops, I hope that they may help to take us back there.
A few years ago I had the privilege of being in Gaza on International Women's Day. A group of us spent time with women committed to a programme of self-empowerment, striving to enhance their economic status in the face of the realities of sanctions and conflict. As we left that meeting, we were given flowers to symbolise the struggle. A couple of hours or so later, my Methodist woman colleague and I were faced by the barrier separating Gaza from Israel. Quite spontaneously, we walked towards the barrier and placed our flowers-one red, one white-in a small gap in the concrete. It was a
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A recent report from the United Nations has found that the households of lone mothers with young children are especially vulnerable to poverty. Older women are more likely to be poor than older men in both developed and developing countries. In much of Africa and more than half of Asia, restrictions on women's ownership of land and property, often as a consequence of formal or traditional laws, increase poverty. In developing countries, fewer women than men have cash income and many married women have no say in deciding how their cash earnings are spent. To speak of economic justice in such circumstances is to demand that women's work is properly valued, and that they have property rights-especially in rural areas, where women produce 80 per cent of the food-and are enabled to take decisions about family finances. Economic justice means providing access to finance for income generation and investment for micro-enterprises. The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, made reference to issues in our own country and, in particular, to rural women, which is something that concerns me in the area in which I live, but I will not comment further on it in this debate.
Justice is the precarious dream that humanity can have. It is a vision akin to that of heaven. Many have heard of it, read about and longed for it but no one has seen it. The best we can say is that we have glimpsed it. I have been privileged through many years of my life both to visit and to work with women and men across the globe in the struggle for justice. Anglicans around the world are working to provide such economic justice for women. In Burundi, micro-finance schemes cater for women in rural areas. In Bangladesh, similar schemes provide support for women in the slums of Dhaka. In Zimbabwe, I have witnessed Anglicans helping some of the most vulnerable women, including those living with HIV and AIDS. Similarly, in Zambia I have seen how the Church is bringing together faith communities and justice services to reach out into the rural communities to make sure that women know their rights and can get access to justice.
However, these glimpses of economic justice are simply that-glimpses. If poor women who are subjects in their own lives, made in the imago dei-the image of God-with their own capabilities and rights to sustain their lives through their own efforts, abilities and the will to do so, they need access to the markets. This can come about only through a radical redistribution of resources. The task of justice is to work for more equal distribution and access to the distributive mechanisms.
Finally, the eradication of poverty is the task of Governments, international bodies, the Church and secular institutions alike, and it is a worthy dream. If poverty is ever to be history, support is needed for transformation in local civil society and community structures. This requires the practice of economic theory that starts where people are-at the bottom, not at the top. The road to justice is long and those of us who seek it must be prepared for the long haul. We
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Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone: My Lords, I am delighted to speak in this debate and warmly congratulate my noble friend Lady Verma on her comments. For many of us in this country, our generation has been one of complete transformation in opportunities for women. It is just over 100 years since the first International Women's Day was celebrated. In that time we have seen the first female Member of Parliament, the first woman judge and the first ordained female priest. Across the professions and business, we have seen opportunities for educated and talented women. Of course, this year we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen, who has done a magnificent job.
For those of us who so enjoyed the recent film "The Iron Lady", it was also the generation that saw the first woman Prime Minister. Fascinating for those who have seen that film are the comments of young women, who cannot believe the patronising attitudes towards women. As somebody who joined the House of Commons after the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman-there were 23 women when I joined-I was seriously asked, "Mrs Bottomley, if you want to vote one way and your husband wants you to vote another way, which way will you vote?". The world has changed.
I want to identify three specific areas, including that of high-achieving women, on which I shall say more later. Women in poverty in this country is a different topic and a very important one on which many people in this House speak authentically. Many years ago when I worked with the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Meacher, at the Child Poverty Action Group, we were only too aware of how women bear the burden of poverty. We have talked about domestic abuse and many distinguished Members of this House speak emotionally and authentically about women in prison. Then there is the international situation, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, referred. I am pleased that she spoke of Nepal, which is one of the few countries in the world where men live longer than women. Many people do not realise why that is so shocking. Life expectancy may be 86 or 84 years for women in Japan or Switzerland; in Mozambique and Swaziland it is 39 and 32 years respectively. The western world may have a female literacy rate of 100 per cent; in Burkina Faso it is 15 per cent, and 13 per cent in Chad. Therefore, we need to talk about high-achieving women mindful of women who face poverty here and around the world, and the appalling situation that applies to many women of having no rights and being subjected to forced marriage, genital mutilation and forced prostitution.
I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, for his work. He is the natural successor to one of my early mentors-the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. I am afraid that it had to be a man tackling the subject of women on boards but we have seen dramatic changes. I must declare my interests. I have been on the board of Akzo Nobel for 12 years. I was "diversity"; I was the Brit; I was also the first woman. I have also been on the
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However, over the past 12 years I have spent a lot of my time being a headhunter and I have to look for the best man for the job. I am pleased to tell noble Lords that in 2000, when I became a headhunter, 5.8 per cent of directorships were filled by women and now the figure is 14.9 per cent. However, I do not take full credit for that. I am delighted with the work that the noble Lord, Lord Davies, has done, but I think we are moving on from believing that non-executives on the board is the most important issue in corporate Britain or the most important issue in female fulfilment and participation. I am pleased that the more enlightened discussion now is about female employees in the workforce and what happens to women as they move through work. I always ask people in the commercial world to look at the public sector. Why is it that fewer than one in seven vice-chancellors are women? In saying that, I look at the distinguished academics in this House.
I have also had responsibility for the health service. We have talked a lot about careers for women in medicine. The same issues apply as regards mentoring, encouraging aspiration and teaching women the tricks of the trade. Why are there so few female heads of medical schools? I have been very involved in the Women in Academic Medicine organisation, where the issues that I have mentioned also apply. Therefore, I ask the corporate world not to look at itself in a blinkered way but to look more widely.
I am delighted that the Government have resisted quotas, and endorse that decision. I give notice that I would vote against the introduction of quotas. One of the many reasons for my doing that is that one in four primary schools have no male teachers. All our debates on social policy stress the importance of male role models in those early years. Let us have quotas for men in primary schools long before we have quotas for women on boards.
I say to the right reverend Prelate that I am passionate about the upcoming debate on women in the Church of England. As a lay canon at Guildford Cathedral, I think this is such a timely issue. Extraordinary progress has been made in this area. I did not really care about it, except theoretically, until I went to a church in New Zealand where a female priest was officiating. Ever since then I have been outraged by the situation. I ask the Roman Catholic Church, which does so much good around the world, to think again about contraception, female leadership and married priests. I tread carefully, but surely a faith with global influence should accept that women's place is very different now.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, sisters and brothers, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for introducing this debate. It is always an inspiring and important occasion, and I apologise that I shortly have to leave the Chamber for about an hour to attend a lunch. I am so sorry about that.
I want to explore two principles. The first is that whatever women achieve is part of a history of building on achievement, whether it be in economics and finance, medicine, the arts, sport, politics or the law. What one generation does has an impact on the next and subsequent generations. We, today, men and women, are no exceptions. This is one reason why these debates are so important.
My second principle is that women need support to achieve, particularly in areas such as industry and commerce. Men, of course, also need support but women have had more battles. They often need organisation and advocacy for their efforts. This brings me to my main focus for today, which is how the principles of support and historical example are illustrated by the brave efforts of the suffragette movement. It is appropriate that now in the Royal Gallery we have an exhibition of historic documents relating to the suffrage movement. It is a tribute to our parliamentary archivist Mari Takayanagi and to Melanie Unwin from the works of art office that we have had these documents recognised by UNESCO as being of national importance. On Tuesday, they organised a suffragette walk through Parliament. One of the most moving sights for me was the windows in St Stephen's Hall illustrating the history of suffrage, including portrayals of chains, force-feeding, and the "cat and mouse" Act.
The suffragette movement was born out of a good deal of frustration. The first petition to Parliament asking for the vote for women was presented in 1832, yet full equal rights to the vote, as we know, were achieved only in 1928. This is part of the principle of building support from one generation to the next, and for not giving up. It is possible that women today would not be here without that battle for the vote. The principle of support is also evident, not just from women; some men were also fundamentally involved in the effort to secure the vote. Some men, and probably even some women, were, of course, antagonistic-but strength and persistence won. We have a good example of persistence in Elizabeth Garrett Anderson-the daughter of one of 12 children of a pawnbroker, the first woman doctor in England and the first female mayor.
In a display case in the Royal Gallery is a poignant reminder of these struggles. It is the actual banner unfurled in October 1908 from the Ladies' Gallery in the House of Commons. The protest took place behind a heavy metal grille, behind which women had to sit. The banner begins by stating:
and goes on to emphasise the need for mutual protection of all citizens, and protection of the interests of working women and women in the home. Already, concerns beyond the achievement of voting rights are evident. Christabel Pankhurst stated that women wanted the
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Women having the vote helped in many ways. Campaigning had proved successful, and organisations involved in winning the vote now turned to other issues of equality, such as employment. Male MPs now had women in their constituencies to whom they had to listen, and there were a few women MPs. Acts were passed allowing women to enter professions from which they had been barred. From 1919, women could become barristers and solicitors, accountants, vets and senior civil servants. There were also Acts which equalised inheritance rights, gave equal guardianship of infants rights to men and women, reformed marriage and divorce law, reformed the legitimacy and adoption law, raised the age of consent for marriage to 16 and introduced pensions for widows and orphans. Before 1918, little such legislation was considered.
Does the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, agree that without a women's movement, exemplified by the suffragettes, women today would have less self-esteem, less confidence in their ability to reform, less trust in support and advocacy and less power to change situations, including economic and financial matters? I believe that most people now recognise the need for women's talents, insight and persistence. Sylvia Pankhurst was indeed right about the need to recognise our human equality in order to solve problems.
Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, this debate is becoming an annual fixture in the business of the House, and quite right too. So far, unfortunately, it has not led to any significant, substantive progress in improving the opportunities for women to contribute fully to the economic prosperity of the country.
By contrast with the UK, in the developing world there is widespread and growing acceptance of the vital role that women have played in improving wealth creation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, remarked. The Economic Affairs Committee is completing its study on overseas development aid, and the evidence it has received shows irrefutably how important women are as economic drivers. Here, I must again draw your Lordships' attention to the outstanding contribution of the UK-based charity, Camfed. For more than three generational cohorts, it has helped to improve the status and educational attainment levels of women in many parts of Africa. This, in turn, has generated tangible economic benefits. The progress in Africa has not been emulated in the UK.
Soon after assuming office, very commendably the coalition Government set up the Davies inquiry into gender representation on the boards of the FTSE 100 companies. It reported a year ago, and we all look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, will say later in this debate. It called for a modest 25 per cent of women directors by 2015. Although much lip service has been paid to that principle,
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Despite the very poor record in gender balance in the composition of the current Cabinet, it is interesting that the Prime Minister has expressed concern at the lack of progress in improving the participation of women in the higher ranks of business. On 12 February, he was quoted in the Observer as saying:
He hinted at the possible introduction of gender quotas for company boards after his trip to Scandinavia in February. Norway's quota system has been a dramatic success story, with a 40 per cent target being achieved in less than 10 years.
The UK has fought shy of compulsory quotas, as in the Davies report. Some business leaders have decried the use of quotas. I must say that I am rather disappointed that the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, has joined them. It must be emphasised that those opposing quotas are simply airing their prejudice, against all the evidence. They have no factual evidence whatever to validate their views. Supporting evidence to the contrary is available. The proof of the efficacy of compulsory quotas is not confined to Norway and elsewhere in Europe. There is evidence from within the UK itself that quotas work. The Patten reform introduced to the recruitment procedures of the RUC and the PSNI to ensure a much higher proportion of Catholic police men and women has been very successful. It also had the significant beneficial side-effect of substantially increasing the proportion of women recruits, which was reported to have more than doubled from 12.6 per cent to almost 26 per cent in the 10 years to October 2010.
The drawing-up of proper job specifications by the PSNI, as Patten required, not only led to a better community balance within police ranks but significantly enhanced women's opportunities. The coalition Government should take this evidence into serious consideration. They cannot question the evidence, because the review was introduced by Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister should now take account of this UK experience and take positive action on women's directors on the boards of major companies. As Prime Minister, he should set an example by announcing in the Queen's Speech how he hopes to achieve, let us say, a proportion of 40 per cent women Cabinet Ministers by a particular date.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, this debate is a cause for real celebration. It is a matter of delight to us all, I am sure, that so many good male voices are being raised and added to those of the good female voices that have always historically participated in our debates on this subject. In the past, it was always a matter of sadness to those of us who were habitual
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I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, not only on instigating this debate but on focusing on the importance of the economic empowerment of women and the contribution that they can and do make to the economic growth and well-being of our country. We now know, certainly from the past year when financial difficulties have been at their height, that businesses that had the benefit of a gender-balanced leadership fared far better than those who did not have that advantage. The emotional intelligence that women have brought to business and to risk assessment has been demonstrably advantageous to business throughout our country. I sincerely hope that that is a message and a lesson that we will not have to learn twice.
I am particularly pleased that my noble friend Lord Davies is about to speak, because it is right that we give him credit for the great work that he has done as a man raising issues that are pertinent to women. That demonstrates that women's issues are not just women's issues; they are our issues-they are human rights issues, and issues that relate to the benefit and the welfare of our country as a whole.
However, we know that many impediments are cast in the way of women that can make it more difficult for them to survive and make the contribution that they are able to make. One of those has been touched on during this debate by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, by my noble friend Lady Massey and by a number of others. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia-although I do not see him in his place at the moment-for the compliments that he paid me for the work that I have done on domestic violence. That work succeeded only because it was undertaken by many people together in partnership-women working with men in government, in local government, in business, in the third sector and individually. I need think only of the stalwart work that was done by colleagues across government, men and women together, to bring about the 24-hour helpline and to help Refuge and other third-sector parties to deliver their sterling work to know that it needed all of us.
We know that, globally, domestic violence still disproportionately affects women. In our country, it affects one in four women; across the world, it affects one in three, but 89 per cent of repeat victims are women. That has a direct impact, as other noble Lords have said, on our economic growth. It cost us £23 billion in 2003. We reduced that together to £7.5 billion, but that is far too high a price for us to have paid in the past and we continue to carry £1.9 billion of the economic cost to business. There is much that we need to do and must do to address that. Noble Lords will know that the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, which I created in 2005, has sought to make a difference. I thank all those businesses that have already put their shoulder to the wheel to bring about change, but it is this global factor that we certainly need to do far more about. Today, in 2012, violence against women is still an alarmingly widespread problem, affecting women of all backgrounds and beliefs. Physical or sexual violence still affects 60 per cent of women
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We need to address all these issues, and that is one reason why I am greatly concerned by any diminution in legal aid that may be made available to those women who seek to secure a better future for themselves and their children. Many women at low and medium risk are assisted by legal aid to escape situations before they become high risk, and at risk of death or serious injury. I know the commitment of all those around the House who wish to make sure that women and their children are better cared for, better supported and better protected-and I mean by that noble Lords on all Benches. I hope that when we come to look at these issues we will not forget our historical commitment and make sure that women, children and men remain safe from domestic violence.
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, in this very special Diamond anniversary year, with all the excitement of the celebration of the Queen's 60 glorious years and the Olympics ahead, we should approach this debate with optimism.
That does not mean that I do not understand the appalling events taking place in many parts of the world where women continue to suffer huge injustices in tragic circumstances. Progress for them is either desperately slow or non-existent. We must, of course, do all we can to use our influence to try to help alleviate their position and to highlight the situation through publicity such as this debate in your Lordships' House. I am sure that other noble Lords will speak on this.
However, in this important year, perhaps I may crave the indulgence of the House in order to accentuate a few of the good things that are happening. We must not be seen as wringers of hands, concerned only with poor, downtrodden women everywhere. Instead, we should rejoice in the successes that some women have had and be mindful of the glass-half-full syndrome.
I could not contribute to this annual debate without referring to Emmeline Pankhurst, and I am pleased to wear a symbol not of her battle colours but of one of her strong beliefs: in safe motherhood for all women throughout the world. She and her brave fellow suffragettes, at great personal sacrifice, courageously fought for the right for women to vote, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. What a long way we have come and how good it is to see so many women competing and winning their way to the top.
However, during the past 15 years, we seem to have retreated into the thinking of a foregone generation when trade was considered unacceptable and only those with a degree could succeed in life. We are paying for that fallacious policy today with our low-skilled workforce, as foreign workers fill the highly expert jobs available while many graduates remain unemployed.
I am delighted that now there is a real drive to create thousands of apprenticeships. In my local paper this week, I read that the Coventry and Warwickshire local enterprise partnership, which set out to create 100 apprenticeships in 100 days last November, celebrated
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Last week, I met two representatives from the Electrical Contractors' Association. They told me that the electrical contracting industry is training more than 6,000 apprentices and now, due to the enthusiasm of a small group, has launched a pilot scheme named Wired for Success-ECA Women into Electrical Contracting Initiative. There are 12 women on the two-year course, which, when completed, will give them a qualification to work competently and safely in a domestic environment. They have now completed six months of the course. Many of these women were long-term unemployed and now relish the new-found confidence and opportunities in their lives. Some of the quotes are positive and heart-warming. For example:
"I hate being on benefits, so something like this would make a massive difference. I just want to be in control of my life; I don't want to sit at home waiting for handouts. This initiative is really empowering".
"This will help me set a good example for my daughter Kira now that she is able to do things for herself and have a normal life around her disability. All the time I've been with her I've not been working, and it's not good for her to see that".
I am sure noble Lords will agree that it is good indeed to hear such positive comments and that they will commend those whose inspiration fired the imagination of others who ran with the idea and put it into practice. I can see a bright future for these women, once qualified. I wish them all success and the strength and courage to stay the course so that they may reap the rewards they will richly deserve.
I said that this was only a pilot but I hope that it will stimulate others to have different ingenious brainwaves. This is just a start and will give hope to those who want to work but cannot find a job. It is a mammoth task but I can see that the impetus is there. Therefore, as we approach, for us, the thrilling months ahead, may we celebrate the success we have had. Let us work hard as we enjoy the coming celebrations but never forget that there is still much to do.
Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in this debate. I apologise in advance for having to leave the Chamber during part of it but it is for a reason that I hope noble Lords will find entirely appropriate: it is to show some young schoolgirls around the exhibition in the Royal Gallery.
I have spoken in many debates on or around International Women's Day since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House and I have always taken the opportunity to focus on the role of carers. I make no apology for doing so again in this debate, which focuses on women's contribution to economic growth. I do so, first, because carers annually contribute £119 billion to the economy through the care they provide free-if they did not do this, we would have to provide the
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Women who give up work to care between the ages of 55 and 64, at the peak of their careers, typically lose over £15,000 a year. The peak age when carers give up work to care is also the time when most employees are at the peak of their careers. In a Carers UK survey, 34 per cent of the women who gave up work to care did so between the ages of 40 and 54. In addition to long-term costs for individuals, women find it hard to return to work after years spent caring, and this brings costs to employers, who lose staff at the peak of their skills and experience. A survey by Carers UK found that 70 per cent of female carers who gave up work to care wished that they could still work but believed that their caring responsibilities made it impossible.
Workplace recognition and support for carers is improving, and we must pay tribute to the previous Government and this one for that. Most carers now have the legal right to request flexible working from their employer, and it is welcome that the Government are consulting on extending the right to request that to all employees. Members of Employers for Carers, set up by Carers UK, are leading the way in implementing carer-friendly employment policies. These employers, ranging from BT and British Gas to smaller manufacturing businesses, point to clear improvements in staff retention rates, reducing the costs that would be involved in recruitment and retraining if staff were forced to give up work to care.
However, what often prevents families juggling work and care is the inability to access reliable social care support of quality. One in five carers who had been forced to give up work said that this was because of an inability to access support from local social care services, with a similar number finding services too expensive or inflexible. With an estimated £1 billion in cuts to social care services last year and with directors of social services predicting further cuts at a similar level this year, there is a risk that the pressure on women being able to work will grow.
Despite some improvements and greater public awareness of the issues, there are still too few carers getting help early enough in their caring role. As a society, we are not investing sufficiently in care, and that has very important consequences for the future. Families will be less likely to be in work and the economy will miss out on an estimated £750 million to £1.5 billion in earnings each year, according to research by the University of Birmingham. Over recent years, the UK has seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of people providing round-the-clock care-and I mean 24 hours, seven days a week. Without significant investment in social care, more families will have to provide large amounts of care, often falling out of work in order to do so.
How we support carers is a growing issue with the combined effect of the significant increase in the number of people who need care through frailty and disability and a significant reduction in public spending. How we support families who provide care is a global challenge. The issues facing us here in the UK are replicated throughout Europe and the industrialised world.
We need to think differently about how care is provided and about how we support families who decide to provide that care unpaid. Just as the increased participation of women in the labour market led to better and more provision of childcare, so care services must be seen as an enabler as our population ages. The economic value of better support for women which enables them to combine childcare and work is estimated to be between £15 billion and £23 billion a year. It is time that caring for disabled and older relatives was seen in the same light.
As the Government prepare to publish a White Paper on social care reform, it is crucial that we see care and support services as a driver for the workforce inclusion of carers, and particularly women. Only in this way will we enable women to participate fully in the workforce and therefore to contribute to economic growth as they and we would wish.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, my contribution to this debate derives from reading, a couple of years ago, some research on the impact on growth of empowering women in sub-Saharan Africa. That research said that, where women are more empowered, where they are educated and have access to healthcare and where they can earn money, economies grow faster. That is because women work co-operatively and spend money differently from men, investing in growing food for their families and investing in their families' education and health. Both the UN and the World Bank have demonstrated that income per head could rise by at least a fifth in emerging economies were it not for the secondary economic role of women in so many countries. Across the world, women own only 1 per cent of land, and more than two-thirds of the 1 billion people living on $1 a day are women.
I welcome the Government's commitment in this Parliament to focus on key outcomes in both bilateral aid and our support to international organisations. Some of the objectives of that policy are the education of 11 million children, half of whom will be girls; preventing death in pregnancy and childbirth of 50,000 more women; stopping 250,000 newborn babies dying needlessly; and helping 10 million women to access modern family planning. All those will help women. However, I particularly welcome the new strategic vision document for girls and women from the Department for International Development which concentrates on stopping poverty before it starts by directing resource specifically to girls and women.
Education is key to gender equality and economic growth. Education for girls and women leads to higher wages, which lead to higher spending, which leads to more focused spending on things that help drive gender equality. Moreover, that money is reinvested, creating a virtuous circle in economic growth.
The gender gap in schooling and work is very marked in some countries. For example, girls' entry and completion rates at primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa run 10 percentage points below those for boys, and the gap can widen significantly at secondary level. The World Bank has reported that,
That raises the question: why are there not more girls in school? The answer, in part, is cost, but more importantly, there is not an understanding of how girls' education can drive economic growth. There is perceived to be no economic return to a family in educating girls, which leads to the girls being taught home-based tasks to prepare them for domestic life.
I therefore welcome the vision of the Secretary of State for International Development in his commitment to deliver outcomes that are specifically addressed to girls and women. We should support this programme's four principles: to delay the first pregnancy and support safe childbirth, to direct economic assets to girls and women, to get more girls through secondary school and to prevent violence against girls and women.
All four goals are important so, crucially, each is underpinned by a programme of action to deliver a step change in very specific areas. For example, girls in their teenage years are five times more likely than women in their early 20s to die in pregnancy or childbirth, hence the plan to save 50,000 lives. Agricultural outputs in sub-Saharan countries could rise by up to 20 per cent if women had equal economic opportunities to men, hence the plan to secure access to land for 4.5 million women. We know now that just one extra year of schooling would increase the wages of girls by between 10 and 20 per cent. It is therefore good to know that half the children whom the UK will be supporting in primary schools will be girls and that, by 2014, 700,000 girls will be supported in secondary education. Preventing violence through plans to help some 10 million women to access justice through the courts, police and legal assistance will also be crucial in delivering gender equality. Crucially, there will also be greater access to financial services for several million women.
All those initiatives are inter-related. We should therefore acknowledge and support the new emphasis that the Government are giving to promoting the vital importance of empowering girls and women. There is a great deal to do, but the policy is vital and the prize substantial. Empowerment of women is just in itself, but as we now understand better, it also helps to drive economic growth, and it does so faster than if the same resources were given to men.
Baroness Gale: My Lords-and my ladies-I bring greetings from Wales on this glorious St David's Day. I believe that it is appropriate that today I speak about Welsh women, and I begin with one in particular-the Viscountess Rhondda of Llanwern and her links with your Lordships' House. Viscountess Rhondda inherited her title in 1918 from her father, which was most unusual. At the time, women were not allowed to sit in the House of Lords. In 1920, two years after she
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Lady Rhondda had been an active suffragette and was a leading feminist in the inter-war years. She founded the feminist weekly magazine Time and Tide and helped to set up the Six Point Group, which was one of the first to campaign on women's issues, including equal pay and equal opportunities-something on which many women are still campaigning today. Lady Rhondda was a courageous woman and she defied many social conventions and restrictions of the time. She became a prominent figure and role model in the advancement of women's political and employment rights. She was a successful businesswoman with some 30 directorships. She was given a government post as director of the women's department in the Ministry of National Service in 1917. She died in 1958 just three months after the Life Peerages Act 1958, which allowed women to sit in the House of Lords, but it was not until five years later, with the Peerage Act 1963, that women who inherited the title were finally admitted. I was very pleased that the Work of Arts Committee agreed to purchase a portrait of Viscountess Rhondda recently, and I am pleased that I played a small part in that. I feel that at long last she has taken her place in the House of Lords and her portrait hangs in the Peers and Guests Dining Room for everyone to see. I am sure that everyone who looks at that portrait will see what a strong woman she was.
How have the actions of Viscountess Rhondda helped other women? She showed that women can succeed in a man's world. She was a great businesswoman, first working with her father and later, after his death, continuing to run the businesses she had inherited. She was the first woman president of the Institute of Directors in 1926 and, I believe even to this day, probably the only woman who has been appointed to that post. As a Welshwoman she showed the importance of campaigning for what one believed: do not give up at the first hurdle and carry on until you achieve your aims. I believe that she would be proud of the Welsh women of today and, of course, of the women Peers in your Lordships' House. One only has to look at the Welsh Assembly to see how women are shaping the new Wales.
In the first Welsh Assembly elections in 1999, 40 per cent of the seats were held by women. By 2003 that had risen to 50 per cent. At that time it was the only directly elected institution in the world to have an equal balance of men and women. A report by Swansea and Warwick universities in 2009 argued that other legislatures should learn from the Welsh Assembly with its almost equal gender balance of Assembly Members and how that has transformed politics in Wales. They found that political debates were more consensual than adversarial, and as a result included on the agenda such "non-traditional" topics as domestic violence. Professor Nickie Charles from the University
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"The assembly is a new political institution associated with a consensual political style, an inclusive politics, and working arrangements which recognise the caring responsibilities of those working within it".
Wales was the first country in the UK to have a children's commissioner; now all four countries have one. Wales was the first country in the world-it is believed-to have a commissioner for older people. Now there is one in Northern Ireland. Because there has always been a fair number of women in the Welsh Assembly, the profile of women politicians is higher in Wales than in any other part of the United Kingdom.
As I said, by 2003 there were 30 women and 30 men in the Welsh Assembly. Women still play a leading role. There are three women in a Cabinet of eight, and the Liberal Democrats have a woman leader. Women of Wales play a great role in the rest of the UK by showing how, if political parties have the will to select women for seats that they can win, political institutions will begin to look like the society they represent. I hope that the Minister will agree that the example of Wales shows that the election of a fair balance of women leads to a more tolerant and equal society.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, in previous debates on International Women's Day I declared two interests: as a member and former chairman of the 300 Group and of Women in Public Life. Looking around the House today and on previous occasions, and around the House of Commons, I see that the work that we did has proved to be of some benefit, because there is an extraordinary number of women here-although perhaps not at this moment. We are doing very much better, so perhaps I can sit back on my laurels.
I thank the noble Baroness for the wonderful way in which she invited us into the debate. I cannot get my words out, but I am not drunk. This is the first time that I have been on my feet to speak in the House since well before I was taken into hospital, so perhaps I am a little nervous. I hope that they do not put that in Hansard; when my husband reads it, he will not be pleased.
Talk of husbands reminds me of something. On the subject of economic growth and how women contribute to it, I started a business that I took into Australia and Germany. I was quite successful and could stand on my feet without stuttering, among other things. The first time I bought from a very large American cosmetics company based in London, I was not allowed to sign the contract. The executive said: "I am inviting you and your husband for lunch. I will bring the contract and he can sign it". I said, "Excuse me, I am the managing director of the company; it has nothing to do with him". He said, "It is, and I would rather have his signature than yours". There are some things that today one simply cannot believe.
I have been most interested in the debate so far. All the speakers have been excellent. The information that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, gave us about what is happening to women in the third world was very important. I say that because I thought that my theme today would not be about us in this country but about women in poorer countries-and not always poorer countries-who do the work and who do not get proper recognition but are discriminated against. I wrote quite a nice speech about that. I hope that that will be edited out, too. I have just been told that I am not supposed to manipulate Hansard; I did not know that. I am sorry; this is not my normal way of doing things.
It is sadly true that too many women around the world have no choice in how they live their lives. They are deprived of all opportunities to fulfil their individual potential and are brutalised without protection by courts that are often religious. Since we are celebrating another International Women's Day, perhaps it is time for more fortunate women such as those of us who sit in this House to apply some of our energies and campaigning activities on behalf of our still oppressed and deprived sisters in the third world, the developing world and the Middle East. That would be a very good message to take into the world from this excellent debate.
For the past 12 months I have been involved in the debate about women on boards. It has been an education for me. I have learnt much and grown in many ways. It has been a humbling experience to meet so many women of such talent. It has been a huge test for my wife of 33 years, because it seems that every day I come home and talk about other women, which has tested her patience.
Noble Lords do not need me to tell them that the more diverse a team is-with different backgrounds, skills and intellectual capabilities-the better the debate and the results will be. It is true of sport and certainly of business. What I have discovered is that this is not just a matter of gender quality but of performance. The statistics and the evidence are there. The more diverse a team, the better is its business performance. I do not believe that we should have quotas but should self-regulate-and I believe that that is what women want. I can see some heads shaking already. That is what is great about this debate.
It is also true that in the UK we need more female role models in business; we need more female entrepreneurs; and we need a radical change in the boardrooms of Britain. Success has many fathers-perhaps today I should say "mothers". When I started this campaign, shareholders were uninterested and had no appetite for the debate. Headhunters, with one or two famous exceptions, blamed a lack of supply. Chairmen blamed the headhunters. Effectively, everybody blamed everyone else and no progress was made.
A year on, we are at a tipping point. I would not say that we have cracked it, but we are making great progress. The barriers are numerous. Apart from "men's
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A number of noble Lords may say that the figure of 25 per cent was chosen as an absolute minimum, and that the report shows that it is reasonable and achievable. Today, one year on-we publish our report in a few days-I am very confident that we will get to 25 per cent, but we must keep the pressure on. Perhaps 25 per cent is a bit low but it is not a number that we plucked out of the air. It takes account of the nominations committee process, the number of board members that are leaving and the fact that boards are shrinking in the UK.
Here is where we are today. Women now account for 15 per cent of the FTSE 100. We have had the largest ever annual movement in the UK. Over the past year there have been about 100 new female NED appointments-what great news. A great development is that 50 per cent of them had never sat on a board of a public company before. There is a huge talent base in education, health, the charities sector and the services sector that the headhunters and chairmen have to reach into. There is a gene pool of talent in the UK. I just do not buy the argument that the female supply is not there.
When we started, there were 21 or 22 all-male boards, and now we are down to 11. Most of those are mining companies. The media are listening and my message to these companies is: "We should name and shame you. You need to put your house in order. It is not acceptable to have an all-male board in today's world". We know who they are. However, three companies have now reached 30 per cent female board representation: Diageo, Burberry and Pearson. Fifteen companies in the FTSE 100 have already reached the 25 per cent target. This is great progress, with a new type of individual being approached. I am confident that we have made great progress.
However-and this is where the media are going to play a key role-we need the media to keep the pressure on; we need to keep debating the issue. I was in Brussels a week ago debating with the Commission its attitude towards it. I do not believe we should go to quotas but we need to keep the pressure on and we need to embarrass the companies that are not attacking this issue. Once we have achieved this, then we need to tackle the issue of the executive committees of major companies.
Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lady Verma for securing this debate, as it celebrates International Women's Day, a very important
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I am a proud woman who has played her part in contributing towards our country's economy, but I would not have been able to do that if my parents, especially my mother, had not made so many sacrifices, which enabled their six children to benefit from their efforts. My beloved mother was born the same year as Her Majesty the Queen, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Her Majesty on reaching the great milestone of her Diamond Jubilee-what an achievement, and she is still going strong.
My mother, who sadly is no longer with us, was an incredible woman. She worked so hard to get money to make it possible for her children to have a better life. My father, who always encouraged us, was a jazz musician in the 1960s so he did not earn much money. To bring in extra cash for the family to live a comfortable life, my mother took on three jobs. She cleaned offices early in the morning, at the crack of dawn. I used to help her during the school holidays and thought it was a great adventure to do so at the time. That is why I believe we must never look down on anyone, especially those who clean-you never know their circumstances. She was also a childminder during the day while we were at school, looking after other women's children while they went out to work. In the evenings she did the laundry for the boys at a public school.
Years after that, my son, who is now a lawyer, went to that same school, and I became a governor of the school for 10 years-who would have thought? Later my mother gave up her evening job to stay at home because my eldest sister had got low marks for her school exams. My mother felt she owed it to us to be there for us, to push and motivate us. She taught her children to have a strong work ethic, which would be to our advantage. She used to say, "Keep at it, because the harder you work the bigger the rewards, not just financially but for that great sense of achievement, which is priceless".
She reminded us every day that being from a culturally diverse background meant that you had to work twice as hard to be acknowledged, to achieve equality or to reach your goal. For us and many like us from minority backgrounds, sometimes the glass ceiling seems to be made of toughened glass. Even now, it is often almost impossible to break through. But you just have to keep on going. Nothing comes easy.
Women across the country have fought for equality in all aspects of life for centuries. They stormed Parliament, they chained themselves to railings; they even died for their cause-to play their part in making our country a more prosperous place. All women need are opportunities in order to progress.
I was chair of the Women of the Year Lunch for five years from 1995 to 2000, and the subject of equality and fairness was always top of the agenda. The lunch was co-founded in 1955 by the legendary, late Tony Lothian, who pushed the boundaries to get the recognition women justly deserved. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise and praise the work
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Even though women have made huge inroads into almost every area of business and careers, there are still places that are like citadels, surrounded by impenetrable walls, which are barred to them. But I believe that, given a chance, women of all cultures could make an even bigger difference to our economy, bringing with them rich qualities that are sometimes lacking in boardrooms across the land.
It is not just the women in the workplace who make a huge contribution to our economy. There are also the women I call the unsung heroines of our economy. Yes, we must celebrate the contribution of the women who make a conscious decision to stay at home and care for their children. I have often heard women say, "I am only a housewife". I say to those women they should be proud of themselves because they are just as worthy as anyone else in the workplace and the contribution they make in their own special way to the country is long term.
My mother did just that and her contribution has turned out to be worthwhile through her children, who all went on to have successful careers. So let us not forget the women who stay at home and undertake the very difficult task of childcare, managing the household, nurturing, guiding and motivating their children. They can be the best inspirational role models to their children. Even though it is a job that is not always celebrated or acknowledged, it is invaluable and serves as the backbone of our society, giving children the confidence to take up their place in society and contribute in a positive way. I applaud them for choosing to forgo their careers and become some of the country's biggest economic assets-
Baroness Northover: I point out that it will eat in to the Minister's reply at the end if noble Lords overrun. This is a time-limited debate. I would appreciate my colleague's understanding in this instance.
Baroness Bakewell: My Lords and sisters, I speak in praise of grandmothers. The contribution of grandmothers-grandparents in general, of course, but they are not the focus of this debate-to childcare is an estimated £3.9 billion in value to the economy of this country. My noble friend Lord Davies has already
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Let me break down the grandmother contribution from the point of view of the working mother. One in three working mothers relies on grandparents for childcare; one in four families relies on grandparents for childcare; and one in two women returning from maternity leave depends on their mother. Now let us look at this from the point of view of the child. Some 43 per cent of children aged under five with a working mother are cared for by a grandparent, as are 42 per cent of five to 10 year-olds and 18 per cent of 11 to 16 year-olds. Four in 10 parents say that with increasing economic pressure they are likely to become more dependent.
Finally, let us look at this from the point of view of the grandparents, including grandmothers: 45 per cent of grandparents aged under 54 provide childcare often, as do 25 per cent of those aged between 65 and 74; and 16 per cent of grandparents in their 60s and 33 per cent of those in their 70s provide financial support. Some £4 billion is inherited annually by grandchildren. That is all statistically an impressive solution and it would seem to endorse the strength of family bonds and a welcome commitment to family life.
However, let me sound a warning from the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Chaplain to the Speaker in the other place. She is also the vicar of two parishes in Hackney where she deals with other kinds of social problems. She agrees with the figures for childcare that I have already cited but from her perspective she sees cause for concern. She believes that too often grandparents are taken for granted and that ageing grandmothers, who might expect to enjoy some rest and freedom in their later years, are simply expected to turn out and help. The Reverend Hudson-Wilkin speaks of the sense of entitlement that young families seem to feel about providing for their own lives and careers, and the willingness of an older generation, who were brought up under a different culture, to regard it as their duty to help out. But will this pattern continue and will grandmothers continue to be willing to offer free and often arduous childcare, which in our society others are trained and paid to do? I mention this concern as a footnote to what I believe should be celebrated; namely, the willing and generous contribution made by grandmothers in this country to the welfare of its economy.
Across the world, grandmothers are doing important work for the welfare of their families. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has already mentioned this. In many African families ravaged by AIDS, grandmothers take over care when their own children are ill. Age UK estimates that up to half the world's children orphaned by AIDS are cared for by a grandmother. As far as I
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We are blessed in this country to enjoy not only the company but the economic contribution that grandmothers make well into their later years, which should earn them comfort and security in those years, but unfortunately we know that that is not always the case. Ageing grandparents are economically squeezed. The contribution that they have made is not recognised economically by this country. We are often told that care for the old is inadequate. When they need medical attention they do not always get the respect that they deserve. Grandmothers are a hidden wealth and deserve acknowledgement.
Lord Bates: My Lords, it is a great privilege to take part in this debate, although it can be a little intimidating, particularly as I look around the Conservative Party Benches and reflect on the fact that many of those who are here have played a leading role in making progress for the advancement of women within the party. Although I am intimidated by that, I am also very proud to be in their company. When I thought about the contribution that I could make to a debate such as this, I decided to focus on one specific issue, which I believe-should the Minister wish to take up the invitation that I am about to present-could make a significant contribution to advancing the case of women around the world, about which many noble Lords have spoken.
It is not just International Women's Day today, but an Olympic and Paralympic Games year. Later this year, the world will assemble in London to take part in those fantastic Games and that great sporting occasion. It will be the world, except for one nation; namely, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Currently, it is refusing to allow a female team of athletes to compete. I am assisted in this issue by the recent Human Rights Watch report, which has made a very compelling case and has raised the veil-perhaps I may use that term-on what is happening as regards women and girls taking part in competitive sport in that country.
We all need to be very sensitive about these things but I raise the issue because the situation does not seem to be getting any better. It seems to be getting worse. Whereas we are looking at progress for women and girls in many parts of the world, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia it does not seem to be working. Private gyms where women were allowed to exercise have been closed down and physical education for girls in private schools, which was on the curriculum, has now been removed. Even exercise as gentle as walking is frowned upon and, according to the report, can lead to people falling foul of the Orwellian-sounding Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice because they are appearing in public unnecessarily. I am very careful about saying
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In 2000, when the Taliban banned a female athlete from attending the Sydney Olympic Games, there was a hue and cry from all quarters of the world, and rightly so, because everyone felt that that fell foul of the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter. People used that argument then, but there seems to be something of a silence when it comes to the treatment of women in competitive sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That country is a member of the International Olympic Committee and is therefore bound by the Fundamental Principles of Olympism. It is not as if we are talking about a piece of legislation where you can fall foul of subsection (6) on page 94. There are only six principles, and I will give noble Lords three of them:
That is not to slightly trip over one of the principles-it drives a tank through them. How the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can still be allowed to be a member of the international Olympic community while holding to its position is a mystery to me. I urge my noble friend the Minister, who has immense international understanding and influence within the Government, to consider taking up this case and mentioning it in a sensitive and sympathetic way to a friendly nation. We would like Saudi Arabia to participate, but as male and female.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on her excellent opening to this debate and I look forward to her remarks when she comes to winding it up. She and I have something in common which is very dear to us, and that is our home city, God's own city, the city of Leicester, where she is held in extremely high regard. I am proud to be able to say that Emmeline Pankhurst, mentioned by the noble Baroness in her opening speech, was my great aunt. My grandmother, who was her younger sister, spent three weeks in Holloway jail for suffragette activity. I am equally proud of that fact, too. As all noble Lords will know, Emmeline Pankhurst had two powerful daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, both of whom, along with all the other suffragettes, did a massive amount to persuade-and I mean in almost every sense of that word-the powers-that-be, the Establishment of the day, that women should have the right to vote. Whether it was the First World War and the magnificent work done by women in the munitions factories that won
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Sometimes when listening to speeches in this House, I have to admit that my mind wanders just for a moment. I wonder how good it would have been if Mrs Pankhurst and her two daughters had somehow found themselves as Members of this House all those years ago. I daresay they would not have all sat on the same Benches, but that would have been no bad thing. Mrs Pankhurst's husband, Dr Richard Pankhurst, was a brilliant radical Manchester lawyer who had strong views on absolutely everything, not least on the House of Lords. He believed that it should be abolished, and he described it as,
That leads me neatly on to say that although the House of Lords is not a preposterous institution, some of the legislative proposals that will severely affect women are preposterous in themselves and should be opposed for that reason. The legal aid Bill, which I am closely involved with, will decimate legal aid in the area of social welfare law in this country, and I argue that that will affect women in particular. To take benefits out of the scope of legal aid altogether, which is what is intended in the Bill, will affect women badly. Let us take the particular case of a single mother suffering from bipolar disorder, receiving employment and support allowance and other benefits. She has debts totalling £2,500, including overpayments of benefits and arrears owed to utility companies. The local advice and law service assisted her in making successful claims for disability living allowance and associated benefits, thus increasing her income by more than £100 a week. Her housing benefit had been suspended. The service challenged the decision and the benefit was reinstated and backdated, thus avoiding an escalation of rent arrears that ultimately would have led to the loss of her home.
That is one example, but thousands of others could be given of where, at the present time, a small amount of legal aid advice can help people, particularly women, to get out of the difficulties they are in. That advice will not be available in the same way or at all because there will not be any law centres or as many CABs if the Bill goes through. Many women will be badly affected by this legislation, and although of course we are today celebrating women and all that they do in our society, are we really going to pass a piece of legislation that will put women back rather than move them forward, as we all believe they should be?
Lord Loomba: My Lords, I welcome this debate ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March. The theme this year is an interesting one, that of "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures". It is one that is close to my heart. It emphasises the importance of engaging with girls so that they are inspired, and ultimately they are able to contribute to economic growth. On International Women's Day, let us not forget what the aim of
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Both Houses now have women representatives, something that surely is good for democracy, good for society, and enables women to have a say in the decisions that affect economic growth. We still have a long way to go, however, and we should be encouraging women from all walks of life to enter politics and business. When we talk about the issues of women and the role they play, or perhaps sometimes the role they are allowed to play in society, and the contributions they make, let us not forget the plight of women in developing countries where economic growth is of the utmost importance. Many countries are torn by conflict, many suffer through diseases such as HIV and malaria, and many have victims of poverty. That highlights the importance of the need to empower girls and women in order to help combat these injustices.
We can achieve this if we work to take the necessary steps, including better care in childbirth, getting economic assets directly to girls, secondary education for girls and preventing violence against girls and women. These are fundamental basic rights that if denied will not only allow unnecessary suffering but also prevent girls and women participating in, and fully contributing to, the society in which they live. This is especially so in relation to violence.
Where violence will have a huge negative impact and detrimental effect is in countries where there is conflict and war. In these countries the hopes and aspirations of large numbers of girls and women are affected. Sometimes they are prevented aspiring to even the most basic of human rights, let alone to contributing to economic growth. For example, women in Afghanistan, in particular, face many dilemmas not at all associated with everyday living in the United Kingdom, or even in some of the other lesser developed countries. Afghan women, sadly, do not play a significant or, sometimes, even a minority role in public life. There are significant problems that affect girls and women from the transfer of daughters as a means of settling disputes: forced and early marriage and scarce or no education. Health provision is minimal and there is an absence of women in public life.
I declare an interest as chairman and founder of the Loomba Foundation, which was set up to help support, educate and empower some of the poorest and most disadvantaged women and children-namely, women who have lost their husbands and find themselves and
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There is a real fear that promises made to improve the human rights situation in Afghanistan for women will not be kept and that the situation will only deteriorate. At this juncture I welcome the initiative that the Government have recently announced in their update of the national action on plan on women peace and security that they are supporting the,
Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I join in congratulating the Minister on not only initiating the debate but on the manner in which she introduced it. She is probably the first Conservative Minister in this House to introduce what has become an annual debate-certainly she is the first coalition Minister.
This has become an annual event-it was initiated from the Labour Benches some years ago-but it has never become ritualistic. It is always an interesting debate with many diverse opinions, on some of which we all agree and on others we do not. That is one of the strengths of this House. Occasionally some issues arise which we normally do not think about-the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and my noble friend Lord Bach, for instance.
Twenty-five per cent of the contributions today will come from our male colleagues. We could say from "noble Peers" because that is a term that does not mean man or woman. Perhaps we should consider that in the future.
It is a wide-ranging debate and one of its assets over the years has been that we have never totally concentrated on the UK. Those of us who have taken part have recognised that this is an international and global subject. Women throughout the world have issues. Some women-such as those in this country-are in a very privileged position and have made huge progress over the years. So far, so good; the jury is still out. We have made progress but we have a long way to go. However, compared with women in some other nations of the world, our progress has been enormous. They are still very much in the foothills.
I was delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, mentioned Maria Colvin because, over the years, it is women like her who, in their own chosen channel of life, have made enormous impressions that help our general debate. She was born in New York but chose to live in and work from the UK. Her male colleagues have suffered the same fate and many journalists have lost their lives in trying to get the full story out. It is a name for which we should perhaps pause today and pay respect.
The debate often deals with generalities but I should like to discuss a specific area that has not been mentioned so far-it is one to which I am very much attached-and that is Colombia. What has been and is going on in Colombia in the human rights field has impacted substantially on the ability of women in that country to make a major contribution to its economy. For 50 years, it has had civil strife and it is perhaps more telling to name incidents rather than to talk in generalities.
An elected senator in Colombia, Piedad Cordoba, who helped with the negotiations for the release of some prisoners from a terrorist organisation, was subsequently charged by the state and has been banned from holding office for 18 years. She was accused of events that cannot be proven. Liliany Obando is an academic who worked in Australia and Canada to campaign for human rights back home in Colombia. In 2008, she was torn from her daughter, put in jail and accused of exchanging e-mails with what the Government regard as a terrorist organisation. During the course of this debate, I have received a message that she will be released today having been in gaol for nearly four years with no charges against her that have been proven. One of the reasons she is being released today is because of the work of parliamentarians in both of our Chambers. I am not saying they are totally responsible for it but the pressure they have put on has had an impact. We need to learn a lesson from that.
So great has become the concern about the assassinations in Colombia that it is now considered the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade union activist. Slightly fewer than 3,000 trade unionists have been murdered-assassinated-by the paramilitaries since 1985. Such is the concern that the United Nations sent a special rapporteur, Professor Philip Alston, to look into the assassinations. In referring to the mothers of Soacha and an incident in which 23 young men were mutilated and killed by the paramilitaries and then accused of being terrorists, he said:
It is against that kind of environment that the EU this year is being asked to endorse a free-trade agreement. Our reputation for tolerance and democracy as a nation will be besmirched if Britain supports that free trade agreement against that background of an invasion of human rights and a whole catalogue of other incidents affecting women in particular.
I accept that probably the Minister cannot give a definitive answer on this today, but will she take that message back from this debate? Women can participate in the economy of a country only if they are free and unfettered, and do not have this kind of repression.
Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lady Verma and to the usual channels for ensuring that, in the new cycle of parliamentary business, we did not lose our much-valued debate on International Women's Day, especially with this year's theme of women's contribution to economic growth.
The world is much changed since our debate last year-we have witnessed terrible natural disasters, widespread economic instability, and political and social upheaval in the Middle East. As chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, I want to concentrate most of my remarks on women in that region. Women have played a remarkable role in the uprisings in the Middle East and we should salute their bravery. Along with the noble Baronesses, Lady Benjamin and Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, I also pay tribute to Marie Colvin, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and who was a good friend of many in your Lordships' House. Her bravery, and the bravery of all who put themselves in danger to bring atrocities to our attention, is humbling. Women across the world have lost a true champion with the sad death of Marie Colvin.
I have had the privilege of meeting some equally brave and extraordinary women in the Middle East and North Africa. We must support their inclusion in the new era, to ensure that they have a full role in the development of democratic Governments and the return to the much-needed economic stability and prosperity of the region.
I have spoken in other debates about the importance of microfinance and its ability to transform the economic capacity of women, and I do not apologise for returning to the subject now. In the Middle East and North Africa there are 2.2 million active borrowers, borrowing $1.2 billion. In Yemen, 94 per cent of microfinance borrowers are women; the figures are 85 per cent in Jordan and 69 per cent in Egypt. Women are less likely to default on a loan but more likely to use their profits to educate the next generation, improve their family's conditions and reinvest in their business. This has widespread benefits, for as women become more economically stable there are enormous impacts on their health and the health of their family and on infant mortality.
A 2005 UNICEF report-and I declare an interest as a trustee of UNICEF UK-states that women in developing countries are 300 times more likely to die from complications in childbirth than those in the industrialised world. World Vision UK's latest figures show that although the child mortality rate in low and middle-income countries was 56 per 1,000 live births in 2010, child mortality in low-income fragile states was nearly 150 per cent higher. Much of this is to do with access to good healthcare, family planning and, most important of all, education. Education has the most dramatic impact on the lives of women throughout the world and a subsequent impact on the economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has already mentioned.
However, there is still much to do in many countries to capitalise on this rich source of labour. Women outnumber men at universities in 11 out of 18 countries in the Middle East. I am delighted to be chancellor of the University of Bolton, which has a campus in Ras al-Khaimah in the UAE, where our degrees in engineering and business studies are much valued by women as well as men. In Saudi Arabia, women make up 58 per cent of university students. I was very interested in what my noble friend Lord Bates had to say-Saudi Arabia is a good friend of the UK, but that does not
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One of the biggest challenges for new and existing Governments as their economies grow is that they will need an educated workforce and must find inclusive policies to encourage women to become entrepreneurs and businesswomen. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Abersoch, spoke about needing role models. There are many shining examples of successful Arab women, such as my good friend Dr Afnan Al-Shuaiby, chief executive of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, which is chaired by our very own noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean. They are a powerful visual symbol of women at the top of an important Middle East and North African organisation.
Much of the success of women in the Middle East is due to enlightened rulers and Governments who understand the importance of women in society and to the economy. According to a 2010 McKinsey report, it is leadership that is crucial to breaking the gender difference-leaders of countries or leaders of industry will make the difference.
I would like to end on this note. It has been a pleasure to follow in this debate my good friend the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Abersoch. I became vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, with responsibility for candidates, on the same day as Mervyn-I hope the House does not mind if I call him Mervyn-was appointed CEO of Standard Chartered Bank. As someone who always practised what he preached and was a good supporter of women in the workplace, I asked Mervyn for his advice on how I could encourage more women candidates. I will always remember his wise counsel. He said that you do not appoint women to look modern, or for political correctness, you do it because it is the right thing to do-and because it is madness for any company or organisation to deprive themselves of such a large pool of talent. I could not agree more.
Lord Giddens: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Dean and other speakers have noted that there is quite a high proportion of men speaking in this debate. That shows that there is progress. I remember, not so long ago, when I was the only man speaking in a long train of Baronesses, although I have to say that I quite enjoyed that singular role.
In the film "Black Swan", the actress Natalie Portman portrays a dancer who is under extreme pressure to be successful. The film documents her struggle with anorexia and bulimia, which, in the film, go along with a lot of self-harm and self-cutting. The ballet dancer Mariafrancesca Garritano, from La Scala in Milan, claims that one in five female dancers suffers from severe forms of eating disorder, which are also very common among female athletes. I was quite
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In my contribution to this debate I want to pursue a theme that I have raised once or twice before in your Lordships' House, which is that although economic equality is important and crucial for women, it is not enough. Women in our culture, and increasingly across the world-and especially younger women-suffer from a tyranny of appearance and the body. To put things rather crudely, there is a great fault line in our society where men are judged, and tend to judge themselves, by accomplishment while women are judged-and surprisingly or not, tend to judge themselves-by appearance. This is a deep schism in our culture. Anorexia, bulimia, other eating disorders and self-harm are 10 times more frequent among women than among men. They are at the outer edge of the radical uncertainties that many women feel about their bodies and their identities-especially, again, younger women. The recent survey in the UK showed that 50 per cent of girls aged 16 to 21 would seriously consider having surgery to improve their appearance.
Eating disorders, self-harm and worry about body image are not the antithesis of the increasing economic success of women. On the contrary, as the examples that I quoted earlier show, they are especially common among achievers-and again, as I said before, in the younger generation. These disorders are spreading across the world in the most remarkable fashion to areas where they did not previously exist at all; they include China, India, parts of the Middle East, Latin America and urban, affluent areas of Africa. In Africa, it is possible to see within a few miles of one another one woman dying of classical starvation-in other words, simply with not enough food to eat-and another woman in a cosseted urban area dying from the effort to become thin, because anorexia kills. It is the most lethal of all the mental disorders among young women.
From this I would draw three conclusions, which I would be happy if the Minister would comment on if she has time. My first would be that the goal of the emancipation of women should not be just equality but should be freedom, where freedom is defined as being at ease with one's identity, life and achievements, and recognising their importance-and being at ease with one's body. Secondly, I propose that the emotional emancipation of women is just as important as their economic emancipation. At the moment, it seems to me that in affluent countries particularly, across the world, women are paying a huge price for success. There is a kind of emotional crippling associated with success. Thirdly, although the cultural stereotyping of women is defined by appearances everywhere, it is not at all impossible to think of policies that can combat it. For instance, one is a far more radical curbing of
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Baroness Byford: My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lady Verma for leading this afternoon's debate. We both come from Leicester, both have business backgrounds and know and value the contribution that women make to economic growth. Some 18 months ago I hosted a small gathering of Leicester University women graduates; their range of business interests was remarkable-they were business leaders, entrepreneurs, lawyers, a leading local hotelier, an actress, a couple of authors, and a former Mayor of the City of Leicester, all making for a very lively discussion. The common denominator coming from that was education.
I would like to highlight the careers of two of those present, because it poses problems for us today. The first is Hilary Devey, perhaps the best known, and Lopa Patel, whose very different paths reflect opportunities recognised and openings taken. Hilary gained her experience in the distribution sector having worked with Littlewoods and Tibbett and Britten and having seven years in the retail sector at TNT, before leaving to set up her own business. She had recognised the difficulty of transporting small consignments of pallet freight quickly and cost-effectively. In November 1996, Pall-Ex was born. The first night saw just 117 pallets distributed through the fledgling network, in stark contrast to the current 10,000 pallets delivered nightly today. Hilary had to tackle incredible odds. She was a single mum; bankers refused to back her and she had to sell her house, but she refused to give up.
Lopa Patel, on the other hand, said that redhotcurry.com was meant to be about curry and nothing more than a hobby. Launched in 2001 as a curry recipe sharing site for Asian women, it has grown to become Britain's leading South Asian lifestyle portal. From a narrow beginning, Lopa was asked to write about culture, entertainment, food, health and fashion from a South Asian perspective. No one was willing to put money into an Asian diaspora website, so she cashed in an endowment policy and sank her savings into the venture. She was recently awarded an MBE for services to digital media, and for supporting the South Asian community.
At the other end, as we have heard from noble Lords today, there are women who struggle to make a start in life. During the debate in 2010, I spoke of the scheme called Send a Cow. How it has grown, 20 years on. UK donors now also send goats, beehives, chickens, sheep and cattle to families in Africa. The ripple-down effect is enormous, because the first female animal born in Africa has to be given to another family, and each time it goes to the woman. In all, it has been calculated that for every animal sent from the UK, at least eight families were able to make their own contribution to economic growth and to alleviate poverty in Africa. I point people's attention to the all-party
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Economic growth depends on the successful progress of many aspects. It starts with an idea, develops into a product or service, is tested and amended, marketed and sold. In most cases the pattern can be completed only through the injection of financial assistance at one or more points. This is why I am really glad to hear of Defra's announcement in January about putting £165 million into support of rural communities, where the problems are often more difficult. Designated in this was the allocation of £20 million to extend rural broadband to the remotest areas. Most of us in cities take it for granted, but you still cannot get it in many areas. There is also a scheme that provides £60 million to entrepreneurs in rural areas, giving successful applicants 40 per cent of the cost of their projects in business areas of farm competitiveness such as agri-food, tourism, forestry and micro-enterprise support. This is good news. My noble friend has already spoken about the amount of money being allocated to rural women as well.
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