Being a woman and black is challenging. The struggle for women in their many roles, as mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters, is with us today. Black women continue to use their talents, teaching and political will to contribute towards the building of a better world. Despite facing double discrimination, they have striven to gain a place in the technological world and continue to seek to prevent technology replacing human and social values. As women, however unkind the insults—and there are many—they continue to be in the orchestra of life. For they recognise that every woman, black and white, has an instrument to play in the struggles of today.

Today in Britain, we mark over 100 years of the women’s day movement. However, historians and other interested parties can cite the earliest women’s day activities six years prior, in the USA, and the first formal conference taking place in Copenhagen in 1910, when over 1 million marked the IWD—as it became known—in Austria, Denmark and Germany. In 1914, for the first time, the IWD meeting was held on 8 March, a Sunday—the day on which most women were able to dispense with their housework. Back then, women used the occasion to demand the right to vote, the end of sexual discrimination in the workplace, and the right to hold a position of public office. We ask ourselves, 100 years on, what has changed. Some might say, “Two out of three can’t be bad”. Although I continually hear the phrase, “It’s a man’s world”, I am heartened that, during my lifetime, there has been a quantum leap in the roles that women play in every strata of society. Yes, we need more.

I will cite the names of some role models, although I am sure that they have been mentioned before: Christine Lagarde, Angela Merkel, Dilma Rousseff, Joyce Banda, Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling, Malala

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Yousafzai and Indra Nooyi. They are real role models, and they continue to guide others. In that group, there are only two black women. These names, and many more, will still produce the same answer as to the far-reaching global impact that women are making in society today, which we had hoped for but I feel sure had not imagined when the International Women’s Day was in its genesis.

Closer to home, I have seen huge strides taken by women within my own community. It was not so long ago when the first and second generation of African and Caribbean heritage took on the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. They began, as a defence against prejudice, to start their own businesses in this country. Some of them suffered criminal attacks on their businesses. They continued to try in every walk of life. They were most successful in setting up cottage industries in the beauty industry, especially in hairdressing. You may not see them much on the high street, but they are thriving and bringing their perceptions to the wider community. Anyone looking with my eyes will see that the white community copies and takes note of what they are doing. They are beavering to become self-sufficient. They have been at the forefront of some of the new hairstyles. They have gone into manufacturing the products needed for hair care, and have taken steps in producing all the beauty products needed, despite lack of funds. They have also been amazing in the health service.

When the late Baroness Thatcher was Prime Minister and encouraged people to set up businesses, the women in the black community came together and set up their own care homes. Today, some of them still exist, but they have different stories to tell. You will find that black women have entered the medical, legal, accounting, arts and science arenas, and also politics. I remind noble Lords—I hope your Lordships have not forgotten her—of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator. She became the first black woman to sit in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom and, later, the Leader of this House. While Leader, she invited me into her office to show me a letter which she had received. Because the author is no longer with us—she has died—I will not name her, but in that letter she said that the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, was a disgrace to this House. Some of your Lordships may have seen the letter, because I was so appalled that I advised her to frame it and pop it on her desk. There is also my noble and learned friend Lady Scotland of Asthal, who became Attorney-General. Those two women are high fliers and role models for the whole community.

Today, I ask us to remember together that being black does not prevent you from being a woman. Our greatest problems are with women; I hate to say this, but it is true. Where there are woman head teachers, teachers complain about the treatment they receive. I ask us to keep the ideals of International Women’s Day in our hearts and in our practices. Let us celebrate those women who have excelled, regardless of race or creed. Most importantly, I call on men and women—on all of us—to help to foster and support the hopes and dreams of a young girl, a daughter, a granddaughter, a

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niece or a neighbour. We heard earlier that both world wars robbed us of our men. We do not know who we will need tomorrow.

The legacy of those women in 1914 will stay bright and burning way beyond 2014, with your Lordships’ help. I am sure that I have brought a sombre note to this Chamber. That is not intentional, but I find that black women are contributing much to society and they are never recognised. I end by asking the Minister to share with us the Government’s plans for ensuring that there is growth for all women, black and white, to take their place as equal partners in tomorrow’s world.

2.19 pm

Lord Smith of Clifton (LD): My Lords, I share with other Members of your Lordships’ House the belief that this is a vital debate, and it is excellent that it has now become an annually established feature of our parliamentary diary. I begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord Palumbo on making his maiden speech and on its quality.

I also thank the Minister, my noble friend Lady Northover, for introducing this debate, but I make no apologies for returning to a theme which I have persistently raised over the years and to which many Members of your Lordships’ House have already referred—namely the underrepresentation of women in both UK business and UK political life. I persist with this because in both areas the situation is not good. In this debate some noble Lords have made complacent speeches indicating that some progress has been made, which they warmly welcomed. Of course we warmly welcome it, but the fact is that it is not fast enough.

The 2011 Davies report, which noble Lords have mentioned, recommended that the proportion of women directors should reach 25% by 2015. Although that goal is modest enough, it is going in the right direction. However, the report was far too timid in suggesting how the target should be achieved, as there was to be no compulsion. When Davies reported, as other noble Lords have said, 12.5% of directors on FTSE 100 boards were women, almost all of whom were non-executives. Three chief executive officers were women. The record of FTSE 250 companies was, and remains, very much worse.

At present only four women chief executives head up FTSE 100 firms, and only one chairs a board. There has been some increase in the number of women directors but they have largely been non-executives, and their numbers still fall far short of the Davies target. Moreover, grade for grade, senior women are paid far less than their male counterparts. The Chartered Management Institute found that, in 2012-13, male directors received average bonuses of nearly £64,000, while female directors got £36,000. Not surprisingly, male directors’ pay rose by 5.3%, and female directors’ by a meagre 1.1%. That was reported in the Guardian on 20 August 2013.

Progress will not be made until Norwegian-type quotas are imposed—although many are opposed to them, particularly distinguished women who have broken through the glass ceiling and reject quotas for others because of their own ability. One way or another,

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quotas are coming. Lloyds Bank is to increase by 1,000 the number of jobs for women in its top tier of management. John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, has urged his member firms to use targets. The current Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, has made this a particular issue, as has been mentioned.

Quotas work not just in Norway but in the UK. I always raise the example of the imposition of quotas, following the Patten report, to rebalance the recruitment between Catholics and Protestants into the police force in Northern Ireland. That was achieved well before the 10-year target period. However, it also had a very beneficial if unintended result—that the proportion of women recruited rose from 12.45% in 2001 to nearly 27% by 2011. I have cited that in aid on four occasions in this House, asking Ministers if, in winding, they would comment. Commendably, there was an equal gender balance of two male Ministers and two female. Equality was maintained, furthermore, as none of them responded to me when winding.

I pursued the matter in writing. The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, belatedly replied, confirming the Northern Ireland figures, but she added that other factors may have contributed to the increase in women’s recruitment and cited the 2004 and 2011 gender action plans in Northern Ireland. That is all to the good, as it only adds to the argument for the need for positive and robust action. Her reply in fact confirmed and did not negate the case that I was making.

Last year, after the Queen’s Speech, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, gave me a more considered reply, on 11 June, for which I was grateful. He quoted the 2013 Cranfield study which said that FTSE 100 firms were on a trajectory to reach the 25% target by 2015 and the 34% one by 2020. Since then doubts have been raised by PricewaterhouseCoopers, in its audit, about whether this progress will be maintained. It may well be that this country will slip down still further in the international league among developed economies.

I turn to my second point, about politics. I had also asked the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, if the Davies target applied to the Cabinet. He replied:

“Your second question was when the target of 25% women on the boards of listed companies would apply to Cabinet membership. I can confirm there are no plans to introduce any such target”.

Well, quite. Women Cabinet membership has fallen since 2010, and to add insult to injury, last week’s Sunday Times reported that female Ministers, including some in the Cabinet, have smaller offices than their male counterparts. Average office size is 657 square feet; the average for men is 715, and for women 482. That is a small but telling point.

All three main parties are bad at promoting gender equality. The least bad is Labour, thanks largely to the indefatigable crusade of its deputy leader, Harriet Harman MP. All-women lists for the selection of parliamentary candidates—that is, quotas—have been a big help in that regard; but as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said, there is still some way to go. The Tory record is very bad, with four of its 2010 intake of women MPs not restanding. My own party’s record is even worse, I regret to say, with too few women MPs.

It is no wonder that there was such a stark contrast between the coalition Government Front Bench and the Opposition Front Bench: pale and male on the

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former, and a much better gender balance on the latter, as recent TV broadcasts and press photos revealed. The coalition has also reduced by half the number of women Permanent Secretaries since 2010. It is clear that the battle for gender equality will not be won on the playing fields of Eton, or even those of Westminster School.

Can my noble friend say, in winding, if she agrees with me that gender imbalance in business life must continue to be robustly addressed if the Davies targets are to be achieved—if necessary, as our honourable friend Dr Vince Cable has said, by the introduction of targets? Further, does she also agree that the Cabinet should lead by example and in the next reshuffle aim at 25% female representation? It is not likely to happen, but we jolly well should try.

2.28 pm

Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con): My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lady Northover on leading the debate. She is a role model herself, both in what she has done for the development of her party, and as a working mother.

My area of focus today is women’s contribution to the UK economy. I will start with some general principles. I suspect that the first will command general agreement. No one should be excluded from achieving their ambition at work just because they are female. That is, as it were, the overarching principle.

My second point is that we should not be surprised if women choose to operate in some spheres more than others. The Library circulated figures showing the distribution of the male and female workforces between sectors. These showed females featuring especially strongly in health, education and real estate. The figures may reflect some lingering results of past discrimination, but do not expect any great change in future. Women are not identical to men and do not need to have identical ambitions.

My third principle is less commonly accepted. Not all women have to be out at work. Children need love and attention, and stay-at-home mothers provide these needs often making an enormous contribution elsewhere, for example to the voluntary sector—everything from organising school events to raising money for good causes.

My fourth principle, perhaps the most contentious, is that if you allow for the proportion of women who do not want to work full time, it would be unwise to expect the numbers of women at the top to be 50% in every sector. The key thing is that women should have the opportunity to get on. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Holmes on his cheering illustrations of what can be done by providing opportunities. I suggest that speakers in debates such as this one would do well to heed such principles, some of which are frequently ignored.

I welcome the steps that government and Parliament are taking to help women—and I entirely support the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, whom I look forward to hearing from.

I now turn now to some more specific issues. The Government are right to encourage flexible working and make it both possible and economic for women who want to be in the workplace to be there while they

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bring up their children. I am very pleased that our forthcoming reforms will allow both parents to share up to a year’s leave to look after their newborn children. The changes will allow fathers to play a greater role in raising their children and help mothers to return to work at a time that is right. We are also increasing childcare support to ensure that parents can work. The Government are investing an extra £200 million of support for families on low incomes. In addition, the tax-free childcare scheme will contribute 20% of working parents’ childcare for parents not receiving universal credit, as announced in March. Other support is also available.

Some of your Lordships will know of my passion for enterprise and for encouraging small business. I have spoken before about the array of support that this Government are giving our 4.9 million small businesses, such as the £2,000 off national insurance that will boost jobs from next month and the increase in rates relief for small businesses. All this will help the growing number of women running and playing a pivotal role in such businesses. Less well known is the childcare business grants scheme. If a person intends to set up a new childcare business, they can get a small grant to help with the costs of getting trained and registered, to access a business mentor for support and advice on starting up a business, and to access business advice on the childcare sector. All this encouragement of family-friendly enterprise is to be commended. As my noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville has already said, the Federation of Small Businesses has reported an encouraging trend, with nearly half of businesses created in the last two years in retail, hotels and catering being primarily owned by women.

Our economic recovery is fuelling growth and innovation, and it is exciting to see the contribution of women entrepreneurs. But we also need to give women the opportunity to contribute to the workforce in middle life and even into their 60s. This is an issue about which I feel especially keenly. I have been struck as a new Peer both by the contribution women Members make in all parts of the House and how often they demonstrate slightly different strengths and skills. This House has a key role in scrutinising and revising legislation. Women are very good at thinking about the practical application of new rules and looking at them through consumers’, administrators’ or business eyes. I have been trying to do just this during our debates on the Water Bill.

When I go on radio or TV to talk about the role of women, I am asked about quotas and discrimination and what can be done to achieve equality in the workplace. Attention is focused on the perceived need for high-profile female figures in the Cabinet, running top companies or running the BBC. This is an obsession of the chattering classes. Elite women, many present in this House, who might fill such roles, can usually look after themselves to a great extent. Very little attention is given in these interviews to the needs of the great majority of working women, some of whom will provide the pipeline for top roles in future. These women want help with finding opportunities for a better life and to be able to combine a family and the chance to have a successful career. They want to contribute better to the UK economy and to be better,

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happier citizens and parents. So the framework for maternity leave and flexible working is important and represents a substantial and important investment by the Government. The expansion of pre-school education is another huge and important investment. But women also want good jobs to go to, a decent boss and to be able to get on. Employers, large and small, know that their female colleagues are a skilled and loyal resource. Women are also the majority of customers in many consumer-facing businesses, so have relevant insights for success.

In my own career in the Civil Service and then for over 15 years as an executive at Tesco, a good retail employer, I found four things that worked well. First, it is important to make a point of including female staff in training and development on an equal basis, even if special arrangements have to be made. Mentoring has a place, and role models, as so many noble Lords have said. In an organisation of any size, leadership training is especially important as women are often very good managers, but sometimes lack confidence. Secondly, this understandable lack of confidence is one of the biggest barriers to female advancement. Men think they are ready for the next challenge a year before they are ready, women a year too late. Interestingly, I have also found that women are also less aggressive about seeking pay rises, which may partly explain the 10% pay gap among full-time employees highlighted by the Library note.

For these reasons, women can also benefit disproportionately from good management—clear objectives, appraisal, feedback and, most important of all, encouragement and praise for good work done. Focusing systematically on the female pipeline in a business or agency and ensuring that you give women core jobs in the business, and not just in female-friendly divisions such as HR or marketing, so that they develop a skills base for top jobs, is also vital—like the director of sport we heard about in London 2012.

Since change takes time, it is worth looking back a bit to my own experience in steering the Food Safety Act 1990 through this House. All three lead officials were women, and so were the Ministers, including my noble friend Lady Trumpington, still here in her 90s, demonstrating brilliant development of the female talent pipeline by the party. I have found female networks helpful in establishing some surprising connections and friendships and showing the breadth of knowledge needed for advancement. I remember the Tesco women directors in Asia meeting in Shanghai, 50 of us in total and only two of us, myself and the Irish-born commercial director from Thailand, of non-Asian origin. Networks are also vital for the exchange of good practice, and I found managing children was the most popular topic for best practice exchange. I used to share my wisdom on juggling my domestic arrangements, which was a cause of great hilarity. News bulletins can keep you in touch when you are on maternity leave. Without them, you miss out completely as businesses change.

Such things are also very easy in our digital age—and that brings me on to my final point. The workplace has changed a great deal with the advent of new technology. I remember having to take my children into Downing Street as I had a crisis on a Sunday and

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external e-mail barely existed in the 1990s. Now parents can bathe their babies and settle down on their tablets to complete their urgent work. That is a very helpful change.

Obviously, we need to make sure that new technology provides new flexibility and does not become a new form of slavery, on the go 20 hours a day. I have a friend who is a senior City lawyer. She has agreed to leave her BlackBerry behind when she goes on holiday with her family. The internet, especially when we all have broadband—a day that I hope will arrive very soon—is changing everything: the workplace, our relationships, who wins in business and, of course, most important of all, the way our own children learn and play.

I do believe that women make an enormous contribution to the UK economy. However, in closing, I wish to touch on an aspect of good management practice, which is to set criteria and deadlines for success. Accordingly, I look forward to the day when progress has been such that there is no need for a debate on the role of women in our economy, and I hope that we get there soon.

2.40 pm

Lord Haskel (Lab):My Lords, my noble friend Lady Royall spoke about looking forward to speaking to her grandchildren. I have reached the ripe old age where my grandchildren ask me what the biggest change is that I have seen during my life. When I compare the life of my mother with that of my daughter and granddaughters, I have little hesitation in saying, “The contribution of women”. But although this change has been enormous, there is still a long way to go. It is in the spirit of discussing what is yet to be done that I, too, welcome this women’s day debate. Most of my career has been in business and it is here that there is much to do, and much benefit to gain, as many have pointed out. I think that this is captured in the United Nations theme for this year’s International Women’s Day—“Equality for women is progress for all”.

Some have tried to show that companies with women on the board produce better financial results. I have always been rather sceptical of this because so many other factors affect the financial results of a business. It is getting the combination right that matters. Businesses with a greater gender diversity reflect society, and a good business serves society. Perhaps this is why greater gender diversity benefits the financial results of these businesses. It is this attitude of serving society that enables businesses to embrace diversity rather than just help women to fit into a male-dominated culture. As others have said, men, too, benefit from flexible working hours and spending time with their families. Embracing this culture of diversity enables women to flourish, and their flourishing talents, knowledge, skills and abilities benefit the company and the nation.

So how do you do this? For the answer I am grateful to the Chartered Management Institute for its Women in Management paper. As did the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, the paper points out that this issue is not just about women on boards; it concerns women in all parts of a business. It is about unblocking the career pipeline and allowing women’s talents to flourish.

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As my noble friend Lady Prosser said, it is not just a matter of a glass ceiling that has to be broken; it is getting round an obstacle course—barriers, as the Minister put it. Enabling women to overcome this obstacle course and these barriers is the mark of a business that truly embraces diversity.

Like the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo—I welcome his maiden speech—I support employers who embrace flexible working for men and women. They understand that results are more important than merely being present. This means creating supportive networks and mentoring opportunities for female managers and providing them with management training and qualifications throughout their careers—for instance, providing them with training and career development when they are in their 40s, when there is less family pressure, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, pointed out.

Women’s ambitions and the way they get results can differ from men’s. For example, many women prefer to work in transformation and interactive management. They work better in less hierarchical businesses. This may mean challenging corporate cultures. A company that believes in diversity will understand this and provide mentoring support for this kind of career development. This may mean a more varied career structure, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, indicated, and redefining workplace cultures, but being true to yourself and redefining success is the hallmark of many of today’s successful businesses. The Government have recognised this. In January this year, ACAS published a guide to handling requests to work flexibly in a reasonable manner—a guide designed to help employers and employees with their statutory rights regarding flexible working. WISE—Women into Science and Engineering—mentors women entering science and technology in all of this. The Women of Influence initiative also supports female scientists in this way. This flexibility is invaluable.

Many have spoken of role models. An interesting bit of research by the Chartered Management Institute looks at the importance of role models. We need to replace the tired old role models, many of them men, with women such as Karren Brady or the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, who is in her place. There is a lack of female role models, not only in the public eye but also in the workplace. Part of management training is for line managers to set a good example and be a good role model in their wider organisation. After all, this is how you engage people and improve their performance. In this regard, bearing in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said about engineering role models, I congratulate the University of Sheffield, which has built a magnificent new building for its graduate school of engineering and named it after Pam Liversidge, one of the world’s leading female engineers and the first woman to be president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers—a wonderful role model indeed.

An important part of embracing gender diversity is to close the gender pay gap. The Office for National Statistics tells us that in full-time work the gender pay gap increased from 9.5% in 2012 to 10% in 2013. Others—my noble friend Lady Prosser quoted Oxfam in this regard—put the figure as high as 19%. Whoever

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is right, the gap is there. It would be very helpful if the Government could give us the official figures, as there is so much dispute over them.

The Chartered Management Institute tells us that the average bonus given to male directors was double the average given to women, as the noble Lord, Lord Smith, pointed out. Some say that this is due to women pursuing a different career path. Others point out that big bonuses encourage the short-term interests of managers rather than the long-term interests of the business. The gap is less pronounced at lower levels because women are the majority of the workforce at entry level, but they lose out on top positions and top pay. It seems to me that the way to tackle this is to measure and report on equality of pay and the percentage of women and men at junior, middle and senior levels. Some organisations may want to set targets to close these gaps. Yes, there is a useful joint government and business-led initiative called Think, Act, Report, which encourages employers to do this. It is designed to help companies to consider gender equality in a systematic way on issues such as recruitment, retention, promotion and pay. I hope that the Government will do more to publicise this scheme and encourage all employers to use it, and perhaps even name and shame those who do not.

Does the Minister agree that companies now face a financial imperative to hang on to women who are coming into the workforce? Some do so at graduate level and many are highly qualified, but many leave in their 30s because the workplace culture has been developed and designed by men and does not work for women. What a waste, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, put it. That is why it is becoming an economic imperative to make sure that women remain in the talent pipeline. We should do so by providing ways around the barriers—ways that are all part of a culture of gender diversity. That is yet another reason why gender diversity is a feature of a successful business.

2.51 pm

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB): My Lords, I begin by thanking everyone who has spoken for a fascinating and invigorating debate. We also listened to an excellent maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo of Southwark.

While other noble Lords were listening to the interesting speech to Parliament of Angela Merkel—another of our icons—I was at a reception at Clarence House given for WOW by the Duchess of Cornwall at the start of the 2014 Women of the World festival, being held this year at London’s South Bank. One of those present was Nimco Ali, an FGM victim, and many noble Lords will have seen her conversation with the Duchess reported in last Friday’s press. The Duchess has herself been appalled by this horrendous practice taking place in this country. Apparently, over time, some 66,000 girls have already been forced to have this illegal operation performed on them.

The good news is that, when combined with the strong views already expressed by your Lordships in today’s Question on FMG, the recent promise by Michael Gove to ensure that in future, schools, teachers and governors—all those responsible—will ensure that

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preventing FGM taking place on their pupils becomes a top priority. This should mean that this illegal practice will, at the very least, decrease considerably over the next few years.

I began begun my comments in this International Women’s Day debate with the example of FGM because if Britain can set an example here, after many years of brushing the issue under the carpet, it may indeed be a vital lead that other countries, too, may wish to follow—albeit perhaps not immediately in some cases. That is why I particularly want to congratulate the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, not just on securing this important debate today but on her success in broadening its title to include women’s contribution to economic life not just in the UK but worldwide.

Without doubt, one of the best initiatives was the Davies report, Women on Boards, published in February 2011. In 2010, when the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was asked to lead this strategy, women made up just 10.5% of board members on FTSE 100 companies, and 6.7% of those in FTSE 250 companies. Although, as the noble Lord himself says, there is obviously still a long way to go—not least, as other noble Lords have mentioned, because the vast majority of appointments were non-executive board members—by 2013, women accounted for 17.3% of board members at FTSE 100 companies, and 13.2% of board members of FTSE 250 companies. That represented an overall increase of 50%. The important route whereby this success is being achieved is for companies involved in this project to recruit and nurture female as well as male executive talent and ensure that they have adequate mentoring support en route to top-level jobs. The added requirement is that companies report yearly on the success of their policies, which then forms the basis of the yearly published progress report from the noble Lord, Lord Davies. It is that yearly basis that is so important. Thus everyone can see exactly what success is being achieved. My hope is that success here may well prove to be an incentive to other countries to follow—not necessarily by following an identical path but in ways that suit their particular circumstances.

Of course, earlier action in Britain is also needed to achieve our own targets, which again may prove to be a useful example for others to follow, not least during our children’s education. One such area is crucial—careers advice, which has been mentioned by many noble Lords. Sadly, a recent Ofsted report has indicated that considerable improvement is indeed needed here. Some time ago, in 1975, in my role as the first deputy chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, one of my major concerns was the advice that girls were getting, which was limited to, for example, hairdressing and secretarial careers—the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, mentioned this area—rather than the wider careers advice that boys would get. I suspect that there is still more than an element of that attitude in the advice that girls are getting today. Certainly, for both sexes, careers advice should be based on the individual child’s abilities and aptitude. Equally, other aspects are important, too, such as what local job opportunities exist and the range of better-paid jobs that are needed in today’s environment. Within a school’s structure itself, one definite improvement would

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be to have more local employers appointed as school governors. Also, given that not all teachers are necessarily well informed about local job opportunities, visits to different kinds of businesses and employers should be part of every school’s curriculum.

The third and last issue that I want to address is flexible working, which has already been mentioned by other noble Lords. I emphasise that what is still needed here is for these opportunities to be available equally—I stress, equally—for men as for women. Again, this may be useful for other countries to consider. A much more active campaign is now needed for two important reasons. The first is because men are taking and enjoying a far more active role as fathers, which of course also means that mothers have greater freedom to return to work. The second reason is the new opportunities created by the amazing technological changes in communications, which has also been touched on in this debate. Nearly all jobs can now be organised flexibly. To illustrate the situation, if we need to get in touch with, say, a plumber, we all know that the person answering our phone call will almost certainly be living on another continent and using a mobile phone.

So if UK employers, large and small—and I suspect that the small employers are already among the most pioneering here—were to accept this changed situation, decide which were the very few roles that could not be worked flexibly and reorganise the rest on a flexible basis, not only would this better suit modern family lives but it would cut employers’ costs, as less office space would be needed, with much of the business done at home or on the move using mobile phones. It would be interesting to hear whether the Government have any plans to encourage this.

Again, I thank the Minister for introducing this debate. I very much look forward to listening to the remaining speeches and to hearing what gems we can expect from the Government in the future.

3 pm

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): My Lords, we often talk about it being a privilege to speak in these debates but never has it been more genuinely so than today. We have heard some exceptional speeches, and I pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Holmes. I was not alone in the Chamber in listening absolutely raptly but I also had a tear in my eye.

I was not going to mention politics—or at least the representation of women in Parliament today—but I have been name-checked more than once, and rather generously, in this debate and I have to say that it is not me who has done the work; it is those who step up to the plate and put themselves forward. All I can do is provide encouragement and support in my own party. Here, I pay tribute to others in my party who have come before me, including the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, who has just spoken. She was an earlier pioneer in this field, as were my noble friends Lady Morris and Lady Seccombe. Talking about the pipeline, as my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe did earlier, I hope that I am not spoiling her chances but I happen to know

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that the granddaughter of my noble friend Lady Seccombe is in our pipeline and I wish her much success in her journey.

I was slightly stung by the noble Lord, Lord Smith, picking on my party. We should pay tribute to the fact that we went from 17 to 49 women MPs at the last election. It is true that four of them have announced that they are retiring for various reasons, but that is virtually the same proportion as applies to the Liberal Democrats and pretty much the same as applies to the Labour Party. This is all something that the APPG for Women in Parliament needs to look at—not only with a view to making politics a more attractive career for women but looking at retention as well.

I end this little section by saying, as I always do, that if any women are watching, listening to or reading this debate and they think they might be interested in a career in politics—with any party but particularly with the Conservative Party—please find your way to me. It is not difficult and I will respond immediately to any e-mail or call.

Since I made my maiden speech in a debate on this subject three years ago, I have spoken often on related subjects. In preparation for this debate, I reflected again on whether the glass is half full or half empty, and whether it is a little fuller today than it was when I made that first speech in this Chamber three years ago. I think that the answer is that it is like the curate’s egg: good in parts.

To put the debate in context, the past 50 or 60 years have seen a remarkable phase of economic growth both in this country and across the world. Four of the reasons for this are the growth in free trade, the introduction of free-market models by countries in the Far East, the introduction of IT into the economy and, of particular relevance today, the introduction of the female half of the human population into the labour force of developed countries. This has been an event of enormous social consequence and also enormous economic importance, so, from that base, let us have a look at where we are now.

Businesses with diverse workforces which harness and retain the capabilities of women as well as men are stronger performers and are better attuned to their client and customer base. Statistics show that if women were represented equally in the workforce, the UK could increase GDP by 10% by 2030. The next generation of women must feel that all areas of our economy are accessible to them and they must grow up believing that they can reach their full potential. The Inspiring the Future programme, supported by both Miriam Clegg and Samantha Cameron, successful businesswomen in their own right, together with other programmes such as Speakers for Schools, are doing good work in this area. As Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive of Mitie and a great business role model, said,

“by creating opportunity for all, raising aspirations and enabling people to maximise their talents, we will deliver stronger economic growth”.

Women already in business have an important role to play. As we have discussed, active female role models evidence the positive impact of women in business. We

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have many women in this House and a number speaking today who provide that role model, and I have been very impressed listening to their perspective.

Incidentally, when I looked at the speakers list for today, I was a bit disappointed that there were not more men on it. We very much welcome the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, in his maiden speech, and I have to say that the other six noble Lords have more than made up in quality for the lack of quantity. The truth is that we all know that, without buy-in and support from men, things change very much more slowly.

Younger women need role models, as has been said, and the business community as a whole needs to encourage women at every level. There are many fine examples of best practice. Liz Bingham, Ernst & Young’s managing partner, says:

“We need senior women in business to lift as they climb and to encourage young female talent up through their organisations”.

Here, as well as paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, who has been mentioned by many others, I pay tribute to Helena Morrissey and others active in the 30% Club, who are having a major impact with their very effective and high-profile campaign.

We have heard a bit about entrepreneurship, which is becoming increasingly popular with young people who are attracted to the idea of working for themselves, and there are encouraging figures on start-ups. However, the gender gap is here, too, as my noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville pointed out. If women were setting up and running new businesses at the same rate as men, we could have an extra 1 million female entrepreneurs, but they are only half as likely as men to take this opportunity. So what are the barriers and how can women be supported to overcome them? Financial institutions should ensure that their services are better marketed for women. Schools and business organisations should work together to ensure that students, and indeed mature women returners, know that starting their own business is a viable option and they should be well supported with advice through the process.

Entrepreneurship is also increasingly a popular option for women in the developing world. The flexibility allows women with limited transport options and obligations keeping them at home to earn a living with all the knock-on benefits. One entrepreneur I want to tell your Lordships about today is Zada, a 50 year-old widow from rural Afghanistan. She runs a small business making jewellery by hand. As a woman, she was not allowed to make the decision to start a business herself. She had to get permission from the men in her life—her adult sons—to attend a course at the Indian Institute of Gems & Jewellery. I declare an interest as Zada was trained and supported by Future Brilliance, of which I am a trustee.

Zada, who is unable to read or write because of Afghanistan’s limited schooling opportunities, is a pioneer in this new scheme, creating a network of skilled Afghan artisans who will set up businesses and spread their knowledge when Afghan security is handed back to its own Administration. The advantage is that these jewellery makers will be able to work from home. Zada will be able to expand her business and employ

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more women. Therefore, in terms of maximum return on capital employed, taking just this one woman and investing in her is potentially huge as far as the economy of her local village is concerned. Zada is an inspiration to the young women in her village, as Victoria Beckham, now a successful businesswoman herself, is to young women in the UK. Again, the power of a strong role model should not be underestimated.

Another major barrier to women entering the workforce in the developing world is lack of choice over their sexual and reproductive health and access to contraception. Nearly 15 years after the introduction of the MDGs, we are still way behind on some of the targets. On International Women’s Day on Saturday, 800 women will die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, 128 women will die from an unsafe abortion and 222 million women will still have an unmet need for family planning. If we continue at the current rate of expansion, it will take another 500 years for women in parts of western and central Africa to access the contraception they want. This is not only morally wrong but also has a massive economic impact.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Bill Cash and my noble friend Lord McColl, as well as NGOs and Ministers, including the noble Baroness responding to this debate, and supporters from every party, for steering the International Development (Gender Equality) Bill successfully through both Houses and on to the statute book earlier this week. This is a positive outcome for us all to celebrate, particularly the women and girls in the developing world for whom this legislation has the potential to be a real game changer.

Noble Lords have talked about violence against women here at home and internationally. It is another issue that prevents women from entering the workforce. The report published this week, and referred to earlier, from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights confirmed that one in three women across the EU have experienced such violence. Worldwide, the figure is higher. Women living with the threat of physical and sexual violence will never reach their full potential. The financial consequences of violence against women are not just borne by the victims but felt by their communities and the economy as a whole. The cost to the UK economy caused by violence against women and girls has been calculated at £40 billion annually. While an economic argument should not be needed, it clearly makes financial sense to do what we can to prevent it.

I shall end on a word about the impact of austerity measures on women. It is important for us all, and for the Government, to acknowledge the fact that because many women are in low-paid and part-time jobs, and in the majority of cases have to manage a tight household budget in challenging circumstances, they have borne and continue to bear the brunt of the very difficult economic circumstances in which we as a country find ourselves. But these difficult decisions to get the economy back on track are there so that there will be jobs for their children, and our children, and so that they can look forward to a secure old age.

Women clearly can and do make a massive contribution to the UK economy and the global economy. This is not just an issue of women having a choice. Female

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participation in the UK workforce and across the world is a necessity, without which we will never achieve a successful or sustainable economy. With the focus of the Government, good business practice and engagement with educational institutions, we can ensure that all women are aware of their options and know their value.

3.12 pm

Baroness Nye (Lab): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for arranging this debate and for extending the nature of the debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, on his maiden speech. Following the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, perhaps I may say, for political balance, that our door also is always open to any women listening to this debate. The theme for International Women’s Day this year is inspiring change and to celebrate the social, political and economic achievements of women. However, it is also necessary to focus attention on areas requiring further action. While positive gains have been made—we have heard a lot from noble Lords today—the world is still a very unequal place and women are still not achieving their full potential. This debate is about the contribution of women to economic life and I would like to concentrate on a group of young women in the UK who would like to contribute but for many diverse reasons are not doing so.

One of the most serious social problems that has faced successive Governments and has had cross-party consensus is the large number of young people who are not in employment, education or training—NEETs. The perceived view is that this is mainly a young male issue but the figures show a different story. There are significantly higher numbers of young women who are more likely to become and to stay NEET. The latest figures show that 500,000 young women aged 18 to 24 are NEET. That is over 90,000 more than young men over the course of last year and is 20% of all young women. This gender gap has remained persistent over time.

On average, in the past five years, there have been 100,000 more young women in that age group who are NEET than young men. These young women also stay NEET for longer. Even though there are more young men between the ages of 16 to 18, that figure changes in the 18 to 24 age group. Being NEET at such a young age has a significant impact on young women’s long-term outcomes. Evidence shows that double the number of women work in low-paid jobs and that they are more likely to remain trapped in low pay. One in four women is now earning less than the living wage, which is why it is so important to strengthen the minimum wage, and to tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts and agency working, which are the jobs where women are concentrated.

The recent ONS figures show a welcome increase in the rate of female employment but there are still more than 900,000 young people unemployed with more than 250,000 of them being unemployed for more than a year. While employment has increased, so, sadly, has the gender pay gap, which is now one of the highest in the EU. Women are still not getting the fair pay that

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they deserve. I declare an interest as a trustee of the Young Women’s Trust, which has evolved from the YWCA; it recently published a report,

Young Women—the Real Story

, based on its polling and focus groups with young women and on published data to find the facts and not the myths about being young and female in England and Wales today.

The report shows that, contrary to the popular feeling that young women have never had it so good, many face loneliness, thwarted ambitions and emotional and financial insecurity. It found that one in three young women feels that they are judged unfairly when they ask for help. One in four felt that they had no one to turn to when they could not figure out their problems by themselves. More than 50% had suffered from stress and 30% had self-harmed. One-third believed that paid apprenticeships in engineering and building trades were only for boys and more than one-third had never had any careers advice.

I know that these issues are not limited to young women. The recent report by Barnardo’s, Helping the Inbetweeners, which is the cohort just above NEETS, showed similar findings. But the outcomes for young women are much worse and evidence shows that it does not get any better as they go through life. We know that more women are working part time, and in temporary and insecure work.

The young women whom the charity works with are often struggling to make ends meet. They move in and out of part-time casual jobs and do not find any help to give them the skills, experience and support that they need to achieve their ambitions. The Young Women’s Trust talked to a 22 year-old from London called Sonia. When she was 14, she was made homeless after her father died and her mother sadly turned her out. Despite sleeping on floors and sofas, and in hostels, she went to college and qualified as a nursery nurse. But she has not been able to find a job and has been unemployed for three years. Her aspirations of working with children are different now: she just wants any job. She says, “I don’t really know where I’ll be in 10 years, time because it is difficult to see into the future if you are not really starting now”.

Despite these realities, the public debate about NEETs often centres on young men because on average they tend to do worse at school and more are unemployed. But that ignores the gender gap and the fact that far more young women are economically inactive than young men and therefore are even further from the labour market. There is a tendency to think that we know why so many young women are out of work, education or training. The perception is fed by the media, which generally attribute the problem to fecklessness, personal choice, young motherhood or the benefits system—we can take our pick. However, the reality is more complex and we need a more nuanced understanding of why this is. That is why the Young Women’s Trust will be undertaking a major piece of work in 2014 to find solutions so that all young women can find the quality, sustainable work they need to secure their future. We need to challenge the voices suggesting that it is because women make wrong choices.

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In this debate, we have heard that academic girls outperform boys at school and more go to university. But what about the 36% of girls who in 2012, if you include English and maths, did not achieve five GCSEs at grades A to C? That is more than 100,000 girls who did not achieve the qualification level necessary for further education or training, or for starting employment. If they do on average achieve better grades than boys, it is still in subjects which lead to lower-paid jobs. That is why I am so concerned about the changes to the way in which young women get careers advice and guidance.

Here I shall echo some of the words of my noble friend Lady Prosser and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. I readily acknowledge that careers guidance for young people was in need of reform and Connexions had serious failures. I also support the Government’s extension of the statutory duty to year 8, and to 16 to 18 year-olds in college. According to a survey by Careers England, since the Government decided to give responsibility to schools for careers advice without any funding, eight in 10 schools have dramatically cut the advice that they provide.

The Education Select Committee report says that the quality and quantity of careers advice and guidance has deteriorated at a time when it is most needed and called the decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools regrettable. Even the director of the CBI has questioned the laissez-faire approach of the Government. Barnado’s says:

“There is still too much gender-stereotyping in careers guidance”.

Much more needs to be done to encourage diversity of aspiration for all children, regardless of gender. I know the Government will not change their mind about what they have done on the careers service, but there is one small change that could make a difference. I believe that the Government should have adopted the Education Select Committee’s recommendation that there is a requirement in the statutory guidance for schools to publish an annual careers plan to include information on the support and resources available to their pupils in planning their career development, which could be reviewed annually.

Apart from issues of transparency and accountability, it would also ensure that a school would have to look at whether it was offering non-gender specific advice. We need to stop girls being told that their future lies in a default setting of beauty or childcare. We need to encourage diversity of aspiration regardless of gender so that all girls can fully contribute to the world they live in.

Finally, I have a request for all you noble tweeters. As I said, the Young Women’s Trust is campaigning to raise awareness of the reality of young women’s lives. Its #everydaySHEro campaign celebrates the ordinary women that make our lives that bit easier, better or just more fun. So please join in and nobly tweet your own #everydaySHEro and help celebrate everyday women’s contributions to society as part of International Women’s Day.

3.20 pm

Lord Loomba (LD): I thank my noble friend Lady Northover for initiating today’s debate to mark International Women’s Day, which has now become a

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calendar date. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Palumbo of Southwark on making a brilliant maiden speech today.

Today’s topic, women’s contribution to the UK economy and worldwide, is an important subject which is very close to my heart. I have always supported such issues both here and in other parts of the world. We all know that since World War II, many women have come forward to play a big role in the development of the UK economy by working in factories, retail, business and many other sectors. In addition, they have contributed to the development of these sectors by supporting their families. I am pleased to highlight this indirect contribution, which is often forgotten. Their contribution has been considerable and, without a doubt, has made a huge difference to the UK economy.

There is no dispute that women make a large contribution to the UK economy. I would like to focus on the contribution made by women in the clothing industry. I have been involved in the clothing industry for well over 40 years, starting from a market stall and going through different phases of retail, wholesale and the import business.

When I started my business in 1964 from a market stall in the north of England, I clearly remember that the clothing business was run mostly by men. We had assistants who were women but most of the wholesalers and manufacturers were men. I saw this trend going on until the late 1980s, when some of the high street multiple retailers started employing women buyers and heads of sales departments. It is a shame that it has taken so long to appreciate that women have the same ability as men in developing business strategy.

To give an example, recently the Financial Times reported:

“Where once men made up the majority of power players at the world’s big department stores, recent poaches and promotions have thrust five British or British-based women into the spotlight: Stacey Cartwright, the new chief executive of Harvey Nichols; Marigay McKee, president of Saks Fifth Avenue; Alannah Weston, deputy chairman of Selfridges Group; Averyl Oates, fashion commercial director of Galeries Lafayette; and Helen David, fashion director at Harrods”.

Those are just a few examples; internationally, the list of women is longer. There is a need for more women to come forward and take up positions in the fashion clothing industry so that they can contribute even more.

There is sufficient evidence that many companies, whether in the fashion business or any other business, do not have equal numbers of women and men on their boards. For example, there are 15 members of the Marks & Spencer board, only five of whom are women; at New Look, out of eight board members, there are no women; at Debenhams, two out of eight board members are women. This disparity is widespread: for example, at the moment only 20.4% of directors of FTSE 100 companies are women, falling to 15.1% for FTSE 250 companies.

A report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, called Gender Diversity and the Impact on Corporate Performance, found that companies with at least one woman on their boards had better stock market results than companies with all-men boards. I am convinced

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that if proper education and training is given to a woman she can match a man in productivity and competitiveness. Therefore, I would like to ask the Minister to take the necessary steps to ensure that the right education and training is provided and that there are appropriate systems in schools from an early age.

During my life, I have seen the contribution made by women to the UK economy and around the world through the fashion industry. They could still increase their contribution if the Government would provide vocational skills and training in the areas of designing, making garments and business management. It would provide a huge opportunity for young girls and women to achieve much more in their lives, thus adding to the economy both nationally and internationally.

In conclusion, I ask the Minister to convince the Government that, to get more women to contribute to the UK economy, they should, through the Department for Education, institute an early focus on practical, industry-focused skills and knowledge development. This process should also include early work experience placements that involve learning high-level skills. I urge the Government to make this as important as academic topics.

3.27 pm

Baroness Afshar (CB): My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for putting this debate on the agenda. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, for taking a slightly different view from him over both garment workers and the education of women, which has been widely discussed.

In this country, the gender pay gap remains wide and has shown very little sign of shrinking. In the labour market, the gender pay gap is about £5,000 between women and men with the same education, from the same universities and doing very similar jobs. I therefore think putting the burden merely on women and their need to train and to participate is perhaps slightly misguided. I suggest to noble Lords that the difficulty that women face is that the labour market is gendered. That is to say, in this market women come as inferior bearers of labour: it is not what they do but the fact that they are women that undermines their ability to compete equally. The reasons for that are multitudinous, but include the reality that most women provide the work that they are offering to the labour market free of charge at home for men who subsequently are often in charge of appointing other women.

Women’s skills become invisible. We are the cooks, the cleaners and the carers. We are the ones who raise the children because we know how to do it. We are the educators and we train our children in all kinds of ways, but this work is completely invisible because it is assumed that we are somehow naturally cooks and carers. As someone who had to learn to cook from cookery books, I can tell you that it ain’t easy and I am still struggling.

The important thing is to begin to understand the gendered nature of the labour market and to try not to change women but actually to celebrate the notion of difference. So long as women participate in the labour market as quasi-men—manning the desks and being part of the manpower—they are simply attempting to

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become like men. However, they are not men because they always bear the burden of domesticity. That is the case even for women who are not married and those who do not have children. They are always seen as potential wives, and particularly as potential mothers. There is nothing so deskilling as motherhood. It is assumed that the moment women look after children, they themselves become childlike and lose any qualifications they have. If they return to the labour market, it is always assumed that at any point they are about to pop off to look after their children. They are therefore viewed as being not as good as the men. We are only ever going to be quasi-men.

Much has been said about providing employment for women. I would like to talk about minority women, particularly in west Yorkshire, where I have been working with many home-based producers. The double burden borne by minority women is increased by the moral economy of kin: the reality that minorities rely on one another, particularly woman who were first-generation migrants to this country. They relied extensively on men to be the gatekeepers and those who opened the way and helped them. Often, those women became home-workers in the garment industry. They worked all hours of the day producing goods for men—men against whom they could not strike, from whom they could not ask for any kind of wages, and against whom they could in no way defend their rights, not even their historic Koranic rights, which give them independence of income. Many men I talked to told me that the duty of Muslim women was to obey their men. They completely forgot all the other discussions in the Koran which demand, for example, wages for housework and for suckling babies. All of that is forgotten. The moral economy of kin demands that women should work all hours for virtually no wages. Once the garment industry began to relocate to where women’s labour was even cheaper, the women began to work in restaurants and in shops producing trinkets and jewellery. They did whatever they could, but that did not improve their experience or living conditions.

My hope is that the younger generation of women—those who have been born, raised and educated in this country and who are able to fend for themselves and speak the language—will do better. However, the problem for minority women is that they have different names and religions, and they face a very unequal labour market. When you go to work as a Muslim woman, you carry the whole burden not only of inferiority but, for younger women now, of Islamophobia. They cannot compete as equals. I know of women who have changed their names. I know of women who go to job interviews having discarded their hijab. They do that because Muslim women are desperate to work and are qualified to do so. In fact, many more Muslim women are doing engineering and the sciences than are other women, so there is a real need and demand among minority women to work.

The difficulty is that not only do these women face a gendered labour market, it is also a highly racialised and Islamophobic one. It seems to me that the only way forward may be through the use of quotas, to use that evil word. The only way we will get Muslim women into work at all stages is by setting quotas so that those with the same qualifications—they could

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even be asked for better qualifications because they often have them—are provided with the possibility to progress. Otherwise, the majority of Muslim women in this country, and perhaps, as has been mentioned, many other minority women, will stay on the sticky floor without the opportunity to move.

3.36 pm

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, I, too, would like to thank the noble Baroness for giving the House the opportunity to discuss this important topic. International Women’s Day is a suitable and fitting time to acknowledge women’s contribution to the economy of this country and to countries all over the world. We have already heard many excellent speeches, so I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I reiterate points that have already been made.

Everywhere women play a significant role. However, their invaluable contributions are not always recognised and acknowledged, and all too often are still taken for granted, as the noble Baroness has already alluded to. It is a sobering reflection that even today, in the 21st century, there is not one single country where women have the same socioeconomic and political opportunities as men, and too many countries still have a patriarchal culture and discriminatory practices, with too few women in public and political leadership positions, thus limiting their ability to contribute.

This weekend, I am going to New York to take part in the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, where the priority theme will be “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. In considering this theme, we will also be looking ahead to the post-MDG agenda. As my noble friend the Minister has already said, it is very important that we support the recommendations of the UN high-level panel, so ably co-chaired by our Prime Minister, in calling for a stand-alone goal for women because equality for women is progress for all.

To contribute to their full potential, women not only have to be able to access education, healthcare and family planning, they need to be able to lead lives free from the threat of violence. Seven in every 10 women report that they have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. This is not something that just affects women in developing countries. Even here in the UK, two women die as the result of domestic violence every week, which is a shocking statistic.

In many countries it is hard for women to enter the public workplace because it goes against the societal norms and values. We have recently had discussions in this House about women in Afghanistan, to which my noble friend Lady Jenkin has already alluded. There it is estimated that 87% of women suffer from domestic violence and that the attitudes of the Taliban—that a woman’s place is in the house or the grave—still prevail. I salute all the brave Afghan women who have come forward to stand for parliament, to run organisations, to become lawyers, doctors, engineers and diplomats, and to enter many other professions. I know that many of them are very concerned about what will happen with the drawdown of the ISAF forces and I

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hope that consideration will be given to the security of women human rights defenders at the NATO conference this autumn so that the progress which has been made in Afghanistan does not roll back.

War can provide opportunities for social change. As has already been highlighted by my noble friend Lady Seccombe, this year marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. In that war, an estimated 2 million women replaced men in employment. My grandmother, the wife of a naval officer, went to work in a factory producing parts that were desperately needed at the front, and came up against the unions, who said that she and the other women were working too fast. However, at the end of the war, the majority of the women returned, not entirely willingly, to domesticity. The lessons learnt in World War I contributed to the mobilisation of women in World War II to an unprecedented degree. However, again, in the post-war era women were pushed backwards. I give the example of my mother, who worked for the Malcolm Clubs, which set up messes for the RAF overseas. She was one of the first women into Germany as the Allies advanced and then ran the whole of the Far East for them, going to Hiroshima weeks after the bomb had dropped. However, her managerial career was forced to end with the war, and the only line of work that she was able to pursue back in the UK was as a secretary.

We see similar trends today. In Egypt, for example, women were shoulder to shoulder with men in Tahrir Square to create the revolution, only to be pushed out once it had taken place. In the election that followed, only 2% of representatives elected were women.

Here in the UK, the rise in female participation in the labour market has been the defining trend for women of the past 50 years. Today, the increased participation of women in the labour market is vital to the formal economy and to families, with female earnings key to maintaining living standards by counterbalancing flat, and recently declining, wages from male employment. Today, 72% of working-age women are economically active compared with 84% of working-age men. However, women are considerably more likely to be working part-time than their male counterparts and are less likely to be self-employed. We still have a long way to go. As has already been highlighted, there is a gender pay gap: in 2013, hourly earnings for full-time women employees were still 15.7% less than men’s, and 19.1% when part-time employees are considered too. There also still seems to be this issue of the glass ceiling. Although we have some wonderful examples of successful businesswomen in the House, women still account for only 17.3% of FTSE 100 board directors. Why is that?

As we have already heard, girls today are a third more likely to apply for higher education. It would appear that it is when they have a baby that women’s careers can level out, as some women decide not to return to the workplace or to go part-time, thus stepping off the career progression ladder. Although many companies go out of their way to be supportive to mothers by offering flexible working and part-time packages, others do not. Anecdotally, I have heard of firms refusing to take employees back on a part-time basis. There are companies, especially in the City, who require very long working hours from their employees,

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which discriminate against women by making it difficult for them to get home to see their children. What is the Government’s attitude to this? Should companies be allowed to regularly demand very long hours from their employees, and how does this sit with the European working time directive?

I began my remarks by talking about how women’s contribution to the economy has not always been appreciated. Women also play an invaluable role in supporting the economy through their unpaid work, saving the UK Government an enormous amount of money. Childcare experts recognise that the care and attention a child receives when young will affect their health, behaviour and ability to learn throughout their lives. A stable family gives a child the best possible start. In most families, it is the mother who is the linchpin of the family and has a significantly greater responsibility for unpaid childcare and domestic work, which, when valued at the minimum wage, equates to about 20% of GDP. Some 58% of unpaid carers are female. Of course it is hard to set an exact cost, but its economic value was estimated at £119 billion in 2011, a huge contribution to the UK economy.

Women also make an enormous contribution in the charitable sector by working as volunteers, as my noble friend Lord Holmes mentioned. Time is short, so I will pick just one example: the hospice movement. According to Help the Hospices, most of the funding for hospice care comes from local fundraising, with only a third of the cost being met by government. More than 100,000 people volunteer in local hospices across the UK, without which they could not be run. A study in 2006 estimated the economic value of their volunteers to be over £112 million.

We should celebrate the contribution women make to their economies, especially as regards unpaid work. If women achieved greater equality, it would help their economies. I end with the words of Hillary Clinton:

“I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century”.

3.44 pm

Baroness Crawley (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, on an excellent and entertaining speech. He has moved from the Ministry of Sound to the Parliament of Speech. His speech adds to the many we have had and is an excellent addition.

It is always a great joy to take part in this annual debate as we are surrounded by noble Lords who have actually improved the lives of women in this country—whether that was last year or 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago when they were active in the women’s movement. I would also mention the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Women’s National Commission, Ministers who have moved departments to be more women-friendly and Back-Benchers who have applied their specialisms to ensuring that women’s progress is an onward march.

I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for initiating this important debate to mark International Women’s Day. I will look specifically, and briefly, at the UK. The topic of women’s contribution to our economy might not seem overtly controversial,

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until we remember that only a few months ago we had the disgraceful episode of the Twitter trolls coming out from under their stones when it was suggested that women’s faces on bank notes might be a good idea. Anyone who suggests that women’s struggle for equality is now accepted in the UK has only to read about the experience of the victims of that Twitter episode to know that that is not the case.

The contribution of women to the economy is a story of some good news—we would be churlish not to admit the progress that we have all made—and quite a lot of not so good news. The good news is that women’s leadership role in the economy in terms of female directors of companies, which many noble Lords have mentioned, is at last growing, albeit from a very low base.

I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Davies of Abersoch for his report, which raised the bar for our expectations for women on boards. His proposal fell short of quotas—of which, I put my hand up, I am a big fan; I have seen what all-women shortlists and quotas have done to transform women’s activity in the Labour Party and, therefore, the Labour Government’s moves, measures and initiatives aimed at progressing women—but was that companies should achieve a target of 25% female membership of boards by 2015. In 2010 women made up only 12.5% of the members of corporate boards of FTSE 100 companies. Since the publication of my noble friend’s report, that has grown to 20.4%, an increase of 7.9% since 2010. He will for ever be an honorary sister.

However, before we get too excited, there are still all-male boards in the FTSE 100, hanging on by their fingertips, even if it is now down to only two. That is, of course, a nonsense. As Helen Cook, HR director of RBS, said recently, an increased gender balance on boards has become “a commercial imperative”, with boards with more women achieving “better financial results”. The Credit Suisse research report of 2012 found that over the previous six years stocks in companies with women on the board outperformed the stocks of companies with no women on the board. The study also found that the difference in share price was more marked after 2008—we all remember 2008—with stocks of companies with at least one woman on the board tending to perform better than male-only boards in markets where share prices were falling. It took an unprecedented worldwide economic crash to begin to convince men that women make economic sense.

Professional career paths and women’s tendency to produce children—shock, horror; hold the front page—continue to clash at some point in their lives, but there is at least some gradual but very good news coming from the boardroom floor. Have we finally moved on from the time when it is easier for a woman to become a bishop—or, in my religion, a cardinal—than a board director in a British company? Well, we shall see.

There is also some brighter news when it comes to female entrepreneurs. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that, in 2012, 19% of small and medium-sized enterprises were either run by women or had a management team that was more than 50% female. In 2010 only 14% of such businesses had a female majority leadership. However, much of

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the groundwork for that increase was laid in the actions and incentives of the previous Government in encouraging women to run their own businesses, and our party’s pledge is to back more women to start their own businesses in 2015 by cutting business rates.

I am grateful to the Federation of Small Businesses—it is not often I say that—for its timely briefing for this debate. Its figures drill down into different sectors where women are at the helm. We have heard about the retail sector. The federation tells us that nearly 50% of small firms established in the past two years in the retail, hotel, catering and leisure sectors are owned primarily by women. It also makes the important statement that it is vital to support female entrepreneurship, and that 150,000 additional start-ups would be created each year in the UK if women started businesses at the same rate as men. We will grow ourselves out of these times of austerity only if women’s contribution to the economy is recognised and encouraged in these ways.

When it comes to labour market activity, 67% of women are now active in the labour market. This is the highest figure since 1971 and is to be welcomed. On the higher education front, we see that women now constitute 60% of all new university graduands. That is not particularly new but represents a complete change from a generation ago when less than 40% of graduands were women. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, asked in his excellent speech, why do the executive positions in our professions, especially in science and engineering, not reflect the massive improvement in women’s skills over this generation?

There are so many encouraging signs for women in the economy but—a big but—the economic experience for millions of women across the UK has been far from positive. It is just not good enough that, according to ONS figures, women working full-time in the category “professional occupations” earn only 80% of what men in that category earn; in the category “director”, women earn only 75% of what men do; and in the category “skilled trades”, women also earn only 75% of what men do. This latest publication of figures from the ONS shows that there has been very little change in that gap since 2007. That is just not good enough. Of course, those figures only address women in full-time work. As we know, and have heard from many noble Lords in this debate, a larger percentage of women work in part-time jobs than is the case for men. Those jobs are often unstable, multiple and badly paid. In the last four or five years they have been on the increase.

My late mother’s long illness with dementia brought me close to the social care sector. My conclusion is that we need to respect the caring professions more than we do at present as a country. Some 1.5 million people, mostly women, are employed in the adult social care sector. Of those, 300,000 care workers are on zero-hours contracts and up to 220,000 do not earn the minimum wage. When we brought my mother home from hospital to die, her care assistants were the first on the scene. They dressed and soothed her bed sores with great love and attention, as if she had two more decades to live and not just two more days. Her

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eyes lit up when she saw them and they were there at her funeral. The status of caring, be it by family or care assistant, is an issue we have to grasp.

That comes to my noble friend Lady Prosser’s statement about the value of women’s work. We have to grasp that point if we are to be an economically credible country. It is not acceptable that women still struggle on in low-wage, temporary and insecure work. One in four women now earn less than the living wage. More women than ever before work in temporary jobs because they cannot find a permanent position. Women make up the majority of zero-hours contracts. Our aim must be to see women take their proper and rightful place in the economic future and prosperity of this country as we move away from the austerity of the last five years and into better times.

3.58 pm

Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords, I am proud to speak in this International Women’s Day debate. I thank my noble friend Lady Northover for securing it as it gives us an opportunity to highlight the topsy-turvy world of women. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Palumbo on his excellent maiden speech. I am thrilled that he chose to make it today as we celebrate this important event.

There has not been a better time for women to blossom and excel in a wide range of professions. In so many careers, women are striding forward and shaping the way their professions are delivered in areas which in the past were dominated by men, from test driving a Formula 1 racing car to being an award-winning architect. We now have a senior woman leading judge—mind you, she is the only woman among 12 Supreme Court Justices. We have the first woman to command a major Navy warship, Commander Sarah West, who took up her post just this year. All those women are making substantial contributions to the UK and global world and are wonderful role models.

Since my dear friend, the formidable Marchioness of Lothian—Tony to her friends—founded the Women of the Year lunch nearly 60 years ago to celebrate the achievements of women, many women have fought their way to the top of their profession across the spectrum, despite the barriers placed in their way. Over the years, those women have paved the way for the younger generation, which is now benefiting from their hard work, perseverance and determination.

The toughened glass ceiling still exists; it is very much in place; and there is much, much more to achieve and undiscovered territories to charter and to conquer. However, I am an optimist and like to focus on the bright side of life, so I point out that women are now leading the field in many professions, such as primary school teachers, in medicine as GPs, and in the veterinary world, where more than 60% of vets are women. Almost a quarter of senior positions in advertising are held by women, and they make up half of that world-leading industry which brought in £100 billion for the UK’s economy in 2012. At present, we have a female Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf. Mind you, she is only the second in the City of London’s 800-year history. She is determined to make a difference

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and has set up the Power of Diversity programme to identify and promote the steps that the City at all management levels must take to maximise the energy and innovation that diversity can bring to business to create an inclusive labour market.

Speaking of diversity, women from culturally diverse backgrounds are still far behind in the race for equality and are battling to break through the many barriers and the many layers of glass ceilings that they encounter. They are even further behind than their white counterparts. There are very few in any senior positions, and that includes the nursing profession and the media—despite the fact that women make up a third of the senior positions in the media—or in the legal profession. The list goes on and on.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, highlighted in her speech, if you are black and a woman, it is a double whammy. In saying so, my mother would never have dreamt of being in my position today when she came to Britain back in 1958. Yes, who would have thought?

Whatever cultural background you are from, sadly, there are still gaps where women do not feature significantly, such as the upper levels of higher education where, despite the fact that women students outnumber men at university, only 17% of the UK’s vice-chancellors are women. Amazingly, only one Russell group university has a female vice-chancellor, and only 20% of all university professors are women. I am proud to say that the University of Exeter, where I am the Chancellor, so declare an interest, is leading the way, because 40% of the executive board are female. Our chair of council and one of our deputy vice-chancellors are both women.

Thankfully, a great deal of work is now being undertaken by universities and schools which aims to counteract early-stage gender stereotyping and engage young girls from all backgrounds academically and, later, professionally. There is also much being done to address social mobility to bridge that widening gap, especially in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths. I believe that this will go a long way to giving young women confidence and a sense of pride—to feel worthy and develop the ability to assert themselves, learning to seize opportunities to achieve success and take on roles from which they might normally shy away.

There is another area where there is a distinct absence of women: in top banking positions. Unbelievably, not one woman has ever served in the CEO position in a major bank. Interestingly, Saudi Arabia is ahead of us here because it announced just yesterday that its National Commercial Bank has appointed a woman in the top position. How long will it take us here in the UK to make such an announcement? I hope it is not too long because recently I was encouraged to hear that Lloyds Bank is setting up an initiative to attract women into senior positions in the banking world to address this inequality. Who knows? This could create a wholly different way of doing business that helps bring back trust in the banking world.

Women are finding it tough to juggle family life and childcare, which is very expensive, as we have heard time and again, and to hold down certain types of careers. So many are delaying having children because

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they want to establish a career first but those who decide to have a family early find that when they return to the workplace, having found adequate childcare, they have to start from scratch and not where they left off. Perhaps companies should be encouraged by the Government to set up some sort of re-entry scheme and make it available to these women to assist them to restart their careers, because those women’s talents are needed in the workplace and their skills are beneficial to the economy, if given a chance. I would be interested to hear my noble friend’s views on this idea.

Today, “housework” has another meaning for many women because, with the new technology available nowadays, women can work from home more easily. Many are now setting up successful businesses, which contribute to the economy, while being there for their children. One such original business is The Parent Zone, which was set up in 2005 to provide information that would help parents to keep their children safe in the digital world, as many parents find it difficult bringing up their children in this new age world. The Parent Zone has grown from strength to strength, supplying 1 million copies of its magazine to schools to help parents keep children protected. The need to do so is getting worse rather than better because too many children are becoming sexualised before their time, due to the adult material that is easily available online, including pornography. The Parent Zone is educating and influencing parents and contributing to society in a positive way.

However, it is not just the women in the workplace or those who run businesses from home who make a huge contribution to the global economy. There are also the women who are the unsung heroines of our economy and who contribute indirectly. Yes, we must also celebrate the contributions of the women who make a conscious decision to stay at home and care for their children. Interestingly, in Germany two-thirds of working women stay at home for the first two years of their children’s lives and are proud and happy to do so, yet here in Britain I often hear women use the phrase, “I’m only a housewife”. I say to those women that they should be proud of themselves because they are just as worthy as anyone and are contributing to the country’s future and long-term economy.

So let us not forget those women who stay at home and undertake the difficult task of childcare, managing the household and nurturing, guiding and motivating their children. They can be the best role models to their children. Even though it is a job that is not always celebrated, acknowledged or financially rewarded, it is invaluable and serves as the backbone of our society, giving children the confidence to take up their place in our global world 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 that benefit society.

I always pass on a philosophy that my beloved mother instilled in me: to encourage girls and young women to look far beyond the horizon with high self-esteem and a positive attitude, never taking no for an answer and never ever giving up. A whole new world awaits young women today who are now setting out on the pathway to a successful career. I am confident

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that the tide is turning and outdated prejudices are being swept away as business and industry realise that talented, hard-working women are a fantastic untapped resource.

I say to women everywhere: celebrate International Women’s Day with pride. The world needs you now more than ever, so be prepared to step up to the mark as you take your place and secure that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Do not be afraid to press the reset button and change the world. Have no fear about speaking out for the sake of good. Please do things the ethical way, though, for the future well-being of all the world’s children and our beautiful, delicate planet. Here’s to women across the world and to the men who believe in us.

4.11 pm

Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the speakers in today’s debate. I thank the Minister for landing us this debate and getting it extended to cover the whole world. We have benefited from her contribution about her brief and that of my noble friend Lady Royall, and indeed from the experience of women across the world. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, on his excellent maiden speech; we look forward to hearing more from him, as I am sure we will as time goes on. I also congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester on giving us, as it were, an update on the position of women bishops. I certainly look forward to sharing a glass of pink champagne with him—that is probably the best offer of this debate, actually. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, that I very much enjoyed his speech and was very inspired by it, and I do not think that I was alone in that.

I shall be concentrating on the contribution of women to our economy and the barriers that we face. I will be looking at what the Government could and should be doing to make the world a better place for women and make it easier for them to work. I come from a background where there was really never any question that women worked, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, mentioned. We had to go out to work in our family. When I grew up, it was only really middle-class women and those who lived in salaried families for whom the choice was available to stay at home and be homemakers and full-time mothers.

Although I agree with the Minister, who was quite right to say that our lives have been transformed and are quite different from those of our mothers, guess what—I do not think that that much has actually changed in the past 60 years regarding the economic imperatives for going out to work. Going out to work is not a choice for millions of women in the UK or indeed for millions of women across the world, working in factories and fields and from home. The noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, rightly paid tribute to the work involved in childcare and caring, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin.

My grandma Edna had 11 children. During the Second World War she worked on the railways. She had to work, and was able to because of the provision of proper state-run nursery care. Her eldest daughter, Jean—my mother—had seven children. Leaving aside

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the contraception and family planning issues in my family, which have kept us all entertained over many years, she also worked. She ran two successful businesses. The option of being a full-time homemaker and mother was never open to her—and I am not sure she would have dreamt of taking it if it had. In this 2014 International Women’s Day debate, I pay my tribute to Jean and to Marie, Eileen and Alma, who are her sisters, for their contribution to our economy over the whole of their lives, and it is on their shoulders that I stand today—to use the image used by my noble friend Lady Royall. I do have a granddaughter. She is only six months old, but it is also for her future that I speak today.

Sometimes when we say from these Benches that the Government seem out of touch with the lives of women, it is because of this component. There is sometimes a lack of understanding of life as it is lived by millions of women for whom going out to work is not a choice and for whom childcare is essential. Today it is very expensive. Almost all women will have caring responsibilities at various times in their lives. We do not have to look very far to see the lives of ordinary women. I know that some of the women who clean our offices have other jobs. They go from here to work in supermarkets and other places to support their children through school and to pay increasing rent and travel costs. Their hard-working life is very typical and very common today, which is why, for example, the national minimum wage, which was fought against and opposed by the Conservative Party at the time, is so important. It is why trade unions have an important, vital role to play in supporting women in their fight for decent pay and conditions and in protecting their rights at work.

As the Minister said, there are more women in work today, which is indeed a cause for celebration. There are also more women who want to work who are not able to do so because jobs are not there, or they are too badly paid or, as my noble friend Lady Prosser said, training opportunities do not exist. Women Like Us is a brilliant organisation, and it is also a social enterprise—noble Lords may remember that I am very keen on social enterprises. More social enterprises than small businesses are headed by women, and they have a better survival rate than small businesses.

Women often have to look after their family and undertake other caring responsibilities. There are millions of women who give up their jobs to look after sick and ageing partners, parents and relatives and whose reward for their unpaid, loving care is not celebration or gratitude but to find it more difficult to re-enter the job market and often not at the level that they left it. I am glad that my noble friend Lady Bakewell celebrated our millions of carers.

The question I shall address today is what the Government are doing to make it easier, better and more equitable for women to work and how they match up to those challenges. It will be a bit of a report card. On Tuesday, we saw a headline story which asked the question: “What does childcare really cost?”. A report by the Family and Childcare Trust suggested that the cost of having two children looked after, even part-time, is more than the average mortgage. Over recent weeks, there has been mounting evidence

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of the impact that increasingly high childcare costs are having on family budgets and our economy, yet the Government seem to be in denial about this.

I dispute the rosy picture painted by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, about the childcare situation. The cost of sending a child under two to nursery part-time—for 25 hours—is now more than £109 per week in Britain or £5,710 per year. The cost of a full-time—42 hours per week—nursery place for a child under two is almost £10,000. Over the past five years, childcare costs for under-twos have risen by 27%, meaning that parents are paying £1,214 more in 2014 than they did in 2009, and I remind noble Lords that wages have remained the same. This is a good example of the cost-of-living crisis facing ordinary families. Ironically, I heard yesterday of a nursery in south-west London which is putting up its fees and citing the cost-of-living crisis as the justification in the letter that it sent to parents. Perhaps it has missed the point there somewhere.

The average cost of an after-school club is now £48.19 a week, or £1,830 a year. Despite the legal obligation in the Childcare Act 2006 and Scotland’s early years framework to ensure enough childcare, only half—49%—of local authorities have enough childcare for working parents. Only a third—33%—of local authorities have enough childcare for children aged five to 11, and this has worsened in the past five years. Three-quarters—75%—of local authorities do not have enough childcare for disabled children; that was more than adequately amplified by my noble friend Lady Uddin.

Even Fraser Nelson of the Spectator, not someone I would normally quote, asked whether:

“Expensive child care is robbing Britain of its female talent”.

He says:

“In this way, the British economy loses out on the talents of a significant chunk of our high-skilled female population. It’s a form of economic self-harm. Making childcare tax-deductible would, in a great many cases, be a game-changer”.

Of course, it is above my pay grade and that of the Minister to comment on matters of tax and spending. However, it is interesting if even a right-wing commentator thinks that the inadequacies and costs of childcare are robbing the UK economy of female talent. My honourable friend Lucy Powell MP said recently:

“Early years places have fallen by 35,000 since 2009 and just half of local authorities report they have enough childcare for working parents”.

Last month, the IPPR highlighted that high childcare costs are stopping many mothers from working and that increasing maternal employment rates would benefit families and the economy to the tune of £1.5 billion a year. It is not cost-effective not to have effective childcare. There is also a question of flexibility of working practices which support working fathers. In Germany and Scandinavia we can see fathers changing the working culture so that they, for example, take the Friday off to undertake childcare responsibilities, even at a very senior level. Would the Minister care to tell us what the Government are doing to encourage working fathers to take their fair share of childcare among the Civil Service?

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The Government are reducing work incentives for the lowest earners by cutting tax credit support and creating a two-tier system in universal credit. The Resolution Foundation has reported this will see the poorest families lose £1,000 a year to help pay for childcare. Unlike the current Government, on these Benches we completely understand how important it is that we address the issues with childcare and enable more parents, especially mums, to return to work or work longer hours.

Turning to older women, I think that there is much to celebrate about the labour market position of women over 50 in the UK. The employment rate for women in this age group is high compared with many other European countries, and it is increasing. The employment rate for women aged between 50 and 64 has increased by 14 percentage points over the past two decades, the greatest increase in any group. However, many older women will not recognise the rosy picture painted by these headline statistics. Half of the women aged 50 to 64 work in the delivery of public services, which means that they have been hit by the cuts disproportionately. Redundancies, pay freezes and increased contracting out of services feature prominently in the stories the TUC gathered from older women as part of the Age Immaterial project. Part-time work is prevalent among women over 50 and the majority of them earn less than £10,000 per year. The problems of low pay, lack of job security and weak employment rights are exacerbated for those in precarious forms of work such as zero-hours contracts, as has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lady Crawley.

I very much welcome the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, recognised that women are experiencing disproportionate effects of the austerity agenda. Indeed, the coalition Government have removed support for childcare, capped maternity pay and have chosen to give a tax break to married couples where one spouse does not work or works a few hours. I do not think that there is any evidence that less than £4 a week is a good or appropriate way to encourage people to marry. In five out of six cases the benefit will be paid to the husband. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, many families will face a £200 penalty if mum returns to work full-time. In December the official figures revealed that the gender pay gap had increased in 2012-13 for the first time in five years. Under Labour, the pay gap fell by 7.7%.

I will glance at our record. We introduced the national minimum wage, which has had such a disproportionately positive effect on low-paid women. We opened 3,500 Sure Start centres to support parents and young families. We increased maternity leave to nine months and extended total maternity leave to a full year. We doubled maternity pay, and from 2009 gave millions of parents with children under 16 the right to flexible working. We introduced working tax credit and child tax credit and legislated against maternity and sex discrimination in the workplace.

What will we do when we are elected next year? Under David Cameron, one in four women earn less than the living wage, but I am happy to tell noble Lords that we will make work pay for women by allowing firms to claim back a third of the cost of raising their staff’s wages to a living wage. We will

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strengthen the minimum wage and tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts. We will give every working family 25 hours of free childcare for their three and four year-olds, 38 weeks a year—an increase of 10 hours on the current offer. We will deliver a primary childcare guarantee, which will ensure that the parents of primary school pupils are able to access breakfast and after-school clubs through their school between 8 am and 6 pm. We will back more women to start their own businesses, which my noble friend Lady Crawley mentioned. Private firms will be able to claim back a third of the cost of raising their staff’s wage to a living wage. This evidence shows that we still think that the Government are out of touch with the lives of many women.

We have had some magnificent and fabulous speeches today, from my noble friend Lord Haskel, the noble Baronesses, Lady Seccombe, Lady Howe and Lady Afshar, and my noble friend Lady Howells. On the issue of parliamentary selections I say to the noble Baronesses, Lady Fookes and Lady Jenkin, that we tried a woman on every shortlist in the 1980s and it did not work. It was tokenism. The only way to increase the number and representation of women—I say this to the Liberal Democrats, and I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Smith, agrees with me on this—is to have all-women shortlists. That is the only way that you will persuade your parties to select women and increase the number of women. We would welcome that and would support noble Lords in doing it.

I struggle to give better than five out of 10 for the Government’s support for working women and their families. That five is because the Minister has great words to say and very good intentions, which I hope will be translated into the policies of her party. However, on this International Women’s Day 2014, the UK Government need to do better.

4.27 pm

Baroness Northover: My Lords, the debates in the House of Lords for International Women’s Day are always outstanding, and this one has been no exception. There is such huge experience and commitment among your Lordships in this area that it is a great privilege to respond. I pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Palumbo, who chose to make his maiden speech in this debate today, and whom we welcome as a significant contributor to our House. One can see how far-sighted he is when he speaks of employers recognising that starting a family enhances, not compromises, what an employee can contribute.

It is also good to have so many male contributions to the debate today, including from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, who flagged his optimism that we might soon see women on his Benches, possibly by the time of this debate next year. I was also very pleased that my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond participated, despite his case of extreme man flu. My eldest son has a habit of catching such flu, and although he beat it this autumn, when he sent me an e-mail from Nigeria saying, “Mum, I have acute typhoid”, it required my daughter to say that if he is well enough to send the e-mail, he is probably all right. Cross fingers—he probably is.

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We have marked International Women’s Day for over a century. The lives of women in this country have been transformed over that century, as my noble friend Lady Seccombe so clearly showed, and as other noble Lords have remarked. I was very touched by the speech of my noble friend Lady Seccombe. In this year, in which we mark the centenary of the First World War, she is right to remind us not only how it changed lives in terms of women’s engagement in the workforce but in terms of the mental and physical suffering that ensued from that appalling conflict—indeed, in her own life.

As noble Lords’ speeches have made clear, inequalities persist. Women earn less, and we have by far the larger responsibility for children in the home and for care of elderly relatives, as well as working. Women are less likely to be in the House of Commons or the House of Lords, less likely to be on boards on the top of companies, in our Supreme Court or among our judges, as vice-chancellors of universities, as my noble friend Lady Bottomley pointed out, or as editors of newspapers, and so on. Indeed, we see progress, but sometimes it seems glacial, although it is good to hear from my noble friend Lady Benjamin about Exeter. I note what my noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville flagged on behalf of my noble friend Lady Falkner in relation to the diplomatic service. I assure noble Lords that I shall make sure that that is heard very loudly in the FCO.

I spoke in my opening speech about the action that we are taking right across government to promote equality. We know that girls are outperforming boys at school, so by investing in education, expanding our apprenticeship programme and improving careers advice, we can help young women to open their eyes to opportunities that they may have believed were unobtainable, and help them to make ambitious choices. Introducing shared parental leave will help to end the assumption that women will be the main carer for a child, helping families to juggle their home and work life and lessening the negative impact on careers of time spent out of the workplace.

We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, about the impact of having children. Noble Lords are right about the importance of addressing the need for childcare that is affordable, flexible and of high quality. My noble friend Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, particularly emphasised the issue of childcare. As I said, we have extended free childcare for all three to four year-olds to 15 hours—from what was offered by the previous Government—and we are also offering that now to disadvantaged two year-olds. We are also helping with the cost via a tax-free childcare scheme, which is worth up to £1,200 a year from 2015. There is an extra £200 million for childcare subsidies through universal credit, and we are working to improve supply through grants to childcare businesses and setting up childminder agencies.

I recall the cost myself of having three under-fives and working. As I did the other day, I pay tribute to the party opposite for the work that it did to improve the quality and availability of childcare during its time in office. However, I point out that costs rose considerably

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in the 2000s. What we have sought successfully to do, as the Family and Childcare Trust’s figures bear out, is to stabilise those costs. As for provision, providers show that there are sufficient places and, in fact, vacancies; that said, we know that there is much to do, which is why we have put a great deal of effort into this.

In regard to working fathers, a point flagged up by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, I was personally speechless when the media criticised Edward Davey for taking paternity leave when his new baby arrived. As the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, said, with regard to trolls, we have a long way to go.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Crawley and Lady Uddin, flagged the need to support carers, generally and in the workplace. We are implementing the recommendations of the report, Supporting Working Carers: The Benefits to Families, Business and the Economy, which was published in 2013. We are improving support for business and developing the market in care and support services, and the Care Bill will help to provide protection and support to those who need it most, including carers. But the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, is right to emphasise the contribution that carers, from the family or not, can make. My noble friend Lady Benjamin, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and others are right to emphasise the contribution of those who are in unpaid work. It is still work and it still contributes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, rightly urged us to address the value and engagement of those who are nowhere near the glass ceiling but are, rather, around the skirting board, as she described it. The noble Baroness, Lady Nye, flagged the minimum wage, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. They will have noted that my right honourable friend the Business Secretary has expressed his sympathy with the proposal to raise this. I do not want to get into a competition over this by saying, “We did this and you did that”, but I would point out that, in raising the tax threshold, we have disproportionately benefited women, and I am very proud of the fact that we have done that.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Uddin and Lady Howells, and my noble friend Lady Benjamin rightly urged us to ensure that what we do is inclusive of all groups, whatever their religion, race and background. We agree with that. The noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, flagged the particular challenges facing Muslim women. We pay tribute to the work that she and others are doing in that regard, and hear what she says.

The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Nye and Lady Prosser, spoke of the pay gap, which is a worldwide problem. The noble Lord wanted to know the relevant figures. In the United Kingdom, the pay gap is narrowing steadily. It was 25% 10 years ago and is now 19.7%. The pay gap is linked to the occupations in which women traditionally work and these sectors tend to be lower paid. We have addressed many of the issues around that in this debate. From October 2014, employment tribunals will require companies that lose an equal pay case to undertake a pay audit. We must, indeed, continue to work very hard to close this gap.

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My noble friend Lady Bottomley mentioned women in the penal system and highlighted their situation and her proposed engagement with them. As she mentioned this, my noble friend Lady Jolly whispered to me that she used to provide evening classes in maths and science in Dartmoor, so there we have some STEM engagement.

All noble Lords are right to emphasise the need to address the position of women across the board. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and my noble friend Lady Jenkin flagged a problem that occurs at every level—that is, violence, which may be physical or insidiously mental. We are extremely exercised by this. The Government have set out their approach to the action plan on violence against women, which will be updated on 8 March, on International Women’s Day. We have ring-fenced £40 million for specialist domestic violence and sexual violence support services, and we have extended the definition of “domestic violence” to include 16 to 17 year-olds and coercive behaviour. We have announced the rollout of domestic violence protection orders and the domestic violence disclosure scheme, and we have introduced domestic homicide reviews and relaunched the “This is Abuse” campaign, aimed at teenage boys and girls. I remember answering a Question from the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, on that area.

We continue to work with the noble Lord, Lord Davies. I am very happy to agree that he is a noble sister; I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, described him as that. He is remarkable and has done a great deal to promote equality in the boardroom. He has tried to ensure that talented women take their rightful place at the top and, once there, provide a different view, which helps business maximise its potential, coming back to the point that my noble friend Lord Palumbo made.

My noble friend Lady Bottomley rightly flagged that we must not concentrate on women on boards to the exclusion of women at every level. We fully agree with that and other noble Lords echoed that point. My noble friend Lord Watson flagged that my right honourable friend Vincent Cable has requested that the EHRC should look at the legal possibilities of quotas for companies. No doubt this will be passed to the board of my noble friend Lord Holmes. I look forward very much indeed to hearing what the outcome might be. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has also made clear, quotas have to be a possible backstop if we do not see enough progress.

My noble friend Lord Smith has been a doughty and invaluable campaigner for better gender equality, and I personally value his support enormously. His determination that we should have no complacency in this matter rings in my ears. I would say to my noble friend Lady Jenkin that I think he is actually targeting my party and his party. However, perhaps I may pick him up on one point regarding the reports on office size, which seemed to indicate that women Ministers were undervalued. In this particular case, it is a bit of a red herring. The position gets somewhat distorted by adding in my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary’s room, which is 10 times the size of that of any of his Cabinet colleagues. I happen to know that

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my right honourable friend Justine Greening chose a smaller room in the DfID building because it was in the new part of the building where most of the officials were, when she could have had the very large, beautiful office that my right honourable friend Alan Duncan has. However, she chose not to have that office in order to be with the officials. It is always worth flagging these points.

Lord Smith of Clifton: Does that not make the case for having a woman Foreign Secretary?

Baroness Northover: I will volunteer immediately, but I think that my noble friend Lady Warsi will be in front of me. Of course my noble friend Lord Smith is right.

By providing support to women wishing to start and grow their own business, both at home and in the developing world, we could see equality in business, and equalising the economic participation rates of men and women could add 10% to GDP by 2030. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe had some very useful perceptions in this regard. Women-led SMEs already add £70 billion to the UK economy. We agree that there is tremendous potential here.

My noble friend Lady Bottomley mentioned that women were less likely to be peacocks, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe mentioned that men apply for promotion a year before they should, while women apply a year after they should. Having just read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, this seems to be a worldwide challenge. That, again, is why my noble friend Lord Palumbo’s far-sightedness, which Sheryl Sandberg shares, of recognising and promoting the contribution that women make to businesses, is indeed so important.

My noble friend Lady Fookes and the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, flagged the challenges of getting women into STEM subjects. We are working very hard on this. Last night I was very encouraged to attend a reception hosted by the DPM for female apprentices. The enthusiasm of these women was palpable. One of the things that they emphasised was that they had a battle against their schools when they tried to head down the apprenticeship route. They asked that schools should rate apprenticeships as highly as they rate universities. This is indeed what we are seeking to do through new careers advice in schools. I also say to the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, that last night I met a remarkable apprentice who happens to be black and is apprenticed at Dr Martens. I can show the noble Baroness on my telephone some rather inadequate pictures of the stunning silk and fake crocodile Dr Martens shoes that this young lady had designed and made in the space of two days. I had no doubt that she could sell them worldwide.

My noble friend Lord Holmes gave a moving speech and reminded us strongly of how outstanding are our sportswomen. I noted that there were four winning individuals or teams at Sochi, and that three of them were female. However, that did not stand in the way of national delight and enthusiasm. It did not, and I would make that point to the media.

We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, just how fantastic the contribution of women can be in the arts, as outlined in the cases she mentioned. I

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recognise not least the contribution that JK Rowling makes both to the UK Exchequer and to the fantasy life of children and adults. It was absolutely wonderful to see a dyslexic child, who had never read a book all the way through before, sit in a corner and not move until they had read all the way through a Harry Potter book.

I pay tribute as I always do, and as my noble friend Lord Smith has, to the party opposite for what it has done to encourage women to enter politics. I think that my noble friend was actually attacking my party rather than my coalition partners. I have fought long and hard in my party over many years, but we have a particular challenge because we have no safe seats—if only we had. That is why I am very glad that, at least in the House of Lords, 31% of my party’s Members are women, making us the largest group. I am also glad, astounded and impressed that in five of the six Liberal Democrat seats where MPs are standing down, we have managed to select women. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Brinton for her sterling efforts in that regard.

We all know that we must do more at every level. I have seen what a transformative difference Labour women MPs have made and, just like the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, I have seen a transformative difference made by women parliamentarians working together in Pakistan. What we have heard about the position of women worldwide reinforces the need to have a stand-alone goal on gender in the MDGs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, made clear.

My noble friend Lord Watson of Richmond, like others, reminded us of some of the barriers faced by women elsewhere. I certainly saw what he referred to when I visited Saudi Arabia. The women are corralled into a small area in the university, unable to participate alongside men unless they are medical students. They are unable even to visit the library. I saw the horror on male faces as I was allowed to walk through the university. As I have mentioned before, the position of women came home to me even in my western-style hotel in Riyadh, where there was a swimming pool. I went down to the pool with my swimsuit but was turned away because it was not the “women’s hour” to swim. When I asked when the women’s hour was, I was told, “There isn’t one”.

Given the situation of women around the world, I am very proud of our work overseas. In our international development work, the UK has put girls and women at the heart of its approach. DfID’s strategic vision for women and girls has set ambitious targets to enhance the economic empowerment of girls and women in developing countries. I laid out the principles in my opening speech. As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, pointed out, women do so much of the work yet have so little of the property. The imbalance is extremely striking. Two-thirds of women are illiterate and one in nine girls is forced into marriage before her 14th birthday.

Overseas, we are indeed battling against violence. Women cannot fully participate if they are subjected to violence, which they often are, as the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, pointed out. She will know of the efforts

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that we are making in that respect with a £25 million research and innovation fund looking at what works in preventing violence against women and girls.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, raised the issue of FGM. I am very proud of what my honourable friend Lynne Featherstone is doing in combating this overseas, and it is having an effect, too, in the United Kingdom. That is extremely welcome. It is the first time that there has been a commitment of £35 million to combat FGM overseas. I know that I am running short of time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, mentioned concerns in relation to Pakistan, and my noble friends Lady Jenkin and Lady Hodgson mentioned Afghanistan. Probably all three of them will know of our very strong commitment to supporting women and girls right across the board in terms of schooling, engagement and reproductive health. That commitment in Afghanistan continues and I can write with further details if they wish.

My noble friend Lady Fookes asked about women’s political participation and leadership. DfID supports that in a number of countries and, again, I can write with details. However, I will point out that the CPA, IPU and Westminster Foundation have continuing programmes along the lines that she mentions. I know that the CPA is asking right now for a volunteer to do the type of training to which she refers in April in Kenya. Perhaps she would like to volunteer.

In conclusion, this has been a very wide-ranging and informative debate. I was enormously struck by what my noble friend Lady Bottomley said when quoting the chief executive of a company, which I shall not name, who said that the future was not with the BRICs but with women. That is most cheering and a very positive note. I hope that I have made clear the Government’s determination to do everything in their power to transform the rights and opportunities available to women and girls in the UK and overseas. As I predicted, it has been an excellent debate. It has also been constructive and thought-provoking. It is encouraging to have so many women and men seeking to drive forward the gender equality that we all need to see for the benefit of women, families, communities and countries.

Motion agreed.

Ellison Review


4.51 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, Mrs Theresa May, in the House of Commons earlier today. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the Mark Ellison review. In addition, I would like to update the House on work to improve standards of integrity in the police. In July

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2012, I commissioned Mark Ellison QC to conduct a review examining allegations of corruption surrounding the initial, deeply flawed, investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. I also asked Mr Ellison to examine whether the Metropolitan Police had evidence of corruption that it did not disclose to the Macpherson inquiry.

In June last year, Peter Francis, a former special demonstration squad undercover officer, made a number of allegations about his previous role, including an allegation that he was deployed to gather evidence with which to smear the family of Stephen Lawrence. In response, I expanded the terms of reference of Mark Ellison’s review, encouraging him to go as far and wide as necessary to investigate the new claims.

The House will also be aware of Operation Herne, which was set up by the Metropolitan Police in October 2011 to investigate allegations of misconduct by undercover police officers in its former special demonstration squad—the SDS. Operation Herne is led by Derbyshire’s Chief Constable, Mick Creedon, and particular elements are overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Mick Creedon’s investigation has worked closely with Mark Ellison and will publish its own report on the allegations made by Peter Francis later today.

I will now set out the key findings of the Ellison review. The full report has been published and is available in the Vote Office. The totality of what the report shows is deeply troubling and I would like also to set out my response. I asked Mark Ellison to review and answer three key questions. First, was there evidence of corruption in the Metropolitan Police during the Lawrence investigation? Secondly, was that evidence withheld from the Macpherson inquiry? Thirdly, was inappropriate undercover activity directed at the Lawrence family?

On corruption, Ellison finds that specific allegations of corruption were made against one of the officers who had worked on the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder, Detective Sergeant John Davidson. The allegations were made by a police officer to his superiors, but were not brought to the attention of Macpherson. Ellison finds that this lack of disclosure was a “significant failure” by the Metropolitan Police.

Ellison has looked at the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s 2006 report into these allegations, as well as the Metropolitan Police’s own review in 2012. He finds that both investigations were inadequate.

Ellison also finds the Metropolitan Police Service’s record-keeping on its own investigations into police corruption a cause of real concern. Key evidence was the subject of mass shredding in 2003, and a hard drive containing some of the relevant data was discovered only in November 2013, after more than a year of the MPS searching for it. As a result of this, Ellison has serious concerns that further relevant material that would show corruption has not been revealed because it cannot be found or has been destroyed.

The other question that Mark Ellison set out to answer was whether inappropriate undercover activity had been directed at the Lawrence family. Ellison finds that SDS officers were deployed into activist groups

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that sought to influence the Lawrence family. On Peter Francis’s allegation that he was tasked with ‘smearing’ the Lawrence family, Ellison has found no surviving record that supports the claim. However, given the lack of written records from the era, and since such tasking would have been more likely to have been in oral rather than written form, Ellison says that he is ‘unable to reject’ the claims that Mr Francis has made.

Apart from the specific claims made by Mr Francis, Ellison reports on a separate and ‘wholly inappropriate’ use of an undercover officer during the Macpherson inquiry. Ellison finds that an officer, referred to as N81, had been deployed into one of the groups seeking to influence the Lawrence family campaign, while the Macpherson inquiry was ongoing. Ellison refers to N81 as,

‘an MPS spy in the Lawrence family camp during the course of judicial proceedings in which the family was the primary party in opposition to the MPS’.

As part of his deployment, N81 reported back to the SDS personal information about the Lawrence family, as well as what is described as ‘tactical intelligence’ around the inquiry. In August 1998, the SDS arranged for N81 to meet Richard Walton, then a detective inspector involved in writing the Met’s submissions to the Macpherson inquiry. SDS files record that they had a ‘fascinating and valuable exchange’.

Ellison finds that the opening of this channel of communication was ‘completely improper’. He finds no discernible public benefit to the meeting taking place, and says that had it been disclosed at the time of the inquiry,

‘it would have been seen as the MPS trying to achieve some secret advantage in the Inquiry from SDS undercover deployment’.

Ellison finds that if it had been made public in 1998, serious public disorder of the very kind so feared by the MPS might well have followed.

In addition, Ellison has reported on the SDS more widely. He comments on the extraordinary level of secrecy observed about any disclosure that might risk exposing an undercover officer. This meant that the SDS operated as if exempt from the proper rules of disclosure in criminal cases, and that there is a real potential for miscarriages of justices to have occurred. In particular, Ellison says there is an inevitable potential for SDS officers to have been viewed by those they infiltrated as encouraging, and participating in, criminal behaviour. He refers to officers in criminal trials failing to reveal their true identities, meaning that crucial information that should have been disclosed was not given to the defence and the court. He also finds that undercover officers sometimes failed to correct evidence given in court which they knew was wrong. This means that there is a chance that people could have been convicted for offences when they should not have been. We must therefore establish if there have been miscarriages of justice.

The Ellison review has also investigated the way in which Duwayne Brooks was treated by the Metropolitan Police. The House will recall that Mr Brooks was a close friend of Stephen Lawrence and was with him when he was murdered. Mark Ellison finds that the MPS’s handling of a 1993 prosecution against Mr Brooks was “unsatisfactory”, but he finds no evidence that

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this was a deliberate attempt to smear him. Ellison also finds evidence of inappropriate reporting on Mr Brooks from an SDS officer. This included intelligence on Mr Brooks’s relationship with the Lawrence family and on the way in which Mr Brooks intended to approach various legal proceedings, including civil action against the Met. Ellison says that this line of reporting, “should have been terminated”, but instead it continued from 1999 to 2001. Finally, Mark Ellison finds that the covert recording of Mr Brooks and his solicitor in a meeting with the MPS in May 2000, while not unlawful, was neither necessary nor justified.

The findings I have outlined today are profoundly shocking and will be of grave concern to everyone in the House and beyond. I would now like to set out what I believe needs to happen in response. The Ellison review makes a number of findings in relation to the issue of corruption. Ellison finds that there remain some outstanding lines of inquiry which could be investigated both in relation to alleged corruption by a specific officer and possibly other officers. This is of the utmost seriousness. I have asked the Director-General of the National Crime Agency to consider quickly how best an investigation can be taken forward into this aspect of Mr Ellison’s findings and report back to me.

Ellison also refers to possible links between an allegedly corrupt officer involved in the Stephen Lawrence case, Detective Sergeant Davidson, and the investigation into the murder of Daniel Morgan. Ellison finds that the Daniel Morgan panel may therefore uncover material relevant to the question of corruption, and so it is key that the Daniel Morgan panel continues its important work.

Operation Herne has previously found that the Home Office was instrumental in the establishment of the SDS in 1968 in the aftermath of violence at the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Grosvenor Square, and it has also previously found that the Home Office initially provided direct funding for the SDS. The Home Office was the police authority for the Metropolitan Police at that time, so the interests of transparency require that we all understand what role the department played. My Permanent Secretary has therefore commissioned a forensic external review in order to establish the full extent of the Home Office’s knowledge of the SDS.

In identifying the possibility that SDS secrecy may have caused miscarriages of justice, Mark Ellison recommends a further review to identify the specific cases affected. I have accepted that recommendation. Mark Ellison will lead the work, working with the CPS and reporting to the Attorney-General. That will mean that proper consideration can be given to those cases and to any implications that may arise. In doing that work, Mark Ellison and the CPS will be provided with whatever access they judge necessary to the relevant documentary evidence. Operation Herne is a criminal investigation, and it is only through a criminal investigation that criminal or misconduct charges can be brought. So it is vital that we allow Operation Herne to bring its current criminal investigations to a proper conclusion, which Chief Constable Creedon informs me should take about 12 months.

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There are people inside and outside our country who seek to commit serious crimes and harm our communities, our way of life and our nation, and who wish to harm our children. It is entirely right—indeed it is a responsibility of Governments—to ensure that the police and other agencies have effective powers to tackle those threats and to ensure that robust legal frameworks exist for the use of sometimes intrusive tactics. Undercover officers, sometimes working in difficult and dangerous conditions, have helped bring criminals to justice. They have stopped bad things happening to our country.

None the less, the Ellison review reveals very real and substantial failings. The picture that emerges about the SDS from this report, and from other material in the public domain, is of significant failings of judgment, intrusive supervision and failings of leadership over a sustained period. Mark Ellison has performed a commendable public duty in revealing these issues. His report lays bare issues of great seriousness, in relation not only to Peter Francis but to the SDS more widely.

When I asked Mark Ellison to consider the SDS within the scope of his review, I asked him to tell me in his report whether he felt that a public inquiry was needed to get to the full truth. Although Ellison does not go as far as recommending a public inquiry, he is clear that in respect of the SDS in general, and the Peter Francis allegations in particular, a public inquiry might be better placed to make definitive findings.

I do not say this lightly, but the greatest possible scrutiny is now needed into what has taken place. Given the gravity of what has now been uncovered, I have decided that a public inquiry, led by a judge, is necessary to investigate undercover policing and the operation of the SDS. Only a public inquiry will be able to get to the full truth behind the matters of huge concern contained in Mark Ellison’s report.

The House will understand that an inquiry cannot be set up immediately. It must wait for the conclusion of the criminal investigation and Ellison’s further work to identify possible miscarriages of justice. It is right and proper that those legal processes are allowed to conclude first. Ellison himself identifies his further review as a priority before any public inquiry could take place. That further work will also inform the inquiry’s precise terms of reference.

As I have said, the matters that I have announced today are deeply concerning. More broadly, it is imperative that public trust and confidence in the police is maintained. I do not believe corruption and misconduct to be endemic in the police, and it is clear that the majority of police men and women conduct themselves honestly and with integrity.

In February last year I announced to the House specific measures to address corruption and misconduct, ensure greater transparency, provide clearer rules on conduct, and improve standards of professional behaviour. That work is on track. The College of Policing, which has a clear remit for enhancing police integrity, is delivering a package of measures that includes a new code of ethics. The code sets out clearly the high standards of behaviour expected from police officers. In addition, the Independent Police Complaints

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Commission is being expanded and emboldened so that in future it will have responsibility for dealing with all serious and sensitive cases involving the police. I can tell the House that I am reflecting on whether further proposals are needed.

I also want to ensure that those who want to report corruption and misconduct are encouraged to do so. I therefore want to strengthen protections for whistleblowers in the police, and I will bring proposals to the House in due course. We must also ensure that police forces have all the capability they need to pursue corruption, so today I have asked the Chief Inspector of Constabulary to look specifically at the anti-corruption capability of forces, including professional standards departments.

Arrangements for undercover officer deployments are very different today from those in the early 1990s. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, all deployments must be authorised as both necessary and proportionate to the issue being investigated. This Government have introduced further safeguards. The independent Office of Surveillance Commissioners is now notified of all deployments and must approve those that last longer than 12 months. We have also increased the rank of the authorising officer. All deployments must be authorised by an assistant chief constable and those lasting longer than 12 months by a chief constable.

There also needs to be a change in culture. We need to continue the work we have already done to reform the police. From this autumn, the police will for the first time have the opportunity to bring in talented and experienced leaders from other walks of life to senior ranks. The College of Policing will provide those individuals with world-class training. Those coming in will bring a fresh perspective and approach, and will open up policing culture. I believe it is one of the most important reforms in shaping the police of the future. I have committed to funding a cadre of new direct-entrant superintendents from this autumn until spring 2018. I challenge all those forces that have not yet signed up to take the opportunity do so. It is vital that the public know that policing is not a closed shop.

We are changing the culture of the police through direct entry, the code of ethics, greater transparency and professionalisation. We are transforming the investigation of cases involving the police through reform of the IPCC. But I would like to do more. The current law on police corruption relies on the outdated common-law offence of misconduct in public office. It is untenable to be relying on such a legal basis to deal with serious issues of corruption in modern policing. So I will table amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to introduce a new offence of police corruption, supplementing the existing offence of misconduct in public office and focusing clearly on those who hold police powers.

In policing, as in other areas, the problems of the past have a danger of infecting the present and can lay traps for the future. Policing stands damaged today. Trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police, and policing more generally, is vital. A public inquiry and the other work I have set out are part of the process of repairing the damage. Stephen Lawrence was murdered more than 20 years ago and it is deplorable that his

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family have had to wait so many years for the truth to emerge. Indeed, it is still emerging. Understandably, many of us thought that the Macpherson inquiry had answered all the questions surrounding the investigation into Stephen’s death but the findings I have set out today are profoundly disturbing. For the sake of Doreen Lawrence, Neville Lawrence, their family and the British public, we must act now to redress these wrongs. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.16 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier today in the other place by the Home Secretary. We add our thanks to Mark Ellison QC for the investigation he carried out and for his report.

The Ellison report is devastating and disturbing. If it was not known to be a work of fact one could be forgiven for thinking that it must be a work of fiction—and pretty sensationalist fiction at that. Stephen Lawrence was murdered by racists over 20 years ago and ever since it has been a struggle for the Lawrence family, not least my noble friend Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, to get justice and the truth. The Ellison report shows all too clearly why. We should all show our support for the Lawrence family in their continued determination to get both the truth and justice.

The report covers allegations of corruption by a police officer involved in the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder not being brought to the attention of the Macpherson inquiry by the Metropolitan Police. It covers inadequate investigations into those allegations by both the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Metropolitan Police’s own review. It covers key evidence being shredded, a Metropolitan Police spy in the Lawrence family camp, and a finding by Mr Ellison of being unable to reject the claims of Mr Francis that he had been tasked with smearing the Lawrence family. It also comments on the special demonstration squad—the SDS—and its officers failing to reveal their true identities in criminal trials or to correct evidence given in court which they knew was wrong. It indicates that there may have been miscarriages of justice. We support a public inquiry into the activities of the SDS and undercover policing—something we called for last year. Can the Minister confirm that, when the time comes, there will be full consultation with all relevant parties on the terms of reference of the public inquiry and the form it will take?

The Ellison report said that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that at least one of the officers involved in the Lawrence investigation acted corruptly and a full investigation is certainly needed of the outstanding lines of inquiry that the Ellison review identified. It is also important that the House and the Lawrence family should be updated on the timetable and course of this investigation. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that that will be the case. Can he confirm that in pursuing all lines of inquiry, consideration will also be given to any lines that could lead to prosecutions of further suspects in Stephen Lawrence’s murder? Only recently we had a Statement about Hillsborough and the failure of the criminal

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justice system to get truth and justice for the families of the victims. Now we have another Statement that will only further shake confidence in the police and the criminal justice system.

The Statement concluded with the changes that this Government has made or is making to the police and policing. I do not want to comment on those changes today; they have already been the subject of much debate. The Ellison report is about culture, as was the report into Hillsborough. Changing the culture is much harder to deal with than I feel that the Statement infers, because the definition of culture within any organisation can simply be described as the way things are done in that organisation. In this instance, the culture is about why some in the police felt that they were working in an environment where it was acceptable to take the kind of actions described in the Ellison report—and, indeed, in the report on Hillsborough—and what actions or messages had been taken or given or, equally significantly, not taken or given, and from what level in the organisation, that had led them to believe that they could do what they did and not be called to account.

The overwhelming majority of police officers are dedicated and conscientious and carry out their vital work protecting our communities and bringing those who do wrong before the courts with great integrity, honesty and, at times, bravery. They will be dismayed by the findings of the Ellison report. The reputation and standing of the overwhelming majority should not be besmirched by the actions and failures of the few, but when things have gone seriously wrong, we have to pursue these matters until we get the truth and justice for those who have been so seriously wronged, not only because we should be doing it for them but because we will not restore full confidence in our police and the criminal justice system until that happens.

5.21 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his support in receiving the Statement. I think that the whole House will have been shocked by the contents of the Ellison review.

I do not think that any of us here, regardless of party or even our interest in the subject matter, would underestimate the difficulties that this situation engenders. Getting the culture right, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, is a major task. He is quite right to point to the fact that the majority of police officers are engaged in their task in a true sense of public service, and we should thank them for that, but we need to have in place those vehicles which mean that when we have people who are not performing that task with honesty and integrity, we can deal with them thoroughly. The answer lies within the structure of the police itself. That is clearly the thought behind my right honourable friend’s Statement and her replies to questions in the Commons earlier today.

It is quite clear that we will continue a process of investigation into allegations of corruption and misconduct in the police. That is part of the package of measures which the Home Secretary announced. There is a more serious problem, in that existing

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convictions may now be insecure as a result of the findings of the report, and the Home Secretary has asked Mark Ellison to lead the investigation in this area, in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Attorney-General.

I can only conclude that this is a particularly moving occasion in that we have the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, with us for the Statement, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his support.

5.24 pm

Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon (Lab): I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for presenting to the House what was said by the Home Secretary this morning. On this occasion, I would like to thank the Home Secretary because it was quite difficult for her to present what the findings were this morning. When we embarked on the corruption case, it was because I always knew that there was something. It was very difficult to convince other people around me, especially other police officers and even, at times, the Home Secretary, that there was corruption at the start of Stephen’s case, as I believed. It has taken over a year for this but it has been nearly 21 years since Stephen was killed. There is the fact that we as a family had to go through all this, and still there is more to come out.

I want to say why I decided to stand up now. It is to say thanks to the Home Secretary because, without her instructing Mr Ellison to conduct his review and without his hard work in getting to this stage, we would still be wondering whether there was corruption and about the undercover policing that took place around my family. As I said, it has been 21 years of struggle and no family should have to go through that. It is the job of the justice system and the police service to give service to the whole community, not just to one section. That is what I have been campaigning on for the past 21 years. We were not asking for anything special, just for something that we should have had, just like any other citizen of this country. I thank the Minister for bringing this Statement to the House today, and for all the support that I have had since I have been here, I thank your Lordships.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: That support has been well merited. We have had to deal with some pretty difficult issues in this House but this is one of the most potent occasions that I can remember. I thank the noble Baroness for her dignity on this and on other occasions in dealing with what has been, as the Prime Minister referred to Hillsborough being, a double injustice. The Lawrence family has had to endure a chain of injustice as a result of the failure of the institutions in which we all invest so much trust to bring actual justice to her and her family. I say on behalf of the Home Secretary that I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, had an opportunity to talk to Mrs May earlier today. I am delighted that she was able to do that.

I apologise that we were not able to give the noble Baroness advance notice of this Statement. As she probably is aware, the Statement needed parliamentary privilege to be made public because of its content. I hope that noble Lords will understand that that was

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the right choice to make because we felt that this was a truly important opportunity to put into the public domain matters about which we believe the public should know.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, as the only former senior police officer present in the House this afternoon, I personally thank the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, for her dedication, tenacity and dignity in pursuing these issues when, as she has already said, very few people believed her. We owe a great debt to her for pursuing the case in the way that she has done. I also thank my noble friend the Minister for the compassion that he has shown in both the delivery of his speech and the way that he has responded.

The Ellison review is very worrying. Not only did the Metropolitan Police Service fail to disclose evidence of corruption to the Macpherson inquiry, but both the MPS and the Independent Police Complaints Commission failed to reveal the evidence of corruption that this review has finally discovered. The activities of the special demonstration squad and other undercover officers in infiltrating those supporting the Lawrence family and Duwayne Brooks are also a very serious concern. My concern, on which perhaps the Minister can reassure me, is this: how can a judge-led public inquiry get to the truth when the Macpherson inquiry, also a judge-led public inquiry, failed to do so?

5.30 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, that is a question that of course my noble friend is right to ask. I am confident that with the joint activity of Chief Constable Mick Creedon and Mark Ellison, we now have a way to the truth. The truth may well be difficult to get to, and we know that some of the material that we would have liked to have been available to inform the judge-led inquiry will not be because it has been destroyed or lost. None the less, anyone appearing in front of a public inquiry, following the criminal prosecutions that may well follow this review and Chief Constable Creedon’s Operation Herne activity, will have to give evidence under oath. There can be no hiding place for people who have done wrong in this matter. I have confidence that we will get to the truth. The sadness in this story is that it will have taken such a long time to get there.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): My Lords, I think that anyone who speaks today following the Statement repeated by the Minister will do so with a great sense of humility. It takes nothing away from the laudable actions of the Home Secretary or Mark Ellison to say that this would not have been achieved without the courage and endurance of my noble friend Lady Lawrence and her family over a period of 21 years. It is difficult to imagine the frustration that she must have felt during that period, knowing that she was right and finding it so difficult to tackle the bureaucracies, and indeed the criminal justice system, over that period.

The deputy commissioner of the Met has just said that he was shocked, saddened and troubled by the conclusions that were put out today. So he should be. That description applies to everyone in this country

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who wants to see a police force that is trusted and who recognises that the vast majority of the people in the police force are committed, with integrity, to defending the people of this country. He is right to be shocked, saddened and troubled because this inquiry asked three important sets of questions: about individual corruption in the initial investigation, about the withholding of relevant material and evidence from the Macpherson inquiry, and then wider questions related to that. Those questions were troubling and the answers are even more so. I suspect, even from my brief scanning of the report, that this is not the end but only the beginning of a process of a review, a public inquiry, criminal investigations and then wider aspects. It may well be that with her persistence and endurance, my noble friend has achieved something today not only for her own family but for this country as a whole.

It is natural that most of the report will relate centrally to the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence, but there are two paragraphs that cast the issue a little wider. Perhaps I will ask a question about the case of Daniel Morgan as well. There is another family seeking the truth—in their case regarding a man who was axed through the head in a pub car park in London. There has apparently been continual obfuscation in that case as well.

It has been suggested that the allegedly corrupt policeman in the case of the initial Lawrence inquiry is in some way connected to the Daniel Morgan murder, and it is hoped that the panel looking at that will note this. Will the Minister go a little further and assure us that any information concerning the allegedly corrupt detective which has been discovered during this inquiry will fully and proactively be made available to those investigating the case of Daniel Morgan? We do not want to see another 20 years pass before another apparent miscarriage of justice is remedied.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am grateful to the noble Lord for intervening on this. He speaks from considerable experience of the responsibility that my right honourable friend Theresa May has in looking at this matter. He will know how seriously it has been taken.