Women in the criminal justice system are disproportionately affected by mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency and lack of confidence. As my noble friend Lady Corston’s ground-breaking report of 2007 said:

“The chaotic lifestyles and backgrounds … disproportionate prevalence of learning disabilities and difficulties result in many women in the criminal justice system having very little employment experience or grasp of some very basic life skills”.

So of those women who are imprisoned, many, if not most, need substantial assistance to become job-ready on release. At the same time, the dual stigma of mental health need and offending history creates extra obstacles. The exclusion of prisoners with mental health problems from vocational rehabilitation, often on the basis that they are “not ready” is another barrier in itself, despite all the evidence that work promotes recovery from mental illness and desistence from crime.

For women in prison much greater emphasis on training for employment on release is needed. I welcome the Government’s announcement of a package of reforms for women in prison, including English and maths skills assessments on reception, assessments for special educational needs and the introduction of tailored learning plans to meet individual needs that offer a mix of life skills and formal educational skills. However, more needs to be done.

Greater use should be made of schemes for release on temporary licence to allow women assessed as low-risk and suitable for day release to gain the experience and skills that will aid their resettlement by taking up employment in the community, and to help rebuild links with children and other dependants.

Recent changes to ROTL have made it harder for women to access the scheme by insisting that they must have a job secured beforehand. Finding a job or voluntary work in the community while in prison is challenging, given lack of access to the internet, the high cost of phone calls and the inability to meet potential employers face to face. Also, the proposed

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closure of the only two open prisons for women could result in the loss of local partnerships with employers which have built up over the years. Employment, and the education and training that underpin it, is a vital pathway to reducing reoffending for women. As the Prison Reform Trust has said,

“more concerted action by both government and business would improve employment opportunities for women who have been in trouble”.

It is widely acknowledged that most of the solutions to women’s offending lie outside prison walls. Women’s centres, providing services and supervision to women on community orders, are ideally placed to support them to build the skills, training and confidence they need while maintaining community links. If women have jobs that enable them to find and keep hold of secure housing, look after their children and move away from abusive relationships, they are less likely to return to crime.

The reorganisation of probation services under Transforming Rehabilitation has led to a period of great uncertainty for many centres working with women subject to community orders or on licence from prison. Initially funded by central government and, more recently, by local probation trusts, funding from community rehabilitation companies is confirmed only until this March, when it will depend on commissioning decisions taken in each contract package area. Some CRCs are offering between three and six months’ extension on current contracts, but the uncertainty and short-term nature of such funding risks irrevocable damage to many services and loss of experienced staff. Understandably, there is growing concern that funding for such women’s centres is insecure. What assurances can the Minister give that women’s centres will receive adequate funding to ensure their continuation post March 2015?

Only by supporting vulnerable women to help themselves and their families can we begin to address the cycle of deprivation and reoffending that blights too many young lives.

2.11 pm

Lord Storey (LD): My Lords, I wanted to speak in this debate not because I have especially great expertise on women’s issues, but because I think it is vital that we see men being proactive by standing up and speaking up. It is of concern to me that too few men take part in these important International Women’s Day debates.

The second thing I want to say is that women’s rights and equality issues should not be seen as the preserve of just one political party; it is the work and contribution of Members across this House that is important. Indeed, year after year all the Oral Questions on International Women’s Day have come from just one Bench. How refreshing it is that there has been a change this year. I thank my noble friend Lady Jolly for leading this debate and for her excellent opening comments, and I look forward to my noble friend Lady Garden’s closing remarks. I have learnt so much from listening to the debate, and I just wish that more people could hear the comments that Members have made.

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International Women’s Day provides us with the opportunity to raise awareness, continue discourse and ultimately accelerate action on women’s economic empowerment in the UK and beyond. As the chief executive of UN Women said, we must,

“push for women’s economic empowerment alongside other priorities, because this is essential to ending poverty and advancing gender equality”.

A major priority must be education, and I believe that the universal provision of education will pave the way for women’s long-term economic empowerment by ensuring that every child gets the best possible start in life. If our ultimate objective is gender equality in business, we must focus on the education of our future business leaders. When we have an educated, literate citizenry, we will pave the way for effective and inclusive economic development.

But gender equality should not be seen as just a women’s issue. The World Bank’s research, Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment, found that improved economic opportunities for women led to better overall outcomes for families, societies and countries. Inclusive and sustainable economic development can be achieved through gender-equal educational provisions, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs across the board and long-term business networks for all.

Education has been defined as one of the top 10 priorities by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, and the ratio of female-to-male enrolment in secondary education is often a crucial indicator of gender equality across the world. Let me tell noble Lords of a real success story. Currently, DfID’s programmes in India support a range of human-related activities that have a positive impact on the lives of women and girls, including assistance with government education and health initiatives. For instance, helping girls to stay in secondary school as part of India’s Right to Education Act can push back the average age of marriage, increasing the potential for greater social entrepreneurship and allowing more young women to become beneficiaries of different social ventures. DfID’s investments have addressed, and continue to address, a variety of different issues that left unchallenged can often act to reinforce each other and affect sustainable development in the long term.

In the UK, economic development should reflect British values and be governed by freedom, democracy and inclusivity. Recent attempts by the Government Equalities Office have sought to step up efforts to attract qualified women to public positions, while ensuring that working practices and conditions are consistently family-friendly. So far, we have been able to help many women reach their potential in the workplace and enabled many businesses to get the full economic benefit of women’s skills, including through the work of the Women’s Business Council, Women on Boards and the Think, Act, Report programme. We have also made a concerted effort to ensure that women’s interests are always represented in government by regularly meeting women’s groups and campaigners and listening to women across the country. Furthermore, more than 4,500 grants have been paid out to those establishing new childcare businesses, with a further £2 million extension of the scheme for the rest of this year.

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I am reassured by the progress that we have made so far, but even in the UK many women still lack access to adequate childcare provision, flexible working conditions and balanced career advice. It is encouraging to hear stories of women’s economic empowerment from around the world, and I hope that we can take inspiration from places as far afield as Cambodia and China, in which it has been shown that increasing adult female income by 10% of the average household income increased the years of schooling for girls and boys.

High pupil enrolment and attainment figures are, of course, promising. However, we need to continue to ensure that pupils who are enrolled in our education system can make informed decisions about their future, including the pursuit of STEM subjects from GCSE onwards. At A-level, there are currently almost twice as many boys taking maths as there are girls, and almost five times as many boys take A-level Physics. I find it incredibly worrying that the UK still has the lowest percentage of female engineers in Europe, and even more so that only 4% of engineering apprentices are women.

Some businesses and multinational companies should be commended for their efforts thus far to actively increase the number of women in science, technology and communications, and for their work in enabling young women to develop the necessary skills. Cisco Systems’ Global Education Initiative is an example of good practice that has been able to teach core subject skills to young women around the world in conjunction with the World Bank.

We need to make sure that the 2 million apprenticeships that this Government have created over the past four years are accessible to young women, and that young people from all backgrounds can benefit from the opportunities on offer. Ensuring that we have a diverse range of young apprentices in the UK will mean that we are better placed to compete with our European neighbours in the important fields of science, technology, engineering and maths, in addition to our impressive track record in the arts. We must ensure that the new national careers company effectively addresses the gender disparity in the uptake of STEM subjects and empowers young women to make informed decisions about their futures.

I believe that we have a great opportunity on this International Women’s Day to create real change and discuss the root causes of economic disempowerment. By linking together women’s economic empowerment and the role of education in youth, we can help women directly but also widen the talent pool in the future and with it the potential for market-related innovation. I thank noble Lords for their dedication to this subject, both nationally and internationally, and urge them to consider diversity in the future, primarily as a means of empowering women but also as a strategic business advantage.

Finally, I was interested to hear the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, and her remarks about women in the world of business, yet there are still huge areas of our society where women are absent and little progress has been made. Like the noble Baroness, I do not believe in enforcing targets,

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but I do believe in role models, action programmes and, perhaps most effectively, naming and shaming. Perhaps in her reply my noble friend might consider my suggestion that the Government from time to time publish lists of areas where very few women are represented.

2.20 pm

Baroness Goudie (Lab): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, on arranging this debate today, and I am pleased to be able to speak with many of my colleagues. I declare an interest as a board member of the Vital Voices Global Partnership, which is recognised for supporting emerging women leaders and taking their vision around the world. I am also a founding member of the 30% Club—a group of chairs and CEOs committed to better gender balance at all levels in their organisations through voluntary actions. Business leadership is key. This takes the issue beyond specialised diversity effort into mainstream talent. The 30% Club was launched in 2010 with an aspirational goal of 30% women on FTSE 100 boards by the end of 2015. It has become an international business-led approach with men and women working together.

Will the Minister and the Government condemn the action of the establishment running Yarl’s Wood? We are discussing women’s economic empowerment and how to achieve it. Women and children, who have come to the United Kingdom having fled to seek asylum and refugee status, are being treated abominably. They are treated like criminals and even worse, with no respect. Instead, the Government should be welcoming them and expediting applications so that these women and children can start to lead a normal life. I would like to see this as a priority by the Home Office and, if necessary, the Cabinet should be involved across all government departments.

In 2000, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was the first to specifically address the unique impact of conflict on women and women’s important contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. It marked a watershed moment, when the international community recognised the role of women and gender to peace and security. Following UNSCR 1325, subsequent resolutions further defined the importance of women’s roles in conflict and peace, recognising sexual violence as an issue of international peace and security and reiterating the need for a comprehensive response to sexual and gender-based violence. A further resolution in 2013—UNSCR 2122—aims to strengthen the measures to improve the participation of women in all phases of conflict resolution.

We know that women are key to peace. If women are not at the peace table, peace does not last for very long. A number of peace negotiations have lasted for only five years and then they fail. That is because there are no women at the peace table and no local women. Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Melanne Verveer are global leaders and have established an Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University. William Hague and Angelina Jolie Pitt encouraged and enabled the London School of Economics to establish a Centre for Women, Peace and Security in February of this year, and we very much hope that

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these global institutions will continue. We hope to see a further three around the world by the end of this year.

To ensure that peace agreements stay in place, it is very important that Britain should be a world leader. We already had an international conference last year on women’s security and sexual violence, and this year we had a global conference of faith leaders. It is important that we show the lead in this, not only with funding but in encouraging other countries to partner with us.

2.25 pm

Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, like all noble Lords I welcome this opportunity to debate the issue of women’s economic empowerment. I agree with other noble Lords that much needs to be done to address gender inequalities: from the issue of the gender pay gap to the cost of childcare, which makes it prohibitive for some to seek employment; and from fewer girls taking STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and maths—which would lead to higher paid jobs, to the lack of women on FTSE boards, despite there being enough women of seniority and talent available. I know that much has been done to address this, but we still have some way to go. There are also cultural issues preventing aspiration and discouraging women from achieving their full potential.

Of course, there are differences and degrees of gender inequality between countries. Indeed, between the developing and developed world there are extreme and pronounced differences. In fact, women in the developing world are at a serious disadvantage both in education and the labour market. There are many strands to the subject of the economic empowerment or disempowerment of women, and these issues are both national and international. The international issues are enormous and other noble Lords have spoken passionately about these—they need increased and persistent effort. As time is limited, however, I shall confine my remarks to the area of entrepreneurship within the national sphere.

The Institute for Public Policy Research has indicated that men across Europe are 90% more likely to be self-employed than women and that in every European country the rate of female self-employment lags behind the rate for males. The IPPR has also stated that, while the relatively high rates of women entrepreneurs in emerging and developing countries is due to a high level of necessity, in the developed world women are often motivated by other factors, such as maintaining a balance between work and caring for family. There is no doubt that in the UK significant strides have been made in recent years in addressing many of the issues faced by women, with the Government putting in place very many measures to help women into work and to start up businesses. However, we must explore every aspect of what it will take to create real gender equality and real economic empowerment for women.

First and foremost, we must kindle a sense of confidence in women, to make entrepreneurship an attractive career option. Statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that, in 2014, 1.4 million women were in self-employment in the UK—just under one-third of the total number employed. Although

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this number has increased by 34% it should be noted that the top three occupations for self-employed women were: first, cleaners and domestics; secondly, child minders and related; and, thirdly, hairdressers and barbers. While these activities are important, women have also a role to play in high-worth businesses. For this, we must continue to provide support such as mentoring as well as providing access to education and information and communication technologies.

Very importantly, there must be support in financial literacy along with access to finance. The report of the OECD, Enhancing Womens Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship and Business Leadership in OECD Countries, found that women often have less experience when they start up a business and are also less likely than men to borrow money to finance their business. Although both women and men in OECD countries are likely to hold accounts with formal financial institutions, men are more likely to receive a loan from these institutions. Women also tend to raise a smaller amount of capital when it comes to financing business expansion. According to that report, there is also evidence that women are constrained in accessing equity and venture capital because of their weak representation in key networks.

These are just some of the issues. If the aim is to raise productivity, employment and economic growth nationally, then these concerns have to be addressed. It has been acknowledged that women play a crucial role in driving economic development throughout the world. Expanding our existing business development services to take into account those issues faced by women entrepreneurs would be a useful exercise. Industry-specific business training programmes for women, or other such initiatives, would go a long way towards encouraging more women into business and helping those already there to grow.

If we wish to close the gender gap and to create a diverse and inclusive society where individuals can attain success, then entrepreneurship and leadership for women can play a vital role towards achieving this aim.

2.31 pm

Baroness Howells of St Davids (Lab): My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, for raising this debate during the week when we commemorate International Women’s Day. Sunday marks an international day of celebration and events that respect and appreciate women’s economic, political, and social achievements across the world. International Women’s Day was established in 1909; 105 years later, this year’s theme is “Make It Happen”, which for me is very appropriate. It strikes a chord as, putting it quite bluntly, for many women of colour over the years economic achievements have not happened.

With the indulgence of the House, I will explain further. Multicultural Britain can boast many different individual cultures and subcultures that define the term “woman”, as that term is not homogenous. To truly empower women and “make it happen”, all the integral parts that make up womanhood must show advancement so that progress benefits not only the few, but all women.

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I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Abersoch, and others who are further improving women’s economic empowerment by making the business and social case for increasing the representation of women on British boards. These are boards which oversee the activities of our top companies in the FTSE 100 through to the FTSE 350. Having raised the question in your Lordships’ House, I am delighted to say that talented black businesswomen are now getting the opportunity to share in this special social change.

I should like to share with noble Lords an event which shaped my view on the direction of travel of black women’s economic empowerment from a more pointed perspective. In doing so I am reminded of a quote from the Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, who said that those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it. I also recall that the economist Arthur Lewis encouraged entrepreneurship among women, saying that they would not flourish unless women were empowered and encouraged to be involved in business.

I quote these because of an experience I had. In the late 1970s I attended a conference on how to a start business. It was attended by more than 200 black people. The first speaker was an official from one of the leading banks. He opened his contribution by saying that he did not lend money to black people on principle. I leave noble Lords to imagine the consternation on the faces of those assembled women and men. It was a totally black audience. Being aware that banks are the lifeline for small businesses and enterprise, I had the temerity to stand up and ask what his principles were. He went on to cite that, to him, black people were not trustworthy, nor did they have any track record for establishing a line of credit. This made them a high risk and he was sure that we would agree that he should not be prepared to risk the bank’s money on those from the “coloured community”. There were up to seven principles but I will not bother noble Lords with them.

Enterprise in Britain was already happening among black women. The first generation of those who came found it impossible to find anyone in this country who could do their hair or have make-up to suit them. So they were doing it in their homes. As community relations officers, we thought it would be good to get them on to the high street and into proper businesses. That bank manager was lucky to leave the room alive. Having been part of establishing that conference, I was saying, “No! No! No!” throughout, because we really wanted to convert him. We wanted to instil in women that growth meant loans and here was a banker dishing out not money but a slap in the face.

In my role as patron of the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners, I am confident in sounding a positive note. The second generation of black women is breaking out of the stagnation which the whole community had to endure. Their pain and suffering is becoming heard and is fast disappearing. It is not quick enough for us, but it is happening. We now have women who are determined to make this a level playing field. It has meant challenges and hard work in order to disprove the claims levelled against

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them by that banker. What was sad was that the social burdens were deliberate, and were propagated by the media then, as today.

We are grateful that the Scarman report highlighted the needs of the black community. Today you will find black women involved in all sorts of businesses. I want to name just a few. Joy Nichols is the owner and chief executive of Joy Nichols & Associates. Kanya King is a businesswoman and entrepreneur in the music business. Cynthia Dyell opened a care home which, she always says, was on the advice of Mrs Thatcher. She now has four such homes. She is still having problems with local authorities but she carries on and says that the people she cares for decide to call her “Mother”. Yvonne Thompson is another entrepreneur and one of the founders of Choice FM. She has written a book about women on boards. The majority of people buying the book are white, and she is thriving.

The race relations Acts, effective equal opportunities policy, the formation of the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce and borough councils were all involved in the growth of the second generation into economic development. When we now see a black woman, we do not believe that she would be stopped by the seven principles of that bank manager. The United Kingdom needs all sorts of people to contribute to it. Black women are contributing every day in all areas where the opportunity to do so is offered to them. The banker’s words were for me a seminal moment because I understood right there and then how powerful the negative impact of racism could be. I knew that the whole of the black community was struggling to start up businesses in this country. The first generation served, but the second generation had the advantage of education and was seeking to enter the world of entrepreneurship. If you are powerful and you are prejudiced, it is difficult not to exercise that prejudice, so we have forgiven the banker and hope that he will never say what he said again.

Miss Diane Abbott MP was at the forefront of the economic empowerment of black women in this country. She started an organisation which is still going today called Black Women Mean Business. She also encourages black businesswomen to encourage others. Yvonne Thompson CBE, who I have already mentioned, and her media company, ASAP Communications, are going from strength to strength. I have named these two women, but there are many more. Both of them would attest to the difficulties they faced and the barriers placed before them that were seemingly designed to prevent them and their contemporaries from achieving economic freedom. Diane Abbott’s organisation has provided much-needed support and guidance to black women who dared to want to enter into business. Dr Thompson has gone on to establish the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners, which supports and empowers black businesswomen by creating a dialogue both in the UK and across Europe. Latterly, the Prince’s Trust has also identified the challenges faced by minority groups in business and has attempted to bridge the gap.

In spite of the barriers to economic prosperity, black women in their droves have shown their resilience by finding alternative sources of funding for their

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businesses. They have maximised local, personal money-lending schemes known in the Caribbean as “pardners” and “sou-sous”. The most prominent among the business start-ups are to be found in the hair and beauty sector, as I have mentioned. It is now impossible to walk down a high street without seeing a black hairdressing salon that caters for Europeans as well. Hairdressers are able to ply their trade and thus to empower both themselves and the country they live in. We know that that bank manager would not be able to say what he said today because attitudes have changed—and we have laws to ensure that he does not.

We now know that the gatekeepers of economic opportunity have become more adroit in excluding those who are black, but we will continue to fight. I have a cautious optimism for the future. I recognise that more people in our society understand that the social and economic isolation of one community affects us all. Another note for optimism are the black women who are the leading lights of today. Those coming after them will have role models to follow. I would mention Heather Rabbatts CBE, a black woman who has the distinction of being the youngest ever chief executive of a local authority in the UK. She has risen to become the first woman to be a director on the board of the Football Association. In her slipstream and one to watch for the future is Karen Blackett OBE. She is the CEO of MediaCom, the UK’s largest media buying agency. This year she has become the first businesswoman to top the UK Powerlist. Karen is a product of the environment that Diane Abbott and Yvonne Thompson have helped to create. With Karen and many other young, determined businesswomen like her blooming in our community like redbuds in spring, I am reminded of a quote by Franklin D Roosevelt:

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”.

I wholeheartedly welcome the events that will celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day. However, let us together and as a society “make it happen”. We want to see the economic, social and political empowerment not only of white women, but of women from all communities in the UK today.

2.46 pm

Baroness Kidron (CB): My Lords, I would like to put on the record at the outset my admiration for women and men all over the globe who by their bravery and hard work advance the cause of women and girls, particularly those who risk violence to do so. However, my comments today concern how women’s primary responsibility for bringing up children impacts negatively on their economic empowerment. I hope that noble lords will forgive me if my words start from a personal perspective.

A month ago, when the nominations for the Oscars were announced, there was an outcry that none of the nominees for best director was a woman. In the 87 years of the Academy Awards, out of the 429 nominations for best director, there have only ever been four women, so no surprise there, really. Only in the writer categories do women make a showing, but even there at less than 10%. Women make up less than 1% of sound nominees,

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there has only ever been one female nominee in the effects category, and for cinematography, none at all. And, as has been the case every year for the last decade, media outlets rang and professional associations set up urgent debates to discuss why.

But this year I was approached by a powerful blogger from LA who had written to every female director they were able to find and asked for an “anonymous” response. My response was to say that the authority and centrality implicit in the role of “the director” is something that is trained in to young men and out of young women, Even if they do make the leap and imagine themselves as film directors, and then advance through the bruising ups and downs of the critical perception of creative genius, box office acumen and adamantine self assurance, just at the point that it may pay off in terms of a stable and highly paid career, many—although clearly not all—become mothers. Being an artist at that level requires a selfish devotion to your art; being a primary carer requires selfless devotion to your charges. It is not an insuperable contradiction to brook at any individual moment, but over the length of an entire career, it defeats many.

Female directors rarely want to highlight their gender, and as it turned out I was the only person, across several continents, who responded to the blogger. The email I got back said, “Spot on analysis. It is hard to get people to talk about this even anonymously ... unless I get three other people responding ... I’m not going to run anything”. Nothing ran.

The rarefied world of the Oscar nominee is hardly the cutting edge of gender inequality. However, an Oscar nomination has an almost magical “multiplying effect” on the financial success of a film and the subsequent career of its director, which, in turn, makes it more likely that when we think of a film director, we think of a man.

Of course, this cycle plays out across many professions. Several years ago I was transfixed by a radio interview where a female politician was being pressed to explain why she was not running for party leader. The interviewer implied that she was failing in her duty to party and people. Eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, the politician explained that she had three young children. Her husband was running in the same race, so presumably had the same three young children. Why did the interviewer not ask what cultural and structural changes the politician thought were necessary to enable women with young children to occupy high office? Why cast the woman as failing in her duty to public and party—why not question whether male politicians are routinely failing in their parenting duty? Why did the interviewer remain entirely silent on the fact that Messieurs Blair, Brown, Cameron and Clegg all had young children when they became party leader—as indeed did Ed Miliband, who was the eventual victor in that race?

As a result of taking on the unequal responsibilities of parenthood, women routinely occupy lower-status work than men, in all fields, with the inevitable downgrading of their economic prospects. On “Question Time” last month a Minister joyfully talked about parity of wages between men and women under 40. I was horrified that a Minister would consider parity of

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wages under 40 as a measure of victory for women at all. As others have already said, it is not at the beginning of their journey that women experience the most discrimination and difficulty, but as they become mothers. Data show that the gap gets exponential as careers progress, including that published by the Chartered Management Institute last year, which reported a 35% executive pay gap between the earnings of men and women over 40. Figures from the Office for National Statistics on all UK pay show that in their 20s women earn 1.1% more than men, but by their 50s they earn 18% less. As the ONS report said:

“This is likely to be connected with the fact that many women have children”.

To be clear, it is not because women are in a position to “choose” to be at home, in some sort of apple pie or yummy mummy fashion. Some 70% of women in the UK with dependent children are in the labour market, routinely taking lower paid or lower quality work in order to balance duties of parenting and earning a living. For the same reason, it is women who make up the vast majority of part-time workers. The ONS statistics on the UK labour market from February this year reported 6.14 million UK women and just over 2 million men working part time, with the inevitable blight on career progression and greater risk of poverty in old age.

All parts of the political spectrum express belief in gender equality and fairness, but then fail to account for the overall contribution to society, family and the economy by those who bring up the next generation. In failing to account for that contribution we continue to perpetuate a system in which women, who by fourfold are the primary carers, see the possibility of well rewarded or competitive employment recede as they struggle with the dual demands of work and parenthood.

I do not diminish in any way a man or woman who wishes and is able to choose to do full-time childcare. On the contrary, my point is that there is an unsustainable contradiction between our collective duty of care to the next generation, the burden on women as they disproportionately fulfil that duty and our desire for gender equality in public and economic life. Nor is this only a first-world issue. Four years ago I sat at the feet of an elderly woman in Karnataka in south India. She was desperately trying to persuade her 12 year-old granddaughter into sex work. Furious at the young girl’s resistance, she demanded of me, “What shall I do? I am old, my daughter is dead, my brother is disabled, there is rain coming in. How will we feed the children if she does not go to do this work?” How indeed? I had no answer.

The grandmother was not a bad person. The economic options available to her family group were limited to her granddaughter doing sex work. In her world view, she had a responsibility for her daughter’s children and was fulfilling that duty by sacrificing one child who, when she was gone, would be able to support the rest. The girl in question received help, at least in the short and medium term; but this scenario is repeated throughout the world. Estimates suggest that of 40 million sex workers globally, 80% are female. Three-quarters of them are aged 13 to 25 and many are pushed into sex work to support their families.

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On every stratum, on every continent and in every context, the outcomes for women are distorted by the unequal responsibility for parenting. So unless and until we see the raising of children as a collective endeavour across gender, family, communities and nations, we will never achieve economic empowerment for women in any context. We will never be able to protect girls and women from sexual exploitation in communities where women do not have access to other forms of paid work. Unless and until we recognise that the unequal responsibility for children is a direct obstacle to women’s advancement and proactively take steps to redress the balance, not only in fragmented corporate and third sector initiatives but as a priority from the centre of government and all parts of civil society, we will never have enough female voices in the system to make the structural and cultural changes necessary to deliver the economic empowerment for women that is the subject of today’s debate.

2.57 pm

Baroness Rebuck (Lab): My Lords, as we approach the 104th International Women’s Day this weekend, I, like so many other speakers, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, for introducing this debate, which gives us an opportunity to reflect on how far women have progressed but also on how much more there is to achieve. There have been important strides towards greater equality and many of the opportunities that are taken for granted by young women today would scarcely have seemed possible for their grandmothers growing up in the last century. However, enormous issues of unfairness and inequality, most eloquently highlighted by my noble friend Lady Gould and others, are still there to be addressed, both here and around the world.

At the heart of my comments today is the belief that through achieving greater financial autonomy women are empowered. Education, improved literacy, decent work and an independent income give women the freedom to make choices, support their families and realise their potential. But women also need the role models, the aspiration and the confidence to take up these opportunities. This is crucial to the health of our society. One of the most effective ways to tackle childhood poverty is to support women into well paid work and, for a vibrant, innovative and successful economy, we need as many women in leadership roles as there are men. This is not opinion but fact, based on several close studies of the performance of mixed-gender teams.

Many speakers today have referred to the excellent work of my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and we can certainly celebrate the fact that in 2014 women made up 23% of board non-execs in the FTSE 100—close, if you like, to the 25% target set for this year. However, if you look at the FTSE 250, where women account for only 17.7% of board directorships, there is still work to be done. There are still 24 all-male boards and although that number is down from the 131 all-male boards that existed in 2011, we should certainly think about extending our targets to this sector. But the real problem we face is in the executive pipeline for women. Yes, more women than ever work—over 14 million in total—but only a small percentage

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are running their own businesses. Why? Because as the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, has already said, women are half as likely as men to start their own firm, with the majority saying they do not feel they have the right skills or adequate access to capital.

In the workforce, three-quarters of chief executives and 69% of full-time directors are men. Those rates have not budged since 2003. Some 75% of female employees say that they face a glass ceiling, a career bottleneck and little opportunity for advancement. A recent US study showed that women entered their business careers with the wind in their sails, expecting to achieve the same career advancement as men, but over time lost confidence in their ability to contest managerial positions and simply stopped trying. This may be one reason why a particular article caught my eye in the New York Times. Did your Lordships know that there are more men called John than women running America’s largest companies? I kid you not.

Back in the UK, women on average earn 20% less than men. They bear the main burden of child-rearing and caring for elderly parents. But while, as we have heard, the pay gap has almost disappeared for young women working full-time, there is a much bigger pay gap for women in their 40s and older. This suggests that some employers are inflicting a “motherhood penalty”, as Claire Enders describes it in her Women at Work report. We have heard about this from the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, who will no doubt agree with me. Put bluntly, it appears that professional women of a certain age are simply sidelined. Next Wednesday we will have a opportunity to try to help close the gender pay gap by supporting an amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to ask larger businesses to publish differences between men’s and women’s pay.

There is also another factor at play for women—I call it an aspirational gap—with too few successful role models to learn and gain confidence from. This is also true globally, where more than 126 million women entrepreneurs were running businesses in 67 economies in 2012. While many of those businesses were small and started out of necessity, in every single economy women reported worse perceptions of their own abilities than men and a greater fear of failure, which means that support networks and mentoring are as important globally as they are in the UK, and on a par with access to seed funding.

I was fortunate to pursue my career in book publishing, an industry that pioneered promoting women to top positions. My generation felt that they did break through a glass ceiling, often propelled by the memory of growing up with their mothers’ thwarted ambitions. But recently publishing has been wondering why all the senior women who have retired or left the industry have been replaced by men. With women very well represented on boards and at divisional level, why are they no longer the CEOs?

Corporations have to consider what structural and cultural barriers are still preventing women from reaching the top and what training and help need to be put in place—beyond targets—to achieve a fair and dynamic spread of talents. When I became CEO in 1991, it was common for women to feign illness when a family matter interrupted work. But what better excuse than

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a child’s event at school? A meeting can be rescheduled, a childhood cannot. Businesses simply have to become more flexible, both practically and in terms of attitude, in order to benefit both parents. I have mentored several young women in the media. They were all stunningly gifted and ambitious but after the first 20 minutes of discussing their professional situation, the conversation always turned to work-life balance and how on earth they would cope. So it is right that we reflect on the availability of good childcare, company culture and lack of flexibility.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, I am influenced by Sheryl Sandberg, whose book Lean In I published in the UK exactly two years ago. Sheryl identifies aspiration and confidence as pivotal qualities for women and the extent to which sometimes women’s awareness of the career pitfalls ahead leads them unconsciously to limit their ambition. When I speak to young women in schools, confidence comes up time and again. These students are intelligent and feisty but the world of executive achievement is often as distant from their reality as a show they might watch on television. One initiative that has been beneficial to young women was pioneered at the Women of the World festival at the South Bank, which takes place again this weekend. We have already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, how important this event is and how grateful we are that BBC “Woman’s Hour” is now recording it. The initiative is called speed mentoring, where young women discuss problems with their mentors in 10-minute intervals, to really astonishing success.

We also have to recognise that while some women are struggling to climb up the ladder, others are fighting to get on it at all. It is a particular problem for low-skilled women, where lack of confidence and education relegates them to low-paid work. The rising cost of childcare also prohibits them from working, even when work is available. For example, the cost of nursery places has gone up a staggering 30% since 2010. One important reason for low aspirations and lack of confidence is poor literacy. A woman who can read confidently can find a better job, keep records and complete a training course. She can help her children with their homework and learn how to protect her health. Whether in the UK or internationally, there is precious little opportunity to escape poverty without the ability to comprehend the written word.

As we heard earlier from the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, of the 781 million adults globally who cannot read, two-thirds are women. But an educated girl will contribute 90% of her income to her family, compared to 40% from men, and will be more likely to insist on her own daughter’s education. The charity Plan points out that one extra year of girls’ education boosts wages by 20% and, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, reduces infant mortality by the same amount. Yet global education on its own will not solve all women’s economic challenges. A UN report showed that unemployment rates among university-educated women in Turkey were three times higher than among similarly educated men; in Saudi Arabia, they were eight times higher. Education and literacy are crucial for women but they cannot compensate alone for discriminatory attitudes.

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As we look forward to celebrating International Women’s Day, let us remember how much more there is to do in terms of both legislation and attitude. If we do, women will be a transformative force in the world. I will leave your Lordships with the words of 15 year- old Priya, speaking to the charity Plan, which powerfully express women’s potential. She says:

“Because I am a girl, every man in the corporate world puts a glass ceiling over my head. But because I am a girl, I have the power to shatter it”.

3.09 pm

Baroness Perry of Southwark (Con): My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Baroness Jolly for introducing the debate so well and giving us the opportunity to hear some quite astonishing speeches.

I start by congratulating the five brave men who have spoken in the debate. What a pleasure it was to hear them. But sitting here, I have also been reflecting on what an astonishing collection of women we have heard from in the House today. These hugely high-achieving women have given us absolutely remarkable accounts of their thoughts and their lives. As I was listening to them, one thought suddenly came to me: let us suppose that instead of those of us who are here on these Benches, each one of us was replaced by our mother. How many of our mothers would have been able to have the opportunities to achieve the things that we have achieved? Yet it was their strength and their teaching that made us who we are.

I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak in this debate. It will surprise no one that I would like to talk about the role of education in women’s empowerment. It is on the quality and reach of its education that the prosperity of every nation depends. I am very proud to be the person who ran one of the first two access courses for women into higher education nearly 50 years ago back in the 1960s. We have come a long way, have we not, from those days? Now, it is taken for granted that women attend university in equal numbers to men and in some cases more so. In those days, it was a very small proportion, as the noble Baroness has already said: 6%, I think it was, back then.

There is much to celebrate in what is happening today. We have come a long way and a great deal has been accomplished in recent years. I would like to talk about some of that good news in a moment, but I pause for a moment to pay tribute to the many splendid women who have fought the good fight for women and girls to be properly educated in times past and on whose shoulders we now stand. Without their courage and determination, we would not have seen the huge contribution that women today bring to the economy, about which we have heard much today. First, I think of London in 1848, when the famous pair, Miss Beale and Miss Buss—names to conjure with—started the Queen’s College school for girls.

In higher education, my own British hero is Emily Davies, the doughty woman who fought the 19th-century prejudice and chauvinism of Cambridge University to found Girton College, my happy home as an undergraduate many years ago. Emily believed that the equality she sought could be achieved only if no

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concessions were made on the grounds of gender. The girls who came to her fledgling college were to be admitted on the same criteria as the men and to take the same examinations and within the same timescale. Time and again, she was offered compromise to the demanding standards which men at the university had to meet. Time and again, she said no: no lower entry requirements, no longer timescale to reach final, no watered-down easier examinations. I am on Emily Davies’s side. I strongly believe that offering concessions to women because they are women, whether through quotas, targets or distorted shortlists, is not equality, and it perpetuates the myth that women are second class and can achieve only if they are given special treatment.

Around the world, as we have been hearing today, the struggle for women’s education is still being fought. We have been humbled by the courage of Malala in Afghanistan, seeking the benefit of equal access to education for girls at huge personal cost, and inspired by the work of women like Sheikha Mozah and Sheikha Sheikha bint Saif, who have pioneered good education for the girls and women of the Middle East.

So where do we stand in Britain today, and what have the current coalition’s policies brought about for girls and women in education? There is good news to report. If women are to take their full part in the economy of the future, it is essential that more of them achieve in the hard subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and other noble Lords have mentioned the importance of these subjects. I am therefore particularly pleased to see the rise in the number of girls in the STEM subjects. Since the Government introduced the EBacc, the number of girls taking science and maths at A-level has increased by no less that 12%, and the number taking maths and the separate sciences of physics and chemistry has steadily increased year on year since 2010.

This good news is part of the hugely successful increase in the overall number of pupils taking maths and science subjects at A-level: an increase of 13% in maths, 21% in further maths, 16% in physics, 17% in biology, 6% in chemistry. More girls than ever are taking A-level chemistry and physics, while at GCSE the number of girls taking chemistry, for example, has almost doubled since 2009 from over 37,000 to over 63,000. That is indeed good news. We have much reason to thank the former Secretary of State Michael Gove for his insistence on a broad, balanced and rigorous curriculum, which has brought about this much needed change. The young women who have achieved in this new range of tough subjects will be well equipped to take their part in a world economy that depends so much on technology and its supporting sciences.

But it is not only in academic achievements that the Government have succeeded in bringing girls into success, for themselves and for the national economy. Our economy will depend just as much on those qualified through apprenticeships as on those who go on to university. The little-recognised success of this Government in this field is tremendous. Since 2009-10, the number of female apprenticeships has increased by a magnificent 70%. Within those numbers, those

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starting apprenticeships in engineering and manufacturing has increased threefold. Here, my glass is half full. I rather think that my noble friend Lord Storey’s glass was half empty on these facts, but I rejoice in the good news that there is here. Indeed, it is particularly rewarding to note that in 2013-14, almost 53% of young people starting apprenticeships were female. I cannot adequately express the pleasure that I feel at this news. I feel immensely proud of the Government’s record in bringing real change in the ambitions and prospects of young women through apprenticeship training.

In the academic higher education route, the story is also encouraging. The number of UK women students entering universities here increased from more than 188,000 in 2010 to more than 197,000 in 2014, which is an increase of about 9,000. Adding the numbers from the rest of the EU and overseas, the number of women students entering British universities has increased by almost 20,000 since 2010. That is in spite of dire predictions that the increase in fees would drive down the number of women willing to pursue a university education.

It is also encouraging to look at the recent report on academic staff in universities by Amy Norton, senior HE policy adviser in the Higher Education Funding Council. Her report shows that women academics now make up almost 47% of full-time teaching and research staff. This has been increasing steadily in recent years, and has gone up to around 4,000 just in the last three years. At senior level, especially vice-chancellor level, however, the men still dominate. This is of particular sadness to me, as I was—I do not know whether I would say proud—pleased to be the first woman appointed executive vice-chancellor in the UK. I had hoped that after me the floodgates would open and there would be many more. It has not happened that way.

When we look at the place of women in the state school teaching force, however, we see that the picture is more mixed. At primary level, 81% of all primary teachers are female, and many carry leadership roles below the head. Of primary heads, 71% are female. At secondary level, the picture is much more stark. While 62% of all secondary teachers are female, only 32% of secondary heads are women. Women are still finding it difficult to scale the steep-sided pyramid. Perhaps the women of the future will right the imbalance that leaves so many talented and professionally skilled women who could contribute so much to the quality of our schools lacking the recognition that they should achieve.

In conclusion, I celebrate what this Government’s policies have achieved for girls and women in enabling and empowering them to take a full part in the economic future of this country. With more women skilled and fully equipped to play an even bigger role, I believe that the world of the future will be a better place.

3.19 pm

Baroness Crawley (Lab): My Lords, it is always a joy and a privilege to take part in this annual Women’s Day debate. It always goes off in marvellous and unpredictable directions. A by-product of today’s wonderful debate is a strong call for more memorial

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statues to women, including Sylvia Pankhurst. I underline my noble friend Lady Dean’s strong call for more recognition for the SOE women of the Second World War. I am delighted to report back to the House that after our debate on the SOE women some years ago, we managed to raise a statue to those women in Tempsford, near the airfield that they flew out of in their highly dangerous missions. Much thanks goes to Tazi Hussain, Tempsford Parish Council and His Royal Highness Prince Charles, who unveiled it last year.

Despite much progress outlined very effectively by the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, women’s equality in the world today is as stable as Madonna’s footwear at the O2 Arena last week. It is really not that gender equality is so much unfinished business; it is that the business has barely started to serve its worldwide customers. As my noble friend Lady Gould said, in December 2014, the highly respected World Economic Forum released its Global Gender Gap Report, showing that the UK had slipped from 18th to 26th in the world for gender equality. Perhaps the Minister, when she replies to the debate, couldshare with us what she thinks about these worrying conclusions.

Yes, of course there is the good news. As the World Bank review recently stated, women’s participation in the labour market globally has, since 1980, increased sharply over time, at each level of income, showing that more women are now engaged in economic activity outside the home than ever before. Indeed, here in the UK, in the last quarter of 2014, 68% of women aged 16 to 64 were in employment. As the ONS put it, that number was,

“the highest since comparable records began in 1971”.

However, much of this, according to the House of Lords Library, reflects the ongoing changes to the state pension age for women, resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

There is also the bad news. Employment gaps globally between men and women continue to persist well into the 21st century, as the ILO has emphasised in its recent data on the subject. It stated that:

“Women continue to suffer from lower rates of employment, are less likely to participate in the labour force and face higher risks of vulnerable employment”.

In the UK, too, as well as large gaps in access to employment between men and women—according to the European Commission—there are also data from Unite the union showing that the gender pay gap between men and women in their 20s has doubled in the past three years and is on the rise between men and women in their 30s. This is becoming a youth problem.

On average, women are still earning just 81p for every male pound, despite the 46 years that have passed since the T&G women at Ford in Dagenham first went out on strike for equal pay and the 30 years that have passed since they finally achieved it. If we look at part-time working, taken up by 42% of all working women in the UK, we see that it is an area where women earn more than one-third less than their full-time equivalents. Does the Minister think that it is time that large companies were required by law to publish the average hourly pay of men and women in their workforce to expose this continued pay gap? Many of us in this House certainly do.

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Our colleagues on the coalition Benches might say to me, “Why so gloomy? Look, for instance at the number of women starting their own businesses in this country”. Indeed, we have heard powerful testimony from my noble friend Lady Howells about the challenges for black women going into business on their own. Yes, the good news is that, in 2014, 1.4 million women were self-employed in the UK. Let us rejoice at that. In the past five years, the number of self-employed women has increased by 34%. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, has told us, the top three sectors for women going into self-employment are those golden oldies that we all know, and that do not have very much gold at the end of the rainbow: cleaning, childminding and hairdressing. These are, of course, important and necessary businesses, but businesses that have not traditionally made a big impression on the pay gap. What more can the Minister tell us about the Government’s plans to assist women both financially and in terms of training to expand opportunities for those women wishing to go into self-employment in this country?

Across the world, of course, the picture of women’s participation in entrepreneurship varies markedly. According to the 2012 figures by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the numbers range from 1% of women in Pakistan to more than 40% of women in Zambia who are engaged in entrepreneurship activity. Can the Minister tell the House what priority DfID gives to the encouragement of women into self-employment, globally?

The International Women’s Day theme this year is, as has been said, “Make It Happen”. For us, that must mean making it happen for the most vulnerable women in society. In the UK, according to the Resolution Foundation, one in four women are now earning less than the living wage; many of those are in the caring professions. Why has it not been possible for the Government to match Labour’s proposal to support families on low pay by raising the minimum wage to £8, which would not only give 3.9 million low-paid women a pay rise but make their place in the labour market far more stable? As a member of the rural task force that feeds into the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia, I often engage with carers and managers. While the proposed introduction of the care certificate for newly appointed healthcare assistants and social care workers is to be welcomed, the issue of low pay in this caring sector, as has been pointed out by several noble Lords this afternoon, cannot be left to one side. Such staff in this sector provide some of the most personal and fundamental support for people with dementia—people who deserve the best possible care.

In conclusion, if we are to continue working towards women’s economic empowerment, both at home and abroad, the last thing this country needs is to come out of the European Union. Farage is a feminist issue. The EU is not only the UK’s largest economic market, but also the body that helped established standards for working men and women on their rights at work. Having worked, many years ago, with colleagues to bring about the 1992 maternity leave directive from Europe, I would not want to see women in the UK lose out on future rights at work through withdrawal from the European Union.

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I hope Kathy Lette will forgive me if I steal one of her jokes to make a point. She said that no wife ever shot her husband while he was vacuuming the living room carpet. Be patient with me on this one, but because of our membership of the EU today we can say—perhaps less pithily—that no wife ever shot her husband while he was on paid paternity leave. In other words of course, progress has been made both nationally and internationally. We all recognise that in this House today. However, the work must be relentlessly pursued nationally and internationally.

3.30 pm

Lord Watson of Richmond (LD): My Lords, I suppose, on the arithmetic of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, I am the seventh of the brave men to have participated in this debate, and—looking at the speakers list—the last. It has been a very good debate, as indeed was the debate last year. If I may say so, I particularly enjoyed the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield. It made many important points. I declare an interest as the high steward of Cambridge University. Although some of the noble Baroness’s remarks related specifically to Oxford, they had resonance with me and the Cambridge experience. Incidentally, she made reference to the L’Oreal scholarships. I heard only this afternoon that the scholarships this year include a presentation to Dame Carol Robinson, professor of chemistry at Oxford University. She came out top of the poll on a Europe-wide judgment, not just in terms of the UK. That is excellent.

In 2003, a long time ago, there was the World Bank report on gender equality. I should just like to read its conclusion:

“Gender inequality, which remains pervasive worldwide, tends to lower the productivity of labor and the efficiency of labor allocation in households and the economy, intensifying the unequal distribution of resources. It also contributes to the non-monetary aspects of poverty—lack of security, opportunity and empowerment —that lower the quality of life for both men and women. While women and girls bear the largest and most direct costs of these inequalities, the costs cut broadly across society, ultimately hindering development and poverty reduction”.

Well, here we are in 2015, being invited in this good debate to,

“take note of women’s economic empowerment and the progress in achieving it that has been made in the United Kingdom and internationally”.

We have heard a number of excellent examples of real progress. However, I want to strike a slightly different note. Progress has been made but, depending on how we measure it, there are still many very alarming signs.

In February, the Sunday Times covered an OECD report which highlighted one critical area for the United Kingdom and its comparison internationally. It makes gloomy reading. When it comes to the performance of girls in the UK in the sciences,

“we have one of the biggest gender gaps in the world”.

The OECD report identified that of the 67 countries measured by the internationally recognised PISA tests, the UK was in the bottom five, just above Colombia and equal with Costa Rica. PISA focused on the 13% difference in science between boys and girls in the UK, compared with an average 1% difference across the 67 countries. That raises the question, and other people have raised it, whether girls are inherently less competent

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in maths and science. That is a preposterous idea according to the OECD. Its report is adamant that there can be and is,

“no biological reason for girls to do badly”,

in science. Professor Brian Cox, whom we see on television frequently, was also reported by the Sunday Times as saying that girls are for the United Kingdom, science and the economy,

“a great reservoir of untapped talent”—

but why untapped?

The article quotes a lady who read engineering at Cambridge 35 years ago, when she was indeed one of the very few women reading engineering there. She apparently said in this report that she thought not much had changed. I am afraid that I must disagree with that. Certainly, engineering at Cambridge is an extraordinary story. It is now the largest department in the whole university. As many people know, it is led by Dame Ann Dowling, who is an outstanding engineer and very successful businesswoman. The numbers registering for engineering in Cambridge are quite decisive. The numbers of women now reading mechanical engineering have risen by 18% in the recent period and in electrical engineering by 27%. In both cases, these percentage increases are much greater than those recorded by men.

The House of Lords committee that recently reported on the UK’s digital future clarified the issues involved a lot further. That report is also alarming. The committee found that increasing the number of women working in information technology could generate an extra £2.6 billion each year—good for the UK, good for growth—but the facts are that less than 30% of this country’s IT workforce is female. Women make up only 6% of the engineering workforce, despite what I said about Cambridge, and only 15.5% of the STEM workforce. Then, there is an extraordinary statistic. Of the 4,000 students taking computer science at A-level, fewer than 100 are girls. Why is that?

The key conclusion seems to be that girls are disheartened because they see STEM occupations as male dominated—which of course they are. Another finding is that some feel that the subjects are boring compared with social studies, arts studies, history of art studies, education and design. If you read Country Life—in many ways a most excellent magazine—you will see that it features a full-page photograph each week of eligible young ladies soon to be married. They all have daunting names. However, if you read the small print under the glamorous photographs, it is striking that, overwhelmingly, those depicted above are described as having or studying for degrees in subjects such as art history, social studies or other soft subjects. I think Country Life has the wrong role models, though I was glad to see that in the current edition the lady concerned is apparently reading biology. That is something. Not only is Britain, and business in Britain, wasting a huge talent pool; so many individuals are denying themselves opportunities, intellectual fulfilment and, of course, superior financial rewards.

There is one further dimension, well expressed in this House of Lords digital report. If IT is our second industrial revolution, sadly, it will not replicate Britain’s commanding lead in the first. As one witness expressed it to the committee:

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“The kind of innovation we are getting relies on the whole on young men with narrow engineering degrees thinking about the future … If we want a creative industry, we need a diverse workforce”.

Creativity, as we all know, is the key to a competitive future. Let us also recognise, while congratulating ourselves on some progress that has been made, that the greater involvement of women in the STEM industries is crucial to this country’s competitive survival and success.

3.40 pm

Baroness Turner of Camden (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, for introducing this debate—and for the manner in which she did so. Today, it is appropriate to celebrate what has been achieved by previous generations of women, their courage and their persistence. Of course, much remains to be done and we have been reminded of that in the marvellous debate that we have had this afternoon.

One hundred years ago, women did not have the vote. It took campaigns and much suffering, including terms in prison, before that was eventually achieved. It pains me when I hear some young women say that they will not vote and to hear them oppose any form of political involvement. We should remind people that equal pay was achieved in law in this country by women’s organisations—and after the wonderful women employed by the Ford Motor Company came out on strike for it and eventually achieved it in law; although, of course, we have heard today that far too many women are still working in low-paid employment. We should be proud of the fact we live in a welfare society. Child benefit, maternity leave and other provisions have all been achieved as a result of campaigns mostly organised by women and their unions.

In this context, I recall a Member of this House who sadly died recently and was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, in her introduction: Baroness Platt of Writtle, who was the chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission at a time when I was a member. She was herself an engineer at a time when it was not thought a suitable occupation for women. She campaigned for what was known as the WISE campaign—Women into Science and Engineering—by the Equal Opportunities Commission. We had some success. We went around, talking to schools and to parents to try to persuade them that training in science and engineering was a suitable career for women. I must admit that, following the campaign that was introduced, women have emerged in science and in engineering in a way that would not have been possible without our campaign. A great deal was owed to the leadership we had from the Baroness Platt of Writtle.

There is another development that bothers me greatly and I feel I should refer to it: the recent disappearance of young girls—aged 15 and 16—to join the Islamists in Syria. The newspapers say that around 60 young women have made a similar trip. Do they realise what they are doing? The ideology that they are joining treats women not as individuals at all and as not entitled to any kind of human rights. The extremist culture involves FGM—female genital mutilation. Although we have made it against the law in this country, there still have not been any successful

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prosecutions. To oppose this extremist ideology is not to be in any way anti-Muslim. I know many Muslim women who are opposed to these inequalities and to this terrible kind of ideology. I am referring to an international committee which many Members of your Lordships’ House have supported from time to time. The committee concerned is mostly made up of refugees, mostly from Iran, and is led by a woman, Maryam Rajavi, who is based in France. The campaign is for equality. Again, you have to admire the women who, in a culture that is certainly not pro-women, are campaigning and continue to campaign for equality. I and others have supported them and continue to do so. It is right that on a day such as this we should say that these are the people we should support—the people who are in difficult circumstances but nevertheless struggle and campaign for equality.

Again, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, for introducing this debate and all the women who have participated. We can all very well support what they have said to us. We say there should be more attention paid to women who need support. We have to press ahead with our campaign in the way that we have done —and we will continue to do so.

3.45 pm

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend Lady Turner for standing in her place. As a Member of the House of Lords on 8 March 1999 and as the first woman, I believe, to call, very unfashionably, for a debate on International Women’s Day, I feel deep pride at taking part in this now well established honourable practice of celebrating women’s advancement to mark International Women’s Day.

I am speaking in the gap to make two points. First, if the definition of economic empowerment is the ability to make decisions and make things happen, then, despite much of the progress rightly noted by noble Lords, we have giant leaps yet to take. As some of the most powerful and respected women leaders present in your Lordships’ House will know, economic emancipation and opportunity remain far out of reach for the majority of Asian women lying at the wrong end of the statistics regarding employment, education and political participation. Too many minority women lack opportunities for mainstream lives and economic empowerment. I am truly impatient about the pace of change. How do the Government intend to bridge the gap between women and women of colour, as referred to by my noble friend Lady Howells, who after all are also citizens?

My second point is about violence against women. In many regions in the past 50 years, women’s status has improved markedly, but violence against women and girls remains a global phenomenon that historically has been, and indeed still is, hidden, ignored and accepted in many parts of the world. Child sexual abuse has remained a silent shame. Rape is often a matter of stigma for the victim rather than the perpetrator. Violence in the home is still considered domestic, despite being a crime. The full extent of the abuse of children within our own institutions and across our communities is slowly unfolding, while multiple, differing forms of violence around the world have become ever more difficult to counteract.

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No magic wand will eliminate violence against women and girls, but evidence tells us that changes in attitudes and behaviours are possible, and can be achieved within less than a generation if we are certain in our determination to root it out. It requires many responses, but one is to provide adequate funding, including for refuges in the UK and globally, through our inter- national development funds, particularly to encourage Governments to support women raped in conflicts and wars, as the Bangladeshi Government are doing.

Violence against women and girls is not just another women’s issue; it is a public health and development matter of concern to all. Its elimination should be part of the post-2015 sustainable development goals, just as the elimination of apartheid was an important goal of the 1970s and 1980s for the world community.

I add my tribute to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, to the work of Grameen and its impact on women’s economic empowerment. I also draw the attention of the House to the remarkable work of Sir Fazle Abed and BRAC—the largest NGO in the world, operating from Bangladesh in 69 countries—and its 43-year programme of economic empowerment of women in Bangladesh. It is an amazing example to the world and offers an effective model for the empowerment of women entrepreneurs.

3.50 pm

Baroness King of Bow (Lab): The message today, on International Women’s Day 2015, is on “Empowering women”. I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, on securing this important debate. Empowering women means giving them the practical tools to escape poverty and prejudice. Around the world, including here in Britain, a baby girl’s life chances are disadvantaged in comparison to her brother’s at almost every turn, and once she becomes a woman the disadvantage becomes entrenched.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, opened the debate by giving examples of how investing in women yields radically better results than investing in men. The noble Baroness, Lady Gould, gave the example of how spending £1 on vulnerable women here in the UK saves £3.57 later on. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, quoted Kofi Annan on this point, who has said that there was no more effective tool in development than investment in women. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby quoted Goldman Sachs to show scientifically that investing in women benefits society economically. Indeed, the many noble Lords who spoke powerfully about the international development aspect of this debate, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Bottomley and Lady Hussein-Ece, and my noble friends Lady Armstrong and Lord Boateng, all said that we must invest in women. It is fantastic that there is no disagreement; there is complete cross-party consensus that we must do that. From the government Minister to former Cabinet Ministers on both sides of this House to every Back-Bencher, everyone is agreed on the clear, indisputable fact that investing in women boosts the economy and benefits society.

I applaud those international development programmes funded by this Government, some of which the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, outlined, that invest in women. My question is: why do the Government

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disproportionately advantage women in their overseas programmes yet disproportionately disadvantage women in their domestic programmes? There is an avalanche of data showing that the coalition Government are doing domestically exactly what they decry internationally. Instead of following the common-sense strategy of putting money into women’s pockets, which everyone here, including government Ministers, has supported, the Government have systematically taken money out of women’s pockets. Independent research from the House of Commons Library shows that, over the course of this Parliament, a staggering 85% of cash raised from tax and benefits changes has come straight from women’s pockets, a figure that was quoted by the right reverend Prelate. Eighty-five per cent is a truly staggering figure. That is not all: according to the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, the group hardest hit by the coalition Government’s choices are families with children.

Sadly, the Government’s choices are not delivering women’s economic empowerment; quite the opposite, they are not benefiting women and children. The Government’s own figures show that, for example, in terms of some of its reform policies and benefits, two-thirds of those hit by the bedroom tax are women. It is easy to go on. The majority of those on zero-hours contracts, which the Government refuse to ban, are women. The majority of those earning the minimum wage are women. While Labour will increase that minimum wage to £8 per hour, the Government will not. The Government will not listen to their own advice on increasing women’s incomes, and the Government package this ongoing wealth transfer away from women as benefits reform, deregulation, cutting red tape, liberalising the labour market or value for money. The point is that either the Government do not undertake gender impact assessments or they ignore them.

So here are five key changes the Government could make immediately that would transform women’s lives. First, close the gender gap, increase the minimum wage to £8 per hour and ban exploitative zero-hours contracts. Secondly, improve maternity and paternity provision and provide affordable childcare, because, as Ministers will be aware, under this Government childcare costs have increased 30%. Thirdly, do far more to protect women from violence, most often sexual violence. Again, the facts are shocking: despite a rise in reported rapes, prosecutions for rape are down 14%. Fourthly, give women the power to challenge discrimination. Face facts: since the Government introduced tribunal fees—and this is one of the saddest statistics of all—claims for sex discrimination have fallen by 91%. It is not possible to put a price on justice and not realise that that price will be paid, and here it is clearly being paid by women. Fifthly, empower the next generation: stop channelling girls into low-paid work. So much of this is bound up with cultural barriers, as illustrated by the noble Baronesses, Lady Greenfield, Lady Brady, Lady Rebuck, Lady Perry, Lady Kidron, Lady Mobarik and Lady Crawley, among others. I am sorry I cannot mention every single Peer in this debate—although I am doing my best. Also, my noble friends Lady Howells and Lady Uddin raised the point of the obstacles facing BAME women.

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What everyone is saying is “Give girls and women a level playing field”, and this theme was taken up by IMF managing director Christine Lagarde. The IMF is not known for its bleeding-heart liberalism. Christine Lagarde says that nations should remove laws that prevent women from working in order to increase the female labour supply and boost economies. She says:

“In too many countries, too many legal restrictions conspire against women to be economically active. In a world in search of growth”—

and that is our holy grail, as we all want growth—

“women will help find it, if they face a level playing field instead of an insidious conspiracy”.

Here in the UK we do not have an insidious conspiracy; we have insidious complacency. This brings me to our very own gender pay gap. I will focus the majority of my remarks on this subject, not because it is the single most important subject, but it is the single most important issue we are debating today that will be up for a vote in this House next week. I hope your Lordships will understand why I focus my remarks in this area.

I want to highlight the campaign begun by Harriet Harman and Gloria De Piero and taken up magnificently by the women’s magazine Grazia on pay transparency and closing the pay gap. Since Grazia launched this campaign, it has heard from countless women who are paid less simply because of their gender. One told how she managed to create a department at an ad agency. Looking at the salary information, she was staggered to see an obvious wage differential between the male and the female employees. Another woman described her horror at discovering that the man who was employed to take over on her maternity leave was paid more than her. When she confronted her boss about this, she was told that the man—who, incidentally, was less qualified than her—was paid more because he had to support his family.

Ellie, 36 years old, a former investment banker, discovered she was getting paid £5,000 less than a male colleague only when he let this slip himself. Ellie says:

“We were identical in performance, age, level, experience, everything. Even he supposed we were paid the same ... I confronted my boss, but he warned me that pay was confidential and couldn’t be discussed. I’d already been given a higher offer by a rival bank, so I offered my resignation there and then”.

Asha, 55, ex-director of an investment bank, long suspected her pay was not keeping up with that of her male colleagues, but she could not get her bosses to admit the difference, let alone begin to redress the balance.

“They would insist I was at the top of my pay grade, and tell me to keep it up, but despite working harder and longer than my male counterparts, my pay plateaued”.

It took her £60,000 and 16 months to reach an out-of-court settlement with her former employer. That is time and money most women just do not have.

Those are the women, the 91% drop, who cannot bring these claims anymore, so women’s ability to achieve economic empowerment is being cut away from under them. That is why transparency is the answer—and, incidentally, a very cheap answer. I understand why Members on the Benches opposite probably do not agree with our view, in the Official Opposition, that we should increase the minimum

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wage to £8 per hour. I understand; it is a different world view—fine. However, pay transparency does not cost anything, and it really is unforgivable not to bring it in. As Asha, the ex-director of the investment bank who got the money back by taking legal action, said:

“Why would turkeys vote for Christmas? Transparency has to be legally enforced, with repercussions for not doing so”.

Possibly my favourite example is Shannon, 25, who works in advertising, and whose end-of-year bonus was a £100 Liberty voucher. Guess what her male equivalent got in the same job as an end-of-year bonus. He did not get a £100 Liberty voucher—he got £2,000 hard cash. Those examples of blatant pay discrimination are going on right now, today, this hour, this minute, in Britain, and we have a way to remedy them.

I will mention only one more example—there are so many others. Donna, 38, was a PR director from Yorkshire. She explained:

“I landed a job at a PR firm in London. After a year I was promoted to account manager and at this point they employed another account manager to work alongside me, with the same amount of experience. The only difference? He was a bloke. I was stunned when over lunch he told me”,

he was earning over 30% more than her. Donna approached her bosses for a rise but still did not get enough to match her male colleague’s salary. She says—and I would really like noble Lords to understand the implication of this—

“I know I could have sued for sex discrimination, but I didn’t want to rock the boat so early in my career. All I wanted was to be paid fairly”.

That is the point. Women are not asking for charity. They are just asking not to be blatantly, systematically discriminated against just because they are women.

Therefore I ask the government Benches opposite: what are they going to do to deliver the pay transparency that would help all those women and hundreds of thousands like them, up and down the country? When the amendment on pay transparency comes up next week, so ably championed by my noble friend Lady Thornton and others in this House, including my noble friend Lady Crawley, who will they side with? Will they side with Donna, Asha, Shannon and Ellie, who have been discriminated against just because they are women, or will they side—as they are currently saying they will—with the employers who refuse to pay them the same just because they are women? It is a simple choice.

I make no apology for getting quite angry about this. It is a scandal. What is more, it is a scandal that the Government could right, and do so fairly easily. We are the people who have a voice in Parliament; Donna, Asha, Shannon and Ellie do not have a voice here. As my noble friends Lady Crawley and Lady Dean said, we have that voice and we need to make that change. The vote is next Wednesday; the amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill would implement Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010, which enables the Government to make regulations requiring companies employing 250 people or more to publish information on the differences in pay between men and women. Granted, that is the very beginning—it

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would not help women who work in smaller companies, some of whose cases I just mentioned—but it is a start.

It is 44 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed, and here we have clear evidence that the law is being broken, day in, day out, to the detriment not just of women but, by the Government’s own logic, of our economy as well. How much longer do we want to wait? I echo the comments of my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton, who said that we should be proud of the progress we have made—and we have made incredible progress. I remember that when I think of my grandmother, who was the auntie of Uncle Ted, as I call my noble friend Lord Graham—he is my mum’s first cousin. His auntie and my gran—being one and the same woman—worked in a cigarette factory. Jenny left school at 13 and worked in a cigarette factory. Do noble Lords know what her job was? It was picking cigarettes off the conveyor belt at intervals and dragging on them to check whether they were dragging properly—literally, the definition of a dead-end job.

I know that we have made progress and I am grateful for everything that the Labour Party has done in this regard—it has been predominantly the Labour Party which has done this—but the Government have done some things here and there as well. I admit that I cannot think of any off the top of my head, but the Government will have done some things because, to be fair, all of us in this House think that the instances of clear pay discrimination that I have just described are unacceptable.

On this issue, I appeal to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, who described her family’s extraordinary heritage in championing women’s rights. The noble Baroness’s grandparents would surely have been dismayed to see such blatant sex discrimination going unchecked. Perhaps the noble Baroness could champion this issue. I appeal to the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, who surely has the clout—I know that she has the decency—to get the Government to make this simple change. The noble Baroness said that our job is to make life much better for other women. I appeal to the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, who said that our job is to give women the tools. This is the point; pay transparency is just a tool. It is not even a case of giving women any money, but it is giving them a tool. It is not charity and it is not expensive. Surely, those on the government Benches have a teeny bit of influence in this area—a smidgen, a soupçon, a crumb. Not a single Member opposite can consider that what is going on is acceptable.

In summary, I ask the Minister only two questions. I do not expect her to answer the first, but I would be sincerely grateful if she would answer the second. First, how can it be right to push money into women’s pockets overseas but take money out of women’s pockets at home? Secondly, will the Minister agree to lobby the Government to make a concession and support pay transparency next week in this House? It is clear that women’s economic empowerment is intertwined with their social, psychological, physical and cultural empowerment. I am sorry that I have not commented on all the fantastic speeches that touched on the cultural and educational aspects that we need

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to improve. Those speeches show that you cannot disentangle economic empowerment and place it neatly in a box. The least that we could do is empower women and pay them the same as we pay men.

4.07 pm

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, the debates in the House of Lords for International Women’s Day are always outstanding, and this has been no exception.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, said, it has gone off in wonderful directions. I was pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady King, said that there was clear agreement on much that was mentioned in the debate, although she then seemed to go off in another direction.

I am delighted to attempt to respond to contributions which have covered a very wide range of topics and themes from both men and women. Any hope of ending gender inequality will be achieved only with the active involvement of men. The noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, my noble friend Lord Storey and others spoke of men as being the agents of change for gender equality. At the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the UN will mark the HeForShe campaign.

My personal experience mirrors that of some other speakers. My noble friend Lady Perry spoke of our mothers being on these Benches. I was reminded that my mother achieved a first at Cambridge in the 1930s, but never became a graduate. It was not until 1948 that Cambridge accepted that its women students were members of the university and awarded them degrees. What is more, she had to resign from the Civil Service as soon as she married.

I was at Oxford in the 1960s when, as the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, said, only 6% to 7% of people went to university, and at Oxbridge there were seven times as many places for men as for women. This was a feature of the single-sex college set-up. Our university careers office advised women who might get married that teaching or secretarial work would be sound futures to consider. For me, who married an RAF officer, that was definitely not a route to economic empowerment, but I have never for one moment regretted my marriage. As the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, said, we were the wife division of the human race. Astonishingly, no one suggested that we might aspire to be a football club CEO. My noble friend Lady Brady has chosen a challenging career in which her talents and hard work have led to great achievement, and she has totally ignored glass ceilings, quotas and targets. These days, equal numbers of men and women go to university, and no careers office would last long offering women the narrow set of options that we were offered.

Looking to education, many doors have been opened but there are still barriers to be overcome. I pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate and the church for all that it does in education in this country. How exciting it was to have in this House the Bill on women bishops, which is going to fast-track women on to the Bishops’ Benches. I am not sure how far the role brings economic empowerment, but I am sure that spiritual empowerment should be equally valuable.

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Too many girls feel that their career options are limited because of stereotypes about jobs being more suitable for boys or girls. We heard that from my noble friends Lady Mobarik, Lord Storey, Lady Perry and Lady Evans, and the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield. This can start from a very young age. In an experiment in the United States, primary school children were asked to draw pictures of a scientist before and after a visit to a lab. In the “before” drawings none of the boys and only 36% of the girls depicted a scientist as a female. In the “after” drawings, although, interestingly, still none of the boys depicted a scientist as female, for girls there was a 58% increase in female scientist representation. There is much research showing that aspirations are indeed formed at a relatively young age, and that gendered influences in particular begin very early. A recent Ofsted report found that girls as young as seven and eight thought of conventionally stereotypical jobs for men and women. This is one reason why it is so important that we get careers advice and people from business and the outside world into schools for the very earliest ages.

Expanding the apprenticeship programme and improving careers advice help to open the eyes of young women to options and aspirations that they may not have considered—or, if they did, considered them inaccessible. We have heard of the programmes to raise girls’ aspirations, and to encourage them to study STEM subjects and pursue careers in science and engineering. I am glad to hear that my noble friend Lady Perry’s glass was half full, and to hear my noble friend Lord Watson affirm that girls are not biologically wired not to be able to do maths and science. The noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, spoke with great expertise and wisdom in STEM subjects, and I join her and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, in recalling Baroness Platt and all she did for WISE—Women in to Science and Engineering—a fantastic programme that continues to help young women.

Compared to 2010, a thousand more girls are studying physics at A-level every year and two thousand more are studying maths, but they are still too few. As the noble Baroness, Lady Greenfield, said, we need to open up the thrill of science to get more young people engaged in the excitement of it. There have been 1,260 new science-based apprenticeships since 2010. Again, we are getting there but they are too few. The STEM Ambassadors programme is a network of 28,000 volunteers, of whom 47% are women, who work with women to encourage science uptake. Organisations such as Athena SWAN do excellent work in trying to encourage this, too.

The Government are setting up a new employer-led careers and enterprise company to support greater engagement between employers, schools and colleges. As my noble friends Lady Brady and Lady Brinton pointed out, it is important to change the culture of the workplace. We have just launched Your Daughter’s Future, an online guide to help parents support their daughters through qualification and career choices. We are working with the media to tackle gender stereotypes and improve diversity of representation. I also salute, with the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, “Woman’s Hour” and other programmes that have,

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over the years, helped to empower and educate women, and encourage them to take up interests much wider than they found at home.

Even in the field of education, women are less likely to be in positions of authority, as head teachers, principals, professors or vice-chancellors. My noble friend Lady Bottomley lamented the shortage of women vice-chancellors. The latest data show that 20% of vice-chancellors are female. That, my friends, is up from 17% two years ago. So there we are; there has been meteoric improvement. We believe that sector should go much further to seek out and harness the diverse talent available. HEFCE, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, is continuing its active programme to try to identify senior managers from more diverse groups. In the world of work more generally, women’s strengths and skills remain an untapped resource.

I turn to employment and enterprise. We have been berated about the measurement which showed that the UK had plummeted down the gender gap ladder to number 26. That was based on a particular set of measures. It does not represent the gender pay gap as it stands in the UK. That is now at 19.1%, the lowest level ever, and the pay gap has been virtually eliminated among full-time workers under the age of 40.

Baroness King of Bow: Does the Minister, however, accept, from some of the examples I just gave, that there are many unreported instances of the pay gap—including those brought to light by campaigns such as that of Graziamagazine—where it appears that professional women are quite often earning 30% less than their male counterparts?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I agree that there are cases of that in women’s earnings, and that women are still bearing the greater responsibility for children, the home and the care of sick and elderly relatives. However, we are encouraging much greater transparency in the reporting of pay. I will not be lured into pre-empting my noble friend the Minister next week, when the amendment on transparency of pay comes up. Rest assured, however, that the Government have done a great deal and have taken practical measures to ensure equal opportunity, whether it be in Parliament, among judges and editors, or on boards. However, as the right reverend Prelate also said, women very often take jobs below their qualification level, which is another feature of the lower pay that women may receive. Very often it is part-time pay, which is one of the factors that influenced the OECD measurement—it was factoring in part-time pay as if it was full-time pay.

My noble friend Lady Jenkin has spoken of the Women2Win initiative and the initiatives of all political parties to encourage more women and ethnic minorities into the political field. It is particularly important that the other place is fully representative of the country. It is, in fact, the most diverse Parliament ever. Women represent 22.8% of current MPs. That is up from 19.5% in 2010. With the efforts of all parties to promote women and to mentor and help them into Parliament, we can hope only that the next election will see even more women coming into Parliament.

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We set ourselves an ambitious aspiration that by the end of Parliament at least half of all new appointees made to the boards of public bodies will be women. We are getting there. From April to September 2014, the percentage of public appointments given to women across all departments increased from 37% to 44%. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Rebuck, and my noble friends Lady Brady and Lady Bottomley, all talked about the FTSE 100. The percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards has been climbing steadily. Women now account for around 23% of FTSE 100 directors and over 17.4% of FTSE 250 board directors. The numbers, therefore, are going up: they are still small but we are seeing progress. Furthermore, the Women’s Business Council, in its recent report, has made recommendations to both the Government and the business community. Those recommendations are being implemented and will go some way, we hope, to promoting better equality.


We have seen some progress in the City of London, the financial hub of the country. Last year only the second woman in over 800 years became Lord Mayor of London. Dame Fiona Woolf brought distinction to the post as she travelled around the country, and the world, promoting UK plc and, indeed, women’s contribution to the world of work. The other key historic roles within the Corporation of London are those of the two sheriffs, where only five women have held office since the 12th century, three of them within the last five years. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, has just become one of the few women aldermen in the City. So the pace is quickening.

Staying with the City, key to education and training for work have been the livery companies. There are now 110 of them, some dating back to the medieval guilds. Over all the centuries, the number of lady masters, of whom I have been one and my noble friend Lady Byford another, has been just over 100.

My noble friend Lady Mobarik spoke of the importance of enterprise. Indeed, there is enormous potential in women’s untapped entrepreneurialism. The noble Baroness, Lady Howells, who has been a champion in this area, reminded us of the contribution of black women in business. The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, mentioned this too. Indeed, we recently held a summit for black and minority ethnic women entrepreneurs, chaired by my noble friend Lady Verma, a successful entrepreneur herself, which highlighted the immense achievements of the community but also some of the challenges that it still faces. We shall continue to support and encourage the talents of BAME women.

Nevertheless, we can celebrate the fact there are now more women-led businesses than ever before: 20% of small and medium-sized enterprises are run either by women or by a team that is more than 50% female. These women contribute around £82 billion gross value added to the UK economy. The Government are supporting them in myriad ways, for instance by providing £1.6 million to support rural women’s businesses, by providing £1 million to the women and broadband challenge fund to help women move their businesses online, and by investing £1.9 million in the Get Mentoring project.

The amount of time that women spent on care came up in a number of contributions. Carers are the unsung heroes of society. We are helping them to

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combine their caring responsibilities with work. The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, and others referred to these essential workers’ low pay, but we have just begun a £1.5 million project to help local businesses support more carers to work remotely from home through the use of assisted technology.

We have done a great deal for women in this coalition Government. We have lifted 1.1 million of the lowest-paid workers out of income tax altogether, more than half of whom are women. We have also increased child tax credits for low to middle-income families. We have introduced shared parental leave and the right to request flexible working. To tackle the concern that parents have about their children getting the right start, we have invested a record £7.5 billion pupil premium in education to help the poorest children get the boost they need.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, had thought-provoking words on the impact of motherhood on careers, especially within the arts. We all noted her concern about the lack of women in such specialisms as film directing. Given how well the UK does in the creative fields, it would be good to see women represented across those fields too.

The cost of childcare was also mentioned. We now have tax-free childcare supporting childcare costs for working families. That can be worth up to £2,000 per child per year, to be introduced in autumn 2015.

A number of noble Lords mentioned violence against women. The noble Baroness, Lady Gould, linked it to homelessness. We acknowledge that women facing violence need support to rebuild their lives and to become economically independent. The Government have announced a £10 million fund to support women’s refuges in 100 areas across England. I also note her comments on joining up the services so that people do not fall through gaps between different forms of support services. We have ring-fenced nearly £40 million of funding for specialist support services and brought in legislation for tougher enforcement. This includes laws to combat stalking, to enforce the protection of girls from female genital mutilation and to make forced marriage a crime in this country. As we seek to combat the oldest of challenges, so we are acting to tackle the new ones and treating the online abuse of women and girls as robustly as offline abuse.

I turn to the international dimension of this debate, on which we had a great many contributions. I apologise if I may not be able to refer to them all. My noble friend Lady Brinton and the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, mentioned Grameen Bank, which has reversed conventional banking practice; 97% of its customers are women. It is doing great work to enable and empower women to go into business. On microfinance, access to finance for women is a core priority for DfID. We have exceeded one of the departmental results targets, access for 18 million women by 2015, with 27 million accessing finance in 2014. DfID’s programmes for microfinance around the world have a focus on savings, especially for women in rural areas. As a number of noble Lords have said, it makes all the difference in the world, particularly in underdeveloped countries, if women are enabled to go into business.

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On fuel and water poverty, which my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece and the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, mentioned, my noble friend Lady Northover and other DfID Ministers have led an 18-month campaign on clean energy access for girls and women. We support programmes to improve technology and to increase access to affordable and clean energy sources.

The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, also mentioned how Ebola affects women more, because it is women who care. DfID is indeed supporting two local NGOs in Sierra Leone through Womankind Worldwide and Women’s Partnership for Justice and Peace, specifically to address the Ebola impact on girls. I note his remark that men tend not to listen to women until it is too late. I hope we will make sure that it is not too late.

A number of noble Lords mentioned social norms and culture, including the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, and my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece. The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, relayed just how transformative her VSO experience had been in Kenya, finding a completely different culture and way of life. One of my daughters went off to Lesotho for a year after she graduated and found it an absolutely transformative experience 20 years ago in a land where the need and level of living was so completely different from anything in the UK and the developed world. My noble friend Lady Bottomley also spoke powerfully of the difference between women in the UK and women in other parts of the world. The right reverend Prelate mentioned the work of Christian Aid, which has such importance and has had such an impact on underdeveloped countries. My noble friend Lady Jenkin referred to family planning, proper maternity care and health for women. That, of course, can have an enormous impact on women’s lives in these countries.

We have put women and girls at the centre of our development efforts. We should be proud that last week we passed a Bill to put into legislation a target of spending on overseas aid of at least 0.7% of national income. We hope that our efforts will enable women to exercise voice, choice and control, which are critical to ending poverty and building freer and fairer societies. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, spoke of the challenge of sex work.

Baroness King of Bow: My Lords, will the Minister give way?

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I am running out of time. I apologise but I cannot give way as I have only a couple of minutes and want to finish quickly.

We hope that putting more work and effort into businesses for young women will help them to avoid going into sex work. The noble Baroness, Lady Nye, mentioned the Stand Up for Girls campaign, which has been so important.

I will touch on one or two other issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Healy, spoke about women offenders, which is an enormously important area. I am afraid that I cannot possibly do justice to it now, but the Government are mindful that we need to have more financial information within prisons and more support when women come out of prison. It is on the radar

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and we just hope that we will see improvements. The noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, mentioned Yarl’s Wood. I assure her that steps are certainly being taken to ensure that those vulnerable women are treated with the due care and consideration that they deserve, often having come here with some absolutely hideous experiences in other countries. It is perhaps notable that the noble Baronesses, Lady Rebuck and Lady Brinton, my noble friend Lady Brady and others spoke of the importance of instilling confidence in women. Even this generation of young women do not seem to have the confidence of their male counterparts. It is important to encourage girls to do things, as my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece said, and to instil in them that there is nothing they cannot do if they really set their minds to it.

I apologise that I am out of time and have missed answering some of the issues that were raised, but I shall write to noble Lords on issues to which I have not had the chance to respond. I would like to note that many older women were trail-blazers in their time, and I acknowledge, if I may, with due deference in your Lordships’ House, that such people as the noble Baronesses, Lady Turner and Lady Trumpington, both hit through glass ceilings in their time in ways that we of our generation can only begin to imagine.

I hope that I have made clear the Government’s determination to everything in our power to transform the rights and opportunities available to women and girls in the UK and overseas. This has been a most insightful, stimulating and informative debate, which will play its part in driving forward the gender equality that we all need to see. It will benefit women, families, communities and nations. I thank very sincerely all noble Lords who have taken part.

Motion agreed.

Transport: Accident Prevention

Question for Short Debate

4.30 pm

Asked by Earl Attlee

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to use, and to encourage the development of, technologies to reduce the number of collisions between heavy goods vehicles and cyclists.

Earl Attlee (Con):My Lords, the House will be aware that, every year in London, there are several cyclist fatalities involving HGVs and that these accidents often occur at relatively low speeds. These are extremely distressing incidents for all concerned, not least because of the gross disparity in vulnerability. I have been first on the scene on one occasion and witnessed a near miss on another.

My noble friend the Minister, his department and Transport for London take these accidents very seriously. When one occurs, TfL does not just place another appropriately coloured sticker on the map. It takes it very personally and understands the effect on the families, friends and all concerned. The House will also recognise that, for every fatality, there are also numerous serious and life-changing injuries.

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The Metropolitan Police should be investigating each fatal accident carefully and dispassionately. However, it is not clear to me why, on one occasion, it was appropriate for the highways engineers at TfL to be interviewed under police caution. It would be helpful if the Minister could write to me to help me understand the logic of that police action.

While the Department for Transport has been a bit slow in consulting on some obvious and desirable changes to the construction and use regulations, TfL has made imaginative use of a traffic regulation order concerning mirrors and sideguards. I expect that other noble Lords will cover this point. However, mirrors work only if drivers invariably use them and if cyclists do not enter the truck’s blind spot or danger areas in an inadvisable way. We could alter the technical requirements for the cab of an HGV but these are quite properly determined at European level. Designs are predicated on the needs of operators using national roads and not for the peculiar problems of London.

Last week, I attended the Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety—CLOCS— conference at ExCeL. We saw some of the technological developments in better cab design, sensor technology and how freight operator recognition scheme operators can reduce risks. I am sure that all noble Lords will applaud the efforts of all those involved in the CLOCS programme.

Can my noble friend the Minister explain why the CPC regime for HGV drivers does not include a mandatory road safety objective? Furthermore, at present, a work-related, road traffic accident fatality is not reportable under RIDDOR. There does not even seem to be a need for a risk assessment for work-related driving. Why not?

While all these points and policies are helpful and interesting, they are not predicated on meeting a target of zero. By that I mean that, in some years, no cyclists in London will be killed by an HGV, irrespective of fault.

My understanding is that, despite claims to the contrary, none of the sensor systems developed thus far is good enough to be mandated. That is how I was briefed when I was in the Minister’s position and I do not think that it has changed. However, we could make the problem orders of magnitude simpler if cycles were to be fitted with transducers for truck-mounted equipment to detect. I want to emphasise that I am not applying parliamentary pressure to adopt any particular technology, nor have I been stimulated by any outside organisation. I have proposed a system whereby one or more infrared transmitters are fitted to the relevant truck. The cycle has a transducer mounted on it which retransmits the IR signal radio frequency back to the truck. This is known as a tag-and-beacon system, and a very similar system has already been marketed which uses RFID. These systems do have the difficulty that the cycles would have to be fitted with a tag, which could be a problem, but that has to be balanced against the technical advantages. It would be necessary to fit only certain types of high- risk HGVs, in particular construction vehicles. My understanding is that the concept would work, but the difficulty is in its implementation.

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I understand that in the past three years more than 20 new companies have been set up selling HGV blind spot safety technology. The technology they offer ranges from simple electromagnetic and ultrasonic sensing devices to sophisticated camera monitoring systems, radio frequency identification, short-range radar and infrared. We should applaud their work. The sales pitches of these companies make ambitious claims about being “the solution to the problem”, but static tests and live vehicle trials reveal why it is very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to make these claims themselves. During my researches this week, I have come to realise to my horror that there is no specification in terms of functional and performance criteria for what the equipment and technology must achieve in order to be mandated. This is clearly a role for the DfT since we cannot have large metropolitan authorities each having their own systems and standards. I have to ask my noble friend the Minister what he is doing about this.

Products said to be designed to save lives should be independently evaluated and compared. The operators of HGVs would then have all the facts they need to make informed choices and know that the safety equipment they are investing in offers value for money and is effective. I am sad to say that this is not the case. Unlike every other safety device in the workplace, those being sold to HGV operators do not have to meet stringent performance criteria or undergo rigorous testing. A robust and consistent process needs to be established independently to evaluate HGV safety products against the functional and performance criteria set. Does the Minister agree that his department, and not TfL, should ensure that there is an assessment and approval organisation and mechanism in place?

This is not regulation for regulation’s sake. Not only will it help HGV operators now, it will also steer the technological developments of the future so that more lives can be saved, and not just for this specific type of accident. I am passionate about road safety and I believe that we should be going for zero for this type of accident. I will happily engage with all concerned both inside and outside the House. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

4.38 pm

Lord Berkeley (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for initiating this debate because it is a terribly important subject. We have regular debates both in the House and in Grand Committee on the minor detail of the various bits of legislation under which people use the roads, and often Ministers say in their responses that basically it is all too difficult. All the legislation going back almost 100 years needs to be reviewed. That is not going to happen quickly, so let us get on with what we can do.

I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Cyclists’ Touring Club. Like everyone else, the club is very interested in this subject. I suppose we should start with the problem, which is that lorries and cyclists do not mix, and we are trying to find solutions to that. I want to talk about a number of those. The most obvious one is more space. We have a lot to learn from some continental cities, not only in terms of the space that has been provided for whatever reason—demand

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from cyclists, political will or whatever—but in the design of our cities. We are making progress here. The Mayor of London is going ahead with the east-west highway, which is a segregated route. I think it is absolutely wonderful and have welcomed it for a long time. If we cannot have segregation—and cyclists feel much happier if they are properly segregated—then we need space with suitable white lines that are not transgressed by other vehicles. There are particular problems at junctions, as we have seen in London. It is very easy just to talk about London, but the problems are just as bad in other cities. In fact, there may be fewer people cycling in other cities, but there are also fewer facilities. Certainly, when I go to some other cities with my bike, I sometimes feel a lot more frightened than I do in London.

Another issue of course is the trucks. We are focusing in particular on construction industry trucks, which is the right thing to do; but we must not forget the logistics industry. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group, so I get involved in quite a lot of it. Big lorries in the middle of towns are necessary for delivering freight, unless there is some kind of logistics transfer point at the edges at which the freight can be transferred into smaller vehicles. In some places it is proposed that freight is taken round by smaller vans, or bicycles. Obviously, this cannot be done for construction traffic.

Here we come to the issue of enforcement, which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned. First, it is a pity that more people do not obey the law. Cyclists have been infamous for going through red lights, sadly. It is good that the trend is reducing in London, perhaps because there are more cyclists; perhaps it is due to peer pressure. I am pleased that PCSOs have now been allowed to stop cyclists—I have seen them doing it and have talked to them—if they go through a red light or the stop lines. It is ironic that they are not allowed to fine vehicle drivers in the way that they can fine cyclists for doing it, because it is a different regulation. What is good for cyclists surely should be good for vehicles. I have seen PCSOs talk to car drivers and it is obvious that some of them would like to have these other powers.

Another issue is the reduction in traffic police. CTC has produced figures that show that the number of road traffic police has reduced to a third of what it was in 2005. That is a very major reduction in enforcement and I suspect that many road users probably reckon that they can get away with more than they could then. There is a strong argument for having a separate traffic police force, though that is probably a slightly separate argument.

On enforcement, there is a further example of a man who ran over and killed a cyclist in 2009. He had been disqualified from driving as a teenager; he was breathalysed when the accident occurred; and he was also talking on his mobile phone. One of the possible solutions to this issue came up when we were debating the then Infrastructure Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned it briefly—namely, the question of why we do not use the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and RIDDOR in the roads sector. I put down an amendment to that Bill suggesting that since the Office

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of Rail Regulation was going to be responsible for monitoring the costs of the new strategic highways company, as it does for the railways—it should also be able to enforce cost reductions, as it is required to for the railways, which is another subject—it should be responsible for road safety, as it is for the railways. Let us not forget that 2,000 people are killed on the roads in this country every year and one on the railways.

It comes back to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act: people should be responsible for their own actions. If these people are employed—as in the example I have just given of the accident in London—why is nobody taking action against the companies that employ them? They are not doing what they should be doing to ensure that their employees are behaving and complying with the law. There is an awful lot more that could be done there. It is a massive subject but if you think about everybody driving—whether pedestrians and cyclists come into it, we can debate—being responsible for your own safety as far as is reasonably practical would make many road users think twice before doing some of the very stupid things that they do at the moment.

I will say one last thing about the technology. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned the idea of fitting transponders or something to cyclists. It sounds attractive in the first instance but there are questions to be asked, such as, if they did not work, who would be guilty? Would there be too much information in the cab for the driver of the lorry to be able to appreciate it all? Would it be a defence, if the cyclist did not have one of these transponders, that it would be all right to run him over? That is a bit of an extreme example. I hope that the Minister will tell us a bit more about what research the Government are doing to look into all these things, finding out what is going on on the continent and elsewhere, because something needs to be done but I think it would probably be better if it was led by the Government as a major contribution to safety. Then we would be able to move forward on all the various other issues that, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, suggested, could reduce the number of cyclists killed in this country—not just London—to zero.

4.47 pm

Baroness Ludford (LD): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in this important debate. I thank my noble friend Lord Attlee for initiating it. It was also a pleasure to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who is a transport expert like my noble friend. I am not a transport expert and I am not a cyclist—I think a combination of laziness and fear has prevented me. I am afraid I will probably concentrate on London, as that is my experience.

I was first sensitised to the issue we are discussing today as a local councillor in the 1990s in the London Borough of Islington, when I was aware of two fatalities in my area. As a Member of the European Parliament, I got involved particularly in supporting the See Me Save Me campaign, which was started by the Cairns family after Eilidh Cairns was killed in Notting Hill.

The death statistics are indeed terrible. I think there are about 14 fatalities of cyclists a year in London. Heavy goods vehicles represent only about one in 20

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of the vehicles on the roads but are responsible for 55% of the fatalities. There are clearly some cowboy HGV drivers and employers but I feel that others are let down by the poor design of cabs and the lack of warning equipment leading to these fatal lorry blind spots.

The basic design of HGVs can and must play a significant role in reducing cycling fatalities and serious injuries, and I think there are three issues. The first is better design of cabs, allowing greater visibility to see cyclists and other road users. That can be done by lowering the cab, placing the driver in the middle of the cab, using more glass and improved mirrors. Secondly, there could be some kind of warning equipment. My noble friend talked about the possibility of equipment. I tried to follow the technical aspects of what he said, but it was about some kind of RFID on a bike. My experience has been more learning a bit about sensors on a lorry to warn the driver. But I take the point—I think that Transport for London makes the point, too—that there are so many different schemes, it is very difficult to assess their value. TfL is doing a study to try to get an evaluation of them. The third issue, which I will come back to in a second, is side guards on construction lorries.

I very much welcome the agreement recently achieved at EU level on a new directive on the weights and dimensions of lorries. That should deliver life-saving changes to lorry design, improving the direct vision under the front windscreen and minimising the risk of overrun and damage in the event of collision by replacing the blunt front with a more elongated and rounded one and an expanded glazed area with mirrors and cameras. Are the Government committed to the follow-up work from this directive? As I understand it, the talk is of a type-approval directive with a rather long timescale—longer than the European Parliament wanted—of about seven years. Are the Government committed to seeing the directive into law and to a mandatory requirement for HGVs to carry these safety features? Last year, in conjunction with some other politicians, I wrote to the Minister’s colleague Mr Stephen Hammond. It was slightly unclear in the reply whether there was that commitment from the Government. I would like to know whether there is a formal position of the Department for Transport on the prospect of a type-approval directive. I think that we do need to get HGVs fit for the 21st century.

As I said, TfL has commissioned a study to develop an independent testing method for vehicle safety technology. My noble friend Lord Attlee talked about the national role for the Department for Transport. I am sure that that is right, eventually; but in the mean time, it is good that TfL is doing some work on this.

I mentioned side guards, as others have. We know that among the HGVs involved in fatal collisions, construction lorries—tipper lorries, skip loaders and so on—are disproportionately represented. They are apparently exempt under the 1986 regulations because they claim to be vehicles designed and constructed for special purposes where it is not possible for practical reasons to fit side guards. TfL does not regard these vehicles as special purpose. Only in very special circumstances are they going on to such terrain where side guards would help stop people being pulled under

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the wheels of the lorry. The question is whether they really do need to travel around London without safeguards. I think that we are all a bit disappointed that the Department for Transport has been slow in launching its consultation on removing those exemptions from construction vehicles. Can the Minister give me a date when the consultation will be launched and a promise that it will be expedited and wide in scope, in the sense of reducing, as far as possible, any exemption?

While we wait for European and national action, I am pleased that the Mayor of London, Transport for London and London Councils have agreed on a London-wide ban on lorries not fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists and pedestrians coming into London. I think that the Safer Lorry Scheme will be launched in September, once warning signs and so on are in place. All roads in Greater London, except motorways, will be covered by this scheme. It will require vehicles of more than three and a half tonnes to be fitted with side guards to protect cyclists and class V and class VI mirrors—I confess that I do not actually know what those are—to give drivers a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicle. I saw recently that Sir Peter Hendy, the boss of Transport for London, has indicated his willingness to mandate cycle-friendly HGVs on all contracts. It has been operating on the Crossrail contract, but it sounds as though he is interested in widening that procurement role.

I conclude with some points that are unrelated to lorry design or equipment. I very much welcome, as does my colleague Caroline Pidgeon on the London Assembly, the superhighways for cycle lanes in London. I have also been asked to find out, going outside London, when the Department for Transport will empower local authorities to enforce moving traffic offences, such as stopping in box junctions and driving in cycle lanes. Apparently, some foot-dragging appears to be going on there. I must stop now. I look forward to answers from the Minister.

4.56 pm

Lord Freeman (Con): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Attlee on securing this debate. Perhaps I may say once again in your Lordships’ Chamber how much your Lordships appreciated the noble Earl’s spokesmanship for the Department for Transport, which he discharged not only with courtesy but with tremendous efficiency and knowledge. I listened to his speech and agreed with what he said. I do not have the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, or my noble friend Lady Ludford, but my contribution is based on being a parent of a 20 year-old daughter who cycles regularly from home in Dulwich to work in Battersea and to visit her parents in Kensington. Each time she does that, particularly at night, my heart is literally in my mouth. Therefore, I have taken an interest in security for cyclists in London. Frankly, every life lost is probably a life that could have been saved and is avoidable. Some of the ideas that my noble friend Lord Attlee has mentioned need to be pursued with great vigour.

I compliment the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, on what I call “the cycling revolution”. It has some penalties and downsides to it but we must congratulate

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him and a bank whose name I will not mention on the initiative in terms of the growth of cycling in London. One sees while travelling to and from your Lordships’ House in the morning and in the evening how many cyclists there are. However, I am an advocate of greater discipline among some of the cyclists. Whether changes come through legislation or clearer direction remains to be seen, but I often see cyclists in central London without proper lights, headgear or yellow jackets to identify them. I have heard the comments of many taxi drivers in central London who are concerned about the behaviour of some cyclists. It is not just that they go through red lights, as many of your Lordships will have witnessed, but it is sometimes difficult to see them and there is also concern about their ability to see other traffic. I am in favour of certain compulsions on cyclists, certainly in the metropolis.

I turn to an excellent campaign article provided by the research department in the House of Lords. I again compliment it on the publications it has reviewed and the documents it has produced for your Lordships for this debate. The national cycling charity’s December 2014 briefing states:

“In London specifically, where HGVs make up around 3.5% of traffic, almost half of the 44 cyclist fatalities between 2011-13 (inclusive) were as a result of a collision with a lorry. Of these 21, ten involved a collision with a left-turning lorry”.

The statistics are horrifying just in that brief period of time. I very much compliment the charity for drawing this to our attention.

What is the solution? I find myself very much in agreement with my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who I think referred to known black spots. Work needs to be done on improving visibility at certain known black spots. That is the responsibility of Transport for London and the Mayor of London. Whether it means widening the road or giving clear indications to both cyclists and traffic—heavy good vehicles in particular—depends on the precise location but work needs to be prioritised at these known black spots.

I welcome the cyclists’ designated area along the Embankment, but the implications for road traffic, let alone buses and heavy goods vehicles, remain to be properly analysed. Certainly, creating that space will better protect many cyclists heading for the City and work. In passing, I just mention the joint work that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and I tried to undertake—we failed—to get more heavy goods vehicles off the road by taking freight from Felixstowe on to the railway. Much of that traffic comes into and crosses central London to go west or south.

Concrete and tipper lorries seem to be the culprits in many of the incidents that have been referred to. They in particular need a mandatory warning system in the cab. That needs to be complemented by appropriate precautions regarding cyclists. I am not familiar with all the technology but my noble friend Lord Attlee reminded me that up to 20 companies are already interested in the technology to be either installed in the heavy goods vehicles or applied to the cycle. I am not a technologist and do not understand the technical complications but there ought to be renewed enthusiasm and effort here by the Department for Transport,

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which is best placed to judge the right technology. If necessary, focus within the department, working with Transport for London and other transport authorities around the country in our bigger cities and conurbations, could identify what is the sensible technology to put in the cab and on the bicycle. I am not in any way competent to comment on the technology and I suspect that my noble friend Lord Attlee would not claim to have that knowledge. Someone in the department or some individuals in the department will certainly have that knowledge. Mandatory assessment and approval by the department and recommendations to the industry about what should be applied is much to be desired. I hope very much that the Department for Transport will take up that challenge.

5.05 pm

Lord Jordan (Lab): I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for this timely debate, coming as it does during RoSPA’s family week. I declare an interest as a vice-president of RoSPA.

My interest in safety began while working on the factory floor. My passion for cycling, sadly now dormant, predated that; I was part of a great bunch of lads with the unlikely name of “The Eager Beavers”. With them I cycled every weekend come rain or shine. Our single claim to fame was to have cycled from Birmingham to Abergavenny and back in one day. Its connection to this debate is that I was stopped on the way back, just half a mile from my home, by a policeman who told me that my front light was not working and that I would have to push the bike the rest of the way.

For many years we never had an accident on what seemed at the time to be car and lorry-free roads. It is not now as it hath been of yore. Every year in Great Britain, around 100 cyclists are killed, 3,000 are seriously injured and 16,000 are slightly injured in reported road accidents. Lorries present a particular danger to cyclists. Although cyclists are less likely to be involved in a collision with an HGV than with a car, they are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in any collisions that do occur.

Between 2009 and 2013, HGVs were involved in 23% of cyclist deaths, despite comprising only 5% of the traffic. A disproportionate number of female cyclists are involved in collisions with HGVs. HGVs present a particular danger to cyclists when they are turning left: 55% of cases where cyclists were seriously injured by HGVs larger than 7.5 tonnes in London occurred when the driver turned left across the path of the cyclist.

So what is being done about this problem? There are many good developments, and many solutions are being developed, especially in London, by Transport for London, the Met and individual companies that use large vehicles. Of course, very significant effort and resources are being put into producing a safer road environment for cyclists, especially in London but also in many towns and cities across the country.

Vehicle technology is also advancing rapidly and will help to significantly reduce road crashes and casualties. HGVs are increasingly being fitted with sensors and cameras that warn the driver if a cyclist is to their nearside. This type of technology will certainly

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help, although in the case of cameras it still requires the driver to check the screen as well as the mirror. Sensors can often give an audible warning, but may pick up pedestrians on the pavement.

Many of the companies who enter RoSPA’s managing occupational road risk—MORR—awards are making good, innovative use of technology to reduce the risk created by large vehicles.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has given us an example of the sort of technology that is being developed to minimise cyclists’ vulnerability. Another example is a new collision-avoidance system that was presented to RoSPA’s national safety committee in October by Professor David Cebon of Cambridge University. The system uses sensors to detect the presence of a cyclist on the HGV’s near side, and software that predicts the path of the speed of the cyclist and the HGV. If it predicts that the HGV is going to hit the cyclist when it turns, it automatically applies the HGV’s brakes to bring it to a stop. According to Professor Cebon, an analysis of 19 fatal accidents involving a cyclist and a left-turning HGV concluded that 15 of these would have been completely avoided, and three would have been less severe, using the new system.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, makes a very good point about the lack of performance requirements for HGV blind-spot technology, although perhaps it would be better to put these into a standard rather than directly into regulation, at least until the point is reached where they could become mandatory in a European directive. The regulation would then require products to meet the standard. As technology develops, it would be easier to update a standard than a regulation. This should also apply to the transducer device fitted to bicycles if, of course, that particular technology is progressed.

What more can be done? We could adopt the Vision Zero approach recommended by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, which principally means attempting to prevent crashes from happening in the first place and reducing the impact of those that do to a level low enough for those involved to survive without serious injury. Another would be to include a mandatory road safety objective in the certificate of professional competence—CPP—regime for large vehicle operators and drivers. Another would be a comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of the CPC directive, specifically of the effectiveness of both the initial qualification and periodic refresher training requirements for large vehicle drivers.

As the noble Earl suggested, making work-related road traffic accident fatalities and injuries reportable under RIDDOR is a must. Of course, with so much varied development under way, it would be very useful for the Government to review and co-ordinate all these developments to identify the best examples and then push them forward, including proposing any necessary legislative changes in the European Community.

5.12 pm

Baroness Grey-Thompson (CB): My Lords, I welcome the debate that the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has tabled. I declare that I sit on the board of Transport for London, which is listed in my interests on the register. I also chair the surface transport panel and sit on

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the safety, sustainability and accessibility panel, where these very tragic circumstances are discussed, as well as being reported and debated at the main board.

Being a board member has been an eye-opener in terms of the rules and regulations that govern this area. It would be easy to assume that it might be slightly simpler, but it is with a heavy heart that I hear of any tragedy on the road. As a very slow recreational cyclist when a member of Cleveland Wheelers, but also when I was wheelchair racing, most of my training was done on the roads. Two friends of mine have been killed on the roads by cars, not in the UK, and a number of friends have been injured cycling, my husband included. Perhaps very fortunately, he ended up with a spinal cord injury rather than being another of the number of fatalities.

I have been hit twice on the road while training at T-junctions when I had the right of way. I was able to recognise that the driver was not looking correctly, took evasive action and was left with nothing more than a few bruises and a couple of black eyes, but it is very shocking when it happens to you and it makes you think very carefully about everything else that is on the road.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is right about peer pressure. I have seen a change in London in the past year or so with the increased number of cyclists: when somebody jumps a light, other cyclists shout and tell them to be more careful.

In London, heavy goods vehicles are overrepresented in fatal collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. Between 2008 and 2013, 55% of all pedal cycle fatalities involved an HGV. In 2013, 20% of pedestrian fatalities involved an HGV. I would like to see more direct action to improve the safety of the most vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, but support is needed.

There are many issues, many of which have been most ably covered by other noble Lords in the Chamber. The first for me, though, is that some HGVs, which are overrepresented in fatalities, are exempt from basic safety features. The requirement for HGV side guards under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 does not apply to certain vehicles,

“designed and constructed for special purposes”.

Should there really be vehicles that have this special-purpose designation? Older HGVs, so pre-2007, are also exempt from close proximity class V and VI safety mirrors designed to address vehicle blind spots. In September 2015, the Safer Lorry Scheme will come into force in London. This will require HGVs registered after 1983 and driven in London to have side and class V and VI mirrors fitted.

I agree with noble Lords who say that the DfT has been a bit slow in its proposal to consult on removing side-guard exemptions for certain HGVs. Their planned consultation will cover only HGVs first registered after 2010. The proposal is also expected to consult on the retrofitting of class V and VI mirrors to all HGVs first registered from 2000. Will the Minister consider whether the consultation should seek public and industry opinion on retrofitting these safety features to vehicles registered from 1983?

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Many operators are investing in vehicle safety technology and camera systems, but it is an emerging market, and an awful lot more could be done. There are many that claim to solve the problem, but I think this can be confusing for a number of operators, and I believe that the DfT should work with TfL and other relevant organisations to develop and communicate performance-based criteria for safety systems that are technology-neutral.

Other noble Lords have mentioned the European Commission and its review of weights and dimensions. Will the Minister tell us if the Government will declare their position on this proposal and actively support the Commission’s recommendation to ensure the next generation of HGVs is fit for 21st-century streets?

Under driver training, drivers have to undergo 35 hours of training over five years. This covers rationalisation of fuel consumption, and may cover first aid, manual handling and customer care. All these are very important, but a driver could achieve the full CPC qualification with no training covering driving standards and road safety. It seems crazy to me that we are not taking these seriously and are not including some of the most obvious things.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned workplace deaths and work-related road deaths. The management of work-related road risk lags behind the management of more general health and safety. I would like to see the Government review the regulations governing this. In the short term, perhaps an approved code of practice could be published on the management of work-related road risk.

Finally, a consistent national approach is needed to improve HGV/cycle safety. I have talked about London, and it is probably in London that these things are reported more often, but accidents like this are happening all over the country that might just make the local news but would not make the national news. I do not think that a lot of people are aware of the number of fatalities that happen in this way. The Government have recently announced £114 million of funding for Cycle City Ambition, in addition to the £94 million awarded in August 2013. The eight cities are Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Oxford.

TfL has significant experience in dealing with HGV/cycle safety and has developed proven initiatives aimed at raising operator and driver awareness. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned CLOCS. There is also Safe Urban Driving, which is a driver CPC accredited course in which drivers undergo an on-cycle hazardous awareness module. That has had a great deal of success. There is also an award-winning Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme, which has been recently rolled out nationally.

Does the Minister agree that we should strongly encourage Cycle City Ambition to adopt and support these existing initiatives? That will save money, not by designing new standards but by ensuring that operators have national consistency. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. A lot of good work is happening, but there is not enough awareness.

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Finally, once again I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on his passion for cycling—I wish I could go at the speed he does on his bike. I congratulate both of them on their persistence in promoting safety on the roads for cyclists.

5.19 pm

Viscount Simon (Lab): My Lords, I find it very interesting that the noble Baroness has just discussed the training of HGV drivers; I shall attack from a completely different angle.

I have observed Operation Motorwise on an Army base a few times. Essex Police hold the exercise on a regular basis on private land in various locations throughout the county, in which teenagers are introduced to all kinds of useful matters to do with driving prior to learning to drive. That includes the Highway Code, some mechanical bits and pieces, observational tests, and various other items that prepare them for when they learn to drive and warn them of some of the hazards that might well not be brought to their attention and which might go wrong during that period.

Of those latter hazards, they are shown some emergency braking distances taken by HGVs at increasing speeds, and they all seem to be shocked by the results. They are also invited to sit in the driver’s seat to observe where cyclists can be seen in the numerous mirrors. So far, so good—they learn from that. However, when an HGV begins to turn, the mirrors will also turn, and the cyclist who was clearly visible a few seconds earlier might well have disappeared from the view of the driver. There is nothing the cyclist or driver can do to resume sight, irrespective of the number and construction of the mirrors.

The noble Earl suggested some very interesting technology that might well overcome this problem and, having chatted with him recently, it sounds well worth developing. He mentioned some companies that have developed various systems; a company in Braintree has fitted alarms along the side of its HGVs, which make a sound when anything gets too close to the sides of the vehicles and which alerts both the driver and the cyclists or pedestrians. That is really good news, and it is a start on the part of that company to address the problem. As the noble Earl has suggested, there must be other such companies.

What can we do to reduce deaths and injuries in the mean time? Both cyclists and HGV drivers are aware of the problem facing them, and it would be wonderful if all cyclists wore high-visibility clothing, crash helmets and good lighting fitted at the front and back of their cycles. It would also be wonderful if they obeyed the traffic lights and other legislation. However, the initial manoeuvrability of a cyclist exceeds that of an HGV, which can lead the cyclist into a sense of false security—but an HGV turning left at a slow speed can kill or seriously injure that cyclist.

Is there, therefore, stalemate? No. It might seem very heavy-handed, but at least it would stop the deaths and injuries to cyclists if they were encouraged not to be alongside a stationary HGV or one turning left until such a time as suitable safety technology is fitted to all HGVs. I am afraid that the cyclists would

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not like it, but in the interim, would that not be nicer than adding more deaths and seriously injured cyclists to the figures of STATS19, which are currently the position?

5.24 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, as everyone else has done, I extend my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on securing this debate on cycling safety and heavy goods vehicles. Not everyone has necessarily agreed with the specific proposal he highlighted as one way of addressing a very serious problem. However, there certainly has been agreement on the need to take action to reduce the number of collisions between heavy goods vehicles and cyclists. If today’s debate contributes to realising that objective, it will certainly achieve its purpose.

The Transport Committee in the other place issued a report last July on cycling safety which included information highly relevant to this debate. Transport for London has also provided some relevant statistics. Heavy goods vehicles are disproportionately involved in fatal collisions with cyclists. Some 20% of cycling fatalities in the last five years have involved HGVs, even though such vehicles account for only some 5% of motor traffic. As has been said, in London the situation is even worse, since between 2008 and 2013, some 55% of all pedal cycle fatalities involved a heavy goods vehicle despite HGVs accounting for less than 4% of London’s road miles. Indeed, in 2013, HGVs were involved in nine out of 14 cyclist deaths on London’s roads.

Reference has already been made to construction vehicles. Construction vehicles, and particularly concrete or tipper lorries, are most likely to be involved in collisions with cyclists, with seven out of nine fatal collisions in London between cyclists and large goods vehicles in 2011 involving construction vehicles. There has also been an issue with vehicles that carry stone, sand, cement and water in compartments and mix the concrete when on site, known as volumetric mixers, and which are classed as plant and not goods vehicles and are thus exempt from a number of regulations in place for goods vehicles, meaning that operators of such vehicles do not require an operator’s licence, and are not required to subject the vehicles to annual roadworthiness inspections. It seems that the Department for Transport found that targeted vehicle inspections led to five out of six volumetric mixers that were stopped receiving immediate prohibitions for mechanical defects, and that in addition three of the stopped vehicles were also prohibited because of either overloading or an insecure load. No doubt those who believe that regulations represent red tape and a burden will see no need for action, but what is alleged to be a so-called burden for one person is the potential difference between life and death for another.

The Government published their response to the Transport Committee’s report on 31 October last year, and the Minister’s reply may draw quite heavily on that response. However, I hope that he will also reply to the specific points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, since I for one will be interested to hear where the Government now stand in relation to encouraging or promoting the effectiveness and practicability of

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HGV blind-spot safety technology, and in their response to his point made on lack of specifications in terms of performance for what this equipment and technology should achieve and lack of independent evaluation and testing. Indeed, on those specific points made by the noble Earl, Transport for London has said that while many HGV operators are investing in vehicle safety technology and camera monitoring systems to protect cyclists, the effectiveness of some of the products is questionable and HGV operators need independent product information to inform their purchasing decisions.

Of course, steps are being taken to try to improve cycling safety in the important area we are discussing. London Councils is working with Transport for London to implement a new London-wide Safer Lorry Scheme from September, which will require the fitting of extended view mirrors and side guards to all heavy goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

Transport for London has also called on the Government to review the driver certificate of professional competence syllabus to ensure that the European regulation requiring HGV drivers to undergo 35 hours of training over a five-year period with,

“specific emphasis on road safety”,

is fully satisfied. Under the UK’s application of the driver certificate of professional competence, it is apparently possible for a driver to achieve the full driver CPC qualification with no training covering driving standards and road safety. Transport for London has said that the Government should introduce a mandatory and more prescriptive road safety objective which should include minimising the road risk for vulnerable road users. Like the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, I ask the Minister to comment on this in his response.