6 Mar 2014 : Column 1431

House of Lords

Thursday, 6 March 2014.

11 am

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Chester.

Women: Inequality in Political and Public Life

Question

11.06 am

Asked by Baroness Gale

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to eliminate the inequality of women in political and public life.

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, to ensure the better representation of women in public and political life, the Government have enabled parties to use positive action should they wish to increase participation by under-represented groups, have extended to 2030 the ability of parties to use women-only shortlists, and have set an aspiration that 50% of new public appointments should be women by the end of this Parliament. Given that Saturday is International Women’s Day, I wish everybody a happy International Women’s Day.

Baroness Gale (Lab): I thank the Minister for her reply. Does she agree that progress is dreadfully slow, with only 252 women Peers ever appointed to your Lordships’ House, only 369 women ever elected to the House of Commons, only four women in the British Cabinet and only one woman ever appointed to sit in the Supreme Court, and that with the UK ranking at 64 in the global ranking of women’s representation, more needs to be done? In whatever walk of life, whether it be political or public life, women do not sit at the top tables of decision-making. Does she further agree that the time has now come for some drastic action and that what we should be moving to now is legislation for a quota system? Many other countries do it. Will she look at what other countries are doing and examine how successful quotas have been?

Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness is quite right—progress is far too slow and much more needs to be done. Things are slowly speeding up. I am well aware of the work that she herself did in Wales to transform things in her party. I know also of the transformative effects that quotas have had in some of the Scandinavian countries so that they now no longer need to use quotas. It is very difficult under a non-proportional system to do that within the United Kingdom Parliament, but right across the board, whether it is women on boards, women in public life or women in Parliament, we are examining this extremely carefully. We absolutely take her underlying argument about the need for progress.

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD): My Lords, there are 30 million women in this country, yet we seem to have great difficulty in finding 325 women to bring parity among MPs in the other place. When the Speaker’s Conference was set up by the previous Government in

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1432

2008 there was extensive examination of the diversity of Parliament. What progress has been made and are the recommendations that came out of that very good inquiry being implemented?

Baroness Northover: As my noble friend will know, we have implemented the provisions of the Equality Act in terms of enabling political parties to use positive action and women-only shortlists. Those were recommendations that came out of the Speaker’s Conference. We have also secured a commitment from the three main parties to provide greater transparency over candidate selection and launched the access to elected office for disabled people strategy. But my noble friend is quite right, as is the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, that more needs to be done.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, given the concern about the status of early years provision, the fact that upward of 80% of the staff working in early years are women, and the increasing awareness of the vital importance of this area, are any Members of this House or the other place early years professionals? I am not aware of any and I think that is regrettable. Does the Minister agree?

Baroness Northover: There are a large number of early years experts in this House, I have to say. However, the noble Earl makes a good point about the need to be inclusive as regards those who stand for Parliament. It is extremely important that we do everything we can to encourage people to feel that it is worth while being involved in politics, worth while standing for Parliament and worth while serving more than one term. We need to look at why some Members of Parliament, especially women, decide after serving one term that they have had enough.

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab): My Lords, I declare my interest as a trustee of two international development NGOs. Does the Minister accept that the Government have a responsibility to set a good example when two-thirds of those in poverty around the world are female and when the voices of women are simply not heard in the decision-making places around the world? What will the Government do to make sure that they lead in ensuring that the voices of those dispossessed women are heard internationally?

Baroness Northover: I hope that the noble Baroness recognises what DfID and the FCO have done in this regard. A number of parliamentarians from here will attend the Commission on the Status of Women next week in New York, which will seek to take forward the very points that she makes. She is absolutely right: unless you have women front and centre at all levels of their societies, you will not relieve poverty and you will not address inequality.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): My Lords, my noble friend may not be aware that the APPG for Women in Parliament, whose aim is to increase the representation of women here, is conducting an inquiry, which will start to take evidence next week,

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1433

with support from Members of Parliament and Members of this House, to investigate barriers, challenges and what changes can be made to improve the situation. When the inquiry reports towards the end of the summer, will my noble friend confirm that she will encourage Ministers as well as the political parties to take note of the results?

Baroness Northover: I can assure my noble friend that we certainly will do that. I pay tribute to my noble friend for what she has done within her own party to encourage women to get involved in this area. I welcome the fact that the all-party group is doing that and I look forward to seeing its report.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): Does the Minister acknowledge that we should not get too gloomy given that the only Lord Speakers in this House have both been women and that, of the five most recent Leaders of the House, three have been women? Perhaps this appointed House has some advantages in terms of what we are able to do to ensure that women reach the places they should be in.

Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness is absolutely right. I also note—I have analysed it myself—the disproportionate contribution made by women in the Lords in terms of work. I have pointed that out to the various party leaders, most effectively within my own party, and we are now up to 31% in our group in terms of women’s representation.


Afghanistan: Protection and Women’s Safety

Question

11.15 am

Asked by Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to recent events in Afghanistan, including changes to Afghan law, and their impact on the protection and safety of women.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, we have raised the issue with the Afghan Government at the highest level. We were pleased that President Karzai issued a decree amending the criminal procedure code. This has been returned to Parliament for approval and we, along with our international partners, will continue to closely monitor the situation. We regularly raise respect for women’s rights and the protection of women’s security with the Afghan Government and will continue to do so.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): I thank the Minister for her response. Does she agree that until we know how the Afghan Government will amend the Bill, it remains a threat to already fragile women’s rights and security in Afghanistan, so hard fought for

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1434

by Afghan women and by our forces? Does she share my concern about the evidence that there has been a backlash against women’s rights and that the UN has reported that violent crimes against women increased by 28% in 2013 and prosecutions by only 2%? In view of the grim realities facing Afghan women, is it not regrettable that the situation in Afghanistan was described by our Prime Minister as “mission accomplished”?

Baroness Warsi: For the sake of noble Lords who do not understand what the noble Baroness and I are talking about, this is in relation to a particular piece of legislation that effectively meant that members of a family could not give evidence against other members of that family. The drafting of that legislation was unfortunately supported by the UN, specifically in relation to drugs crimes, where it was felt that family members would potentially support the accused in court by giving false evidence. Unfortunately, it was a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing, and the international community’s concern is that this legislation will be used against women who want to give evidence, for example in the case of domestic violence or abuse. The President has issued a decree to ensure that this does not happen. We are confident at this stage that the parliamentary majority required to overturn that decree does not exist and the timetable within which it has to be overturned is too short. We are therefore confident in hoping that the decree will stand.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, has the noble Baroness seen yesterday’s report by Carolyn Wyatt for the BBC, which said that half of all children under five in Afghanistan are suffering from the effects of malnutrition? Given the reported comments by Médecins sans Frontières during that broadcast, saying that the principal reason for this is the confinement of women to their homes, leaving them without access to clinics, knowledge or available food or medicine, can we look at the MSF initiative of reaching out directly to mothers and targeting support to them?

Baroness Warsi: The situation in Afghanistan still has some way to go, as the noble Lord says. I was aware of that report but perhaps we may focus slightly on the positive. The noble Lord may be aware, certainly if you go back to 2001 and consider the number of women who are now receiving postnatal and prenatal care, that around 50% of women now have access to those maternity services—some three times more than about a decade ago.

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope (LD): My Lords, is not the best way of dealing with some of these difficult legal situations emerging in Afghanistan to get more women into legislative roles? Is my noble friend aware that there is some concern about an emerging threat to the established women’s quotas in Afghanistan, particularly at provincial level? Before the international community departs, will she do everything in her power to enshrine and secure a legislative role for women in Afghanistan at all levels and across all districts?

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1435

Baroness Warsi: This matter is incredibly close to my heart. Indeed, my maiden speech in this House was on the plight of women in Afghanistan. There has, of course, been some progress there: 27% of all parliamentarians are now female; 25% of civil servants are female; and, indeed, one deputy presidential candidate, Habiba Sarabi—the ex-governor of Bamiyan—is standing on one of the presidential tickets. However, of course so much more needs to be done, and one of the messages that I and my colleagues—Justine Greening, for example—send out very clearly when we are in Afghanistan is that the fragile gains that have been made on women’s rights in that country must not be allowed to slide.

Baroness Whitaker (Lab): My Lords, what pressure can HMG bring to bear on the Government of Afghanistan to let more girls go to school?

Baroness Warsi: Again, huge progress has been made here compared with only a decade ago. Of more than 6 million children in school in Afghanistan today, 2 million are girls, and many more are now attending higher education institutions. However, in a year when we are approaching the drawdown, at the end of 2014, it is important that the gains that have been made are not allowed to slip. That is why our DfID programme will continue at the level it is now.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, it is the women human rights defenders in Afghanistan who are at particular risk. Can the Minister assure us that their safety will not be forgotten when we are discussing security in Afghanistan?

Baroness Warsi: They are incredibly brave women, and I also pay tribute to the incredibly brave work that my noble friend does in relation to the protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan. As a Government, we support, for example, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. It has a phenomenal chairman, Sima Samar, who puts her life at risk in raising very challenging issues. I assure my noble friend that we will continue to do all we can to make sure that this issue does not fall off the agenda as we draw down our troops.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, will women’s rights and security for women be included as critical indicators of UK progress towards withdrawal and the UK’s post-2014 involvement in Afghanistan?

Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord will be aware of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. Part of that covers human rights as well as the very specific issue of women’s rights. The law on the elimination of violence against women is specifically used as a measure of how Afghanistan is doing against the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. It is the way in which we measure progress on women’s rights, as well as progress on stopping violence against women. The noble Lord will be aware that, within three to six months following the presidential election, we will be jointly chairing the meeting that will assess Afghanistan’s progress against

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1436

the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. That is the main framework that we will carry on using to make sure that progress continues in this area.


Female Genital Mutilation

Question

11.21 am

Asked by Baroness Prosser

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that government departments work together to identify girls at risk of female genital mutilation and provide them with the necessary support.

Baroness Jolly (LD): My Lords, on 6 February, to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, Ministers signed a declaration to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling this practice. On 8 March, we will be publishing the updated ending violence against women and girls action plan. This will have a renewed focus on FGM and will set out clearly the cross-government approach we are adopting.

Baroness Prosser (Lab): I thank the Minister for that reply and of course I welcome the recent intervention by the Secretary of State for Education, which will enable all schools to play their part in dealing with this terrible and dreadful crime. Can the noble Baroness elaborate a little for the House on the role of other government departments? For example, will the Department of Health, the UK Border Agency, local government in the form of social services and so on be included? Which department will take the lead? Will this co-ordinated approach be at ministerial level? Finally, how is this work going to be developed within relevant local communities?

Baroness Jolly: The noble Baroness asks a lot of questions. Although the ending violence against women and girls action plan is led by the Home Office—I was at a planning meeting a couple of weeks ago and the people sitting around the table were all very senior members from each department, as well as from this House—all government departments play a key role in tackling FGM. For example, as of next month it will be mandatory for NHS acute hospitals to provide monthly information on patients who have undergone FGM, and that has to be supplied to the Department of Health. The Government have also launched a £100,000 FGM community engagement initiative to support community work to raise awareness of FGM. We acknowledge that working with relevant communities is vital, as is systemic eradication of FGM in the UK, which will require practising communities to abandon the practice. There are some really good examples of work being done in Bristol. The West Midlands Police does really useful work and of course the Met here in London is seen as a leader on this issue.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1437

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, in January 2013, Ofsted announced that it would be making efforts to investigate FGM prevention in schools. Worryingly, 80% of teachers said that they had had no professional training in recognising signs of FGM. Will the Minister say what the Government are doing to encourage schools to provide training for teachers so that they can recognise girls at risk?

Baroness Jolly: Fahma Mohamed visited the Department of Health and met the Secretary of State. As a result of this visit, he will be writing to schools by Easter. The safeguarding guidance is being rewritten—it has not been rewritten since 2007—and will go direct to schools, signposting the most recent FGM advice.

Baroness Eaton (Con): My Lords, will the Minister tell us what conversations have been had with the General Medical Council and the BMA? It is often considered that general practitioners’ view of patient confidentiality can get in the way of reporting. That might be an area that seriously needs to be considered.

Baroness Jolly: This is a crime and these people all have safeguarding responsibilities. The Government have been having conversations with the Royal College of General Practitioners, the BMA and, critical to all this, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I welcome the Secretary of State for Education’s commitment to provide the guidelines to schools on protecting children who are at risk of genital mutilation. Will the noble Baroness tell the House what further steps are being taken to provide for and to support properly trained counsellors who really understand the cultural background to this issue so that we are not only protecting children but supporting those who are at risk or may already have been abused?

Baroness Jolly: Work is going on with local communities. A £100,000 grant has been given to set up training so that people could work with NGOs and local schools to pick up exactly the type of issue that the right reverend Prelate has outlined.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB): My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that, given the growing disquiet in the country thanks to the efforts of Members of your Lordships’ House and the other place, even if the Government just said that they were going to look at the possibility of mandatory examination of young girls, that would send out a real warning signal? Parents thinking of doing this would know there is a real possibility that they could go to prison for it.

Baroness Jolly: The Government have looked at that and currently have decided that it is not the way in which they want to go forward. The NHS’s response is that it is asking all acute hospitals to report on a monthly basis to the Department of Health when they see evidence of FGM.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1438

Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords, I think we all know that what we really need is a successful prosecution for FGM. On a different point, have the Government considered conducting a national confidential inquiry into patient outcomes on female genital mutilation? They could do a survey across the NHS, which might help to give a clearer picture. Is the noble Baroness prepared to talk to her friends in the department to see whether that is a possibility?

Baroness Jolly: My Lords, I think that everyone agrees that a prosecution is long overdue. We are told that there are prosecutions in the pipeline. Certainly, I am more than happy to take the noble Baroness’s suggestion back to the Department of Health.

Uganda: Treatment of Women

Question

11.29 am

Asked by Baroness Walmsley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will make representations to the government of Uganda about reports that women are being attacked following the passing of legislation in the Ugandan Parliament that bans women from wearing indecent outfits.

Thee Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My Lords, we have been closely following the Anti-Pornography Act, which received assent on 6 February 2014. The clause interpreted as restricting female dress was amended during parliamentary debate. We are working with local and international partners to understand fully the Act’s implementation. The Ugandan police have issued a warning against attacks and the Ugandan Prime Minister announced a Cabinet review of the Act.

Baroness Walmsley: I thank my noble friend for her reply, but is she aware that public statements by Ugandan Ministers have suggested that the Government really support the sort of behaviour that has resulted from this ban? Is she aware that evidence in this country about men who coerce their wives and partners about what they wear shows that that often leads further to violence against those women? I welcome the British High Commission’s public statement opposing the anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda. Will the British High Commission do something similar in relation to this particular legislation?

Baroness Warsi: Again, for the sake of noble Lords who do not know what we are talking about, this is in relation to a particular piece of legislation that was designed to be anti-pornography, but the definition of pornography was drafted so widely that it effectively covered what women could and could not be perceived to wear in public, including a ban on miniskirts. In relation to the particular question, I assure my noble friend that we have made incredibly strong submissions,

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1439

both publicly and privately, about the Anti-Pornography Act and the impact that it has had on women because of the unfortunate way that society has responded to what is perceived to be the law, as well as in relation to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was passed in February of this year.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, following something that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said about this country, does the Minister agree that while it is important that we make ourselves clear to Uganda about how we view its legislation, we should also be aware that in this country there is still a disposition to regard women’s behaviour and how they dress as a form of contributory negligence when they are subjected to violence? Will she reassure the House that the Government are doing everything they can to root that out, particularly in the police and media? Will she also look at how the education of boys can be further strengthened to ensure that boys do not grow up with those sorts of attitudes?

Baroness Warsi: The noble Baroness is absolutely right. She clearly shows that despite the fact we have legislation in countries that protects women, ultimately social attitudes must follow to ensure that the legislation can be properly implemented and the values that we espouse are properly seen in society. All of us have a responsibility. Only last week, when I was out campaigning with a particular female Member of Parliament, she was referred to by somebody on Twitter as a “Harpy”. I googled that and realised it was an offensive word, so I quite rightly blocked them.

Lord Chidgey (LD): My Lords, everyone is clearly aware that this is yet another piece of gender-based regressive legislation in Uganda, which clearly contravenes the accepted human rights norms on an international basis let alone what we may think. With many UK-based firms working and investing in Uganda, what discussions are the Government having about the implications for United Kingdom citizens located there and, perhaps just as importantly, for UK investment policy in Uganda?

Baroness Warsi: First of all, our travel advice on LGBT issues has been clear to inform people that there could be challenges in relation to how they could be treated when they are in Uganda. Of course, we have a strong relationship with Uganda. It is on that basis that we can have these incredibly frank conversations. I think that all noble Lords would accept that every country is on a journey in relation to its issues around LGBT rights. We have had our own such journeys in this country. What concerns me is the trajectory of some of these countries. Unfortunately, they seem to be heading in the wrong direction.

Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, are the Government contemplating any practical action as a result of the truly appalling anti-homosexual legislation? How about travel bans?

Baroness Warsi: My noble friend makes an important point. One of the potential solutions has been to look at the issue of our aid programme. It is important to note that we do not give budget support to the Ugandan Government: 99% of our aid goes directly to NGOs and civil society organisations. But we must always

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1440

remain vigilant and look at how we can continue to persuade the Ugandan Government and others to protect LGBT rights.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, I am not clear about the Minister’s answer to the penultimate question about the agenda of our dialogue with the Ugandan Government on investment and many other questions. What is the Government’s judgment of how far this matter can be taken forward, or is it the sort of area which it is thought better to exclude for diplomatic reasons?

Baroness Warsi: It is not thought of as an area that we would exclude diplomatically. The noble Lord must be aware that the Foreign Secretary has made incredibly frank and open statements about our concerns around LGBT rights in Uganda and I have always taken the view, as the Minister with responsibility for human rights at the FCO, that if we are going to make human rights work, we have to do this properly. That is the vein in which we are working.

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, given that Uganda is treated as a safe country under Section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, when was the country of origin information service report on Uganda last revised?

Baroness Warsi: The noble Lord will be aware that there is always huge controversy about information and about the accuracy of the country of concern reports which are used as the basis for asylum applications, for example. I know that in relation to these particular issues and LGBT rights, the country of concern information has been and is being updated.

Baroness Thornton (Lab): I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness and, indeed, the Secretary of State on the very firm stand they have taken on LGBT rights and other human rights, particularly in Uganda. When the law was passed to make homosexuality illegal, I was struck that the Anglican Church of Uganda supported it. I know that our own church and the former archbishop, Desmond Tutu, have denounced that. I wonder what the Government are doing in terms of working with the church to mitigate what will be, I think, dreadful repression.

Baroness Warsi: Engagement with faith communities is always seen as an avenue for us in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am not aware of what specific work we are doing in relation to Uganda, but I can certainly write to the noble Baroness on that. This particular piece of legislation was really the lobbying work of one single Member of Parliament, Simon Lokodo—I think it is important to name him—who is referred to as the Minister for Ethics and Integrity. That just shows, as we approach International Women’s Day, how much damage one man can do.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1441

Arrangement of Business

Announcement of Recess Dates

11.37 am

Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make a short statement about business. My noble friend the Leader of the House has today made the usual Written Statement to announce that the Queen will be pleased to open a new Session of Parliament in state on Tuesday, 3 June. Parliament will be prorogued in the usual way on a date to be announced once the progress of our remaining business is certain. I expect that date to be before we are due to start our Whitsun Recess. In other words, the arrangements being announced today will not disturb the Whitsun Recess.

I have two further announcements to make. When, last October, I announced a set of provisional recess dates up to January 2014, I made clear that those dates were a long-range forecast and would be subject to the progress of business and, indeed, events. I am today adding a week to the Easter Recess. We will rise for Easter, as previously announced, at the end of Wednesday, 9 April and we will now return on 6 May, the day after the early Monday May bank holiday.

The other announcement is that my noble friends, the Liberal Democrats, have moved their annual party conference to the week of 6 October so that it does not clash with the referendum to be held in Scotland in September. The House of Commons has decided not to sit during the week of the party conference and I now propose that we, too, should avoid sitting in the week of the Liberal Democrat party conference. We will therefore return from the Summer Recess on Monday, 13 October.

Business of the House

Motion on Standing Orders

11.38 am

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

That Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Monday 10 March to allow the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill to be taken through all its remaining stages that day.

Motion agreed.

Privileges and Conduct Committee

Motion to Agree

11.39 am

Moved by The Chairman of Committees

That the 13th Report from the Select Committee (Amendments to the Code of Conduct and the Guide to the Code) (HL Paper 123) be agreed to.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1442

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Sewel): My Lords, the report proposes changes to the House’s Code of Conduct and the guide to the code, to the rules relating to Members’ staff and to the procedures of the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct and the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards. This report is expected to be the first of two that the committee makes to the House on these issues. It is proposed that a further report will cover a code of conduct for Members’ staff, further guidance on personal honour, and imprisonment of Members. I expect the next report from the committee to be made before Easter.

The report makes 12 recommendations, but I will refer explicitly only to some of them. The proposed changes come from three bodies, two of which will be familiar to Members of your Lordships’ House. The two familiar bodies are the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct, which keeps the code and the guide to the code under regular review, and the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Bew. The third body may be less well known to the House so I will take a few words to describe it. The body in question is called GRECO; its full title is the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption. It was established in 1999 with the role of monitoring the compliance of member states of the Council of Europe with agreed anti-corruption standards. It makes recommendations which Council of Europe member states, and certain other countries, are obliged by international treaty to consider and to implement as appropriate.

Some of the recommendations from the Committee for Privileges and Conduct require only brief explanation. The committee recommends that the new description of the seven principles of public life agreed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life should be adopted by the House. The committee also believes that it would help Members if the guide to the code was explicit in stating that the expression of a clear willingness to breach the code, even if no actual breach then takes place, demonstrates a failure to act on one’s personal honour and is therefore a breach of the code. This is not a new principle. It was endorsed by the House in 2009 and has been spelt out in other reports from the committee. The proposal is to set it out concisely in the guide to the code. The committee agrees with the Committee on Standards in Public Life and GRECO that the threshold for registering gifts, benefits and hospitality which relate substantially to membership of the House should be reduced. The recommendation is to bring the threshold into line with the threshold in the Ministerial Code—in other words, a reduction from £500 to £140.

The House will be aware of significant concerns about lobbying of Members and lobbying by Members. The Committee for Privileges and Conduct shares this concern and therefore accepts the GRECO recommendation that Members of the House should have appropriate guidance for dealing with lobbyists. In formulating this guidance, which is in paragraph 8 of the report, the committee has taken pains to balance the legitimate part played by lobbying in the policy-making

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1443

process with the need to reassure the public that lobbyists are not exerting improper influence over Parliament.

The committee also proposes changes to the rules governing Members’ staff. Given public concern about lobbying, there can be a reasonable perception that anyone employing a person working at the same time for a Member of the House might gain an advantage not available to others. The possession of a parliamentary photo-pass can provide opportunities for contact with Members in the two Houses, so we recommend that Members’ staff sponsored for a parliamentary photo-pass must register the name of any third party that also employs them.

Other recommendations in the report propose small but useful improvements which I hope will help to uphold the standards of conduct in the House. I beg to move.

11.45 am

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, I would like to refer to just one of the proposals, not on grounds of principle at all—of course, the principle I totally accept—but on grounds of practicality. We must remember that under the rules the threshold for the registration of gifts, benefits and hospitality is cumulative; in other words, more than one gift, benefit or hospitality connected with parliamentary affairs from the same person is registrable. Five hundred pounds is a perfectly reasonable sum; it has been in the past. To reduce it to £140 is a huge reduction, but the real point is that the register of interests is already a massive document. Do we really want to clutter it up even more? One hundred and forty pounds is probably not more than the benefit of lunch twice in one year. Do we really want to clutter it up with trivial things? I have no quarrel at all with the principle; I just question whether a reduction from £500 to £140 is sensible.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury (LD): My Lords, I would like to suggest that in future, when amendments to the Code of Conductand theguide are contemplated and put to the House, we should have the equivalent of a Keeling schedule because there are a lot of amendments proposed here to an already long code, and it would be greatly helpful if there were a document which in effect showed what the changes are on the face of the existing code.

The other thing is that I would have hoped that we might have had the opportunity—indeed, we may have but I am unaware of it—to consult on the proposed changes because they affect us intimately. I would have liked to have made some remarks to those who were preparing this document and I am not aware that that opportunity was available.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the reduction from £500 to £140 is of course a matter of judgment. Personally, I see £500 as a worryingly high amount for a gift in relation to parliamentary activity. I think £140 is just about right, quite honestly. On the matter of a schedule that would enable everything to be put into context, when we produce these reports, we show how the changes impact on the present Code of Conduct.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1444

As far as consultation is concerned, the first step in consultation must always be through the representatives that the various groups appoint or elect to these committees.

Motion agreed.

Women: Contribution to Economic Life

Motion to Take Note

11.48 am

Moved by Baroness Northover

That this House takes note of the contribution of women to economic life in the United Kingdom and worldwide.

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, it is an enormous privilege to open this debate marking International Women’s Day. I am delighted that so many noble Lords are speaking today, and that we have a maiden speech from my noble friend Lord Palumbo as well. These debates, which have become an annual event, always demonstrate the enormous range and depth of experience of Members of this House. They are always constructive and thought-provoking. I am very much looking forward to noble Lords’ contributions.

On Saturday 8 March we will mark the 103rd International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate women’s social, economic and political achievements. But while we celebrate the contribution of women to our economy, society and culture, we remain well aware of the barriers to full equality both here in the United Kingdom and internationally.

In 1911, on the first International Women’s Day, women in the United Kingdom were still campaigning for the right to vote, to work and to hold public office. On that day, more than a million women and men attended rallies calling for equality.

Three years later saw the outbreak of the Great War—a centenary that we are about to mark. The First World War saw a social revolution that would have profound and lasting effects on women in the United Kingdom, but it built on earlier changes—people moving into towns and cities, the extension of education to girls and increasing prosperity. In the Great War many women found themselves for the first time in paid employment. Women began taking on the vital roles left vacant when men were conscripted into the military. They worked in munitions factories, agriculture and transport. This movement into the workplace by women saw a far more fundamental change. Women began to expect more from life and society. They began to question the status quo. They asked why they could not do the same jobs or have the same education as men.

However, gaining that greater equality has been a long, slow process and we are not there yet. Women’s lives have of course changed greatly since the first International Women’s Day and the Great War, but we need to focus on challenging the unfairness and prejudice that can still stop women making the most of their potential. Women and girls are still expected to do

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1445

more in the home than men and boys. The pay gap remains. They are less likely to take leading roles in business and public life. Yet we have also seen major shifts in all areas of women’s lives over the 100 years since the Great War. Today women run FTSE 100 companies, bring home gold medals and go into space. We need to tackle the multiple barriers that can hold women back—for their own sakes, for that of their families, including their daughters, and for the economy. This debate focuses on women’s contributions to the economy, at home and abroad. It is only by full participation that their contribution will be truly measured. There are many reasons why women face a greater range of challenges to fulfilling that economic potential, even if the landscape is transformed from earlier times, and even across the generations living now.

Of course, we need to encourage our daughters as much as our sons from the start. I certainly recall my mother being determined that I and my sister had the same opportunities and ambitions as my brother. Today, girls in the UK are outperforming boys at school and university: last year 24.8% of GCSE exams sat by girls were graded A* or A, compared to 17.6% of those sat by boys. Many girls are highly ambitious and want to get ahead, with over half of them saying they want to be a leader in their profession one day. The assumption in 1914 was that a girl’s only real aspiration should be marriage and motherhood. Of course, there are still some deeply ingrained social and cultural assumptions about girls’ abilities and interests. We hope that both sexes—girls and boys—will value family life. We can bring about that greater equality that we wish to see through a fundamental rethink about how men and women live their lives so that both sexes have the opportunity to fulfil themselves through both work and family—should they wish that.

We know that girls’ sense of their own self-worth and potential can cause them to limit their aspirations. In the United Kingdom, over 80% of girls feel that they are judged more on how they look than on what they can do. Sometimes their sense of what is appropriate for girls closes their eyes to other opportunities. At A-level, the subjects that can lead to some of the highest-paying careers, particularly maths and science, remain dominated by boys. In 2013, almost eight in 10 physics papers were taken by boys. Only 30% of women with STEM qualifications now work in science, engineering or technology occupations, compared to 50% of men with STEM qualifications. We need to help make the next generation of girls consider science, technology, engineering, maths or business as their potential route to achievement. Whatever route they wish to take, we wish to encourage girls to fulfil their potential.

We know that women still carry the greater responsibility for home and for children, which is why the home/life balance also has to be addressed. We are making changes that are designed to shift the ground further in favour of equality in the workplace. Flexible parental leave will allow families to share their caring responsibilities and help to end the automatic assumption that the woman will be the one to remain at home. Extending the right to request flexible working to

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1446

all will help to challenge the presumption that flexible working is the preserve of women and that those who make a request are less committed to their employer.

As was flagged up yesterday in the question from my noble friend Lady Jenkin, we are acutely aware that once women have children, their ability to work may be severely hampered. That is why we are also helping with the costs of childcare by increasing free early education places for three and four year-olds to 15 hours a week and have extended that to disadvantaged two year-olds. As I mentioned yesterday, we are taking a range of other measures as well.

We are also aware that women’s caring responsibilities range wider than their children to older family members and others in need. This was an area we sought to address in the Care Bill, and through a number of other measures.

We are seeing girls outperform boys at school, although not always in subjects that will lead to the brightest of careers, and we are seeking to assist men and women to stay in work when they have families. What happens when women are in work? Two in three girls think that there are not enough women in leadership positions in the UK, and for many of them this lack of role models affects their sense of their own ability to succeed.

We are seeking to encourage women to aim high in the corporate world. Our Think, Act, Report initiative provides a simple framework to help companies think about gender equality in their workforces on key issues such as recruitment, retention, promotion and pay. There are now more than 170 major companies supporting the initiative, representing more than 2 million people.

At the top, we need change, hence the importance of the work being led by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, to increase the number of women on boards. We now have more than 20% of FTSE 100 board posts being held by women, up from 12.5% two years ago, with only two companies, Antofagasta plc and Glencore Xstrata plc, still without a woman in post. Bear those names in mind, because I will probably mention them again on Monday when I am answering a Question from my noble friend Lady Seccombe about women on boards—unless, of course, there has been a change over the weekend.

However, we need women at every level, and we need women entrepreneurs. More than 14 million women are now working—more than ever before. Businesses set up and run by women contribute £70 billion to our economy. We have also acted to encourage and support more women to start their own businesses. The Women’s Business Council has made recommendations to improve the health and competitiveness of our economy, focusing on four key areas it has identified where girls and women face particular challenges or difficulties.

We know that more needs to be done so that at every level of every business we see women as well as men, and women in large numbers. It is not just in business where we need to see women. We need to see them running media organisations, as professors in universities, and in public life everywhere.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1447

In terms of public life, the 2010 general election had a record number of women candidates and there are now more female Members of the House of Commons than at any other time: 147 women, including six Asian women MPs where previously there were none. But that is not enough and it is nowhere near 50%. We now have 182 women who are Members of this House. As I said earlier, they are disproportionately active in our House. It is worth bearing that in mind for those making any appointments.

In 2012-13, 37% of new public appointments made by Whitehall departments were women, and our aspiration is that 50% of new public appointees should be women by the end of this Parliament. However, we know there is much more to do to ensure that our institutions are fully reflective of the communities that they serve, so that women and girls fulfil their potential for their own benefit and for that of their families, but also for our economy.

We know how our lives have been transformed by comparison with those of our mothers, our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers. We are also very active, as noble Lords will know, in seeking to address the position of women worldwide, which we do through the FCO, through DfID and through other engagement. Right now we therefore have parliamentarians, Ministers, NGOs and officials beginning to gather in New York for the Commission on the Status of Women. Some noble Lords who are speaking here today will soon be making their way to New York, and we wish them well. It is important work that they will be doing. They will be seeking to ensure that the millennium development goals, which will be replaced in 2015, include a stand-alone goal on gender equality, as well as to ensure that gender is mainstreamed through all the goals, because we will quite simply not address the excluded—the poorest—without doing this.

Just as we work to ensure that women in the UK are fulfilled in their lives, and contribute to our economy alongside that, we recognise that gender equality elsewhere is vital not only for the women themselves but for their families, their societies and their economies. This is why DfID puts women and girls front and centre in its work. That is because, in the words of the proposed MDGs, we aim to leave no one behind.

DfID’s strategic vision for girls and women aims to unlock their potential to stop poverty before it starts. It seeks to empower girls and women by crystallising our aims under the headings of voice, choice and control. This means girls and women having a voice in decision-making in their household, community and country and in politics, business, the media and civil society through their participation, leadership and collective action. It means that they should have the choice to complete education and benefit from paid work and opportunities to earn a sufficient income and over whether, when and with whom they have sex, marry or have children. It means having control over their own bodies and mobility, including their safety from violence, and over income, productive assets and other resources, including food, water and energy, with equal legal rights, access to justice and freedom from discriminatory social norms. This also encapsulates what we seek in the United Kingdom.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1448

What does this mean in practice in terms of DfID’s work? I would like to illustrate this from a visit that I have just made to India. Let me take the example of a couple of villages in Madhya Pradesh, which I visited with DfID officials. Sanitation has just been installed in these villages. In the case of one of them, the main defecation field was around a school. That was where people used to come but the schoolchildren were enlisted and showed huge enthusiasm for their task: to monitor their elders and betters, blowing whistles to summon help whenever an adult followed their usual patterns and began to use the field once again as a toilet. It took some months to retrain the adults but the children were delighted with the success that they had achieved. The women also noted that they were now safer in not having to go out into the field at night, while their children were more healthy and therefore in school. Sanitation had brought a wealth of benefits, including to the economy of that village.

In the second village there was a nutrition centre providing ante-natal care along with food for pregnant and lactating mothers and children up to the age of three. Those assisting the pregnant women and cooking the meals were women: paid directly, grouping together in self-help groups, opening small bank accounts, saving up and then being able to access loans. The ones who we met had used their loan to buy a buffalo for each woman to benefit her, her family, and the village’s economy. Within a year, those loans had been paid off and they were considering their next plan. I tell the House this to illustrate how such interventions can provide both independence and greater equality for women, and improve their ability to contribute to supporting their families—by feeding them and keeping children in school—their communities and their countries.

I conclude by looking forward to our debate today. Whether we debate the United Kingdom or the wider world, we know that we have not yet secured equality and that while we celebrate what we have achieved, we note the barriers that remain to the full participation of women at every level of society and in every aspect of our economies. I expect that this debate will shine further light on how far we have to go but also on what we have achieved. I beg to move.

12.04 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, I warmly welcome that comprehensive speech from the Minister. It is a great pleasure to participate in today’s important debate, but I have to say that it is a good job that we got it in before the various recesses. I do not wish to begin on a sour note but I have to reflect that there will be little parliamentary business between now and the general election, perhaps maximising the time for political mischief-making and minimising the time for us to do our job. As a parliamentarian I regret that, but perhaps it is a consequence of the coalition being unable to agree upon a common programme. However, I shall return to today’s business.

It is clear from all the facts and figures that we will hear today that women’s participation and influence matters. Women, especially those from poor backgrounds in the developed and developing worlds, are marginalised within decision-making processes and institutions. As

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1449

VSO points out in its excellent document

Women in Power: Beyond Access to Influence in a Post-2015 World

, there is clear evidence that where women participate and influence decision-making, it is leading to more efficient, effective and responsive decisions for women; it helps progress towards gender equality; and it helps to transform the deep-rooted social norms and attitudes that act as barriers.

There is a desperate need for action in a world where women account for two-thirds of the world’s poorest, perform two-thirds of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food but earn only 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property. These women are making a huge contribution to our economic life, and without them their families, communities and societies would crumble. That is one of the many reasons why it is crucial that the post-2015 development framework must include the issue of women’s participation and influence in public and political life.

I am delighted that gender is being mainstreamed and that the overarching message of the new framework is, “No woman left behind”, which encompasses women and girls from all over the world. Too often we separate the problems of women in the developing world from those in our world, whereas in reality our problems are often common and the difference is sometimes only in degree. Women in this country and throughout the European Union suffer economic inequality; likewise in Africa, India, Asia and America. Women are subjected to domestic violence all over the world. We are always horrified when we read of domestic violence on other continents, yet too many often forget that domestic violence is a reality in our own country, with one in four women subjected to domestic violence during their life. Yesterday we read of the terrible report that about one-third of all women in the EU have experienced either physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.

When it comes to women’s representation, it might seem shocking that only one in five parliamentarians worldwide is a woman or that women hold only 17% of ministerial posts, yet these figures almost mirror the reality in our own country, a mature democracy where women have had the vote since 1918. We know that where women are in positions of influence and power they make a difference, so we have to do much more to address the barriers. I am proud of the actions taken by my party over the past 15 years so that now 81 out of the 257 Labour MPs are women—more than the Conservative and Liberal Democrat women MPs combined—but that is still not enough. It is great that in the selections that have taken place in our target seats 54% of them have gone to women.

I know that many Lib Dem and Conservative noble Baronesses speaking today, notably the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, are doing everything they can to improve their female representation in Parliament, and I pay tribute to them. I have to say that leadership on this has to come from the top, and having only five women as full members of the Cabinet is not a good example. Our commitment is to have a Cabinet with 50% women. It probably will not help the cause of the noble Baronesses opposite to know that they have the support of our Benches, but I assure them that they do. It is our duty to do everything that we can to work for a more

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1450

gender-balanced society in every way, using the talents of all. I had hoped to achieve this for my daughter but, while my generation has brought about change, standing on the shoulders of our mothers and grandmothers, we have not done nearly enough, so I now hope to make progress for my future granddaughter, who is not yet coming but will one day, I hope.

A 21st-century society in which just 23% of MPs are women, with one female judge in the Supreme Court and only four female CEOs in the FTSE 100 is almost intolerable, and every time I see the family photos of the G8, G20 or European Council, I want to scream.

All these things matter in terms of the economic life of our country and the world. Women’s empowerment goes hand in hand with economic empowerment. In the UK, too many women do not feel empowered. Millions are still struggling to fulfil their economic potential, and our economy suffers. It is estimated that gender inequality in the workplace in the UK costs 5% in lost GDP. As I think we will hear from my noble friend Lady Thornton, affordable childcare is one of the biggest barriers to women entering and remaining in the workforce, and today we heard more about the care crisis, exacerbated by cuts, which affects carers, who are predominantly female, and those they care for.

Shattered economies can be rebuilt with the help of women. I am not suggesting that our economy is shattered, I am talking about other places, but our economy is not doing so well. Last week, I was at a presentation of the work of Women for Women International, a brilliant organisation that helps women survivors of war, giving them support and confidence to rebuild their lives through learning new skills leading to economic activity, which in turn helps to rebuild society. These women are empowered in every way.

A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to be in Pakistan with a CPA delegation, part of a partnership programme that has been established for women parliamentarians of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. We spent time with the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus which, as well as continuing its work promoting pro-women legislation in the national Parliament, intends to work closely with women legislators in the provincial assemblies to promote education and child and maternal health. Women’s lives are improving, albeit slowly, and there are some excellent laws on protecting a women’s right to inheritance, acid throwing, honour killings and equal marriage rights, to name but a few, but there is an enormous gap between intention and implementation. There needs to be a change in culture, a change in mindset, especially of the men, but this is a long process, and it is a barrier to the real empowerment of women.

As in every country, education is the key. You educate a man, and you educate an individual; you educate a woman, and you educate mankind. In Pakistan, the literacy rate is 46% and only 26% girls are literate, but action is being taken and there are plans to increase the 2% of GDP spent on education to 4%. In this country, I believe it is more than 6%. Of course, as in so many developing countries, there are many barriers to girls’ education in Pakistan: culture, safety, sanitation and distance in rural areas, to name but a few. We

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1451

visited a senior girls’ state school in Rawalpindi, which was a real delight. We met the girls, their teachers, parents and local officials who are working with the Punjab schools reform road map. This is a huge programme supported by DfID, spearheaded by Sir Michael Barber, DfID’s special representative on education in Pakistan, and, of course, supported by Mohammad Sarwar, who is now the governor of the Punjab and who was formerly a Labour MP. I pay tribute to the phenomenal work of Sir Michael, which is making a real difference to children in Pakistan and will improve the future life chances of those children, their country and, I believe, the world. The results are deeply impressive, with an extra 1.5 million children enrolled in school, a daily student attendance rate of more than 90%, 81,000 new teachers hired on merit and 90% of schools with basic facilities.

Pakistan is a country with many challenges, not least in relation to security, but its democratic institutions are developing and deepening, and last year saw the first smooth transition of power from one civilian Government to another. To be a female politician in Pakistan takes courage—and money, I should add—but not as much courage as women politicians in Afghanistan. We met with two extraordinary, passionate women MPs who are strong and courageous advocates of women’s empowerment in every way. They live in a country where women’s literacy is 14%. I think about 40% of girls now go to school, but it is still a country where schools are systematically destroyed by the Taliban, and where women’s newly found freedoms are constantly threatened, as we heard in Questions. They must not be allowed to slip.

I should say in passing that I am deeply dismayed by the threat to women’s freedom on our own continent. The new Bill in Spain would reverse the changes of 2010 and allow abortion only in cases of rape or where women can prove that having a child would pose a severe risk to their physical or mental health. This is an outrage.

The women of Afghanistan literally risk their lives for women’s empowerment through democracy; they are prepared to die for it. Yet, to our shame, only 64% of women voted in the 2010 general election, and only 42% of women voted in the 2009 elections to the European Parliament. There is absolutely no doubt that democracy leads to freedom and empowerment for women. Women in our country died for the vote and, all over the world, they are still giving their lives for democracy. The situation in Ukraine is complex, but there is no doubt that a thirst for democracy, justice and freedom was the catalyst for many of the protesters in Independence Square. As women and men who enjoy the freedoms of democracy, who understand that it must be nurtured by votes in order to flourish, and who understand the power of the ballot box, we have a duty to encourage women to vote in all elections, to give them a voice and to ensure that those in power then develop and implement the policies that will empower women and have an impact on their lives. We who have a voice have a duty to work with others to break down the barriers that prevent or inhibit women from achieving positions of power and influence in the private and public sphere, including in our councils, parliaments and assemblies.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1452

I will finish with the words of Emmeline Pankhurst, which are as relevant today as they were more than a century ago:

“We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half”.

12.16 pm

Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone (Con): My Lords, it is a privilege to speak in this debate, particularly following the noble Baroness and my noble friend. I strongly endorse their comments and the approach of trying to balance the huge opportunities in the developed world for women—transformational experiences, compared to our mothers and grandmothers—with the serious concern about the marginalised and underprivileged, not only in the West and the developed world but all around the world. It is that tension that we will have to address.

Last night in another place, a reception was held by Coca-Cola. I did not myself attend, but I will share with noble Lords the comments made by the global chairman of Coca-Cola, Muhtar Kent. When asked about the future, he said:

“The real drivers of the post American world, I believe, won’t be China, won’t be India, won’t be Brazil, won’t be any nation. The real drivers are going to be women: women entrepreneurs, women business, political, academic and cultural leaders, and women innovators. The truth is that women already are the most dynamic and fastest-growing economic force in the world today”.

I share that sense of energy and optimism. Time and again, we have seen new conquests. We have had the first woman Prime Minister; I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, complained about having only five women in the cabinet but, to me, geriatric as I am, that seems a mass. I think that I was the eighth woman in the Cabinet, and it was extraordinary to have two women together in the Cabinet. We have had the first Appeal Court judge. Many women firsts are in this House, such as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. We have had the first woman chief constable and prison governor, and our second female Lord Speaker. The dramatic change is extraordinary; the question is how that can then be broadened and deepened.

Lord Rooker (Lab): May I intervene on what the noble Baroness has said, because she is a rarity herself? Female Members of this House who were previously Tory Members of the other House stand at half the percentage of the Lib Dems or Labour. There have only been eight since the late Baroness Thatcher, and the noble Baroness is one of them; there have been six Lib Dems and 16 Labour Baronesses. What is the problem among the Tories with sending female former Members of the Commons to this place?

Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone: I do not want to be unduly provocative. I know the answer to this question. It was the case that people came to the House of Lords as a sign of achievement, so, generally, only people who had been in the Cabinet would come to the Lords. If the noble Lord looks at the situation, a disproportionate number of Labour Peers kindly made way from their safe Commons seats for an individual

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1453

of No. 10’s choosing. The noble Lord may think that this is harsh, but that has always been the nature of the journey from the other place to the House of Lords for Commons Members. However, I am pretty confident that we will see more. I do not want to go too far with this partisan view, because I feel quite strongly about it. As the noble Lord is an endangered man, I do not want him to become too emotional and irrational as I proceed with my comments.

We now have slightly more females in the Lords than the Commons but, again, 22.5% in the Commons compared with the 23 out of 600 when I started seems a long way. So much so—as I have been diverted—because for four years, when I was first in the other place, I only ever wore a grey, black or blue suit, with a little bow at my neck and four buttons on the wrist, on the basis that if nobody mentioned that I was not a man, I would not mention it either. As time has gone on, maybe because of our own children, I have now come out as a fully fledged battleaxe, and I plan to continue with my thoughts.

Of course, there have been very interesting developments in the church. The first female priest was ordained in 1994, which was extraordinary for the Church of England, and now something like 22.5% of the clergy in the Church of England is female. We are all on tenterhooks to hear from the right reverend Prelate, but we very much hope that by the time we have this debate next year there will be a female bishop; whether that will be a female bishop who is entitled to sit in this place I know not. I very much hope that before I get carried away I will see progress in what must be one of the greatest Christian faiths of the world, the Roman Catholic Church, which to me simply has no leg to stand on. In case any noble Lords think that I am presumptuous to speak of another faith, there is an internal battle within my family on this subject, and I know the strength of feeling that exists on it. There should be change, because neither parliaments, God nor business should define us by our gender; what matters is our humanity and contribution.

I will start on the economy and business. Many in this House know that I am slightly impatient with the simplistic figure of the number of women on boards, as it does not reflect what is happening to women in the workplace. Be that as it may, we have to give credit to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and I give credit to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, who was one of the great champions of Opportunity 2000, and to many other women. However, I regret to confess that a man leading that cause with his energy has been even more successful. We seem to have reached a tipping point. As my noble friend said, in 2010 12.5% of FTSE directors were women and the figure is now 20.4%. Of course, if you look only at the non-executive directors, the figure is right up at 25%. Executive progression is the issue, and it is too easy to overlook that.

I applaud the Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, who has undertaken a great deal of work on diversity during her year as mayor, developing a toolkit for what the key issues are for women as they go through the workplace: flexible time, mentors, work-life balance—arrangements that technology can make much easier. I have been very interested by the mentoring. Men often

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1454

ring me and say that they have been mentoring a woman and tell me how impressive she is, to which I say, “I am so pleased that you have met her and understand her. I’ve known her for several years”. Therefore, I do not know what the mentoring is doing for the women, but it is very good indeed for the men and has taught them a thing or two. There are four chief executives of FTSE 100 companies, and there will soon be two chairmen, but of course, much more needs to be done. We are learning more about how that can be achieved.

I will move to another area. Too much time is given to women on boards, and quotas, which are ludicrous. I will look at education. My noble friend is herself an academic by background. When I became a Member of Parliament there were no female secondary school heads at all in my constituency. Now 71% of primary schools have a woman head, and 37% of secondary schools have a woman head, but still only 17.5% are vice-chancellors. What is the problem? Many people would think that academia was quite a female-friendly environment. Of course—and these are factors that you see in business and elsewhere—you continually have to publish, promote yourself, assert yourself and be a peacock. As we understand, the real difference between men and women in the workplace is that women are far less likely to push themselves forward and to be assertive and confident. But to have only 17.5% of university vice-chancellors as women puts the issue about women on boards in perspective. Nobody is talking about having 30% female vice-chancellors, but I think that that is rather more important, particularly as we all agree that it is in education that people learn about gender, expectations and stereotypes. The first female vice-chancellor was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, Professor Lillian Penson, and it has been steadily going up. In Sweden, 53% of the vice-chancellors are women, while in the US it is 26% and in Australia 23%. As we now know, more than half of graduates are women. So I ask people to look at the issue of women on boards in the context of other professions and activities, and we could cover many other areas.

If we are to have quotas, there is only one quota that I care about. The last figures that I had—I hope that the Minister will be able to explore this further—was that there were 4,370 schools in the UK in 2011 that had no male teacher. I feel much more strongly about having one male teacher in every school than I do about quotas and percentages. Many noble Lords will know that in many schools in disadvantaged areas children have little experience of a supportive man, and this seems critically important.

However, the world situation is optimistic. Quite soon, there will be four more female millionaires, and in the UK female millionaires will outnumber male millionaires by 2020. By 2025, women will control 60% of the UK’s wealth; globally, women control £13 trillion, while 70% of all US and UK personal wealth is held by over-65s, and the majority are women. In China, one in three of the millionaires is female. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and overall I am optimistic.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1455

But I need to go to the other end of the spectrum, because this is the contradiction in women’s matters. Many in this House speak about the problems of women in prison. Some 38% of women in prison are simply there for theft, or stolen goods; overwhelmingly, 81% are there for non-violent offences. Women in prison have huge and complex needs; there is suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse and violence. It is appalling, quite apart from the estimated 17,000 to 18,000 children who experience their mothers being in prison, which is quite unlike the situation for men. Concern is frequently expressed in this place about that, and I am looking forward tomorrow to going to HMP Bronzefield, the largest female prison in Europe, with category A and young offenders, to see Pimlico Opera perform “Sister Act”. The degree to which people outside prisons are becoming involved—not only in education but in the arts, including the Watts Gallery, which does a great deal at HMP Send, a female prison—is exciting and special. But this is a highly needy and disadvantaged group.

Similarly, I commend to the House the comments of Dr Suzanne Clisby of the International Council for Human Rights, when she spoke at the UN about the appalling situation of female violence in conflict zones. My noble friend referred to DfID, and I am very pleased about her comments on that, because the work that it has undertaken on the theory of changing tackling violence against women and girls, which I urge interested noble Lords to consider, is highly regarded. Dr Clisby, like others, works at the gender institute of the University of Hull, at which I am so proud to be chancellor. This is an internationally regarded institution for gender studies, addressing in much greater depth than any of us can the topics that we have been discussing today.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, mentioned her visits to two Indian villages. In India, the literacy rate for women is 65%. As she said, it is 26% in Pakistan, and I am very proud to have a niece working for DfID in Pakistan. I share the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, on the work done by Sir Michael Barber, but who in this House knows that there are eight female chief executives of banks in India, including those of Merrill Lynch, the Bank of India, Credit Suisse, HSBC, ICICI, JP Morgan Chase and the State Bank of India? Again, it is a case of looking at the paradoxes and trying to chart a way through.

I hope that this debate, as with previous debates on this subject, will help us celebrate the successes, while taking nothing for granted, and re-energise our determination to ensure that women the world over and throughout our own country can maximise their potential and make the rich contribution that they so much want to make to not only the economy but society at large.

12.31 pm

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD): My Lords, I am pleased to be able to take part in this debate today on a topic of significant importance in this day and age and one which is dear to my heart. Like many, I have received a wealth of data and information to help support my arguments. I am delighted

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1456

that my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, has chosen this topic for his maiden speech. I look forward to hearing what he has to say and wish him well.

As we have already heard, getting women into the workplace is an international problem. A report published in the Economist in October 2012 stated that in the next decade nearly 1 billion women are likely to enter the global labour force, but their economic potential is largely unrealised. If female employment rates matched those of men, GDP would increase by 5% in America and 9% in Japan by 2020. The impact would be even larger for developing countries, home to most of the world’s women who lack adequate education and support, both social and political. Increasing female employment would increase GDP significantly in countries such as India and Egypt, where female labour participation rates are below 30%. In Egypt, GDP would increase by 108% and in Britain by 13%.

When first elected as Leader of Somerset County Council in 2001 in the middle of the foot and mouth crisis, I chaired the Cabinet of six women and one man. My male colleague frequently made reference to the fact that he was the “token male” and obviously felt uncomfortable. His female colleagues, however, were perfectly satisfied with the situation. However, it was not long before the other men in the group started to whisper and plot to “get rid of some of these women and replace them with men”. There being more men than women in the group, at the next annual meeting they did, in fact, replace two of the women with men. The women were devastated as they had worked hard, got to grips with their briefs and done a good job. The replacement men were only satisfactory in their roles but terribly proud of themselves for their achievement in having got promotion to the “inner circle”, as they saw it. Sadly, behaviour such as this is typical of the ethos which exists in some workplaces. Why is it that some men feel so threatened by women? Is it that we are better at juggling—if you are to have a job and bring up a family, it is essential that you are an expert juggler—or is it some other reason?

Access to safe and affordable quality childcare is key to women fulfilling their potential in the workplace and contributing to the economy of our country. The report out this week from the Family and Childcare Trust reveals that families are paying around 4.7% more on average for part-time childcare than they spend on an average mortgage. This is an enormous sum and we should be doing more to address the issue of a ready, cost-effective supply of childcare. We know from Department for Education surveys that more women would return to work if they could access childcare that did not cripple them financially. One in five working mothers said that they would like to increase their hours if they could arrange,

“good quality childcare which was convenient, reliable and affordable”.

Parents in Britain use more than a quarter—26.6%—of their salaries on childcare, more than any other European country, except Switzerland.

The return of women to the workplace after having children is not without its personal costs. As a working mother I cursed school inset days and came to dread the school holidays. Racked by guilt that I was not spending enough time with my children, I searched

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1457

around for clubs and activities that I hoped my children would enjoy so that they would not have to spend quite so much time with the childminder. I reduced my working week so that I got home earlier and could go out for walks and picnics to spend some quality time with them, but I was always left with the feeling that I had somehow let them down, although they never said anything to compound that feeling.

As a country we must do everything we can to encourage women to return to the workplace after having families. We can now see examples of employers who, instead of denigrating the fact that women go off to have families, are recognising that the skills gained in this experience far outweigh those of their male colleagues. Any woman who has negotiated with a three year-old determined to participate in a life-threatening activity and done so without the resultant tears and tantrums in a very public place can well deal with negotiations between her male colleagues’ testosterone-driven ego trips. Women also bring a different perspective to problem solving which, together with their male colleagues’ approach, often produces a more rounded solution.

Some women suffer discrimination in the workplace simply because they are women. Often it is women higher up the structure of their employers who attempt to keep their female colleagues down instead of encouraging them. They have had to struggle to get where they are and wish their counterparts to have the same experience. It is certainly the case that in many professions, in order for women to succeed, they have to behave and act like their male counterparts to be taken seriously, as my noble friend Lady Bottomley so graphically demonstrated to us.

The Government are keen to encourage young people into the STEM subjects at school, but young women need to be aware that they will have a struggle on their hands. In a large hospital in the south, of 439 consultants, 74% are men and only 26% are women. In that hospital there are 53 dieticians but only one is a man. In the nursing profession only about 10% are men. This speaks volumes of how the health service views the roles of men and women. Does this also say something about how difficult women find it to juggle families and high-pressured careers? It is certainly the case that women find it easier to have careers in the NHS than in engineering, for instance.

Many women work in small businesses. The Federation of Small Businesses believes that it is vital to support female entrepreneurship. In the UK alone, 150,000 additional start-ups would have been created each year if women had started businesses at the same rate as men. The FSB has worked to promote female entrepreneurship and to look at the barriers particularly faced by women in starting businesses. Nearly half the businesses established in the past two years in retail, hotels, catering and leisure were primarily owned by women. Of the businesses that are members of the FSB, 26.9% are female-owned. The sectors with the highest proportion of female-owned businesses are: health and social work, 45.5%; education, 44%; and personal services, 42.5%. These businesses are the

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1458

lifeblood of our communities. Without the services provided by these small businesses, many other women would be unable to go out to work at all.

On the international aspect of our debate today, I am indebted to my noble friend Lady Falkner for the following figures. She regrets that another engagement prevents her being present today and taking part in the debate. In response to questions to the FCO, my noble friend received the following information on the role of senior women. EU Permanent Representatives: nine men, no women; NATO Permanent Representatives: eight men, one woman; UN agencies heads of mission, New York: eight men; no women; UN agencies heads of mission, Geneva: seven men, two women; heads of mission to China, Russia, France and the US: 31 men, one woman; heads of mission to Germany and Italy: 17 men, no women; heads of mission to the 11 BRICS countries: 93 men, seven women. This really is not good enough.

We all know that women are perfectly capable of filling their place in society at all levels. We must do everything we can to make sure that no barriers are put in their way to prevent them achieving and assisting our economy in benefiting from their considerable skills. I look forward to the contributions from your Lordships during the rest of the debate and I hope that at the end of the day we can take some positive steps in going forward.

12.41 pm

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the noble Baroness could well have said, “Bishops’ Benches: 26 men, no women”, but I am glad that she did not, although I am sure that others will.

I rise with an appropriate hesitancy as the first male speaker in a debate in which only 22% of the speakers will be men. The majority of those listening are also women, which is a pity. However, I look forward to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, whom I can only describe as a fellow Daniel in the lion’s den on this occasion. Indeed, those who inhabit these Benches might be seen as somewhat handicapped in advocating the fuller involvement of women in the wider life of our society. As we are regularly reminded, ours are the only Benches from which women are currently excluded. I hope that I can say something today about that and about the wider significance of the struggles of the church over the full involvement of women in its life. I want to speak specifically about the Church of England only because that is, obviously, the organisation that I know best.

Perhaps I may give the House an update on the gender-specific character of the Bishops’ Benches. The question for the Church of England in recent decades has not really been, “Should women be able to be bishops?”. That was settled quite a long time ago. The delay has been due to the questions over whether and how to accommodate those who do not wish to recognise and receive the sacramental and spiritual ministry of female bishops. Some Members of your Lordships’ House will perhaps think that such views simply should not be accommodated at all, and I can understand that feeling. However, the reasons why the church has wrestled with the question of how to accommodate

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1459

those who do not wish to accept the ministry of women bishops is twofold. The first is, quite simply, that we are a national church—a comprehensive church—in our self-understanding, and that leads to a deep instinct to keep on board as wide a range of people as possible. Deciding how that is done and how the limits are set is quite tricky for a national church. Secondly, the great majority of Christians alive today belong to churches where women are not ordained: the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches and many of the more conservative Protestant churches. Therefore, looked at internationally, what is very much a minority opposition to ordained women and women bishops in the Church of England is actually a majority position in world Christianity.

Those are the reasons why our discussions and processes have been rather drawn out, but there is now an agreed way forward and we are confident that final proposals will be before the Ecclesiastical Committee later this summer, with, we hope, final parliamentary approval before the end of the year. The first women bishops should be appointed during next year, perhaps early next year. They will subsequently appear on these Benches, perhaps by some fast-tracking mechanism if that can be agreed through the parliamentary process.

I began by setting this out partly to provide the House with up-to-date information on this matter and partly because the catalyst to the rapid progress which we are now seeing in the church has a wider relevance to today’s debate. Until 2012, the Church of England had tried, for the first of the reasons I gave earlier, to accommodate opposition to the ordination of women by framing proposals which restricted the authority of women bishops in their dioceses on the face of the church’s legislation. This rightly elicited the criticism that in some sense the resultant women bishops would have a second-class character about them, with an authority which was restricted as compared with their male counterparts. For some, that was an acceptable compromise as a way to get the legislation through. However, it failed in its purpose because a small but significant group of synod members who favoured opening the episcopate to women felt that the proposal lacked a certain inner integrity. I was among those and for that purpose I abstained in the vote in November 2012, when the legislation narrowly failed to achieve the necessary majorities.

In the subsequent discussion, an honest assessment of what we were doing and where we are has produced the right conclusion in my view that the only way forward was a simpler proposal which opened the episcopate to women, essentially without any qualification. Such provision as may be made then for those who are not prepared to receive the ministry of a woman bishop would be made pastorally by the woman bishop herself under her proper authority, with guidelines from the House of Bishops to try to achieve a certain consistency across the Church of England. My point is that it was when it was realised that there could be no reservation or disguised discrimination attached to women bishops that the log-jam suddenly cleared and the way forward appeared. The woman bishop will have in her diocese exactly the same authority and jurisdiction as her male colleagues. Really, we should have seen that much earlier, as I am sure many Members

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1460

of your Lordships’ House will think. I think that that is why the process has ended up being rather drawn out.

I suggest that in other areas of our national life, our economy, to define that word in its broadest context, will have seen parallel struggles for women to be accepted in their own right, with their own particular gifts and talents, rather than simply being expected to conform to the established ways and practices as laid down by decades or perhaps centuries of male dominance. The noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, referred to that in relation to the other place. I am sure that other noble Lords will refer to that themselves. Speaking personally, I have two daughters who are both making their ways successfully through two of our leading professions, but there has always been the subtext that, “As long as you conform to a man’s world, we will give you every opportunity”. There is still quite a lot to be done sensitively to adapt our national life and professional life to the talented women whose gifts we so much need. Our experience in the church suggests that these issues ultimately need to be addressed head on, without too much compromise and the resultant disguised discrimination.

Let me conclude with some remarks about the wider contribution of women to the economy of the church; that is, the “household” of the church—the word “economy” in its original derivation means “household”. I would not want my earlier remarks about women bishops to be detached from the wider contribution that women make to the life of the church. Much of that is done on a voluntary basis and there is nothing wrong with that. Armies of people care for the parish churches of this land, which comprise nearly half our grade 1 listed buildings. There is all the cleaning and adornment of those buildings, and the wonderful skills of flower arrangers, which so often are neglected but actually adorn our churches. I always remark on that each Sunday as I go around my diocese—although not while we are in Lent, but I shall look forward to doing that at Easter.

Alongside that there is the wide range of pastoral work with women to the fore, including the gathering and distribution of food through food banks, which are now such an important, if ambiguous, feature of our society, and in which local churches and Christians are usually involved. I want to pay a deep tribute to all that work. Then there are the growing numbers of women priests, the first of whom were ordained just 20 years ago. We will have a splendid celebration this summer. Dare I say that I am contemplating ordering crates of pink champagne to distribute in my diocese? Today, about a third of all licensed clergy in the Church of England are women—a figure that looks likely to rise steadily to a half on current patterns of ordination. The number who are in charge of parishes, incumbents, is the figure given by the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, which is about 22% but rising steadily. I should add that more than half our licensed readers who assist the ordained ministry, preach and lead services are women.

As we prepare for the consecration of women as bishops, perhaps the greatest challenge is to accept that through the progressive process of opening up the

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1461

ministry of the Church to women, there has been, there is and there will be a progressive and deep transformation of the church and its ministry—the institution of the church in all its aspects. There is an awareness of these issues and careful work is being done in advance of the first consecration to the episcopate to try to avoid inadvertent pressure for these women simply to conform to established male stereotypes. We must acknowledge that the pressure will subtly be there in all sorts of ways. “God forbid!”, your Lordships may say. Women have transformed the economy of the church in all its aspects and I am confident that in the years to come they will continue to do so.

12.51 pm

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con): My Lords, I apologise if my voice waxes and rasps, but I am suffering from a severe case of man flu—let us be honest: is there any other kind? But it is a great privilege to participate in this debate and particularly to hear the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Palumbo, which will be interesting. We should all listen to it with a bangin’ drum ‘n’ bass dance track underpinning everything that he says.

In preparing for this debate, I looked up the variety of international days that exist. They are rich and varied and all incredibly important. It is worth mentioning a couple of them alongside 8 March, which is obviously the purpose of this debate. In two weeks’ time, 20 March is International Day of Happiness. I think that we will all enjoy that one. I was born on the International Day of Rural Women—an incredibly significant day. That was lucky and auspicious in many ways in that I only just, marginally, avoided being born, with more than a degree of irony, on World Sight Day.

I will limit my comments today to three areas of my experience: the law, London 2012 and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, for which my interest is declared in the register. The first is the law. I started many years ago as a solicitor in the City of London, where there were many schemes to try to get more females into the profession. There were many schemes but there was not much outcome at that stage. There were very few women as senior associates and even fewer as partners in City firms. I found out an incredible fact when I started: only a few years earlier, women solicitors were actually prevented from wearing trousers in their profession. That was extraordinary in the 1990s in this country.

Now, the picture is incredibly different. The figures between the genders are far more positive. There are female partners and many more female senior associates, and the work that the Lord Mayor of London is doing in her mayoral year with the project on diversity can only be a further positive action in this area.

When I went to London 2012, I had a clear approach and understanding of diversity and inclusion, and we embedded those right from making the bid, even before we had won the right to stage the Games. The key is for this always to be led from the top. My noble friend Lord Deighton was completely committed to equality, diversity and inclusion across the piece, not least in the area of gender. Look at our director team

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1462

at LOCOG. Our HR director, comms director, strategy director and general counsel were all extraordinary and phenomenal females. Perhaps more significantly, our director of sport, that traditionally very male Olympic role, was Debbie Jevans. It was an absolutely extraordinary move. She took the sport programme for 2012 from the bid right through to Games time. We drove down into the heads, managers and assistants the need for gender equality throughout the organising committee, and it made a difference. Both in the organisation and at Games time, it absolutely made a difference.

Similarly, we wanted our volunteers, the Games Makers, to be truly representative of Great Britain, and gender was at the heart of that. Not only did it lead to the scenes of the fantastic Games Makers that we are all so well aware of, it gave more than just a nod to the phenomenal work done by volunteers up and down Great Britain, many of whom—the majority, in fact—are female.

I shall move on to those who were centre stage in 2012: the athletes. The first gold medal for Team GB at the Olympic Games was won by Helen Glover and Heather Stanning. I was lucky enough to be at Eton Dorney Lake to experience that golden morning. The person who became the face of the London 2012 Olympic Games was Jessica Ennis. What a phenomenal female she is in terms of sporting performance and her personality. She did not just focus on potentially winning gold at London 2012, she was part of driving ticket sales and maintained people’s interest in and connection with the Olympic Games.

For the first time female and male Paralympians were seen to be on an equal footing with their Olympic counterparts. Ellie Simmonds was such a draw for the crowd that the swimming pool was packed for all her finals. The roar for her final in the 400-metre freestyle event was as loud as it had been for anything during the Olympic Games. Ditto Sarah Storey, a phenomenal swimmer who turned to cycling. I was lucky enough to be in one of the technical cars down at Brands Hatch for the road race and I heard our chief technical officer come on to the radio and say, “She’s not only beating the girls, she’s whipping the boys”. Those were phenomenal performances.

Let us come right up to date with Sochi 2014. Team GB’s gold medal was won by Lizzy Yarnold, and Jenny Jones’s bronze medal was not just a medal—she is the first Briton ever to win a medal on snow. I am sure that the whole House would like to wish our women and men who are to start their Paralympic campaign tomorrow at the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games every success.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Holmes of Richmond: And so on to my time at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I joined the new board last January. It will be a phenomenal challenge for us across the piece. The board is ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill of Bengarve. I sit on a board of 10 people, two of whom are men.

A noble Lord: Hear, hear.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1463

Lord Holmes of Richmond: I knew that the House would enjoy that. We are facing a challenge, not least in the area of enabling the opportunity for women to participate and punch through in the labour market. We are doing a big piece around what is happening with maternity arrangements and how they are shaping up in modern Britain. We are working wider than just the FTSE 100 around board-level appointments. But, as my noble friend Lady Bottomley said, it goes beyond that. It is not just about the board, so we are also going to look at what is called the sticky floor. It is one thing to look, quite rightly, at not just going through but smashing the glass ceiling, but you also have to look at that sticky floor—people, often women, stuck on minimum wage and unable to get up that next rung of the ladder. It is a crucial piece of work.

Again, we should not look at this area without putting 100% focus on education; what it does and all the influences and impacts within it. On that point, the importance of role models can never be overestimated or overstated. That is the case in sport but also in business, art, science, technology and music—right across the piece, and not least in your Lordships’ House. On a day such as today it would be invidious to single out particular Members, but I will. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, have blazed a trail through our courts for others to follow. It is so important to have role models so that people can say, “I could do that; there is someone doing that—that is a realistic opportunity for me”. While looking into this, I was surprised that the great win for the law of having the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, might not have happened as, when she was a young woman, apparently she considered becoming a nun. Many of your Lordships may not know that she is also an excellent rollerblader.

I should also mention my noble friend Lady Heyhoe Flint, who did so much for women’s cricket. She was absolutely a trailblazer at the time, putting women’s cricket right at the centre of the stage and enabling others to get involved with the game and for it to get to such a level that, this winter, England’s women won the Ashes. Let us be honest—England’s men fell somewhere short. That was phenomenal work.

Finally, it would be wrong not to mention the legendary noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. Who could have done more, not just for the economy but for our freedom, than all the women who were involved at Bletchley Park? What a phenomenal thing, which we should all feel not just such pride in but tremendous gratitude for, because it enables us to be the nation that we are today.

There it is: 8 March, International Women’s Day. It is a great day and one well worth being marked. It is a day to reflect, respect, celebrate and champion and, crucially, a day for us all to push ourselves even further to think what more we could do to enable every single person in this country to achieve their full potential—be that in sport, art, technology, science, maths or whatever it is—and to ensure that everybody, regardless of gender, class, background or belief has that opportunity to play their full part in our economy, in our society and in our United Kingdom.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1464

1.03 pm

Lord Palumbo of Southwark (LD): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Northover for bringing this debate forward and allowing me the opportunity to contribute today. I would also like to thank noble Lords too numerous to mention for their warm welcome. It is an honour to be speaking for the first time. I owe a debt of gratitude to the excellent staff who have helped me navigate my new life as a Peer. Throughout the past few months I have been gently admonished and warmly supported in equal measure. Finally, I thank my noble friends Lord Strasburger, Lord Alliance, Lady Suttie and Lady Scott of Needham Market for their support and encouragement, none of which is taken for granted.

While businessmen such as myself can be a little abrasive in their day-to-day dealings, I have chosen this Motion for my maiden speech for the cross-party nature of the issue. Despite recent stories demonstrating the numbers of women in work, there is still more to do to ensure that women can work should they want to. It is not just for women to make this case, we should all do so. I do not think anyone in this Chamber would disagree with this. The great imponderables of affordable childcare and flexible working still disproportionately shackle many women of working age. This will change only if we work together. I believe that the best solutions are found when people from all parties put their heads together and differences aside.

It will not surprise your Lordships to know that I did some research on maiden speeches before today. Indeed, it may not have taken me four months to deliver my own had there not been such a wealth of material available. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws—already mentioned by my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond—put it perfectly in her own, exceptional, speech. She said,

“the idea of cross-party co-operation on major national issues seems so incontrovertible”.—[

Official Report

, 19/11/97; col. 600.]

I believe in the role of this place, its personalities and its power to deliver on major national issues. It is often women who drive change and bridge partisan divides. Only last week, we were privileged to be addressed by the German Chancellor, a role model for pragmatism and progress, not to mention her thoughtful views on the future of Europe. I should also mention my dear friend Dame Tessa Jowell, who sits in the other place and had the foresight to work across party lines to make the Olympics such a success.

Twenty-five years ago, I started a nightclub in a disused warehouse five minutes from where your Lordships now sit, on the other side of the river. It did not open until midnight and served no alcohol. It was a difficult beginning and had all the problems of a late-night business, not least frequent visits from the right honourable Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Building a business from scratch has been the biggest challenge of my life. Trying things out, making mistakes too numerous to mention, has been a difficult but also life-enhancing experience. Over the years, the business has expanded into live events, recorded music and digital media. What was previously a disused warehouse

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1465

is now the proud headquarters of a global enterprise. It is this journey which has shaped my views on the topic of today’s proceedings.

The late-night entertainment and music industries are by their nature male dominated. While my own appearance might not immediately give this away, the world I inhabit is as muscular as you can imagine. At the Ministry of Sound, women occupy four of the nine most senior director positions and there is roughly a 50:50 male to female ratio at intermediary and junior levels. I do not hold up my organisation as an exemplar, but the empathy and common sense of women has played a key part in building my business over the years. The issue then becomes how to strike the right balance when women want to start a family. There are a plethora of rules and regulations, which are fine as far as they go, but there is a difference between following the rulebook and creating an atmosphere of empowerment. Recently, we have been in discussions with a woman to join the business in a senior position. She is uncertain, as she wants to start a family within two years. Our view is that she would be able to build her team within this timeframe and that her skills outweigh the perceived inconvenience of flexible working.

We will have done our job if starting a family is seen as career enhancing, not a problem, and something which goes beyond the strictures of HR—support rather than compromise. While I am sure there will be many excellent suggestions made in this debate, it is perhaps more difficult to legislate for the attitude to which I refer. If we can win hearts and minds, so as to encourage a more embracing type of behaviour, I believe that businesses of all types will change for the better.

1.09 pm

Baroness Bakewell (Lab): My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to speak immediately after such an excellent maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo. It is great that he chose such a debate—it was rather bold of him—and very indicative of his business acumen that he should be contemplating the appointment that we would all welcome among his senior staff.

Today we have heard lots of statistics and a scattering of percentages, full of aspiration and achievements so far, and I commend my fellow Peers on the range of subjects that they have already covered, praising things that have gone well and expressing widespread concern for remaining issues. I will take a different, slightly lighter note.

I will begin by celebrating a single overarching triumphant professional success. The novelist JK Rowling has now earned her way to being the richest working woman in the country. She is currently worth £220 million and last year earned £45.5 million—not bad for someone who trusted to her own talent and began her first fiction at a table in a café in Edinburgh.

Now I want to celebrate some less well known names: a group of women, some of whom your Lordships may have heard of and others you may well not have. They do not earn a great deal of money—yet. Indeed,

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1466

their chosen path has often involved denying themselves any kind of decent living as they struggle to get started. They are not household names—yet—but their influence is manifold, and I will explain why. I refer to the surprising blossoming and coming to top professional recognition of a whole swathe of women playwrights. This has happened in the past 10 years or so, encouraged by a background of arts funding in this country that allows for the experiment, daring and risk-taking that a fully commercial theatre world would never make possible.

I will name some names. The grandmother of them all is probably Caryl Churchill. She is now 74 and she established an international reputation in 1972 with her inspirational play, “Top Girls”, at London’s Royal Court Theatre. This sensational work broke new ground in dealing directly and vividly with the situation of women in society. Many of these young writers do the same. Nina Raine is the author of a searing, witty and critical look at the National Health Service. April de Angelis is the author of “Jumpy”, a play starring Tamsin Grieg, currently in the West End. debbie tucker green won an Olivier award in 2003. Polly Stenham’s first play, “The Face”, written in her early 20s, transferred to the West End and then to Broadway and won a shoal of awards. Laura Wade’s play “Posh”, a satire on a club not unlike the Bullingdon, was a West End hit. Lucy Prebble wrote “Enron”, a hilarious and clever take on the Enron scandal—you could not get a ticket. Lucy Kirkwood, Bola Agbaje and Abi Morgan are of that number, as are Sarah Daniels, Helen Edmundson—your Lordships get the idea. Rebecca Lenkiewicz was the first woman to have an original play, “Her Naked Skin”, performed on the National Theatre’s main stage. Moira Buffini’s play “Handbagged” is coming to the West End.

All those primarily young women write of the world they know and as women in that world. They are significant in two ways. First, they put ideas into circulation: ideas about women, their rights, lives, problems, humour and situations. Those ideas are not only entertaining in themselves but are challenging for the audiences who see them and spill out into the world beyond to families, communities and public life. They help shape and change national attitudes.

Their second significance is in contributing to the thriving cultural industry of this country. The turnover of the arts last year was £12.4 billion. Despite the economic downturn, the arts economy did not suffer; it kept on growing. There are many women among its leaders. Women run the Donmar Warehouse, the Tricycle Theatre, the Liverpool Playhouse, the Royal Court Theatre, the British Film Institute, Film4 Productions, the Whitechapel Gallery, the Serpentine Gallery, Tate Modern and the South Bank arts complex, and they do this with the overt and positive encouragement of their male colleagues. It is an ongoing and impressive story of creative and economic success.

There is a completely different story of success that I think we should remark on. It is totally unlike the bright lights of the theatre but it is a success that contributes some £119 billion to the economy, not in direct earnings and income but in economic value to the country. There are some 7 million carers in this

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1467

country, many offering their care totally freely, others in receipt of a derisory carer’s allowance. Unpaid carers are the backbone of our health and social care system: it would collapse without them. Now, 58% of those carers are women. Women have a 50:50 chance of becoming a carer by the time they are 59; for men, it is not until they are 75. Many of them give up work in order to care. It is this cohort of women, mostly in their 50s, who, in giving up their working lives, indirectly contribute to the saving of £119 billion for the country. They deserve our respect.

1.16 pm

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): My Lords, it is an immense privilege to take part in this debate. We are treading the courageous path of brave women and we are emboldened by their struggles and confidence. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. I would have added Gurinder Chadha and Meera Syal—

Baroness Bakewell: And Lolita Chakrabarti.

Baroness Uddin: —to her illustrious list of those who have contributed immensely to the arts.

I speak today in recognition of the centuries-long struggle by women to participate freely and equally in the workplace. When New York’s garment workers took to the streets on 8 March 1857 to demonstrate for a 10-hour day, better conditions and equal rights, they inspired the first International Women’s Day half a century later. Remembering their march, I also remember the more than 1,000 women who perished only last year in the Dhaka factory disaster. We continue to mark the day, not out of nostalgia but because we are still plagued by inequality and injustice in all our worlds.

Too many women want to work but are prevented from contributing as fully to the economy as they wish. I have spoken in this Chamber on a number of occasions about the fact that only a quarter of Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are economically active. That is a terrible waste of talent. At Questions we spoke about the role of women in public life. I want to trade some statistics with your Lordships. There are about 300,000 Bangladeshi women who are British citizens and not one of them has made it to the Benches opposite. I hope that the noble Baronesses, Lady Jenkin and Lady Northover, will do something to address the lack of Bangladeshi women on their Benches.

This is not just a question of prosperity for our country but is about justice for women. We cannot have whole communities of women excluded from our mainstream institutions and workplaces. Over the past year, I talked with a number of women’s groups that visited Parliament and asked their views on why women feel excluded from the workplace. The reasons they provided are not new. Many face social, cultural and institutional barriers. Many say they are not qualified or educated enough or do not have access to adequate childcare. The Family and Childcare Trust revealed only this Tuesday that on average the annual cost of childcare exceeds the repayments on a mortgage. As childcare costs soar, women are pushed out of the

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1468

workforce to care for their families or into other caring responsibilities. Many will never return full-time, at a cost to their career progression and our economy.

Many women, including those from minority communities, who care for children or adults with disabilities face insurmountable obstacles and prejudice that prevent them working. It has been mentioned that nearly 7 million carers—nearly one-10th of the population of England and Wales—provide unpaid care for a disabled family member or friend. We know that the majority of them are women. They make a huge contribution to the economy as well as enhance the quality of the lives of those for whom they provide care. We have come a long way in providing safety nets within the framework of the law and have countless examples of good facilities in the education and childcare sector. Yet so often parents hesitate to explore outside work, lacking confidence that those they care for are in safe hands. There is a huge disparity between the intentions and rhetoric of institutions and service providers on the one hand, and the reality on the ground and the experience of carers and people with disability or disadvantage on the other.

I speak from personal experience as the mother of an autistic son. We have struggled for more than three decades and I confess that it has been without any support or co-operation from the education system or local authority. I have been fortunate to have support from my husband and I managed, mostly badly, a full-time career. Too many others are not so fortunate and paid work and caring responsibilities are often incompatible. The National Autistic Society discovered that a third of carers under the age of 40 would like to work but feel unable to do so. I know that many employers have adapted good practice in enabling flexibilities in their workplace to accommodate carers’ particular needs but this is not universal. Do the Minister and her department have statistics on how many parents with disabilities or disabled children work in the department? What lessons, if any, can we impart to others as good practice?

There has also been remarkable progress about working hours even in this House. I recall my early experience of this House when motherhood and childcare were absent from Parliament’s cultural DNA. A number of noble Lords here today will recall when a number of us made our maiden speeches about family-friendly policies in the House. I think that began at 10.40 pm and finished about 12.40 at night. When I brought in my then seven or eight month-old son for one hour on the first day I arrived here, the following morning a newspaper reported it as a slur on the professionalism of the House. Little known at the time or since is that as I was breast-feeding the entire side of my shalwar kameez was wet and it got on to the table. I have often wondered what the newspapers would have made out of that. The following morning, the honourable Black Rod promptly came over as soon as I entered the House and gave me a key. He said: “Here, Baroness Uddin—a key to the House’s family room we have just made for you downstairs, off the Peers’ Entrance”. Needless to say, I have never brought my son in since then or used that room. It was such a harsh lesson. I

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1469

am glad to say that children can now accompany noble Lords—their parents—through the Lobby when we divide. That is, even symbolically, a definite triumph.

Like thousands of others, my family had to adapt all aspects of our lives in light of our son’s autism. We encountered a system of social care unresponsive to his and our needs and unwelcoming of us as carers. Securing the support of social services demands the tenacity to navigate a labyrinthine system and strength to endure scepticism and delay. Accessing these services while caring for a disabled person can be a full-time job. Our failure to serve the needs of those with disabilities and those who care for them comes at a human cost and with misery, as well as causing economic disadvantage. We as a family just gave up and opted out of the system into the family support structure—which was often at breaking point.

That is not an option for all and there have been many tragedies. Let us not forget the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francesca Hardwick, a person with severe learning disabilities who suffered bullying and harassment. The failure of institutions and society overall to protect her family meant that Fiona Pilkington chose death for herself and her beloved daughter. In a civilised nation, that woman’s choice of suicide and death is a profound indictment of our support for society’s most vulnerable. How will the Government improve daycare for people with disabilities—autism in particular—to better enable their mothers and carers to pursue paid work where they desire, without putting into jeopardy the well-being of those they care for?

Finally, how do the Government intend to increase the employment prospects of Muslim women, who remain in the periphery of our society and are so poorly represented in the workforce, institutions and the boardroom? Will the Minister agree to meet the British Bangladesh Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, which is working towards addressing some of these goals?

As a House, we are vocally committed to freeing women from violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation but pay too little attention to the part that poor education and lack of economic independence play in these scourges. Debarring women or carers from opportunities for paid employment is a matter of not only individual interest but national prosperity. Without addressing these questions, we will hold a large number of women back from making their rightful contribution to our economy. Yes, we celebrate today the record proportion of women in the country who work and are in positions of authority. Long may that emancipation continue and widen. I salute those women who have blazed the trail of equality and justice for us all. Now we must be brazen about demanding the changes required. Above all, we must acknowledge that our economy and the fabric of our society will benefit exponentially when we are inclusive of all our countrywomen.

1.27 pm

Baroness Fookes (Con): My Lords, in opening the debate today, my noble friend Lady Northover referred particularly to the role of women in the Great War—the

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1470

First World War. That struck a particular chord with me because only last night I chaired a meeting where several distinguished academics—all women, happily—gave a lot of information about the role of women in that war. I had a general knowledge of that contribution but had no idea of its immensity—the numbers of women and different occupations that they undertook. For example, I had no idea that there were women war photographers, not very many but some. I had no idea that until things really got going, a lot of the food for the men, the catering, was provided largely by volunteer women. We know about the heavy industries in which women engaged, and all the other things.

Of course, that had a remarkable effect in helping forward the greater role for women in the workplace. I fell to thinking whether, 100 years later, a similar challenge faces us today. Obviously it is not cataclysmic, as in the First World War, but it strikes me that, looking at the whole economic future of our country, we face great challenges. We are a small country and there is no way that we can mass produce for the world in the way that we might have done years ago. We increasingly rely on high-quality goods and, above all, high-quality services, whether that is in financial services or the kind that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, referred to in the arts, which also have an enormous economic impact.

Given that, and the fact that many countries in the world now are developing very fast—China and India, for example, apart from any of our older European neighbours, which we are both in competition with and sell to—it struck me that we need every ounce of flair, initiative and hard work that we can get to make our way in this new world. If we fail to utilise the full potential of women, not only are we wasting women’s talent, we are likely to find ourselves in difficulty as a country. That is my starting point for my contribution to this debate.

Clearly, we need to give encouragement to those who are already high flyers. In that context, like others before me, I was delighted to welcome the initiative of the woman Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, in trying to make a programme for her year of office that will help women, especially in practical ways.

Those who come to the top, such as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and others, do not come as a miracle, they come after a lifetime of career progression. It is very important that we look at the lower levels of careers to ensure that women are getting the support and encouragement that they need. In many cases, I fear that it goes back to our schools and our education system. That is particularly true in what is yet another horrid acronym, the STEMs—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—where I believe that the subjects are not taught well enough in schools and are probably not geared to the way that women look at things, and where girls, particularly in mixed classes, may find themselves overpowered by their male counterparts and do not see their role as being equally if not more important. We need to look very carefully at the education system in that respect.

Not everyone is going to be a high flyer and many people do a great deal in unpaid work. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, mentioned carers specifically.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1471

I deeply resent the fact that if you do work unpaid it is not regarded as proper work. It is high time that we got rid of this old attitude of, “You’re not working; you’re not paid”. The work may be very important indeed. It is not simply carers, it is in the upbringing of children. A lot of voluntary work is undertaken by women—probably more than by men—which can also have great economic value. It is important to pay tribute to those people, and I do so as a career woman who has not had those family responsibilities, but I can see what value they have.

I turn for a moment to the political scene. I am wary of quotas and all-women shortlists. I realise this is controversial. I would like from my party, or any other, come to that, for women always to be on the shortlist. It is often important that they can make their comments in front of the people and are not dismissed on the basis of a written CV. There are problems with being a candidate which may put women off. In all the talk about the scandal of MPs’ expenses that we have had for years, nobody ever seems to mention the expenses that are incurred by being a candidate. Rail travel or car travel, making arrangements if you are married and have children, can be quite expensive. There are practical difficulties that women face before they ever get to a seat on the Green Benches down the Corridor. I hope that my noble friend Lady Jenkin, who will look at all this, will take those points into consideration, because I think they are far more important at that stage in our political career.

I turn briefly to political life for women abroad. I want to share an experience I had some years ago, when the east European countries came out of communism and were developing their democratic structures. It was clear that the women, in particular, had no idea how to use that freedom. A friend of mine, Lesley Abdela, who may be known to others, the founder of the 300 Group, which I also supported, involved me in schemes she ran very successfully. They were workshops, usually at a weekend, in those various countries where practical advice was given by those with experience. I might talk about being a candidate or about the chairmanship, somebody else might speak about how you deal with the press, the media—all the things where you need some knowledge. Of course it has to be adapted to the local circumstances, but at least it gave them some idea of what was involved and how to set about it. On the question of quotas, they were always equally divided, but many of them, interestingly, did not want them because they were afraid of being considered less equal—token, only there because they were women. However, opinion was divided, as I am sure that it is divided in this Chamber.

That came to an end because the funding came to an end. If we really want to help women in countries where they are trying to make their mark, we should have something like that again. I leave that thought with the Minister to see whether something can be done in that respect.

Turning back, as a final thought, to our House, someone suggested, I think truly, that women are disproportionately important in this House despite our much lower numbers. It occurred to me, perhaps quixotically, that there might be merit in someone

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1472

undertaking to look at all the respective careers of the women in this House related not to this House but to their outside careers, either past or present, to see what contribution that would make. I suspect that it would make spectacular reading.

1.37 pm

Baroness Prosser (Lab): I, in turn, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for tabling this debate today and join her in wishing others a very happy and progressive International Women’s Day.

When the noble Baroness opened the debate, she talked, among many other things, about the work currently being done which helps women who are rather towards the top of the employment field: getting more women on boards, et cetera. All that is very welcome and I am extremely pleased about it, but I want to concentrate my remarks on the situation for women who are rather further down. A woman who used to work in the Transport and General Workers’ Union used to say, “Stop talking about the glass ceiling. My women have not got past the skirting board”. An awful lot of women are in that position.

Back in 2004, I was asked by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to chair a commission of inquiry into the continuing gender, pay and opportunities gap—opportunities is an important word there. Eighteen months later, in February 2006, we produced our report, entitled Shaping a Fairer Future. We made 40 recommendations, many to government, many to employers and others; 98% of those recommendations were accepted. Our work took us across all four nations—we took evidence in Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well as in many places in England. Many people came to us. I felt as though I spent my life in the basement of the old DTI building, with no windows; it was quite a trying time. We took evidence from academics, from those involved in women’s organisations and from women themselves—younger women, older women and girls who were still at school. We came out with four main areas of concern, which plays to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, who has just spoken. We said that education choices and careers advice was one of the first areas where it all starts to go wrong. Job segregation, lack of skills and training opportunities and poor quality part-time work were the others.

I will say a little about what we found, what we suggested and where I think we are now. The pay gap for full-time women as against full-time men, when we finished our work in 2006, was approximately 22%. Nowadays, it is 19.7% so it is going in the right direction but ever so slowly. If we compare the earnings of women in part-time employment as against men in full-time employment, the pay gap rises to over 40%. Some people would say that that is an unfair comparison but it shows us that the value of part-time jobs is generally pretty low. We decided at that stage that this was not a discussion about the legalities of equal pay, although those obviously can be talked about. We wanted to look at what the whole opportunity was for some kind of social change: for social programmes and a cultural shift in the workplace, which would enable more women to move forward.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1473

Let me go back now to education choices and careers advice. We know that girls are doing better than boys overall. Nevertheless, many girls are still in the category of aiming low to avoid disappointment. That is something which needs to be addressed. There is a massive shortage of girls going into the engineering trades, and of course in order to go into those trades they need the sciences and good mathematics. First, we suggested that girls and boys should be in separate classes for those lessons. The noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, just mentioned that point. That was because girls get a bit overwhelmed by boys who, all the evidence tells us, talk far more than girls in classrooms, and because the teaching of those areas concentrates almost entirely on the ways in which boys look at these things.

Secondly, we discovered an organisation called Computer Clubs for Girls, which teaches girls about the ins and outs of a computer in a way that they appreciate. It talks about the different kind of programmes that girls would find interesting—and girls engage with that. They do not want to do computer programmes that are all about wars and fighting, which do not suit them, so special attention being paid to the different ways in which girls and boys think is important.

Thirdly on this area, we found that very few young women were ever advised when they were girls at school about the financial implications of the choices that they were making. Yes, we need beauty therapists and hairdressers but they will not earn quite as much money doing that as in many of the areas of employment where you find young men.

This brings me on to careers advice. At that time, the careers service was run by Connexions, which has gone now. We found Connexions to be a very mixed bag and that careers advice was just an add-on to the role of teachers. However, over the last year or so I have chaired a number of conferences on careers advice and, to a man and woman, everybody is really fed up and anxious about the standard and the system that we currently have. It has been devolved down to all schools, so that 4,000-odd senior schools are all doing their own thing and engaging with private companies to help them. There is no teacher interaction taking place. The Department for Education spends 0.04% of its budget on careers advice, so we are the only country in the developed world that spends more on careers advice for adults than for children, which is not terribly helpful.

All those points move us into the job segregation area. Women are vastly contained within administration, retail and caring services, et cetera. Even if young women leave school and get into half-way decent jobs, if they then have children where do they go? They go completely down the career path. There are many women in that position who can afford childcare for one child but do not earn enough to afford childcare for more than one. They end up working in the retail sector in the main where, because of the long hours which the retailers have to be open, those women have to accommodate a whole variety of shift patterns. However, those jobs are poorly paid and often have few progression opportunities and poor job satisfaction.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1474

We end up where everyone is really a loser because the woman herself has gone down the pay scales and the job opportunities ladder, while the employer which she was originally with has lost somebody who they had trained up, even if only at a pretty small level. The Government also lose because the woman is paying less tax; she may not even be paying tax at all. Even in 2006, we calculated with the assistance of economists from what was then the DTI that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was losing between £15 billion and £23 billion a year in spending power from those women who had gone down that financial ladder.

One of the things we recommended, as I think I said at the beginning, was that there should be much better quality part-time job opportunities available. There is a really good organisation called Women like Us, which was started by two women at the playground gates who said to each other, and to their friends who were waiting for the children to come out of school, “There must be something better out there”. They went round to employers and persuaded them of ways in which they could provide decent quality jobs with part-time hours, which would enable women to move forward. That organisation has gone from strength to strength. It has been working with KPMG and others and engaging with a large number of companies. However, we need a government initiative to put pressure on employers by saying, “Let’s up the game here. We have all these women who have a much greater capacity to work”. Yet those women are stuck there doing the kind of retail jobs which are poorly paid, as I have said.

There is the whole question of retraining and reskilling. We find these women who have fallen out of their traditional path into jobs which are not giving them job satisfaction and then there is no opportunity for them to go anywhere because there are no retraining or reskilling chances. At the Budget a month after we launched the report in 2006 Gordon Brown, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, allocated £40 million to be spent on women-only training. That money has largely been allocated via the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and through the sector skills councils. In the five years of its running, it trained up and upskilled more than 25,000 women. It was academically researched three times by Leeds Metropolitan University and was found to be an excellent service, partly because the money which came from employers far outweighed the money which the Government put into it.

We then had all these women who were able to move on and expand their opportunities. It covered the textiles area; we also had women trained up as bus drivers and food workers; there were women in law, in the power sector and, interestingly, in the sector which includes engineering and manufacturing. That programme came to an end in March 2013, I am sad to say. I am not exactly sure how much of a chance women are going to get now, if that funding is not directly allocated to women only.

Finally, there is no silver bullet answer to any of this. There are a multitude of approaches to be made but government must have the political will to take the lead in encouraging employers and others to make

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1475

better use of their female employees—not just those at the top on boards or those in the pipeline leading to boards. All that is important, as I have said, but those at the bottom may well have good ability too and a good opportunity to do rather more.

1.50 pm

Lord Watson of Richmond (LD): My Lords, I add from these Benches my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Palumbo on his excellent and refreshing maiden speech. He explained that his business was muscular; I have the sense that his contributions to this House will be as well. We welcome him warmly.

Back in April 2009, I had the strange experience of being invited to lecture at a university in Mecca. I was told that up to that point I was the first non-Muslim to be invited to lecture. The subject that was given to me, partly because of my involvement with Cambridge University, was excellence in higher education. I remember arriving by car and stopping outside the university’s marble halls, where I was met by the rector, who appeared to have stepped directly out of a David Lean movie and was very dramatic. As he took me into the hall, he said: “There will be about 4,000 people in the hall but of course no women”. I looked slightly surprised and he said: “They are watching on closed-circuit television from a separate campus 25 kilometres away”. I said: “Will they be able to ask questions?”. “Oh yes,” he said, “and they assuredly will”. So they did, and their questions were among the best and sharpest. The women are involved in the university, mainly as medical students, and it is in the medical field that they are able to study alongside men.

I recount that experience because, when we talk about the underrepresentation of women in certain sectors, we tend to think of barriers that are sometimes difficult to define and, for that reason, somewhat difficult to eradicate. When you have a barrier that is as physical and obvious as the one that I have just described, in a sense the problem is more obvious and the challenge more manageable. In Britain barriers to women realising their full potential are much less obvious and therefore harder to eradicate fully. I shall focus on two aspects: first, underrepresentation in the sciences at university level and in subsequent careers and, secondly, underrepresentation at board level, especially membership of executive committees.

First, on university and career levels, the Women’s Business Council, which has been referred to several times in this debate, in its very good report last June, Maximising Women’s Contribution to Future Economic Growth, shows quite conclusively that while girls outperform boys at GCSE and A-level, and the gap may be widening, when it comes to university places women take up only 13% of engineering places, 18% of technology places and 22% of mathematics places, while the figures are 89% for nursing, 85% for educational studies, 73% for linguistics and classics and 72% for language and literature. We know that there are a number of reasons why this is the case, and that they are interconnected.

Later today I shall be doing an interview for a webcast with Professor Dame Ann Dowling. Hers is a remarkable career. She is a non-executive director with

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1476

BP, she heads up the engineering faculty at Cambridge University, now the university’s largest faculty, and she has recently been elected—the first woman so to be—as president of the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK. She publicly condemns the fact that fewer than 8% of UK engineers are women and that so few women actually study engineering. She sees this bald single fact as “stark”, “terrible” and a huge loss of talent. Light-heartedly, she urges parents to buy Lego for their daughters and to encourage them to mend bicycles and to get mucky. Much more seriously, though, she says that one of the problems is an A-level system that allows young people to ditch maths and science at 16. The failure to take the opportunity at university level, and subsequently in careers, will be affected by role models, and I think that Ann Dowling is an important role model for young women in this area. She has had, and continues to have, a brilliant career.

In her report for the Women’s Business Council, Ruby McGregor-Smith points out the inadequacy of careers advice to girls at schools as being another important factor—they are simply not well informed about the opportunity that exists for the sort of career that Ann Dowling has had. The Ofsted report on careers advice is very important; it urges government and business to encourage girls into STEM subjects and careers. I ask my friends on the Front Bench what the Government really intend to do to take forward rapidly the priorities that emerged from the Ofsted study.

What actually can be done? Let us look at a few of the aspects of this issue. Unless the UK brings more women into work, into STEM careers and into the boardroom, it is calculated that it could forgo 10% of GDP growth by 2030. This really must not happen. The 30% Club, to which I belong, calculates that any man starting work at a FTSE 100 company is 4.5 times more likely to reach the level of being an executive than any woman. Currently only 20% of FTSE 100 boards have female board members. More tellingly and, I believe, more importantly, only 70% have female executive directors and only four have female CEOs.

My right honourable friend in the other place, Vince Cable, urges now that we should really look at all-women shortlists for boards, and reference has been made to that proposal already in this debate. As we all know, there are problems with such a course. Among other things, the Equality and Human Rights Commission would have to advise on the legality of such shortlists. I do not know what General de Gaulle’s position was on female equality, but he was famous for saying frequently that the French, in choosing between liberté, égalité and fraternité, have an instinct always to go for égalité. To achieve that égalité sometimes involves a changing balance with liberté. In charting the way forward and realising the potential contribution of women to the UK economy, we will need to consider that balance between, if you like, the volume of liberté and the power of égalité. What is clear is that for us as a nation and as an economy, the present underrepresentation of women in the workforce and in the boardroom must not continue. It is in fact deeply damaging and, essentially, intolerable.

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1477

We may be dealing with attitudes that are absolutely intractable. The phrase has been used that many of the attitudes that lie behind this are “hard-wired” into both genders. There was a little illustration of this the other day with Chancellor Merkel, who has already been referred to today as a role model—indeed she is; what an extraordinary political career and achievement—as the phrase that is used to describe her is “Übermutter”. It has never occurred to anyone to describe her as an “Überfrau”. Now there is a role model for you.

Whether it is hard-wired or not, how deeply set some of the attitudes are may be an acceptance of things too easily by many women and girls and an inability to see things as they are by far too many men. The fact is that this is unfinished business. If we as a country are to be as competitive as we have to be, this is something that has to be addressed and changed.

2 pm

Baroness Seccombe (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the Government on making it possible for this annual debate to be in government time in this important centenary year of the start of the First Great War. This is the year we begin a four-year commemoration which will highlight many of its shocking and horrific events. I hope noble Lords will forgive me as I take a moment to look at what this meant for women and how it altered the status of women for ever.

My earliest memory of my family and other families is of the sheer number of women in the world. Of course, in my family I had my mother, my very special mentor and most loyal supporter, but there were many more women who were either widowed or unmarried. I think that most families had maiden aunts and maiden great aunts; I certainly had two. The 1914 war left a generation of young women who never married, who were sometimes referred to by the appalling term “surplus women”. The scale of the war meant that the number of young men had been decimated and as a result there were just not enough chaps to go round.

These were the times when very little paid work was available for women and voluntary work was only for the rich. Single women often had to take on roles in domestic service just to get by. My mother, for example, had gained secretarial qualifications, but just as she thought that she would be able to put them to use in 1918, her father told her there was no way that she should even contemplate finding paid employment as all available jobs should be offered only to the returning troops. In many instances, contracts of employment during World War One had been based on collective agreements between trade unions and employers that decreed that women would be employed only for the duration of the war.

Marriage for my mother later meant, of course, that there was no possibility, either within the tax system or social convention, of being employed. For single women, the outlook was bleak. Some remained at their childhood home and ended their lives as unpaid carers to elderly parents. Others took on roles as housekeepers or companions to elderly, usually

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1478

difficult, ladies, whose demands were inflexible and harsh but at least that provided a roof over their heads. It was not a time to be a surplus woman.

My father went through the First World War spending most of the years in the trenches or in a military hospital. He entered the war as a fit young man, and five or so years later emerged described as C3—the lowest grade of fitness—having had three bouts of rheumatic fever. He went on to serve in Ireland, but was forced to leave because his employers refused to hold his position any longer. The Army insisted on a form of medical treatment before discharge but, as he was under such pressure from his employers, he felt unable to accept it. The result was that when he died from heart-related disease, I was 10 years old, my brother was 15 and my mother was not entitled to any form of pension for his military service. It was certainly no time to be a widow.

My father never spoke of the horrors and tragedies he witnessed, so my mother was not able to pass on to us any of his experiences or the awful conditions in which the troops who survived had lived. As regiments were wiped out, together with his bouts of illness, he went from regiment to regiment. I can only be grateful that he survived to have a happy, but short, marriage and to give me a few years of love and real affection.

The war as it progressed opened unthought-of opportunities for many women. Between 1914 and 1918, an estimated 2 million women replaced men in employment, an increase in the proportion of women in total employment from 24% in July 1914 to 37% by November 1918. These women kept the home front firing by providing weapons from munitions factories and food through working the land. It was not easy, but these women enjoyed the sense of freedom and independence that this gave them.

When the armistice eventually came, many of these women did not relish a return to the home. This emancipation of women during the war had given them the impetus to start fighting for real equality. Women started truly to educate themselves, seeking more independence from husbands, fathers and families. Indeed in 1918, after much campaigning and violence by such doughty fighters as Emmeline Pankhurst, the vote was awarded to women over the age of 30 who owned property and this, thankfully, was extended 10 years later to universal suffrage.

It is hard to believe that, in spite of opportunities for women during the 1914-18 war, only two, outside domestic service, were employed in the House of Lords by 1918, and they were in the Library. Believe it or not, the number had increased to only five by the end of the Second World War in 1945, which can hardly be thought of as progress. Today the figure stands at 224 women out of a total of 587 employees.

What changes we have seen in the opportunities for women since the unsatisfying and inhibiting lives they led in 1914. Happily, we are living in an age when if they have the expertise, the determination and, best of all, a supportive family, women can hope to achieve much of their dreams. Families are as important today as they were in 1914, and long may they continue to be so. Of course there is much to do, but I am thankful that I am alive today and not in those dark, miserable

6 Mar 2014 : Column 1479

days which left not only an untapped, precious resource for this country, but many women unfulfilled and depressed. We should not forget.


2.07 pm

Baroness Howells of St Davids (Lab): My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, on creating the opportunity to debate today women’s contribution to economic life and on her presentation of the subject since the Equality Act.

Listening to the many speakers before me, I was forced to recall the names of those who also went before, such as Harriet Tubman, the underground railroad fighter, and Rosa Parks, who went from the back of the bus to the forefront of the American consciousness, causing the breakdown of the power of enslavement. We trust that the work of these women will never be forgotten because they were the cornerstone at that time of building a strong foundation without boundaries and bearing witness through self-expression in poetry, music, art and, most of all, their writings. These formidable women include Sojourner Truth, who exclaimed, “Ain’t I a woman too?”. I dare today to bring to the attention of the House those who I have identified as forerunners in the struggle to combat the double discrimination of gender and race.