Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate great women and also to reflect on what more we can do as parliamentarians. It is true that there are more women in Parliament today than ever before, which is primarily why it is incumbent on us to take this opportunity to ensure equality across the board.
Women’s rights are human rights, yet when it comes to employment, women repeatedly suffer discrimination. We have seen Women Against State Pension Inequality campaigning vigorously for transitional arrangements.
Intervention – Margaret Ritchie Social Democratic and Labour Party, South Down
Does the hon. Lady agree that there is a compelling need for the Government to resolve the WASPI issue through transitional protection, perhaps with an announcement in the Budget next week.
Angela Crawley –
Absolutely. I would wholeheartedly welcome an announcement in the Budget next week that the Government will make transitional arrangements for those women.
We have heard about the issues of pensions, employment and domestic violence. I recognise the powerful contribution of Jess Phillips, which highlighted the fact that too many women lose their life to violence every day.
On welfare, more women than men are lone parents and carers, a fact that must be recognised. The Government must ensure support for those women. There are many gaps that need to be addressed before we have full gender parity. I have called on the Prime Minister to take five key actions for International Women’s Day. First, the rape clause in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill must be scrapped. A woman who has a third child as a result of rape will be required to justify her position to a Government official in order to claim tax credits. That proposal is abhorrent. I thank my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss, who has campaigned tirelessly against it, and I support her efforts unequivocally. I hope the Government will remove that barbaric proposal.
I have urged the Prime Minister to ratify the Istanbul convention and to take serious action to tackle violence against women. Every day in the UK, women lose their life to physical violence. Ratification of the treaty would not only co-ordinate the policies of Government, local authorities and charities, but would send a clear message that the UK is committed to tackling all forms of violence.
The tampon tax must be scrapped. Labelling women’s sanitary products a luxury item is ridiculous. Those items are a necessity, so an additional VAT charge is wrong. Instead of the Government forcing the European Commission’s hand to lift the unfair tax, women will continue to pay that charge, and as a result continue to pay for their own services. We must remove that unfair tax, and the UK Government must use the money to support services.
We must also take firm action on the gender pay gap. The Scottish Government have committed to 50:50 by 2020, to encourage public sector, third sector and private sector companies to ensure equality on boards. The Scottish Government plan to legislate to ensure that public authorities with more than 20 employees will publish information on that. I hope the UK Government will consider that, as the current threshold of 250 employees is not good enough to tackle the gender pay gap as they hope it will.
Unlawful maternity and pregnancy discrimination is more common in Britain’s workplaces than ever before, with many women being forced out of their employment. The Government are trying to help people into work, yet they are introducing employment tribunal fees that may be a barrier to many women tackling rogue employers. The Government must look at those fees and challenge discrimination in all its forms.
I have presented those five points to the Prime Minister. We need deeds, not words, and I urge the Government to take those recommendations on board. As parliamentarians, let us be bold in delivering the kind of society we want to achieve—a more equal future for everyone. Let us deliver it—it is possible.