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Westlake Legal Group > Women and equality

“We will explore ways to ensure that gender stereotypes do not limit the choices of girls or boys.” Mordaunt’s equalities speech. Full text.

“Good morning everyone and my message to you is, thank you! I know that many of you have been working with us on this document and plan.

Thank you to others here today who have been lobbying on all these issues and suggesting solutions, sometimes for a very long time indeed.

Thank you to the GEO team who have worked so hard to get us here today.

If we are to achieve our goals – if everyone of our citizens is to reach their full potential….

If all are to be healthy, resilient, empowered and free…

Then massive change is needed.

Women have fought and won many battles over the years.

Attitudes have changed.

New opportunities have been won.

But still, ingrained, systematic barriers persist and they must be torn down.

The simple fact is, women face significant challenges and barriers over their lifetime, just because they are women.

A Band 2 NHS worker, and carer of three generations of her family, unable to progress in work because of her poor health, caring responsibilities and legacy benefit rules.

The girls still being signposted to hairdressing courses and childcare.

Financially fragile women.

Women who cannot speak English.

Women who experience discrimination, harassment or negative comments surrounding their pregnancy.

Women who can’t return to work when they want to because employers won’t look past the ‘gaps’ on their CV.

Women who have taken on most of the caring responsibilities in their family and then find themselves with a smaller private pension because of it.

Women who get divorced and end up facing financial instability in later life because they didn’t know about pensions sharing.

Women who have to leave their job because of sexual harassment in the workplace.

We talk about the choices people make. These choices aren’t always “real” choices – especially for women who are less well off. Taking time off work to care for family; going into a less well-paid job that provides more flexibility; spending for today’s needs and not saving for tomorrow’s – these can all seem like the only sensible options.

I am determined that these women will not be forgotten, and government delivers on its commitments to make sure everyone gets an equal chance in life.

Now I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but for those less familiar, let me just set this out:

On average, young women enter the world of work with higher attainment than men, but immediately earn less per hour than them;

Women take on more unpaid work such as cooking, cleaning and caring, which impacts heavily on their ability to progress in the workplace;

Seemingly innocuous decisions made throughout a woman’s life can add up – Women aged 55 to 64 are almost 20 per cent less likely to have a private pension than men, and those who do have around 40 per cent less wealth held in them.

Women in low pay are often still in low pay a decade later.

Some people will say that this is just the natural difference between men and women – that women inherently want to stay at home and care for their children, and men just want to progress their careers. But this is not what women are saying to us. And it’s not what men are saying to us either!

If we ignore these inequalities, we ignore the fact that there are huge incentives for us as a nation to address them.

Reducing the gender pay gap in labour market participation, STEM qualifications, and wages, could increase the UK economy by £55 billion by 2030.

Companies in the top 25 per cent for gender diversity on their executive team were 21 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the bottom 25 per cent.

Increasing job quality and raising incomes – particularly at the lower end – has the potential to improve average national well-being.

Imagine the benefits to an empower who gets to retain the training invested in staff.

Imagine the benefits to the state if carers were able to maintain a job and remain economically active.

Which brings us to why we are here today.

I’m here to tell you that business as usual just won’t cut it.

Today is the day we start on a new path. A path which will see us acknowledge the evidence and take action to make a difference in the lives of women across the UK.

My team at the Government Equalities Office have been working exceptionally hard, both across government and with the third and private sectors.

They have been analysing the drivers behind equality, as well as how decision-making at each stage of life can lead to disadvantages.

From a young age, children can be faced with gender stereotyping that affects their dreams, goals and career aspirations.

This stereotyping can be as simple as pink or blue, netball or rugby, English or science. Indeed, boys aged 7-11 are almost twice as likely to want to be scientists, whilst over half of girls aged 7-10 think girls are better at doing chores than boys.

Today I’m announcing that we will explore new ways to ensure that gender stereotypes do not limit the attainment, aspirations or career choices of girls or boys. We’ll be delivering pilots with schools, the voluntary sector and businesses to see how curriculum resources, teacher training or workshops with pupils and parents can challenge expectations and attitudes.

I am determined that this will eventually see more women walking through the doors of great buildings to become members of organisations such as the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Only around 1 in 10 engineering professionals are women, which is why we are working with the industry to find ways to diversify its workforce.

No matter which party is in government, I believe the benefits system hasn’t always tackled the disadvantages that women and carers face.

At present, 700,000 claimants aren’t claiming their full entitlement, in part because it is such a complicated system and can prove very confusing. This means that on average, these people are losing out on nearly £300 a month – money which could quite literally be lifechanging, whether it’s additional support for children, a disability or a health condition, which prevents you from working or paying your rent.

Amber Rudd and I want Universal Credit to change this, and really work for the women who need it. We want to roll out Universal Credit as soon as possible so that people who are currently on legacy benefits can access the additional advantages it should offer.

We’ll therefore carry out new research that will help us better understand the barriers our in-work claimants are facing and how we can break these down.

But that is not all I want to see. I want to ensure that the perverse incentives not to progress in work, not to work more hours, or earn more within those hours – the very issues universal credit was meant to tackle – are gripped and addressed.

When women are working they deal with the same challenges men face – meeting targets, working with colleagues, and career progression. But many women also have a second job – caring for their children.

Unpaid care work is valued to the economy at £411 billion per year.

The strain on women trying to “have it all” – usually means little sleep, and lots of stress – which cannot be underestimated. But it’s often undervalued.

20 per cent of mothers said they experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer or their colleagues.

We should support any parent who is trying to balance their job and their home life, and to do that we are conducting the largest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation.

We know that parents are keen to share care, and new fathers want to take more time away from work to care for and bond with their child. Many couples want to take Shared Parental Leave but then find it’s too complex, they aren’t eligible or they cannot afford it – because the pay for fathers is so low.

We want to see what we can do to change this, to help ensure that both parents have a real opportunity to spend time with their new born.

So this summer, this Government will consult on increased transparency of organisations’ parental leave and pay policies, and on the availability of flexible working being set out in job adverts.

But business can’t do this alone. We will provide effective evidence-based support for employers to deliver parental leave policies. And we will support – in particular – SMEs on the best way to provide quality flexible working for all their employees.

To make it easier for swamped parents, we will look at how to improve access to information, bringing together guidance on:

  • childcare support;
  • parental leave;
  • family friendly employment policies;
  • and other relevant services and support.

Returning to work can be hard, whether that’s coming back from parental leave or returning after a longer break. We’re going to continue to support employers to provide the right culture – free from discrimination – and opportunities for people returning to work.

But we need to see a bigger step change than this to support women and men balance work with care. I want to see every organisation thinking about:

  • designing and offering their jobs as flexible by default
  • enhancing their shared parental leave and pay offers to the same extent as their maternity leave offers.
  • doing what they can to provide a supportive environment to those returning from parental leave.

Women aren’t just caring for children. Elderly and sick relatives often need support and private care is often too expensive for working families to consider.

These are the sandwich carers – all too often it is a triple decker sandwich!

The burden of this unpaid and unappreciated work often falls to women.

60 per cent of the estimated 4.5 million total informal carers are women.

  • How many of them do you think are also trying to hold down a steady job?
  • How many might be single parents?
  • How many might have left their job to care, impacting on their private pensions pot for later in life?

This summer, we will consult on dedicated employment rights for carers, including carers’ leave.

Some employers are already taking great action to support carers, for example Centrica who are matching annual leave with paid carers leave. And I recognise organisations, such as Carers UK, would like to see paid carers leave across the piece. Supporting carers to balance work and caring and remain in work is good for business, good for the nation, good for women, and good for men too, given that 40 per cent of carers are men.

The gender pay gap increases with age. This, when combined with the fact that women tend to live longer, means that women have less private pension wealth in retirement.

This has to change. Working with the Money and Pensions Service, we will consider what works best to financially empower women and work to deliver this across government.

We can and we will improve advice and communications to women on savings and pensions, especially in relation to divorces.

Sadly, 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce, but only 36 per cent of asset sharing agreements include the sharing of pensions – this means women lose out on financial security later in life.

We are therefore going to give a renewed push to pension sharing, emphasising the benefits and raising awareness of how the process works.

We’ve made progress in tackling the gender pay gap – and lots of that is down to you in the room here today.

But the job’s not done yet and so we’re going to launch a national campaign to employers, empowering them to understand how through their actions they can advance gender equality in the workplace.

And the Women’s Business Council will refresh its focus – using its expertise and clout to really drive forward action to tackle the gender pay gap.

Over the past seven years the Council has done so much to clear the path for women to progress in business.

I want them to work across all sectors and to influence at national and regional level to truly make a difference.

Dame Cilla Snowball, who has valiantly led the charge at the head of the WBC for the last seven years, has now come to the end of her term. Fiona Dawson, current Global President of Mars Food, Drinks, and Multisales, will take on the mantle from today.

Thank you Cilla and welcome Fiona. I think they deserve a round of applause.

All of these measures come together to give us a package that I know can make a real difference.

From its new home in the Cabinet Office, the GEO will drive this work, harnessing the capability of Whitehall to ensure that women are given every chance to fulfil their true potential. And we will join forces with Disability Unit and the Race Disparity Unit in the new Equalities Hub to understand how we can best tackle multiple or layered inequalities people face.

This is clearly a huge battle, and there is certainly more to come, but you have my word that I will continue to push this vital agenda in the coming months and years.

That’s why alongside the Roadmap we’ll be publishing the Gender Equality Monitor and I know Victoria is going to tell you more about that shortly.

We have, with your help, created a huge opportunity. Now is our time.

The last 12 months have laid the foundations for government and Whitehall to recognise the ambition it needs to have to level the playing field for women.

Women upon which our society depends.

We must cherish them…

We must value them…

We must support them…

reward them…

and empower them.

Today we’ve made a start…

So let’s get going.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Who’s supporting whom: David Jeffery’s calculations. 3) Gender.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-06-18-at-16.55.58 Who’s supporting whom: David Jeffery’s calculations. 3) Gender. Women and equality Women Sajid Javid MP Rory Stewart MP MPs ETC Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Harper MP Jeremy Hunt MP Esther McVey MP Dominic Raab MP David Jeffery Conservative leadership election 2019 Boris Johnson MP Andrea Leadsom MP   Conservative Leadership election: the breakdown of candidates’ supporters by gender.

Source: David Jeffery’s Blog.

David Jeffery of Liverpool University has been undertaking some fascinating study in depth of the contest on his blog – which we have quoted several times in the course of our coverage.

So we will this week run a selection of some of his most interesting findings. They and much more can be seen on his blog, which we link to above.

Jeffery declares at the start that “this information in this is correct as of 17:00, 13/06/2018”.

His study is of declared supporters from before the first ballot – so Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Matt Hancock are all included in his calculation.

The chart above shows the percentage figures. Obviously, it must be remembered that some candidates won more declared supporters (and votes) than others, and the percentages must be seen in that light.

David writes that “women are more likely to have backed a candidate than male MPs have — and only Johnson, Hunt, andHarper have fewer women as a proportion of their total support than the party as a whole”.  He also says that “unsurprisingly both female candidates have a greater-than-proportionate share of women making up their supporters, but so does Dominic ‘not-a-feminist’ Raab.” The Parliamentary Conservative Party is 20 per cent female .

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Conservative Women in Parliament Group’s letter to the leadership candidates

Dear leadership candidates,

The Conservative Women in Parliament Group believes that women should have the same freedoms and opportunities as men.

Conservatives have a proud record of promoting gender equality. We have introduced mandatory gender pay-gap reporting and the right to request flexible working. We have led the way legislating on crimes which particularly target women like modern slavery and domestic violence. And, of course, we have had two female Prime Ministers – showing there need be no limits to a woman’s ambition.

But there is more to do. There are so many ways in which women face greater challenges and fewer opportunities in their lives.

Britain should be the best place in the world to be a woman – a country where your talents and hard work, not your identity, background, or gender, determine your success.

As a candidate to be the next Conservative leader and Prime Minister we call on you to explain how you will build on this record and achieve the Conservative vision of a fairer, more equal society.

For instance,

  1. How will you end discrimination on the grounds of gender?
  2. How will you close the gender pay gap and make sure women have equal opportunities to succeed at work?
  3. How will you help families share caring responsibilities and career opportunities more equally?
  4. How will you help women gain equal financial security and independence?
  5. How will you tackle inequalities in health outcomes for women?
  6. How will you tackle sexual harassment and violence against women at home and abroad?
  7. How will you increase the number of women elected to public office?
  8. How will you increase our Party’s electoral appeal to female voters, particularly young women?

We look forward to your response with interest.

  • Helen Whately MP
  • Rachel Maclean MP

Other signatories:

Victoria Atkins MP, Maria Caulfield MP, Mims Davies MP, Vicky Ford MP, Nus Ghani MP, Trudy Harrison MP, Gillian Keegan MP, Maria Miller MP, Nicky Morgan MP, Victoria Prentis MP, Maggie Throup MP, Chloe Smith MP, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP.

Baroness Altmann CBE, Baroness Berridge, Baroness Bertin, Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen, Baroness Couttie, Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist, Baroness Eaton DBE DL, Baroness Fall, Baroness Finn, Baroness Helic, Baroness Hodgson, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE, Baroness Newlove, Baroness Pidding CBE, Baroness Redfern, Baroness Rock.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Eve Allison: The barriers that women politicians still face

Eve Allison is former Kensington and Chelsea councillor.

Although we make up half the human race, women were usually confined to the estate, house or hovel until relatively recently.  We were not doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants and CEOs.  Indeed, we were not in the military, armed forces, police, or even accepted as undergraduates at Oxford or Cambridge.

Women were tea-makers and ‘mothers’ and guardians of their cultural heritage: rather than being leaders, they were led their husbands.
But we are now coming through in roles in which we are nonetheless still marginalised, and in which the spotlight shines more harshly on a woman, especially as a politician. 
That spotlight is trained on our dress sense rather than our principles and policies – on every word, every nuance and every shoe worn, including heel height.

If one is a woman, a politician (and of colour), one is often met with “the glance”. (“How did you get here?” it asks) or, on the odd occasion, one is told that “you are in the wrong place” and even, sometimes: “oh, you cannot come in here”.

Women need to be in positions of power and should be, where leadership roles are played out, at the heart of where decisions are made and carried to fruition. Women need to be taken seriously in such roles.

If we are talking about real power and acceptance, then women should comprise 50 per cent of the representation in politics, locally and nationally. The grinding issue is related to women standing as councillors and as Parliamentary Candidates – and hence being Members of Parliament.

That last equates to being selected in the first place, and then to actually being elected, and remaining in the role. So what can be done to address the overall retention of women politicians? Are more courses and training workshops the answer, and if so should they pertain to such aspects of a women’s identity as ethnicity?

The ones that stand out to me as a former Conservative councillor are those that purport to “highlight political leadership” aimed at those politicians that are of colour. Are such courses run for politicians who are classed as “white”?

Instead of leadership and any real positive information for politicians of colour, sure enough, cliques open up along ethnic and party lines. Being a lone ‘Blue’ surrounded by a sea of ‘Red’ can often be most frustrating and stifling.

Such courses need to be rooted in proper fact and debate, and not just be check boxes for local councils.  What is evident is that when forums, workshops and development weekends are held for politicians, they are usually well attended by men.

It’s men that write most of the political articles, it’s men that dominate most of the decision-making in local councils and who select committees: it’s mostly men who are cabinet members, locally and nationally.

Perhaps part of the issue is that women do not deal as effectively as they should with being challenged. It is condescending to hear  “What are they doing?” “Why are they doing it?”, “Do they know what they are doing?” and so on.

Equally, for any relatively ambitious female politician, whether local or national, it can be disconcerting in no uncertain terms to be regarded as a “dustbin” case –  and, unlike most of your male cohort, face years of not being offered roles such as lead member, vice chair of a committee, working group lead and perhaps, worst of all, years of ‘the glance’  (as described earlier).

For such women, perhaps the biggest frustration is that of being surrounded by primarily women politicians with no ambition at all, and who expect you to follow suit.

Politicians are elected to represent all sectors of the community and not identities within those communities. So for women politicians, divisions of role, should not equate with division of place or position. The shackles of ‘social conditioning’ must be thrown off and by women themselves going forward.

So the big question is: what is going on with women in politics? What is preventing us from reaching their full potential with regard to political leadership in politics ? Is it a lack of financial stability, or the responsibility of caring roles, such as being parents and mothers, or of being carers for elderly family members ?

Even when women are in senior cabinet roles, these tend not to be in Finance, Planning or Security. They are ‘Cinderella’ senior cabinet roles in Children & Families, Adult Social Care, Public Health, Education and Libraries.

Is this all connected with the perceived inflexibility of the role and, if so, why cannot some of the work be performed from home, and not lead to a demeaning of the role? And what about the use of Skype or video conferencing as tools to help be part of and in place for positions of power?

Surely political leadership in politics is not all about meetings – and yet this seems to be the case. One is measured by not by how many constituents you have assisted, but by how many meetings one has attended.

Furthermore, even in politics the conditioning is persistent in that politicians are judged as either being ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ in relation to these meetings – whether one has uttered a word or not, whether one agrees with what happens or not, or simply makes up the numbers there.

For women politicians, fear and anxiety can be a factor in politics, from the emotional anxiety arising from non-support; from constant chastising and belittlement from fellow political colleagues; from angry and bewildered constituents and the constant grind of social media and beyond.

Histrionics will abound, and yet political leadership opportunities are held by the ‘gate keepers’. This is frustrating if one is not part of the inner circle – or if the lens is not trained on you as a woman politician who wants to go forward, break the mould, break down barriers and perceptions, no matter how long held.

But as a woman politician, irrespective of particular variables, you have a duty as a public servant to keep pushing upwards, keep asking, keep finding ways to circumnavigate and penetrate.  One must work to create fissures and furrows in the inevitable hope that wide canals will follow.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Frayne: What polling does and doesn’t tell us about voters and the environment

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

Conservative Party politicians are prone to temporary policy cause obsessions. Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen them obsess briefly about, amongst other issues: free schools, the gender pay gap, social media, childcare, foreign aid and housing. (To list them like this is not to dismiss their relevance).

The enthusiasm which they responded to Greta Thunberg’s visit to the UK, their timidity in the face of Extinction Rebellion’s direct action, and their unwillingness, as Natascha Engel described in her resignation as Shale Commissioner, to seriously promote Shale Gas extraction in England, strongly suggests they’re about to become obsessed with policy development on climate change. If so, what does this mean for the Party electorally? What do the polls say about the environment as an issue?

Let’s look at how seriously people take the issue overall.

YouGov’s most recent headline tracker of the public’s top issues puts the environment reasonably low down the list, behind leaving the EU, crime, health, the economy and immigration, but above housing, education, welfare and defence. While it’s still something of a niche issue overall, many will be surprised that it is even this high and, crucially, the issue has risen slowly but consistently over the last couple of years.

A poll for “Stop Climate Chaos” in Scotland also suggested, in a not-perfect exercise, that many people have become more concerned about climate change in recent times. So it’s an issue that’s on the up. (Incidentally, only a tiny number of people had heard, in early March, about “The Green New Deal”, inspired by US environmental activists. Also, incidentally, British adults put “pollution, the environment and climate change” much lower down their list of priorities than adults in other European countries).

But, predictably, the headline numbers mask huge differences of opinion based on politics, class and age. Hanbury Strategy’s recent poll for Onward showed that 18-24 year olds put the environment third in their list of policy priorities, behind Britain leaving the EU and health; on the other hand, over 65s put the environment near the bottom of their list, just above transport and defence. The poll also showed that Conservative voters were much less likely to name the environment as a major issue.

In a separate question in the same report, voters were asked if they would prefer that society or Government focused either on economic growth or prioritising the environment. This question forces too stark a choice in people’s minds, but the gaps between groups’ answers are interesting. Overall, voters narrowly said, by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, economic growth. However, 18-24 year olds chose the environment by 62 per cent to 38 per cent, while over 65s chose the economy by 64 per cent to 36 per cent.

Conservatives chose the economy by a significant margin, while Labour voters chose the environment by a similarly clear margin. (Another incidental finding, which builds this age point out further: a YouGov poll showed that a fifth of the population believe “the threat of climate change is over-exaggerated”. While nine per cent of 18-24 year olds agree with this statement, 32 pe cent of over 55’s agree).

That such differences between ages exist will not come as a surprise to anyone, but we should be wary, on the existing evidence, of either claiming that young people are obsessed about the environment, or that older people are dismissive of it – and careful about recommending very clear actions for campaign strategy.

After all, we haven’t yet seen young people’s commitment to tackling climate change through regulation tested by an economic downturn. After the financial crisis, Ipsos-Mori’s tracker showed that public interest in the environment tailed away significantly (although to be fair, I can’t find a breakdown of younger voters’ attitudes), in much the same way we’re seeing the reputation of “big business” rebound in the aftermath of the EU referendum as voters’ minds are focused on the prospect of large employers leaving Britain. Would things change in the same way if jobs were threatened now? It’s hard to say – but some Conservatives are making a huge leap of faith that young voters have fully embraced green activism.

As for older voters, the evidence suggests that older voters might draw a distinction between different types of environmental issues – taking climate change less seriously than what you might call “the local physical environment”. For example, almost all over 65s say they would support “a law to significantly reduce plastic waste and pollution within 25 years” – a higher figure than 18-24 year olds. And a similarly high number of older people say they view tackling litter as more of a priority than they used to.

My strong impression is also that older voters are also more likely to volunteer that they are concerned about issues surrounding food safety and animal welfare and protecting areas of natural beauty – although this is an impression borne of many years moderating focus groups rather than on any hard data. In a sense, this is the environmentalism that Michael Gove has been pushing from Defra.

What does all this mean? Honestly, I don’t think there’s even nearly enough research data out there to make serious conclusions as to how the electorate will react to the Conservatives embracing the green agenda more seriously. Far more needs to be done. Most will likely support Gove’s Defra reforms. While it is certainly reasonable to suggest that younger voters care more about climate change, there are clearly dangers in jumping into this debate by accepting the terms set out by green activists – who essentially argue that we can only protect the environment by slowing growth and insisting on massive personal austerity. Such a move will irritate the bulk of electorate and likely a massive chunk of younger voters too.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Eddie Hughes: A better way forward on abortion law for Northern Ireland

Eddie Hughes is a member of the Women and Equalities Committee and is MP for Walsall North.

This week, the Women and Equalities Committee, on which I sit, published its report into abortion law in Northern Ireland. This follows an intensive public inquiry in the context of which we received many submissions from people and organisations across the province.

The main report, published yesterday, recommends that Westminster should legislate to change the existing law in Northern Ireland to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. While I am concerned about abortion law in Northern Ireland, I could not support our Committee – which does not contain a single Northern Irish MP – arguing that devolution should be overruled in this way, especially when the human rights arguments deployed in justification of their proposal are problematic.

Mindful of this, I submitted an alternative report (published in the appendix to the main report) which sets out some important positive steps that the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Attorney General should take to improve abortion services but which stop short of undermining the devolution settlement by recommending that Westminster imposes a change in the law. If I tell you that the proposal to replace the main report with my alternative report was rejected by a vote of just two to four, you will see that the matters which I raised caused some pause for thought and that the official committee report was not the result of a consensus.

In the context of Northern Ireland’s troubled history, it seems to me that devolution is of huge importance. Rather than contributing to its unravelling, I believe we should be fighting as hard as we can to get power sharing up and running again.

Abortion is a devolved competence and Westminster has not sought to make decisions on abortion in the province since 1921. In line with this, well over 80 per cent of submissions to our inquiry argued that Westminster should not interfere with Northern Ireland abortion law. This message is further backed up by opinion polling conducted by ComRes in October 2018. It revealed that 64 per cent of people, 66 per cent of women and 70 per cent of 18-30-year olds, do not think it should be up to Westminster to decide abortion law in Northern Ireland.

Moreover, it is important to note that the most recent abortion vote of any UK jurisdiction (that could have resulted in a change of abortion law – i.e: not a 10 Minute Rule Bill) took place in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016, when the majority of MLA’s voted not to change their law. In this context I think it is completely inappropriate for a committee of MPs from outside Northern Ireland to recommend that Westminster undermines devolution by legislating on a sensitive devolved matter. We surely do not want to further undermine public trust in politics, which has already been severely shaken in recent years.

The main argument put forward by some of my colleagues in justification of Westminster intervening seems to be the UK Government has the ultimate authority for human rights matters and, therefore, it is entirely appropriate for Westminster to get involved. In my report, however, I point out that the situation is more complicated. While the UK Government is responsible in international law for its compliance with international obligations, the devolved administrations are responsible for ensuring compliance on devolved matters.

It must also be stressed that there was no declaration of incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights made by the Supreme Court in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) case in June 2018. As there was no standing found for the NIHRC to bring the case, the subsequent judgement issued by Supreme Court Justices following this finding was entirely non-binding. Therefore, the judgement does not provide a sufficient legal basis for the Women and Equalities Committee to recommend a change in the law.

My report also engages with a report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of the Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which was cited as another justification for Westminster intervening. As a legal opinion written by Professor Mark Hill makes plain, however, the CEDAW Convention does not even mention abortion and the CEDAW Committee is not a judicial body and has no standing to read-in abortion rights. The report simply reflects the opinions of its authors.

The suggestion, therefore, that whilst concern for devolution is important, in this case it is trumped by legal imperatives that mandate intervention by Westminster, simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

Rather than suggesting that Westminster legislates to undermine the devolution settlement, we should instead embrace a two-pronged strategy. First, we should look at my positive recommendations to the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Attorney General about improving abortion service provision in Northern Ireland within the current law and, second, we should  redouble our efforts for the restoration of power-sharing and then encourage MLAs to prioritise revisiting this difficult issue.

I am heartened by the positive response that my report has generated especially amongst women in Northern Ireland – and hope that the Government will study it carefully.

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Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Jamie Arnell: Ministers must take care when reforming non-disclosure agreements

James Arnell is a partner at Charterhouse. He writes in a personal capacity.

The UK media are, understandably, shouting from the rooftops this week about non-disclosure agreements after Peter Hain’s controversial use of Parliamentary privilege.

It is understandable. Because NDAs get in the way of a good story, we should expect plenty of noise around the issue. That’s all well and good. What is less good is the way it is framed.

In every media outlet I have seen or heard, the framing of the issue is as follows: NDAs are used by companies to force employees who may have suffered harassment, bullying, unfair treatment, and so on, to stay silent.

There are a couple of major flaws in this.

A “company” is not a real thing. Companies do not “do” anything. People working for companies do things. Real living and breathing people sign every one of these NDAs. So, unless we assume that all these people are unethical, bad people, the framing of the issue as “bad company (for which read bad person working for company) vs good victim” is too simplistic.

The media’s framing assumes that employees are always the ones being forced to sign NDAs. In my experience, it is sometimes the other way round.

An unscrupulous employee can quite easily extort money from a company by making allegations, without disclosing supporting evidence, and the company’s decision-makers face Hobson’s choice.  They can pay off the claimant and secure an NDA, or they can “call the claimant’s bluff”. If they call the employee’s bluff, they get months and years of adverse publicity as the allegations are aired, they get months and years of distraction from day-to-day business, and, if they lose the case, their company suffers serious reputational damage.

Given that the facts are rarely clear to the decision-makers in these cases (who are almost invariably not the accused executives), they take the safe route and pay for an NDA. The victim in cases where the facts were unproven is the company and not the employee.

Again, because a company is not a real thing, this really means that it is the other employees and shareholders of the company who are the victims. These are real people, who have in these cases had money extorted from them.

The good news is that, thinking it through from the employer’s point of view, I arrive at the same conclusion as those who focus on the employee. These NDAs should not be allowed to cover harassment and bullying. They should be limited to commercially sensitive information – IP, pricing, customer data, etc.

If every decision-maker at every company knew that it was impossible to use an NDA to silence an allegation, this would provide useful incentives. For harassing, bullying managers, it would be clear that their employers would not protect them with an NDA and they would have to expect to face justice. For the unprincipled false accusers, they would know that they would have to prove any claim in court. There would be no opportunity for extortion.

I have no idea whether this would lead to more harassment cases or fewer. That depends how many are real and how many are simply attempts to make some money. I suspect that it would lead to a lot more cases and therefore pressure on the courts, who would have to process all the real claims.

This would be good for transparency but, unless accompanied by a substantial increase in spending on employment tribunals, it would cause a massive backlog of cases, which would be unfair for employees and employers alike.

In this debate, therefore, it is important that we do not satisfy ourselves simply with outlawing these NDAs. We also need to ensure that the tribunal system is funded to allow rapid dispute resolution.

I think it would be sensible to withhold the names of claimants and employers in such cases until the facts have been established, to avoid prejudicing careers and company reputations.

Finally, there is one unspoken and very uncomfortable aspect of all this which should be put on the table. As things stand, the majority of allegations (true and false) will be silenced with an NDA, at a price. This means that the risk of an allegation can be priced upfront. For a given profile of employee, there is a given probability of an allegation, and a likely cost of silencing it.

I have a daughter, and this worries me a lot. If the majority of claims are from women, who suffer the most harassment and bullying, then female hires come with a higher cost attached upfront. The risk is that this leads to a reluctance to hire women, instead of a determination to root out harassing males. This is obviously wrong-headed, but it risks becoming a commercial reality.

Three things are therefore key as we wait for NDAs to be disallowed. First, we must of course root out our bullies and adopt zero tolerance of harassment. Second, we must avoid running scared of hiring female employees, even if they come with a higher risk of claims. Third, everyone should be very careful not to lose sight of the fact that some claims are baseless, and that those who make them, whether under the #metoo banner or otherwise, deserve our opprobrium.

The sooner we remove the financial incentive for false claims, the better.  And the sooner we move away from this “bad company, good claimant” simplistic view of life, the better, too.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com