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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Becoming an Active Citizen

Monday, February 6, 2006

At the recent Active Learning Active Citizenship (ALAC) conference in Sheffield Meg addressed the conference as their guest speaker. ALAC was established by the Home Office and is part of its strategy for Civil Renewal - encouraging people to become active citizens within their communities. Meg’s speech is below:


I would like to welcome you all to my home city of Sheffield. I know you are here today to celebrate your achievements on being active citizens within your communities, and the efforts of people like yourselves are most evident here. Sheffield is undergoing major redevelopment, and on my way here I passed a number of different projects such as the interchange development between the railway, bus and tram stations. However I know from my own visits around the city as the MP for Sheffield Heeley that the greatest redevelopment is happening within communities themselves.


I am one of six MPs in Sheffield and I represent, as a member of parliament, around 80,000 people in the area where I grew up. It is perhaps an MP’s greatest challenge to meet such a large number of people - that is why it is important to develop links with constituents through a number of diverse community groups. I believe that community links are a vital way of keeping in touch with the people I represent, making it much easier and quicker for me to respond to their concerns.


As well as being an MP I am also the Minister for Women and Equality. Increasingly women’s groups in the community are addressing the much wider issues of gender and race equality. Through talking to groups like South Yorkshire Women’s Development Trust we in Government can drive forward equality in our society.


The Ministers for Women, Tessa Jowell and I visit areas throughout the country to discuss issues around women in society - called Today’s Women. I am addressing the tour in Sheffield next Thursday. It really is important to have these events in order to reach out to communities, to discover issues and concerns so that we can develop policies which reflect the communities we serve.


It is through Active Learning - Active Citizenship that you are all taking community involvement to the next step. Today the world is getting smaller and we can think of travelling to places like Australia within 24 hours. It can make us feel smaller and that it is increasingly harder to make a difference. This shouldn’t be the case - people can and are making significant differences within their communities and within the environment around them.


As last year’s Make Poverty History campaign showed, Government can and do respond to public concern. Perhaps the outcomes didn’t go far enough for some people, but it was through the resolve of both the Government and the public that the issues of the campaign were high on the national and international political agenda.  One thing I have learnt since becoming an MP is that for a progressive and active government to succeed there needs to be a consensus on issues, for us to then work together in order to make the greatest impact.


I am very interested in the learning programmes that Active Learning - Active Citizenship offers, increasing diversity of active citizens within our communities. I thank you for being ready to take part in this process. Congratulations on your achievements.’



Meg then took 3 questions from the floor-


  1. a) Will Meg do all she can to ensure funding continues for programmes like this and b) to ensure that the changes like pensions between men and women do not discriminate against women because it is women who will have to unfairly work longer when the retirement age is raised to 65 for both genders.

Meg stressed the importance of being active citizens within communities, and that voluntary and support groups within communities are best placed to address local needs.  Meg talked about the gender pay gap; although the pay equality legislation was brought in 30 years ago the pay gap is still 13%. Meg said she was working with various partners and organisations to address this inequality in society. The pensions debate currently underway deals with this problem of pension provision in years to come, that the increase in the number of people living longer does pose problems of how we can fund this.


  1. How was the Minister addressing inequalities within the public services?

Meg said there were measures in place both within legislation and in codes of practice to ensure equality within the civil service. She also said they were looking at ways for Departments to report to Ministers on inequalities within the public sector. Meg also explained that on a national scale the different equality and race bodies where coming together to form one Commission which would deal with all aspects of discrimination.


  1. How is the Government getting the message from women on the front line?

Meg referred to the Today’s Women Tour mentioned in her speech and that she wanted to speak to as many groups as possible. There are ways in which women can put forward their concerns and have their say such as the Women’s National Commission - through their website. www.thewnc.org.uk



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