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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Key Issues as Minister for Women & Equality

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The following article was published in the Labour Conference special issue of The House Magazine 26th September 2005.

 

When in May I was appointed ‘Minister for Women and Equality’ I thought the title contained much of what a Labour Government should be working on.  I work across different Government departments, helping to shape the good policies we have into positive and workable law. I report to Alan Johnson, Secretary of State at the DTI, on equalities issues and to Tessa Jowell, Minister for Women, on women’s issues.

 

During the autumn I will be introducing the Equality Bill into the Commons. The Bill creates a new ‘Commission for Equality and Human Rights’ - bringing together the existing three commissions of Equal Opportunities, Racial Equality and Disability Rights. The new commission will also tackle discrimination relating to age, sexual orientation and religion and belief, and is due to start in 2007. It will take equality issues into a new era, able to deal with cases where discrimination is not based just on one facet of a person but on two or several and also able to tackle issues of wider inequalities.  Young white men might not appear to suffer discrimination, but they are over represented in those who do poorly at school and those subject to street violence.

 

I have responsibility for implementation of the Civil Partnership Act, which comes into force in December. Civil partnerships will give same-sex couples legal parity of treatment with opposite-sex couples who enter into civil marriage. Important rights and responsibilities flow from forming a civil partnership, including a duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your partner and any children of the family, employment and pension benefits and protection from domestic violence. 

 

Issues affecting people in the workplace have a high priority. I’m currently working with Gerry Sutcliffe, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs, on legislation to improve maternity and paternity leave, extending help at the start of a child’s life.  We are also considering other measures to help people balance work and other family commitments.

 

Later this year the ‘Women and Work Commission’ will produce their report focusing on the gender pay gap. I know many party members and trade unionists find it appalling, as I do, that more than 30 years after the Equal Pay Act there is still a pay gap of 14% for full time work and over 40% for part time work. The Prime Minister set up the Commission to examine the reasons for this and make recommendations on how to tackle this injustice. I look forward to receiving the Commission’s report, and after studying it, will be giving the Government’s response.

 

As part of Britain’s Presidency of the European Union there will be a major event in Birmingham in November focusing particularly on women at work. People from across the EU will be sharing information on how to help women play their full role in the workplace. EU Ministers will also be visiting projects in Birmingham which help women from all ethnic groups take their place in the world of work

 

I’m also working with Alun Michael, Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, in encouraging women into enterprise. If we had the same rate of female start-ups as in the US, we would have 750,000 more businesses, a positive impact on our productivity growth, prosperity, and employment. ‘Enterprise week’ in November will include specific events targeted at highlighting women in business.

 

It’s been important for the Government to listen to women. Many of the policies we are implementing have come from suggestions of how to make family life and work better. Continuing this approach, we are planning meetings around the country to build on the work done several years ago of a “Listening to Women” tour.

 

Last but not least, I hope that preparation for the London Olympics will be a means to inspire women of all ages to be active in sport.

 

 

Meg Munn MP 


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