HC Deb 08 June 1998 vol 313 c708
22. Lorna Fitzsimons (Rochdale)

What were the Belfast EU presidency conclusions on women and employability relating to family-friendly working arrangements. [42949]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Ms Joan Ruddock)

Family-friendly working arrangements are a key issue of our time and are important to women and men across Europe. The conference provided a valuable opportunity to explore the opportunities for achieving a successful balance between paid work and family life, and to share examples of good practice which member states can consider in the context of their own policies.

Lorna Fitzsimons

I thank the Minister for that reply. As I understand it, the Belfast summit issued a communiqué. As a result of the listening to women exercise, the Ministers for Women identified as a priority the fact that some of the good policies that were identified at Belfast and mentioned in the communiqué were not mainstreamed at a United Kingdom level. Does the Minister agree, therefore, that if the communiqué is to achieve something—which is important for women in my constituency and elsewhere—it should be mainstreamed throughout the European Union? What efforts are the Ministers for Women making to ensure that the valuable discussions in Belfast and the communiqué on family-friendly employment have wider effect throughout the European Union?

Ms Ruddock

The full text of the Belfast communique is available in the Library and I hope that hon. Members will go to get a copy. We found at the conference, first, that quality child care, parental and other forms of leave and family-friendly working practices are essential to women and men if we are to combine paid work with family life and, secondly, that equality between women and men must be mainstreamed into all employment policies—as my hon. Friend suggests—both nationally and throughout the European Union.

Those are new and important conclusions for the women of Europe and we are ensuring that they are built into the preparations for the final summit of our presidency, which takes place in Cardiff next week.

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