HC Deb 08 June 1998 vol 313 cc694-5
4. Laura Moffatt (Crawley)

What steps the Government have taken to ensure that women's interests are taken account of in each Government Department. [42931]

17. Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

What plans she has to ensure that Government Departments take proper account of women's interests. [42944]

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

Men and women lead substantially different lives and the Government need to be aware of the different impact that our policies have on women. On 18 May, I launched our mainstreaming initiative to put women's interests at the heart of Government via a simple three-stage process to identify the impact of policy, consult on the impact and act on what we find to ensure that policies are delivered equally for women and for men.

Laura Moffatt

Mainstreaming is the best way forward to ensure complete equality throughout Government policy, but I must raise one issue—monitoring. How will the House know that those issues are properly monitored throughout the lifetime of this Parliament to ensure that, at every turn, that policy is brought to the Government's attention and is part and parcel of everything that they do?

Ms Ruddock

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. One way in which we are already ensuring that that happens is by having Ministers for Women such as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is demonstrating the way forward in our proposals for pension sharing on divorce—a clear response to the needs of women. All Departments and their policy makers will in future have access to training on those issues. The women's unit will produce quarterly bulletins to share good practice and to publicise successes. We will work with colleagues from all Government Departments to establish a monitoring regime, which will feed into an annual report, so that my hon. Friend's concerns can be properly addressed.

Mrs. Fyfe

Did my hon. Friend notice the bravehearts in the Scottish National party this weekend scoring an own goal by rejecting any positive measures to ensure equal representation of men and women in the Scottish Parliament, leaving Labour the only party in Scotland holding the trophy for the fight for equal rights for men and women? This morning, I saw many of the tartan army set off for France, and noticed that the Lord Chancellor was not among their number. I suggest that he might like to join in, even at this eleventh hour, because, while he is in France, he could take the opportunity to discuss the equal treatment directive, which has proved no obstacle to French politicians, but seems to be an insuperable obstacle, for some reason, to many of our Law Officers.

Ms Ruddock

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. The Equal Opportunities Commission recently conducted a consultation exercise in the United Kingdom on our equality laws, which included their relevance to political parties. When the EOC reports to the Government, my hon. Friend can be assured that the Ministers for Women will engage in discussions with all our right hon. and hon. Friends on that matter. I very much note, as she does, that ours remains the only party committed to achieving equal numbers of women and men candidates for the Scottish Parliament, unlike the Scottish National party and other Opposition parties.