HC Deb 12 May 1998 vol 312 cc102-3W
Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will make a statement on the conference of EU Ministers for Women on Childcare in Belfast on 5 and 6 May; if she will place in the Library a list of those who attended and copies of those speeches made in English; and what plans she has to publish a transcript of the conference including translations of speeches made in other languages. [40463]

Ms Harman

The theme of the UK Presidency is employability. We have been clear from the outset that this means the employability of women as well as men. That is why we called the meeting of EU Ministers for Women which we held in Belfast on 5–6 May.

The meeting focused in particular on the importance of childcare and family friendly employment policies, and provided a valuable opportunity to share best practice with our EU partners. The meeting reached a consensus on the following key points.

Affordable, accessible, and high quality childcare, parental and other leave schemes, and family friendly working policies are essential for women and men to combine work and family responsibilities. Equality between women and men must be mainstreamed in all employment policies, both at national and EU level, so that measures to improve employability and support the unemployed take the rights and needs of women and men fully into account. Meetings of Ministers for Women and for Equality provide useful opportunities for the exchange of ideas and best practice and developing strategies. They intend to meet at least once a year in future.

Member states expressed their commitment to drive forward these initiatives and will use proposed future meetings to do so.

The full text of the Belfast Communiqué will be placed in the Library, together with a list of those attending the conference. In keeping with normal practice for informal proceedings at such conferences, transcripts of speeches will not be published, although the programme and the speech to the open session by Secretary of State will be placed in the Library.

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