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Friday, March 10th, 2017 @ 5:39PM

Sarah Champion MP reacts to Spring Budget

House of Commons analysis commissioned by Labour has revealed that as of the ChancellorÔÇÖs budget on Wednesday, women continue to be hit six times harder than men by government policies.

Sarah Champion MP, LabourÔÇÖs Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, said:

ÔÇ£Yesterday the Prime Minister and Chancellor talked up the significance of International WomenÔÇÖs Day yet their warm words have amounted to nothing.

ÔÇ£Calls for a budget that works for women have been ignored.

ÔÇ£Women are still bearing the brunt of this Tory┬áGovernmentÔÇÖs failed austerity agenda ÔÇô with the 86 per cent impact figure on women remaining unchanged since last year. Things are just as bad as ever for women under this Tory┬áGovernment.

ÔÇ£Labour calls on the Government to urgently publish analysis of the true impact of their budgets and spending announcements on women and to explain how they intend to reverse this disproportionate impact.

Under a Labour Government, all economic policies will be gender audited to ensure that we have an economy that works for all.ÔÇØ

Ends

Notes to editors:

Labour have announced a twelve month consultation on a new Economic Equality Bill. This Bill will aim to strengthen legislation around equal pay and tackle the structural and economic barriers that stop women, BAME communities and disabled people from reaching their full potential.

 

 

 

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Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 @ 5:18PM

Sarah Champion speaks on gender economic equality

At an event held at the London School of Economics on 01/03/2017 , Sarah Champion MP said:

“ItÔÇÖs such an honour to be here at the LSE.┬á

Founded by Beatrice Webb, a visionary woman who paved the way for the Beveridge report, and who arguably drew up the blueprint for what would later become the welfare state and the birth of our NHS.

I would like to thank the LSE Department for Economics as well as the Equality and Diversity Taskforce, for hosting this important event here today ahead of the Spring Budget next week.

It is great to see so many senior female economists and academics here. Too often womenÔÇÖs voices on the economy are ignored or take a back seat.

Just over a year ago, the Fawcett society analysed newspaper coverage of the economy and found that over 80% of those quoted or referenced were men, and over 80% of articles were imbalanced in favour of men.

From that I take two things:

One, that the voices of women, like many of you here today, with relevant expertise and experience, are rarely given a platform ÔÇô which reinforces the public perception that being an expert on the economy is a male role.

Secondly, the economy is an area where there have been significant negative impacts on women since 2010.

From cuts to tax credits to the crisis in social care budgets ÔÇô it is women who have consistently been hit hardest, yet it is our voices that are continuously excluded.

This year, the Spring Budget is on the same day as International WomenÔÇÖs Day ÔÇô so the 8th March becomes a critical day both for womenÔÇÖs rights and for the economy.

Labour are determined to ensure that we do not miss this opportunity to lay out our demands for women to be at the heart of economic decisions.

For womenÔÇÖs voices, perspectives and interests to be properly understood, considered and heard.

As of the last autumn statement, 86% of the net gains to the Treasury through tax and benefit changes since 2010 had come from women.

That figure is up on the previous yearÔÇÖs autumn statement, in which the figure was 81%.

That is why, today, Labour are calling for a Spring Budget that works for women.

A budget that invests in jobs for women.

A budget that recognises and supports the services that women depend on.

A budget that advances women’s equality and economic independence

At its heart, we expect a budget that works for women as it is a key opportunity for the advancement of gender equality.

This concept, often referred to as gender budgeting, now takes place in more than 40 countries around the world.

It was originally inspired by the early experiences of countries such as Australia, and then given further momentum by the United Nations commitment to gender budgeting in the Beijing platform for action.

The perceived assumption is often that budgets are neutral, that they benefit and impact on everyone equally, regardless of gender, ethnic background or disability.

 

We know this is not the case.

Women are particularly vulnerable to being hit harder by this Government policies, for a number of reasons.

First, social security payments make up a greater share of womenÔÇÖs income than menÔÇÖs, as women still earn less in the labour market.

Women make greater use of public sector care services than men, because they have greater caring responsibilities.

Women also pay less direct tax than men, because they tend to earn less. Meaning that tax breaks for top earners disproportionately benefit men.

Finally, women are hit harder by this GovernmentÔÇÖs policies, because a higher proportion of women are employed in the public sector, which is consistently under attack.

If we are to create a budget that works for women, these factors must be properly taken into account during the formative stages of policy making and budget setting.  It needs to be done in a way that ensures that women are not disproportionately penalised, and that gender economic equality is advanced.

However, Gender inequality will not simply be addressed through gender budgeting. 

Children arenÔÇÖt born with expectations about what is, or is not, appropriate for their future careers, or beliefs about what their work is worth.┬á

The stereotypes we see embedded from such a young age ultimately contribute to the inequalities we see in adult life, in the workplace and in the economy more widely.

This must change.

Violence against women, maternity discrimination, unequal pay and lack of access to decently paid, secure employment: all take an economic toll.

Gender inequality is economically inefficient.  Gender equality is good for economic growth.

Janet Stotsky, who has researched the economics of gender since the mid 90ÔÇÖs, recently led an International Monetary Fund survey.┬á She has said simply that;

ÔÇÿgender budgeting is good budgetingÔÇÖ.

The imperative for a budget that works for women goes far beyond an economic one. Legal and international obligations on the Government are clear in the need to protect and advance womenÔÇÖs economic equality.

The Equality Act 2010, introduced by Labour, enshrined in law the public sector equality duty which requires public authorities to have due regard of equality considerations when exercising their functions.

In section 149 of the Act, Labour placed the provision that any public body must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to ÔÇ£eliminate discriminationÔÇØ and ÔÇ£advance equality of opportunityÔÇØ for those with protected characteristics, which include gender and ethnicity.

Given that the legal and economic arguments are clear that budgets must work for women, why is it women who continually fair worst under this government?

 

My belief is it is a combination of outdated and intrinsically biased assumptions in accounting and policy, as well as a lack of transparency in how equality considerations are taken into account, have brought us to the point where the 86% figure I mentioned earlier is a reality.

Take, for example, the way investment and current expenditure are defined by the Treasury.

Currently, the wages of construction workers paid to build a school count as public investment. However, when government staffs the school to provide education, the wages of the teachers are not counted as investment expenditure, but as current expenditure.

The benefits produced by teachers accrue over the years, both to the children who have been educated, and to the wider economy. These are not just ÔÇÿday to dayÔÇÖ immediate benefits.

Feminist economists have long argued that the work force is a produced asset that requires investment of resources for it to be available on a daily basis.

In the example I just gave ÔÇô both the wages of the teachers and the construction workers would be defined as public investment.

Similarly, there is also an inherently skewed way that governments think about infrastructure.

The Labour Party have long acknowledged that economic development requires a well-functioning social infrastructure; Schools, hospitals, care and public services.

Investment in social infrastructure both alleviates unpaid care work and generates more jobs for women.

Underinvestment in public services and infrastructure not only reduces the productivity of the current and future work force, but it also dumps the burden of, often unpaid, care work on women.  This leads to an inevitable impact on women earning ability.

Yet in statement after statement, we hear the government effortlessly justify investment of tax payer money in roads and transportation projects, while their last Autumn Statement, failed to offer any investment in care or the NHS.

The governmentÔÇÖs excuses for their unprecedented lack of investment in care, the NHS and public services donÔÇÖt stack up for the economy, and they definitely donÔÇÖt stack up for women.

When the UK Labour government invested in creating the NHS in 1948, the ratio of debt to GDP was over 200 per cent, and that higher public investment led to higher growth. High debt ratios did not prompt cuts to public investment in the 1940s, 1950s or 1960s.

What is unarguable is that at the same time as imposing cruel spending cuts that have been shown to hit women hardest, this government has added almost £700bn to the national debt.

ThatÔÇÖs not just more than the last Labour government.

ItÔÇÖs more than every Labour government, in history, added together!

So, not only have public services like our NHS or our Local Councils been shredded, the scale of the failure is such that the Tories canÔÇÖt even claim to have reduced the debt!

The question that we must focus on is whether an individual investment project has economic returns that are higher than, or at least equal to, its costs in terms of interest payments.

If the returns are high enough, debt sustainability would automatically be satisfied as the additional growth would decrease, or at least stabilise the debt to GDP ratio.

But, if we continue to think of public investment exclusively as spending on physical infrastructure – roads, railways, ports, airports ÔÇô the benefits to women will continue to be limited by this definition.┬á

And remember, this is in addition to the deepening and damaging cuts to social infrastructure under this government that fail to invest in our future workforce, and women in particular.

The last autumn statement posed a real opportunity for the Government to make changes:

They had the opportunity to start a new economic path with a new female Prime Minister.

They missed that opportunity by a mile.

The disproportionate impact on women had in fact increased from the autumn statement the previous year, from 81 to 86%.

Joint analysis from the Runnymede Trust and the WomenÔÇÖs Budget Group also showed that, as of the last autumn statement, low- income black and Asian women are paying the highest price for this GovernmentÔÇÖs failed austerity agenda.

The 86% impact figure sounds shocking, but we know it isnÔÇÖt just a number in a textbook or a policy paper.

These are real women. 

Real women whose lives are being made increasingly more difficult through government policy and successive budgets.

Women who have to struggle with more caring responsibilities due to the ever increasing gap in social care funding.

Women on increasingly insecure employment terms, unable to plan properly for their familyÔÇÖs future.

Women born in the 1950ÔÇÖs who, with little to no notice, are having to face a crisis in their retirement planning.

54,000 women a year who are forced out of their jobs through maternity discrimination and who canÔÇÖt afford this governmentÔÇÖs extortionate fees to take their employer to tribunal.

Women in my constituency and constituencies up and down the country who will have to wait another 60 years before the gender pay gap closes.

155 women and 103 children on a typical day, who are turned away from refuges due to lack of space, according to WomenÔÇÖs Aid

Women struggling under more pressure placed on them through cuts to universal credit and to child tax credits.

And perhaps most shamefully, women who, as of next month, will have to prove their third child is a product of rape if they wish to qualify for child tax credits.

IÔÇÖm not sure how we have ended up here?

But I am sure that this cannot continue, and that Labour will hold this government to account for their seismic failings.

Twice Labour has formally presented the government with clear analysis on the impact of their budgets on women, only for the data to be dismissed out of hand by Ministers.

It would be far more credible if the government produced their own gender impact analysis alongside their financial statements, rather than to criticize the House of Commons library data without producing any alternative of their own.

To add insult to injury, the Government knows how to conduct a proper audit of their polices on women and those with protected characteristics.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the WomenÔÇÖs Budget Group, have outlined suggested methodologies very clearly.

We have to ask why, in the light of the availability of those methodologies, the Government continue to be so evasive in stepping up to their duties.

It is getting to the point where the government can no longer plead ignorance of the way their policies are impacting women or that there doesnÔÇÖt exist evidence to show this impact or the strategies to overcome it.

And the continued lack of transparency is deeply concerning.

The cross party, parliamentary Women and Equalities select committee have had precious little cooperation from the government in this area.

The Treasury have refused, in writing, to send a minister to answer questions on the impact of the Autumn Statement on women.  And they have sent inadequate or incomplete answers to questions asked by the committee.

The committee have stated publicly that, I quote,

ÔÇÿThe lack of information provided to us demonstrates a concerning lack of transparency. The promotion of transparency is a central aim of the Public Sector Equality Duty requirements, but the GovernmentÔÇÖs current position does not engender confidence that these requirements are being complied with.ÔÇÖ

Next week, during the ChancellorÔÇÖs budget, on international womenÔÇÖs day, there will be nowhere to hide if the government continue to avoid addressing this omission.

The game is up.

Labour is demanding the government put an end to this embarrassing ducking and diving and produce a transparent, cumulative impact analysis of their polices on women since 2010, as well as an equalities impact assessment of the specific measures announced in the Spring Budget.

The usual one-off cash give-away, or a gimmicky policy aimed at women, will not suffice.

Let me be very clear;

We are talking about a fundamental, structural, disproportionate impact on women of government policy since 2010. 

Nothing short of a fundamental, structural solution will do.

This government seem keen to support gender equality on paper if it only means marginal changes, or a few one off measures.  

What is needed however, are root-and-branch changes on how the fiscal system supports gender equality. 

I appreciate this is much more challenging, but it is vital and long overdue.

 

The Labour Party will not shy from this challenge.

I am pleased announce today that Labour will build upon current equalities legislation, consulting over the next 12 months on bringing in an Economic Equality Bill.

Put simply, this Bill would seek to ensure that on equality, the money follows the policy.

It will no longer be possible for governments to talk the talk on equality while implementing economic policies that make life harder for women and protected groups.

ItÔÇÖs about ensuring that we eliminate intrinsic, structural barriers that prevent people from reaching their full economic potential.

Next week, during the Spring Budget, Labour will be watching.

In the absence of the government conducting their own gender impact analysis on the budget, once again, Labour will be working hard with the House of Commons Library to produce this data.

I have to say, I find it shameful that we have to hold the GovernmentÔÇÖs feet to the fire in this way, simply to ensure that their policies are not disproportionately impacting one particular group and reversing progress on economic equality.

Globally, when one of TrumpÔÇÖs first acts as President, in a room full of men, was to curtail womenÔÇÖs reproductive rights while Vladimir Putin has de-criminalised domestic violence, leadership from the UK on gender equality has never been so urgent.

Then there is the triggering of Article 50 and a Government white paper that failed to even mention the word equality.

The prospect of the UK becoming a deregulated off shore tax haven, free from EU treaties and law does not bode well for women. 

Labour will make clear during our budget next week that that we expect the government to fundamentally and structurally enable and promote economic equality for all women.  

LabourÔÇÖs economic aims always have, and always will be, our social aims too.

Our new Economic Equality Bill is the next step in realising this.

Labour is committed to overturning a rigged economic system that sees women bearing the brunt of failed austerity.

Labour has committed to producing a gender impact analysis alongside all of our financial statements in government.

Historically, I am extremely proud that that almost every major piece of legislation that has improved the lives of working women has been introduced by a Labour Government.

It was a Labour Government who introduced legislative protections for women under the Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equality Act.

Labour were the first administration since the Second World War to accept state responsibility for developing childcare policy, and we introduced paternity leave and increased maternity leave. Labour brought in Sure Start centres, working tax credits and all-women shortlists, and we have more women MPs than all the other parties in the House combined.

And it is Labour who are now at the forefront of challenging the government on their abysmal record on gender economic equality and it is Labour who are taking the lead on working to develop in government, a budget that works for all.”

 

 

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Friday, February 24th, 2017 @ 5:14PM

Sarah Champion MP reacts to Istanbul Convention Bill

Reacting to todayÔÇÖs third reading of the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence┬áBill, Sarah Champion MP said:

ÔÇ£The Istanbul Convention ensures that we offer gold-standard support for victims and severe repercussions for perpetrators.

 Ratifying it would make a huge difference to the lives of tens of thousands of women in the UK and show that the UK takes domestic violence extremely seriously.

┬áThe Government need to stop delaying and ratify the Convention as a matter of urgency.ÔÇØ

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  • The third reading of the Bill, led by Dr Eilidh Whiteford of the SNP, passed today in the House of Commons
  • For full information on ICChange, the campaign to ratify the Istanbul Convention, please visit: http://icchange.co.uk/about/
  • For more information, please call Victoria Finan on 020 7219 5942
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Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 @ 5:10PM

Sarah Champion MP reacts to Court of Appeal ruling over Civil Partnerships

Sarah Champion, LabourÔÇÖs Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, commenting on the Court of Appeal judgement on Civil Partnerships today, said:

ÔÇ£It is disappointing news that Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan have lost their Court of Appeal battle to enter into a Civil Partnership.

ÔÇ£Labour are proud to have introduced Civil Partnerships in 2004 as a key step in achieving true marriage equality for LGBT people.

ÔÇ£But, now that same sex marriage has been legalised, it is an anomaly that Civil Partnerships are not available to all couples regardless of their gender and sexuality.

ÔÇ£Civil Partnerships should be extended to heterosexual couples who wish to have a legal union in accordance with their individual beliefs and values.

ÔÇ£Labour will continue to push the government to look again at this important issue.ÔÇØ

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Tuesday, February 7th, 2017 @ 1:22PM

Sarah Champion MP tackles fuel poverty in Rotherham

Sarah Champion, Member of Parliament for Rotherham, has written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in response to research that showed the impact of fuel poverty on private rented tenants in Rotherham.

The report, which was carried out by Sheffield Hallam University, was based on research conducted in Rotherham and Hackney and surveyed 1,800 low income households across the two areas.[1]

The report outlines the impact of fuel poverty, including on health, both mental and physical.

It also suggests that Government programmes to tackle fuel poverty are having little impact upon the private rented sector.

Responding to the report, Sarah said:

ÔÇ£It is appalling that in 21st Century Britain, many people are still forced to choose between heating their homes and buying food.

ÔÇ£This report highlights the devastating impact of fuel poverty on the wellbeing of my constituents.ÔÇØ

Sarah continued:

ÔÇ£The private rented sector contains a higher proportion of poor and vulnerable households than any other. Yet the GovernmentÔÇÖs limited efforts to tackle fuel poverty have failed to have a real impact for these people in Rotherham.

ÔÇ£It is time that the Government recognised that these programmes arenÔÇÖt working and took meaningful action to help those who continue to have to live in cold homes.ÔÇØ

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

[1] http://www4.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/sites/shu.ac.uk/files/energy-inefficiency-private-rented-housing-final-report.pdf

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Friday, February 3rd, 2017 @ 6:20PM

Sarah Champion MP reacts to potential closure of revenge porn helpline

Sarah Champion MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, has implored to government to tackle the crisis of revenge pornography after it was revealed that cuts have been made to the funding of the national helpline for victims.

Speaking in Parliament, Sarah told the government that by cutting the funding and putting the helpline at risk, they have demonstrated a clear lack of commitment to ending violence against women and girls.

The Minister for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening, failed to reassure Sarah that funding to the helpline would continue.

The helpline was set up in February 2015 and has received over 2500 calls in the past year.

Sarah said: ÔÇ£Once again, the Tories are all talk but no action when protecting women and girls from violence.

┬áÔÇ£The revenge porn helpline is an invaluable resource for victims who are desperate to receive advice on how to have indecent images removed from the internet and how to pursue a prosecution if they so choose.

┬áÔÇ£Coming forward as a survivor of revenge porn takes such bravery and we need to send the message that those victims will be supported in every way possible.

┬áÔÇ£Labour is urging the Government to maintain this vital, value-for-money service. Ministers must now clarify and publish their continued funding arrangements for the helpline.ÔÇÖ

The government previously promised to ensure victims of revenge pornography have access to bespoke support and advice about their right to have the images removed from website.

Sarah asked the Minister in Women and Equalities Questions: ÔÇ£GirlguidingÔÇÖs survey found that 20 per cent of 13 to 21 year olds have had unwanted pornographic imagery sent to them and five per cent have had an indecent or sexual image shared without their consent.

┬áÔÇ£If the government really does want to support GirlguidingÔÇÖs campaign why is her department cutting the funding to the revenge porn helpline, which has supported over 2500 calls last year? What message does that send about the governmentÔÇÖs commitment to ending violence against women and girls?ÔÇØ

In reply, Justine Greening, the Minister for Women and Equalities, said ÔÇ£We havenÔÇÖt made any announcements yet.ÔÇØ

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

 For statistics in relation to the revenge porn helpline please see the Evaluation Report http://www.revengepornhelpline.org.uk/

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