Political parties respond to our questions #1
In the run-up to Election Day on 12 December, we've been asking political parties how they plan to create an equal society for young women. To help you decide how to cast your vote, we’re bringing you their answers in a series of blogs.
To start us off, we asked them about their plans to unlock young women's potential:
Conservative party spokesperson: "This week we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first female MP taking her seat in the House of Commons. The Conservative party has a proud history of supporting women – with Nancy Astor becoming the first female MP to take her seat as a Conservative MP in 1919, a Conservative Government extending the vote to all women over the age of 21 in 1928, and Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May being the only female Prime Ministers Britain has had, heading up Conservative Governments.
With rates of women in work recently reaching a record high, we are proud that the Conservative Manifesto sets out a strong message of how a majority Conservative Government will continue to support women to unleash their full potential – be that through measures to help with the cost of living, investment in public services or increasing access to start up loans to help them start their own business.
A majority Conservative government would ensure that no woman is held back from reaching their full potential. We will continue to support women in all aspects of life – from childcare to start-up loans and ending violence against women and girls – so that no one is disadvantages because of their gender.
Since 2010 we have made good progress towards ensuring all women have the opportunity to succeed. Under the Conservatives, the female employment rate has reached a record high – hitting 72.1% in June 2019. There are 1.8 million more women in work than in 2010.
But there is more to do.
When it comes to education, we are boosting school funding by an additional £14 billion over the next three years, increasing the minimum level of per pupil funding in primary and secondary schools. We are also increasing funding for pupils with Special Educational Needs, so that every child can reach their potential.
We are going to raise wages, cut taxes and lower the cost of living. We are raising the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 next year and the National Living Wage will increase to two thirds of average earnings, currently forecast at £10.50 an hour, in 2024.
A number of workers, disproportionately women, who earn between £10,000 and £12,500 have been missing out on pension benefits because of a loophole affecting people with net pay pension schemes. We will conduct a comprehensive review to look at how to fix this issue.
We will use our freedom from the EU to improve the UK’s tax regime – not least by abolishing the tampon tax.
We also know that the responsibility of caring for family and loved ones often falls on women. That is why we will also extend the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers to one week.
We will continue to fight crime against women and girls, including rape, Female Genital Mutilation and forced marriage. Our support for the main carer receiving Universal Credit will help give greater independence to individuals, most often women, trapped with coercive partners.
No one wanted this election, but Parliament has been in gridlock. We need to get Brexit done so that we can move on and unleash the potential of this country – including supporting young women to unleash their full potential. A vote for the Conservatives is a vote to get Brexit done so that we can move on. The alternative is a Jeremy Corbyn-led government that will inflict the chaos of another two referendums on the country."
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party: "I was always inspired by my Mum who was a teacher. No young women should have limits imposed upon them, every young person’s talent needs to be realised. Unconscious stereotyping happens as young as nursery age, boys playing football and girls sitting around the edge which carries on all throughout school. I am very proud of our youth manifesto “The Future is Ours”, I launched with Cat Smith, Labour’s Shadow Youth Affairs Minister last week, that seeks to do just this.
Labour will create a new Department for Women and Equalities, with a full-time Secretary of State, responsible for ensuring all our policies and laws are equality-impact assessed in order to deliver a fairer society for women and all under-represented groups. We’ll also establish a modernised National Women’s Commission as an independent advisory body to contribute to a Labour government. A Labour Cabinet will also be representative, giving women a voice at the top table.
Shockingly, 85 per cent of Tory/Lib Dem cuts have fallen on the shoulders of women, largely as a result of cuts to social security support. Labour will scrap Universal Credit and design an alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect. We’ll end the five-week wait, suspend the Tories’ vicious sanction regime and stop 300,000 children from being in poverty by scrapping the benefit cap and the two child limit, ending the immoral and outrageous ‘rape clause’. Labour will also protect women in abusive relationships by splitting payments and paying the child element to the primary carer."
Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities: "Liberal Democrats are committed to putting equality at the heart of government. We are proud of the role we have played in rolling out gender neutral school uniforms in wales, ensuring pay gap reporting and making upskirting illegal, but we know that there is so far to go in the fight for gender equality. That is why our manifesto makes clear pledges designed to help tackle the persistent injustices and inequalities faced by women and girls.
As part of this, Liberal Democrats will take a number of key steps. Disproportionately, it is women who are faced with a double burden – often caring for a number of dependants. Liberal Democrats will help ensure our benefit systems works so that everyone can reach their potential. As part of this, we will reduce the wait for first payments from five weeks to five days, remove the two child limit and benefits cap, increase work allowances and introduce a second earner work allowance. We will also raise the amount people can earn before losing their Carer’s Allowance from £123 to £150 a week, as well as reducing the number of hours’ care per week required to qualify for it.
Liberal Democrats are also committed to rolling out gender neutral school uniforms across schools in England to ensure no child has to wear clothes they are uncomfortable in, and to providing free sanitary products in a number of spaces, including schools, colleges and libraries. No child should miss out on any aspect of their education or on reaching their potential because of their period.
Internationally, we will also pursue a feminist foreign policy agenda that ensures the lives of women and girls are not ignored in favour of trade or regional alliances – we will work to end FGM and sexual violence in conflict zones."
Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women’s Equality party: "The Women’s Equality party has seven objectives to tackle the structural barriers to women’s equality. We will tackle the early gender stereotyping that restricts the experiences and choices of both girls and boys. We will overhaul the economic framework through which decisions about government funding and borrowing are made and centre women and women’s lives in those decisions, so that the public services women work in and rely on are valued and properly funded, and the benefits system recognises the contribution of unpaid care work women do. By rebalancing the economy to fit with women’s lives, we will unlock young women’s talents."
Conservative party spokesperson: "Under the Conservatives, the female employment rate has reached a record high – hitting 72.1% in June 2019. There are 1.8 million more women in work than in 2010.
It was a Conservative Government that introduced the requirement for gender pay gap reporting. In 2019 the UK’s gender pay gap for all employees fell to 17.3 per cent, down from 27.5 per cent when the survey began in 1997.
We are launching a roadmap, which includes a range of measures to financially empower women at every stage of their lives, from school to retirement, such as continuing to support family friendly policies in the workplace. We are also introducing stronger protections for new parents returning to work and have published a new Code of Practice to tackle sexual harassment at work."
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party: "It is shameful that people – particularly growing numbers of young people – have been left without the mental health services and support they desperately need under the Conservatives. We have to change the culture of women having to constantly prove themselves.
Labour will ensure that mental health is given the same priority as physical health. We’ll invest an extra £1.6 billion NHS spending per year to put a counsellor in every school, improve community services for people with severe mental illness, and we’ll introduce maternal mental health checks for new mothers, to spot signs of postnatal depression and ensure they have the support they need.
Beyond this, we’ll tackle excessive working hours, reducing the average full-time weekly working hours to 32 across the economy, with no loss of pay, within a decade, allowing everyone a better work/life balance."
Christine Jardine's, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities: "It is unacceptable that in 2019, years after pay discrimination was outlawed, women are still facing sexism and low pay in the workplace. Liberal Democrats are proud of the role we played in rolling out gender pay gap reporting. But we know that women are still facing an unjust double whammy of the pay and price gap. To help combat this we will extend the Equality Act to all large companies with more than 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps. We will also scrap the gender price gap – sometimes referred to as the ‘pink tax’ – to ensure women do not have to pay higher prices simply because of the way a product is marketed. As well as these measures, we will remove VAT on sanitary products.
Liberal Democrats are committed to transforming our mental health services by treating it with the same urgency as physical health. We will invest £11 billion in mental health to expand access to therapies and increase the number of psychiatrists and specialist mental health practitioners.
Liberal Democrats know that not enough resources reach front line mental health services and that in the fight for parity of esteem, there is still a very long way to go to achieve real equality for mental health. Our plan prioritises early intervention to prevent people from experiencing a mental health crisis and to minimise the number and duration of in-patient stays. We will make mental health services 24-hour, including placing mental health liaison teams in all hospitals so that those facing a mental health crisis are not put in police cells. We will also introduce a wellbeing budget, following the example of New Zealand – basing decisions on what will improve wellbeing as well as on economic and fiscal indicators. As part of this, we will appoint a Minister for Wellbeing, who will make an annual statement to Parliament on the main measures of wellbeing and the effects of government policies on them.
Liberal Democrats will also transform perinatal mental health support for those who are pregnant, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, and help them get early care when needed. As well as this, we will ensure every new mother gets a dedicated maternal postnatal appointment as well as introducing other measures to tackle under-diagnosis of maternal physical and mental health problems.
Liberal Democrats will also prevent violence against women and girls and domestic abuse, and ensure that survivors get the support they need. To help do this we will take a number of steps: ratifying and bringing into law the Istanbul Convention, legislating for a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes its effects on children, expanding the number of refuges and rape crisis centres to meet demand, ensuring sustainable grant-funding for specialist independent support services, giving local authorities the duty and funding to provide accommodation and support for survivors of abuse, establishing a national rape crisis helpline, and ensuring access to special measures for survivors in all courts and preventing direct cross-examination of survivors by their abusers."
Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women’s Equality party: "We reject a purely biomedical model of mental health and acknowledge the role that discrimination and inequality play in causing poor mental health. In terms of mental health services, we will prioritise trauma-informed approaches and work towards having a mental health specialist in every GP practice. We will prevent the impact that sexism and uncertainty have on young women’s mental health through addressing the scourge of violence against women, including sexual harassment in schools, workplaces and in public spaces; through ending the gender stereotypes that restrict their choices, and through investment in social infrastructure like childcare and social care so that women and the care work they do is valued by society."
We'll be publishing 3 more blogs in the run up to the election, with responses from political parties on how they plan to support young women. Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.