Today at the Dispatch Box – myself, Theresa May, Maria Miller and Andrew Stunell were all on the front bench together – in a change to how things have been done in the past. Instead of Questions to the Minister for Equalities being only for myself and Theresa – as part of mainstreaming – Maria Miller who has Ministerial responsibility for People with Disabilities (from the Department of Work and Pensions) and Andrew Stunell (Minister for Communities and Local Government) who has responsibility for race – came together for joined up equalities questions.
The questions I got asked today were all on coalition commitments: the right for all to request flexible working; the extension of internships for Black and Ethnic Minorities across every department in Whitehall and the commitment to push equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans across the world.
These are all good news stories. The right to request flexible working for all will mean that lone parents, carers – anyone – will have the right to request flexible working. We have said we will consult with business about this and we will be doing so and then moving forward on that commitment. Flexible working is good for business and good for the employee. The pool of talent is widened, retention and recruitment improved – and a better, happier workforce means a better, happier business. In my own department, the Government Equalities Office – 57% of the workforce work flexibly and all posts are advertised as open to flexible working.
On BAME internships in Whitehall – I am working with the Cabinet Office who lead on this. The Cabinet Office is assessing where we have got to with current programs which run across some, but not all, departments, and which are mostly summer internships only. When the status quo has been quantified we will be meeting to work on taking forward our commitment for BAME interns to be in every Whitehall Department.
As to LGB&T rights abroad – we are we going to use all our influence through the Commonwealth and Europe to pro-actively address the issues of the abuse of human rights in those countries where homosexuals and transgender people face torture or death. I have already had some dealings in regard of Malawi and Uganda – but look forward to driving this agenda forward at every possible opportunity.