Women and Girls: Economic Well-being, Welfare, Safety and Opportunities

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Excerpts
Thursday 14th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Portrait Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, very much indeed for giving us this opportunity to discuss a wide range of women’s and girl’s rights. I will touch on the welfare and safety of women. I am aware that the Minister will not be able to answer my rather detailed questions, and so I seek a meeting with her, and perhaps with other noble Baronesses, to discuss the topics that I raise.

My concern is that, on welfare and safety, we have gone backwards for the most vulnerable people. To refer to a statement made yesterday by Safe Schools Alliance, the introduction of graphic or extreme sexual material in sex education lessons reinforces the porn culture that is damaging our children in such a devastating way. That came from the Children’s Commissioner. I would add to that that it is extremely damaging to have, for example, a mentally handicapped boy in school being asked to understand and to agree that the man in front of him is in fact a woman.

All that rests on a misapprehension that you can change your sex. As the noble Lord, Lord Winston, declared only yesterday on the Piers Morgan show, as reported in today’s Daily Mail,

“you can’t change your sex”.

And as Kellie-Jay Keen, another woman activist of great eminence, remarked, that is the “perfect headline”. Indeed, I suggest to the right reverend Prelate that that is rather useful for the Church of England, as it will be able to define a woman today, whereas it could not the day before. I will ask the Church to do so as soon as possible.

When we look at health boards, we see that the rights of women and children have gone back again. The approach to single-sex wards makes meaningless that name when one invites transgender people who are men who declare as women to take spaces in female-sex wards and then defines them in the records as women, it is no wonder that one cannot find the evidence of sexual assaults that I have mentioned in this Chamber before. I have that evidence, but the hospitals concerned have been informed by their trusts that if a man says he is a woman, he is woman and he goes down on that record, so it is not unlikely that the ministry cannot find those references. I am very sad to say that denial of sexual assaults goes as far as declaring “Remove the complainant from the hospital ward”. This is completely unacceptable; it is a wrong identity, and it degrades the woman disgracefully. As the noble Lord, Lord Winston, says, you cannot change your sex.

This is affecting speech-impaired and paralysed patients. As Transgender Trend has remarked, sex-based rights are effectively under threat; I would say that they have been destroyed. Let us take the case of a 16 year-old girl, reported only yesterday. She is severely learning-disabled, autistic—therefore non-verbal—and entirely dependent on others for what is now known as “intimate care”. It is scandalous that the special needs place in which she is resident has removed “cross-gender consent from personal and intimate care policy”. I have an earlier case of this—I had thought it was a once-off—in a school in Surrey. It is no longer a once-off: I understand that 50% of local authorities have adopted that position. To be blunt, this means that behind the closed doors of a lavatory, male members of staff, without any necessary qualification, with no consent from the parents of the patient and with the patient unable to agree, can dress, undress, use tampons—I apologise, but I have to be accurate—and indulge themselves, if they so wish, with female genitalia. These are girls and woman who cannot object and cannot consent. I would suggest that there are plenty of female carers around. There are threats of rape. The Brent HIV case of a couple of years ago, involving a girl called Cassie, shows that this is no figment of the imagination; there are actual evidenced cases. Health boards’ approaches to single sex make such cases seem meaningless—“remove the complainant”—and sexual assaults are happening.

JK Rowling, our most eminent and wonderful author, with whom I have worked for acutely disabled children in eastern Europe either side of the same bed, calls it “this horror show”, whereas an NHS professional who works with patients who cannot move or speak declares it intentional cruelty. I believe it is illegal, because it is against the Health and Social Care Act 2008 and the Act of 2014. I beg the Minister to allow me a meeting.

COP 26: Disabled Access

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Excerpts
Thursday 4th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I can only agree with my noble friend. I reiterate and support his point that, in this House and in public service, there are fine people who battle against things which would floor most of us. I completely agree with that. We will use this incident to good effect.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Portrait Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Con)
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Does the Minister agree that, while our Government are firmly committed to best practice for all with disabilities, the gap between that policy and their achievement remains unacceptably wide? Would she agree to a meeting for constructive discussion with one or two Members of your Lordships’ House, whose dissatisfaction is well grounded on practical parliamentary experience?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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The Government are firmly committed to best practice for all disabilities. Although progress has been made in recent decades on accessibility and inclusion, far too often obstacles remain. When the Minister for Disabled People was appointed to our team in the DWP, one of the first things I did was ask her to meet Peers. She has agreed to do that. Give her time to get her feet under the table, and noble Lords will have ample opportunity to discuss all those things with her.

Yemen

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Excerpts
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I have already given the Government’s position on arms sales, but I agree with the noble Baroness; we will work very closely with the US and other allies, and through the UN, to ensure that we can bring about peace in Yemen. However, that requires the participation of all parties to the conflict.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Portrait Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Con)
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Will the Minister consider whether it is right and proper for outside parties to continue to pressurise the warring north and south of Yemen to remain together? Would it not be desirable for the Southern Movement, which is highly competent and full of professionals, to be left alone to restore the former living standards of south Yemen and the huge prosperity of the port of Aden?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend raises an important point about southern Yemen, but I am sure she will agree that it is a question for the Yemeni people. The position of the United Kingdom and the Security Council remains that we support the unity, sovereignty and independence of Yemen. That is why the UK supports an inclusive peace process in this respect.

Alexei Navalny

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Excerpts
Thursday 28th January 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness. That is why it is a priority for my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary to look at the issues of corruption and illicit finance in the broadening of the global human rights sanctions regime.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Portrait Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Con)
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Can the Minister confirm that, while our Government rightly use sanctions as a weapon against the loss of Mr Navalny’s freedom, the many other links that our cultural heritage shares with Russia will not be harmed? I refer, of course, to our shared music, creative writing, sculpture, university links, and the many other creative ways whereby our citizens and professionals share common bonds and deep enduring friendships. Can the Minister assure the House that sanctions will avoid harming those important channels of mutual growth?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I reassure my noble friend that I agree with her. I am sure I speak for all noble Lords when I say that our challenge and dispute is not with the Russian people. We are standing on their side on their right to representation, and in the protests that we have seen in support of Mr Navalny. There are quite strict criteria for how the sanctions are applied: they are for egregious abuse of human rights.

Aid Spending

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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I completely agree with the noble Baroness that our work in international development is firmly in the national interest and absolutely enhances our global reputation abroad. We have been a world leader in many things, including malaria. We need to focus, rightly, on the Covid-19 response, but we must not forget or reverse the significant gains that have been made over the years. We have many proud achievements on malaria, and the UK will continue to lead the way on eradicating malaria as part of our work on ending preventable deaths.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Portrait Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Con)
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I welcome the Minister’s comprehensive replies and have a simple question for her. On the back of my views that the merger will add greatly to UK influence in global leadership, given that public health is central to all our thinking at the moment internationally, can the Minister reassure me that, from now on, we will use our contribution to the World Health Organization, where we are in fact the largest and most powerful contributor, to the greatest possible extent? That means perhaps not just contributing, but ensuring that the WHO has reorganisation in the centre, or whatever is needed, because it has lagged a little bit, which is why we have lost the United States. Will the Minister reassure me that she will do everything she can to make Britain more powerful in the World Health Organization dimension?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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As my noble friend says, we are a leading donor to the WHO. We have already pledged £75 million to help it to lead international efforts to stop the spread of the virus and then the pandemic. The UK has long been an advocate for reform in the WHO. We want to see the WHO continue to learn lessons on how to improve its response to global health emergencies. The new department will help us in this aim, bringing together our diplomatic engagement with the WHO and other bilateral donors, and also our development funding, for the first time.

Bahrain: Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Excerpts
Wednesday 12th February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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Given his background, I am sure the noble Lord will know that we worked directly with UNDP on that programme and we have been working on this issue. He raised the issue of alternative sentencing and we have seen positive outcomes: up to 1,000 people have now been looked upon for alternatives to prison sentences. The noble Lord rightly raises genuine concerns about human rights and those continue. As I said in my original Answer, we are far from where we want to be but our continual engagement with the Bahraini authorities is producing results.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Portrait Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Con)
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Does the Minister agree that the British judicial system is one of the best in the globe, if not the best, and that many countries have benefited through training from our judicial systems? Can he offer additional training to some of the countries that we know well have uncertain outcomes of their judgments? I know how much judges of the countries I serve in welcome visits, support and training from our judicial system.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My noble friend makes a helpful suggestion, but we are seeking to do more. In this respect, judges from Bahrain have visited Crown Courts and magistrates’ courts in the United Kingdom and we continue to engage with the judiciary on this point.