1 Lord Desai debates involving the Department for International Trade

International Women’s Day

Lord Desai Excerpts
Thursday 11th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I was going to speak on women prisoners, but the noble Lord, Lord McNally, spoke on the same subject, so I had to quickly change gear and invent a new speech, but that is no problem. I shall just say one thing about Covid and women prisoners. I tried to put a question, but I did not win the ballot. Pregnant women who are prisoners require early release, if possible, under the current circumstances. If there is still scope for changing the policy, I urge Her Majesty’s Government to think about it, along with the early release of those on the end of custody temporary release scheme or on special purpose licences—that is the detailed description—if it is possible. I have tried to do that.

I want to make one remark on what the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, said about women MPs getting anonymous tweets and things on social media. She asked whether anonymity could be dealt with. In the past fortnight, I have read that the Government of India have sent a notification to all providers of social media that if somebody complains, they have to reveal the name—not particularly the message but the name. That is being taken to court in India, so there may be a legal problem. If there is anything that we can do to make these things anonymous, especially when a complaint is received from the recipient of an email, that will be a great step forward.

Lastly, I want to make a suggestion which has been bothering me for all the time I have been a professional economist. It is the injustice of the welfare state. If you are a woman living on your own, you get a certain sum of money from the welfare state. Under the universal credit system it is around £342 if you are under 25 and £409 if you are over 25; but if you are with a man, it is £488 instead of £342 and £594 instead of £409. This means that two people do not get double what one person gets, so the state actively encourages the breaking up of a couple’s relationship. This is a very peculiar thing.

People claim we are a Christian country with the sanctity of marriage and all that, but the welfare state actively discourages people living together, and this injustice has been going on for a long time. One thing that we can do—as far as possible, since money right now is flowing like nothing on earth—would be to correct that anomaly. It would make a lot of women’s and poor men’s lives much better; they would not have to pretend to be living separately just to get £50 more. I suggest that the Chancellor should look at that reform urgently.