Category Archives: Equality

Gender Pay Gap Still Exists in Aberdeen

Dame Anne Begg MP was delighted to be invited by the Lord Provost George Adam to speak at an International Women’s Day lunch at the Town House. The lunch was organised for fifty women working in frontline services in Aberdeen. The women were honoured for their roles in supporting the economy of Aberdeen.

During the lunch, Anne spoke about the gender pay gap which still exists in Aberdeen, making reference to the Ford machinists in Dagenham who went on strike when their jobs were threatened with being downgraded. Anne said:

“Forty four years after the Equal Pay Act, Aberdeen still has one of the largest gender pay gaps in the whole country.  Women in Aberdeen earn on average only two thirds of what men do.  So even though we have equal pay for equal value – and I was so glad when Aberdeen City Council reached a deal about pay equalisation which meant that a lot of low paid women workers got their fair due – and I’m also glad that ACC also wants to be a living wage employer – but 44 years after the Equal Pay Act there is still a huge discrepancy between women’s wages and men’s in Aberdeen.

“There are a number of reasons for this.

“Surprisingly it is because unemployment is low.  You can’t have a gender pay gap if people aren’t receiving pay. But it also because we generally have a high wage economy in the North East, especially in the oil and gas industry, but these high paying jobs are predominately filled by men, while the women have the jobs in the less well paid public sector, the service industries and in care.

“And despite all the advances it is still the case that jobs which mostly employ women are more likely to be part time and have been deemed to have a lower worth which is reflected in lower pay.

“Just look at the care sector.  Like the Ford machinists whose skilled jobs were being classed as unskilled, so the army of carers working in Aberdeen and throughout the country, doing an incredibly difficult job, a job that many people couldn’t face doing, are classed as unskilled and are paid little more than the minimum wage. It’s a scandal and we wonder why we can’t get people to do the job.”

MP Calls on Government to Launch Impact Assessment on Welfare Reform

During a Backbench debate on Welfare Reform, Dame Anne Begg MP called on the government to launch a cumulative impact assessment on their reforms to the welfare system which are unfairly targeting people with disabilities. The Back Bench Committee allocated time for this debate after a WOW petition was signed by over 100,000 people.

As Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Dame Anne has continually called for the government to carry out a full impact assessment of welfare reform to show the effect they are having on people with disabilities.

Dame Anne said

“Although the Government states it isn’t picking on disabled people or people with health problems, their policies are impacting that group the hardest
“When you look at the changes they’ve made to the welfare system – Work Capability Assessments, Employment Support Allowance and the new Personal Independence Payments, you can see who they are aimed at.

“The government has reformed almost every benefit in the welfare system. The migration of disabled people to Employment Support Allowance from Incapacity benefit[…] the ATOS Work Capability Assessment[…] the introduction of new Personal Independence Payments[…] reforms to Housing Benefit and Housing Allowance[…] are hitting the disabled and those with health problems the hardest.”

After the debate Dame Anne said

“I have been calling for years for a full impact assessment of welfare reform. The government has continuously refused. Either the government don’t want to know what the impact of welfare reforms have been or they don’t want us to know. Surely good policy making involves reviewing the effectiveness and impact of decisions you have made?”

Debate on Lack of Diversity in Parliament and the Need for Positive Action

Aberdeen South MP, Dame Anne Begg, secured a Back Bench Business Committee Debate to highlight the lack of diversity in Parliament and call for more positive action to increase the representation of underrepresented groups in Parliament.

Introducing the debate, Dame Anne said:

“It is interesting to note just how topical this debate is. A few weeks ago, almost every newspaper in the land carried the picture of the all-male Government Front Bench. I wonder whether it will go down in history, and be as iconic as the Blair’s babe’s photo, which I was proud to be in. I am not sure whether those on the Government Front Bench were quite so proud to be in their photo.”

_42847067_femalemp_long

Dame Anne, who was Vice Chair of the 2010 Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation which made a commitment to discuss representation in Parliament every two years, went on to say that that:

 “There is no silver bullet or magic wand to wave which will change the makeup of the Commons. It would be an enormous missed opportunity if the Parliament elected in 2015 is less diverse than this one.

“It will require all political parties to accept they have a role to play in fostering talent and in candidate selection.  The government can play a role too, in providing leadership and encouraging a cross party approach as we have seen with the Access to Elected Office fund. But Parliament has to be more welcoming too.

“Our democracy is precious, too precious to be wholly in the hands of a narrow elite.  We can make this a Parliament for the 21st century but we can only do it together.”

You can read the full debate on Hansard here:  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140227/debtext/140227-0003.htm#140227-0003.htm_spnew24

For more information about the debate, you can also read here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/house-of-commons-26367343

Read all about it – Scotland’s first easy read newspaper launched in Aberdeen

Dame Anne Begg MP was delighted to attend the Scottish launch of the UK’s first easy read newspaper designed for people with learning disabilities. Inspire kindly hosted the launch at Café Coast and it was attended by some of the people they support.

Dame Anne and Linda read through the most recent edition of Easy News
Dame Anne and Linda read through the most recent edition of Easy News

Easy News is produced by disability charity United Response, and is designed to tackle the “information gap” facing many people with learning disabilities. United Response’s own research revealed that only 11% of people with learning disabilities read newspapers, usually because they are deterred by the complexity of the language. Partly as a result, just 16% of people with learning disabilities said they were interested in politics, and over half didn’t feel that politics actually had an impact on their daily lives. Easy News is designed to change that, with 58% of respondents saying that they would be interested in reading an accessible newspaper with simple language and strong visual images to help people understand.

Jaime Gill from United Response introduces Easy News
Jaime Gill from United Response introduces Easy News

Dame Anne said: “I was very impressed when I attended the launch of Easy News in the House of Commons so I was keen that it should be available in Scotland too.  I’m particularly delighted that the Scottish launch is happening in Aberdeen.

“Not having access to news in a format which you can understand can make you feel left out of what is happening in the world. I hope that as many people as possible in Aberdeen will benefit from this newspaper.”

Easy News will be produced every other month and will be available in paper, downloadable PDF and audio versions. The second edition covers the horsemeat scandal, the Oscar Pistorius court case, a new report into disability benefits, the long winter and the EU referendum, amongst other topics and you can read it here: http://www.unitedresponse.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Easy-News-Issue-2.pdf

Dame Anne comments in ‘The Guardian’ on attitudes to women in Westminster

Read the full article here.

Dame Anne Begg, the Labour MP for Aberdeen South who was vice chair of the speaker’s committee, said that some modest progress has been made to improving the representation of women at Westminster. “Labour was emboldened to continue with its all women shortlists which meant that at the last two general elections more than 50% of the Labour MPs elected were women. Because of the historical imbalance that still only means that a third of the parliamentary Labour party are women. But the figures are improving.

“The Tories are much further behind but they had their A list. David Cameron felt he had right on his side to get a bigger variety of candidates into the winnable seats. But looking across the chamber the look of the parliamentary Conservative party is very different from the one pre-2010.

“The one party that didn’t do much was the Lib Dems. That is partly because they are Liberals and will not put in place these top down mechanisms. Liberals are not particularly in favour of quotas, they say we want the best person for the job. Our argument is if the best person hasn’t even applied for the job you can’t get them.”

Dame Anne stands up to prejudice by signing Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment

This week Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging her commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who died during the Holocaust.

Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.

In signing the Book of Commitment, Dame Anne paid tribute to those who perished during the Holocaust and honoured the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured, through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Outreach programme.

In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. This year, people will also be encouraged to honour those communities that have been destroyed by genocide and reflect on the importance of coming together to oppose prejudice and hatred.

Dame Anne said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity to remember the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

“I know that Multi-ethnic Aberdeen Limited (MeAL) and Aberdeen City Council, along with University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen College, Aberdeen Schools, Aberdeen Hebrew Congregation Synagogue and Shmu FM, have organised a series of events between 21st and 27th January to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and I would encourage all constituents to join them in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are proud that Dame Anne is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day this year. It is vitally important that we both remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge all forms of hatred and bigotry.”

Mental Health discrimination speech in Parliament debate

Dame Anne spoke at Friday’s debate on Mental Health discrimination in Parliament.

Her two speeches are available to read online:

The debate can also be watched online on Parliament TV. Dame Anne speaks at 10.01am.

Universal Credit, committee evidence and Paralympics changing attitudes

Universal Credit evidence 

Dame Anne, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World this Weekend’ today on the introduction of the Universal Credit. You can listen again to the programme on BBC iPlayer.

The written evidence to the select committee is now also available on-line from 74 organisations.

At 9mins 45 secs on this player:

Paralympics changing attitudes

Dame Anne is in today’s Sunday Herald (and on BBC News) discussing the changing attitudes to disabled people due to the Paralympic Games:

“There has been a change in attitudes to disabled people. I think that Channel 4 has done a great job in busting some of the myths about disability and empowering people to talk about it. It has managed to mainstream the Paralympics. The public have been able to talk about disability without getting tongue-tied.

In terms of any far-reaching legacy, I’m not sure. It’s been great to see disabled presenters on television, but my fear is they will be returned to the ghetto outside the mainstream and that in the medium to longer term positive effects will fade. And, more generally, I worry that those who aren’t able to be elite athletes will have an even harder time now that everyone knows disabled people can do these incredible things. In the backdrop are benefits cuts. Some of these athletes will not qualify for the new PIP, which replaces Disability Living Allowance. They became elite athletes because of the support that they’ve been given through the benefits system, particularly DLA. But I think the glow of the Paralympics will be there for a few months.”