Here is the condensed content of today’s speech to the Equal Opportunities Commission:


"Clearly we have
work to do. One cause of our reticence is a source of some strength as well as
a source of weakness. We respect the private sphere. We have a reluctance to
tell people and institutions – including our own party – what to do. We are not
great at signing up to grandiloquent charters.  We prefer practical
measure. But this should mean that when we do make commitments, we really mean
them – and will then go on to do what ever is necessary to deliver them."


"I’ve put in place an action plan – the Priority List – which
gives Conservative Associations the opportunity to select candidates from a
pool of very talented people. Half of them will be women. Of course, in any
individual selection process the best candidate may be a man. But, and this is
the key point, it’s just as likely to be a woman. This change in selection
procedures is a huge exercise. All selections for Westminster seats have been stopped. All candidates have been made to
reapply to the list. And if, after a few selections, we find that an
unacceptably low proportion of selected candidates are women we will take
further action.
Unless we look and think like modern Britain that is far more difficult to achieve. I
want the conversation within the Conservative party to be more like the
conversation we should be having with the rest of the country.


"Fifteen years ago, 59 per cent of women of working age with
dependent children were in paid employment. Today that figure has shot up to 68
per cent. And the group of women who are entering the workplace most rapidly
are mothers of children up to age four. Society shouldn’t try to direct women
but to direct help to women where it’s most needed. Before the last election we
agreed with the Government’s proposals for extending maternity leave.  In addition we supported the idea of allowing mums to take the additional money but over a shorter time period.  That is something we should consider again. Instead of imposing a choice on mothers, we should support the choices that mothers make for themselves. Mothers who work should not be made to feel guilty. Nor should mothers who stay at home.In addition we supported
the idea of allowing mums to take the additional money but over a shorter time
period.  That is something we should consider again."


"Providing financial support for the childcare choices that
families themselves make; not using financial support as a stick to force
parents into a particular choice. That means looking at whether we can
expand the kinds of childcare supported by the childcare tax credit. Secondly, expanding the
range of childcare choices available. That means ensuring the government
does not seek a monopoly in the provision of childcare or nursery places and
that voluntary and private providers are not crowded out. And third, realising
that government has a role in protecting the careers of women who want to take
time off to look after their children, particularly when they are just born."


"One of the reasons that many women don’t go back to work
after having a baby is that flexibility isn’t an option. 85 per cent of
 UK workforce works flexibly. As a result the company has
better retention rates and higher morale than before. A hi-tech manufacturing
firm in my constituency has introduced almost totally flexible hours, with
employees told to work their 38 hour week on their terms. That’s good news for
everyone but women are particularly happy about a system that recognises their
responsibilities and meets their needs.
The EOC’s own research suggests that a majority of managers
are not yet comfortable with it. Our job is to help get the message out. We
come in all shapes and sizes and we want the ability to mould our work ours to
suit our family circumstances – not the other way round."


"Closing the pay gap must be at the heart of our commitment
to end inequality. After thirty years of the Equal Pay Act, women’s pay
is still nearly a fifth lower than men’s – and for women working part-time, the
pay gap is around 40 per cent. We need to challenge the culture of secrecy
about pay that holds sway in too many British workplaces. Transparency should
be the norm, not the exception. And all of us need to change our cultural
attitudes to pay by being much more open. In these areas – childcare, equal
pay, flexibility – it’s not just that we have an obligation to help deliver
equality, we will be failing our economy if we don’t.


"Many people don’t
realise that the full state pension is not automatic. Women who take time out
from working in order to bring up children or look after elderly relatives are
placed at a severe disadvantage.Those who have made National Insurance
contributions for less than 10 years don’t count. That’s almost one and a half
million women excluded from pension entitlements. At the last election, David
Willetts put forward some interesting ideas about allowing people who had taken
career breaks to care for children or relatives to buy back lost years. He also
suggested that the ten-year rule on contributions should be abolished."


"One in eight of the population is a carer. It’s estimated
that carers save the Treasury £57 billion every year. 58 per cent of them are
women, and 67 per cent of working age. Only 16 per cent are able to work full
time, with work being totally out of the question for more than one million
carers looking after someone for more than 50 hours per week. I help care for a
severely disabled child – my son. It’s what I do at the start of each
day.  But I would not dare to call myself a carer. The work that full-time
carers or those with little extra help do is unbelievable. Why is it,
according to a recent Mencap survey, that only 22 per cent of the parents of
severely disabled children get more than 2 hours help per week from the state? Why
do only a fifth get any respite at all? Why is it that more than a quarter of
the budget used to support carers is lost in "assessment and commissioning
costs" instead of going to where it is needed most? So we should look at
expanding direct payments, putting money in the hands of carers and those in
need of care to provide for themselves. Helping carers is the best way to help
those they are caring for."


“My personal belief in the importance of family is based on
my own experience, yes.  But it is also based on the answer to a very
simple question. Which institution in our society does more than any other
to care for the elderly, to look after the disabled, to bring up children with
the right values, to pick up the pieces when things go wrong with drugs,
alcohol, or mental health, and which institution does all of these things for
free? It’s the family. In all the areas I have mentioned – pay, child care,
pensions, flexibility and the gender balance of my own party – will our
policies help to eradicate inequality and deliver fairness? And when it comes
to the family: do our policies encourage families to come together and stay
together and be that strong force at the heart of our society we all want to
see? These are vital tests – and ones that I am determined to meet.”

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