As part of International Women’s Day the Scottish National Party has provided David Cameron with a checklist, urging him to take action on key issues affecting women. SNP Women and Equalities spokesperson Angela Crawley MP has written to the Prime Minister setting out five key areas where the UK government can and should take urgent action to improve the lives of women in the UK.
- Scrap the Rape Clause
- Close the Gender Pay Gap
- Protect Maternity Pay and End Maternity Discrimination
- Commit to Ending Violence Against Women
- Scrap the Tampon Tax
David Cameron can and should take action on these key issues to improve the lives of women in the UK. From taking steps to close the gender pay gap, to ensuring no woman should have to prove she has been raped to claim tax credits, the UK government should take action on these issues as a matter of urgency. SNP MPs have been campaigning on these five issues over the past few months, but as we take stock on International Women’s Day, not enough has been done.
Scrap the Rape Clause
New government proposals due to commence in 2017 will require a woman, who has a third child as the result of rape, to justify her position to a government official in order to avoid losing tax credits.
The government has failed to provide any details on how the ‘rape clause’ will be implemented, or how a government offices intend to prove a woman has been raped.
As part of a campaign led by SNP MP Alison Thewliss, MPs representing nine parties in the House of Commons – including the Conservatives – signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister calling upon the Government to ‘unequivocally’ scrap the tax credits rape clause.
Violence Against Women Convention
The SNP is continuing its call to David Cameron to ratify the Istanbul Convention- a European Council convention which legislates for the coordination of policies between government, local authorities and charities working to combat violence against women.
In 2012, the UK signed-up to the Convention and agreed to implement a series of coordinated measures, however to date the UK Government has failed to ratify it. Angela Crawley MP will be taking the issue to the UN Women’s Convention in New York next month. It follows a letter to the Prime Minister from SNP MP Gavin Newlands – co-signed by several campaign groups- criticising the UK government for “stalling over women’s rights.”
Angela Crawley MP has called on David Cameron to negotiate with Europe to abolish the VAT charge on sanitary products. George Osborne announced that instead of forcing the European Commission’s hand to lift the unfair VAT, women will continue to pay the rate, with the UK government instead diverting the funds – £15 million a year – to women’s charities. The announcement was widely condemned, and the SNP argued that women still have to pay this unfair tax and women alone should not have to financially support such causes – they should be adequately supported by the government.
The SNP has consistently opposed the VAT charge on sanitary products and was the only major party at the 2015 General Election to include a pledge to abolish the tax in its manifesto.
Gender Pay Gap
The Prime Minister has pledged to end the gender pay gap in a generation, yet in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, the gender gap in the UK only fell by 0.8 percentage points, to 9.5 percent, compared with Scotland, where the gap dropped 1.8 points, to 7.5 percent.
The Scottish Government plan to legislate to ensure that public organisations with more than 20 employees will have to publish information on the difference in pay between men and women. Right now only public authorities with more than 150 employees are required to publish this information. Proposed UK-wide regulations will only require employers with over 250 employees to publish their data.
The proposal for a UK wide gender-pay audit was in the SNP’s manifesto and would have been proposed for the years 2016/17. The UK Government have stalled the plans and the legislation is not due to come into force until 2018.
The SNP have called for the Government to introduce the gender-pay audits this year.
Maternity Pay and Discrimination
Unlawful maternity and pregnancy discrimination is now more common in Britain’s workplaces than ever before, with as many as one in nine pregnant women forced out of their job each year.
In July 2013 the UK Government introduced employment tribunal fees of up to £1,200 which are amounting a barrier to women and a charter for rogue employers.
The SNP have called for the abolition of tribunal fees to give pregnant women the right to challenge discrimination.