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Caroline Nokes Says Too Few Women On Violence Against Women Taskforce Is Emblematic Of Gender Inequality In Cabinet

3 min read

Caroline Nokes has accused the government of risking not being “taken seriously” on equality until it appoints a permanent women’s minister to attend future taskforce meetings.

Boris Johnson is set to chair a meeting of the Crime And Justice Taskforce to discuss how the government can better “protect women and ensure our streets are safe”.

The meeting was convened in the response to widespread anger in the wake of the death of Sarah Everard, who was found dead after she disappeared while walking home in south London earlier this month.

Nokes, the Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, told PoliticsHome that the relatively limited number of women due to attend the meeting was emblematic of the fact that “there are too few senior women sat around the Cabinet table”.

Expected attendees include home secretary Priti Patel, justice secretary Robert Buckland, Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick and director of public prosecutions Max Hill.

Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities, is notably absent from the list. Truss also holds the role of Secretary of State for International Trade, and is president of the Board of Trade. 

Nokes, who is chair of the women and equalities committee, said the government can’t be “taken seriously” on violence against women until a permamnent women’s minister is appointed to attend task force and that the government “should be including the voices of people impacted”.

“The justice task force is meeting specifically to talk about what all can be done to protect women, and Liz Truss is the minister for women and equalities, she is the most senior person we have in cabinet speaking up for women,” she said. 

Nokes added that a lack of women in Cabinet was “the heart of the issue”, pointing out that Priti Patel would be the only minister who is a woman in attendance.

“The Prime Minister needs to have more women around the table so that when he convenes a task force on how to protect women, there are actually more women represented.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson confirmed this afternoon that Truss will not be attending the meeting alongside her Cabinet colleagues.

“The home secretary is leading and the Home Office leads when it comes to policing matters," the prime minister's spokesperson added.

A recent report from the Commons library found that just five of the 22 full Cabinet posts were currently filled by women, only slightly below the all-time high of eight women in 2006-2007.

Nokes was also critical of the fact that the minister responsible for women and equalities has often held other cabinet positions. 

“For way too long, we’ve had the minister of women and equalities tacked onto another job. It's been tacked onto the Home Secretary, secretary of state for defence, secretary of state for education, secretary of state for international development —  the list is long. 

She continued: “If the government wants to be taken seriously on its commitment to equality, then there should be a permanent secretary of state for women and equalities who attends every task force. Otherwise, we're not going to have the voice of women heard.”

The issue of Liz Truss’ non-attendance was also raised by Labour in the Commons this afternoon by the shadow home secretary.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds accused the government of a "chronic failure" in tackling violence against women.

“This government is failing to address violence against women and girls, and ministers even want to curtail their right to protest about it," he said. 

“Meetings and reopening surveys alone are nowhere near enough and meetings we understand that the Women and Equalities Minister won't even be attending this evening.”

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