Harman and Follett emerge as ‘part time’ Ministers for Equality

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After much confusion, Harriet Harman has emerged as Minister for Women and Equality. Initially it was believed that the role would be combined with that of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government as it was with Ruth Kelly.

Hazel Blears, who was appointed as the Secretary of State for Communities by Gordon Brown, was thought to be keen to play a role in Equality.

Barbara Follett is Junior Minister for Women and Equality.

During questions on Women and Equality at the House of Commons today, Harriet Harman was referred to as Minister for Women and Equality, giving her four jobs to do at the same time.

The others are Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Chairman of the Labour Party and Leader of the House of Commons. She is also Lord Privy Seal, a ceremonial office.

Barbara Follett, who answered questions as Junior Minister for Women and Equality will herself have three simultaneous jobs.

She is also Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Minister for the East of England.

It is therefore likely that the Women and Equality Unit, moved after the last year’s Cabinet reshuffle from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department of Communities and Local Government, will have to move again to the Department of Work and Pensions.

Two moves in two years will of course be costly.

Teresa May, the Conservative’s Shadow Leader of the House appeared to have accepted a role as Shadow Minister for Women and Equality.

She pointed out that Ms Harman will have to share the role with three other commitments.

It is not clear if Eeleanor Laing will retain her position as Shadow Minister for Equality.

Previously, the LGBT community could rely on the governmental support of a dedicated Minister for Equality, Meg Munn.

Questions today were predominately about issues for women; on what actions could the taken to prevent sex trafficking and the impact on the closure of a HM Revenue and Customs office.

However, there were two questions relating to the treatment of transgender and transsexual people particularly in the work place.

Lorley Burt, the Liberal Democrats former spokesperson on Equality questioned the Ministers as the party’s new spokesperson, Jo Swinson had a previous commitment.