Liz Truss names minister for women in apparent U-turn

Katherine Fletcher

Prime minister Liz Truss has appointed Katherine Fletcher as minister for women as her cabinet reshuffle resumes.

Truss appointed Nadhim Zahawi as equalities minister, dropping the word “women” from the job title, on 6 September, in her first wave of cabinet reshuffle after taking office.

He was also handed two other roles as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and minister for intergovernmental relations.

Truss, who served as minister for women and equalities under Boris Johnson, faced backlash for not appointing a separate minister for women alongside Zahawi – a spokesperson at the time said Zahawi’s role also “covers women”.

However Downing Street announced Tuesday (20 September) evening that Fletcher has been appointed parliamentary secretary (minister for women) in the Cabinet Office, as well as a junior minister in the Department for Transport. 

It came amid a raft of other appointments as Truss resumed her reshuffle following the the national period of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II. 

Former junior equalities minister Mike Freer, who quit as part of the Boris Johnson exodus, has returned to government as a parliamentary under secretary of state in the Ministry of Justice.

Under Johnson, the government equalities office (GEO) had three ministers drawn from the Commons: Truss and her junior equalities ministers, Freer and Kemi Badenoch. 

Freer, one of the most well-known LGBTQ+ MPs in parliament, resigned from his role in July shortly after Badenoch handed in her notice. He cited how an “atmosphere of hostility for LGBT+ people” stoked by Johnson compelled him to step down from the role. 

The GEO’s website also lists Baroness Deborah Stedman-Scott as a Lords minister, a role she was appointed to by Boris Johnson in 2021.

New minister for women

Katherine Fletcher has previously championed women in STEM in parliament, and has written about the creation of the first Women’s Health Strategy.

She was elected Tory MP for South Ribble in December 2019, meaning she has not yet had chance to reveal her stance on LGBTQ+ rights in parliament. 

The most recent major Commons vote on LGBTQ+ rights came in July 2019, when MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.

But Fletcher has voiced her support for a ban on conversion practices in the UK, offering a spark of hope.

Two people hold up signs calling on the UK government to ban conversion practices

Numerous LGBTQ+ advocates, groups and MPs have called on the UK government to protect all people within the queer community from conversion practices. (Getty)

In May 2021, Truss, as minister for women and equalities, announced the UK government would take legislative steps to ban conversion therapy and would provide funding to “ensure that victims have better access to the support they need”.

Fletcher said during a parliamentary debate that she knew “straight and gay” campaigners would be “delighted” by the measures to “ban the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy” – while “importantly” protecting “private prayer”. 

This came before Johnson dropped trans people from the proposed ban.