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Relishing new opportunities

TEAMWORK: Helen Grant MP, right, alongside PM Theresa May

EARLIER THIS month my colleague Rehman Chishti MP and I were both appointed ViceChairmen of the Conservative Party with special responsibility for Communities.

We were joined by other great colleagues such as James Cleverly and Kemi Badenoch In a new talented and diverse team at Conservative Campaign Headquarters. Since being elected as the first black female Conservative MP in 2010, I have held various Ministerial roles under David Cameron including minister in the Justice department, Minister for Sports and Tourism and also Minister for Women and Equality.

I am equally excited about my new role under Theresa May as I travel across the country and listen to community hopes and aspirations, to their fears and concerns. It is my chance to continue the work I did professionally, as a solicitor for 23 years, and listen to those who need our help.

Equality of opportunity lies at the heart of my party’s values and we can only have true equality of opportunity if we understand all the communities we represent, the challenges they face and what we, as Members of Parliament, need to do to help create a country that truly works for everyone.

I believe our Prime Minister speaks for all of us when she says, ‘Where you end up in life shouldn’t depend on where you were born or who your parents were, but on the talent you have and how hard you’re prepared to work’.

I also believe it is important for our Parliament to reflect those it represents and I welcomed the recent reshuffle which saw a doubling of the number of government ministers from BAME backgrounds. Under this Government we have seen more young people from BAME backgrounds going to university and starting apprenticeships than ever before.

£9.5 million has been invested in supporting communities with significant religious diversity, helping to run projects which will bring about lasting benefits to their neighbourhoods. For example the ‘Near Neighbours’ programme supports initiatives that build stronger local ties and promote mutual respect, making our neighbourhoods better, safer places to live. In our capital city, this funding has supported the activities of an organisation in east London that works with refugee women, and a church in East London developing community activities, including a ‘borrowing shop’ for household items, and a community cinema club.

Under the leadership of not one, but two female Prime Ministers, the Conservatives have driven the gender equality agenda to ensure women have equal opportunities in the workplace and in their daily lives. There are a million more women in work since 2010, and for them, the gender pay gap is at its lowest level on record, with further action being taken to drive it down further; new legislation now requires companies with more than 250 employees to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees on their websites, shining a light on unequal opportunities and those sectors who are not closing the gap.

But I am under no illusion that there is so much more work to be done.

LISTEN

In my role as Vice Chairman for Communities, I intend to continue to listen to those who often have too few to champion their causes. Theresa May’s unprecedented Race and Disparity Audit last year laid bare truths that many people from BAME communities, especially African Caribbeans, already know to be facts and will further help us seek lasting change.

I look forward to working more closely with community organisations. Only by making sure their voices are heard can we help
deliver the Prime Minister’s vision of a country that truly works for everyone, which is why I am so proud to be one of those leading these efforts.

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