Studies in 2019 showed that slight progress had been made in closing the gender pay gap in the UK in recent years, but the lockdown has stalled this progress - Joe Giddens/PA
Studies in 2019 showed that slight progress had been made in closing the gender pay gap in the UK in recent years, but the lockdown has stalled this progress – Joe Giddens/PA

SIR – We are concerned that the long-term impact on women is being overlooked in the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

We don’t deny that men have been affected disproportionately by the virus itself, but evidence shows that the damage done to women in Britain during the pandemic could last for years – and set them back decades.

New research by the Fawcett Society and the Women’s Budget Group has already found that the response to the pandemic has had a disproportionately negative effect on women in all sectors and age groups.

According to the Resolution Foundation, women are more likely than men to be working in sectors that have shut down during the pandemic. Mothers are almost 50 per cent more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit, research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown.

One in four women who have been pregnant or on maternity leave during the pandemic have experienced unfair treatment at work – singled out for redundancy or furlough. Women are also more likely to be caring for an elderly relative, according to Carers UK. More working mothers are having to take unpaid leave or voluntary furlough in order to care for family members during lockdown.

The death rate for Covid-19 in black, Asian and minority ethnic women is up to twice as high as for white men.

Lockdown will long delay closing the gender pay gap. Women are losing out on income and pension contribution. But it’s not only financial hardship. During lockdown, demand for Refuge’s national domestic abuse helpline has risen by 66 per cent.

Sportswomen, too, face an uncertain future. The last women’s team sport fixture in this country was on March 14. Yet all the focus has been on male-dominated sports.

The lockdown is turning back the clock on women’s lives in Britain. We call on the Government to take action to halt this reversal.

We are asking the Government to pledge that, when lockdown policy decisions are being taken, there is meaningful representation of women and that the impact of policy on women’s lives is always fully assessed.

Dame Helena Morrissey
Baroness Bakewell (Lab)
Jane Shepherdson

Chair, My Wardrobe HQ
Mary Portas
Sonia Friedman OBE
Jude Kelly

Founder, The WOW Foundation
Baroness Altmann (Con)
Caroline Nokes MP (Con)

Chair, The Women and Equalities Select Committee
Nicola Mendelsohn 
Vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Facebook
Baroness Morgan of Cotes (Con)
Brenda Trenowden

Global co-chairman, 30% Club
Ann Francke
CEO, The Chartered Management Institute (CMI)
Justine Roberts
Founder, Mumsnet
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
Ama Agbeze 
Denise Lewis
Gabby Logan
Nimco Ali

Co-founder and CEO, The Five Foundation
Amber Rudd
Catherine McKinnell MP (Lab)

Chair of the Petitions Committee
Sam Smethers
Chief Executive, Fawcett Society
Mary-Ann Stephenson
Director, Women’s Budget Group
Dame Heather Rabbatts
Emma Hayes

Manager,  Chelsea Women’s Football Club
Judy Murray 
Tracey Neville 
Helen Pankhurst
Harriett Baldwin MP (Con)
Clive Betts MP (Lab)

Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee
Ben Beadle
Chief Executive, The National Residential Landlords Association
Tamara Gillan
Founder, WealthiHer 
Barry O’Dwyer
Chief Executive, Royal London
Sian Fisher 
Chief Executive, Chartered Insurance Institute
Caroline Abrahams
Charity Director, Age UK
Christine Armstrong
Laura Bates

Founder, EveryDay Sexism 
Rosalind Bragg
Director, Maternity Action
Joeli Brearley
Founder and CEO, Pregnant then Screwed
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu
Cherie Blair QC
Pinky Lilani

Founder, Women of the Future
Jo Fairley
Co-founder, Green & Black’s 
Bianca Miller-Cole
Jessica Fellowes
Serena Guthrie
Alice Liveing

Author, The Body Bible and Everyday Fitness
Jacqui Oatley
Frances O’Grady

General Secretary, The Trades Union Congress
Siobhain McDonagh MP (Lab)
Barbara Keeley MP (Lab)
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs

Chief Executive, Surviving Economic Abuse 
Polly Neate
Chief Executive, Shelter
Helen Walker
Chief Executive, Carers UK 
Jane Keeper
Director of Operations, Refuge
Nicki Norman
Acting CEO, Women’s Aid  
Jane van Zyl
Chief Executive, Working Families
Andrew Formica
CEO, Jupiter Asset Management 
Peter Harrison
CEO, Schroders
Moira O’Neill
Head of Personal Finance, Interactive Investor
Lisa Wainwright
Chief Executive, Sport and Recreation Alliance
Nathan Bostock
CEO, Santander UK 


Colour-blind Rhodes Scholarships

Cecil Rhodes in Twelve Portraits, 1899, hugely successful woodcuts by William Nicholson - Bridgeman Images
Cecil Rhodes in Twelve Portraits, 1899, hugely successful woodcuts by William Nicholson – Bridgeman Images

SIR – Your admonishment of the Oxford dons (Leading Article, June 18) agitating against our country’s imperial past and Cecil Rhodes in particular is well deserved. What specifically do they and the street mobs they are aligned with object to in Rhodes’s life?

He was Prime Minister of Cape Colony in the 1890s and brought in the common electoral roll well before the Boer War started in 1899, declaring that the only criteria for admission to the roll were income and education. Not many black Africans qualified at the time it is true, but some did.

It was the principle which mattered, and the common roll provision was carried into the South Africa Constitution Act of 1909, long after Rhodes had died in 1902 as the Boer War ended.

The colour-blind stipulation is also built into the qualifications for Rhodes Scholarships, which are awarded annually to citizens of all the individual countries of the then British Empire plus the United States of America. These are to the great benefit of the scholars and to Oxford University, to which Rhodes gave a second huge bequest.

None of Rhodes’s fortune had anything to do with slavery, which had been abolished in the British Empire long before he was born.

Rhodes Scholarships are perhaps the most generous and far-seeing of any university private provision in the whole world.

Emeritus Professor Stephen Bush
University of Manchester


SIR – Only by selective memory can we forget that, at a time when slave trading was taking place, we were transporting our own people to Australia for quite minor crimes at a time of extreme poverty in Britain.

Nigel Carter
Devizes, Wiltshire


SIR – A number of people have asked me if there is a memorial to the large number of Royal Naval personnel who lost their lives suppressing the slave trade. I am unaware of one.

The Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron in 1808 after Parliament passed an Act for the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. The squadron’s task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa. At the height of its operations, it employed a sixth of the Royal Navy fleet.

Known as the Preventative Squadron, it remained in existence until 1867. It captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 slaves.

Many Royal Navy sailors and Marines lost their lives in this cause. Maybe it’s time a monument stood to commemorate their sacrifice.

Admiral Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
London SW1


Stationary DVLA

SIR – I have been trying to contact the DVLA in order to tax a company vehicle that has been on Statutory Off Road Notification. It is now urgently needed for work. We cannot tax the vehicle online as we are still waiting for a V5 log book from the DVLA.

Our phone calls are greeted with the message: “This service is closed.” We’ve tried emailing; the response is: “We are not answering emails.”

It beggars belief that the DVLA cannot operate, when so many businesses across the country, large and small, are coping well.

Chris Warriner
Spurstow, Cheshire


Faulty Church justice

The Church of England said new evidence linking Lord Carey, 84, to a review into abuse committed by the late John Smyth, has emerged - Andrew Crowley
The Church of England said new evidence linking Lord Carey, 84, to a review into abuse committed by the late John Smyth, has emerged – Andrew Crowley

SIR – The way allegations have been made against the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Rev Professor Martyn Percy (Letters, June 19), breaches the Church of England’s guidelines and ignores recommendations of the Carlile Report into the Bishop Bell fiasco.

I hope that Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury whose right to officiate has been revoked (report, June 18), fares better. Abuse victims know that an organisation which puts PR before justice is no friend of theirs.

Martin Sewell
Member of the General Synod
Gravesend, Kent


Ingrate de Gaulle

SIR – Was Charles de Gaulle (Comment, June 18) a friend of Britain? 

Roger Landes, an Anglo-French agent during the Second World War, organised a successful resistance cell in Bordeaux. He helped delay German reinforcements from heading to Normandy during the D-Day landings.

Did de Gaulle congratulate him when they met? No. He ordered him home, saying: “You are British. Your place is not here.”

Neil Mackwood
Dallington, East Sussex


Swing Low blow

SIR – As the Rugby Football Union reviews the singing of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot at England matches, it might note that in 1939 Germany’s Reich Music Examination Office added it to a list of “undesired and harmful” musical works, thereby banning it.

Harry Wright
Shipton Moyne, Gloucestershire


Britain's slavery past
Britain’s slavery past


Make a September return to school compulsory

SIR – We urge the Government to announce a clear plan in the next two weeks outlining how to make it compulsory for all students to return to school in September, on the condition that the spread of coronavirus remains under control.

It is clear that children do not pose a significant risk of spreading the virus and are at an extremely low personal risk. We believe the further damage done to a generation of pupils by continued school closures is far more serious than the marginal benefits to public safety.

The actions taken by the Government were, we believe, necessary, to protect many school staff, students and communities across the country.

However, if the national situation continues to improve, we believe it is vital to reopen schools at the start of the new academic year with significant revisions to social-distancing guidelines.

As leaders in the education sector and CEOs of a variety of multi-academy trusts, we serve hundreds of thousands of students and their families, including some in the most deprived areas across England. The current situation, where schools are partially open to some of our pupils some of the time, is achieving very little to address the widening attainment gap.

Physical absence from school has an impact on social, emotional and academic development, and many students from across all age groups have expressed a desire to return to the classroom. The longer we wait, the harder it will be for students to catch up on what they have missed.

It is of critical importance that face-to-face education is resumed as soon as is possible for all students.

Hamid Patel
Chief Executive, Star Academies
Paul Smith
Chief Executive, Future Academies
Sir Michael Wilshaw
Former HM Chief Inspector of Education
Sir David Carter
Former National Schools Commissioner
Katharine Birbalsingh
Founder, Michaela Community School
Benedick Ashmore-Short
Chief Executive, Astrea Academy Trust
Simon Beamish
Chief Executive, Leigh Academies Trust
Sir Andrew Carter
Chief Executive, South Farnham School Educational Trust
Stephen Chamberlain
Chief Executive, Active Learning Trust
Gary Chown
Chief Executive, Ventrus Multi Academy Trust
Tim Coulson
Chief Executive, Unity Schools Partnership
Dame Rachel De Souza
Chief Executive, Inspiration Trust
Julian Drinkall
Chief Executive, Academies Enterprise Trust
Lucy Heller
Chief Executive, ARK
Marc Jordan
Chief Executive, Creative Education Trust
Mark Lehain
Director Parents and Teachers for Excellence 
Sir Dan Moynihan
Chief Executive, Harris Federation
John Murphy
Chief Executive, Oasis Community Learning
Roger Pope
Chief Executive, Education South West Trust
Paul Tarn
Chief Executive, Delta Academies Trust
Rob Tarn
Chief Executive, Northern Education Trust
Paul Walker
Chief Executive, First Federation
Sir Nick Weller
Chief Executive, Dixons Academies Trust
Adrian Ball
Chief Executive, Diocese of Ely Multi Academy Trust
Robert Campbell
Chief Executive, Morris Education Trust
Rob Haring
Chief Executive, Westcountry Schools Trust 
David Harris
Chief Executive, Engage, Enrich, Excel Academies
Jack Mayhew
Chief Executive, Athena Schools Trust and GEP
Ian McNeilly
Chief Executive, The de Ferrers Trust
Duncan Mills
Chief Executive, Peterborough Diocese Education Trust
Dr Karen Roberts
Chief Executive, The Kemnal Academies Trust
Dr John Smith
Chief Executive, University of Brighton Academies Trust
Chris Tweedale
Chief Executive, Guildford Education Partnership 
Russell Hobby
Chief Executive, Teach First


Taken aback by the symbolic power of kneeling

SIR – When did we stop kneeling and start “taking the knee”?

Alison Brown
New Romney, Kent


SIR – As any Catholic knows, taking the knee is a sign of belief that Christ is present in sacrament in a church’s tabernacle.

I don’t mind at all that such gestures are being reinvented when we, if godless, need collective meaning – but it does concern me that the Foreign Secretary apparently sees the world through Game of Thrones.

Andrew Macdonald Powney


SIR – When everyone starts to make the same gesture – or is pressurised into doing so – it becomes oppressive and somewhat sinister.

Let us return to individual opinion and honest debate.

Mike Morris
Old Swinford, Worcestershire


Avian prophecy

SIR – Did bluebirds ever fly over the white cliffs of Dover?

John Nelson
Amesbury, Wiltshire


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