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(Such as: Baroness Jay, what are the women's lavatories like in Westminster?)
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The Independent Online

Margaret Jay, 59, is Minister for Women and Leader of the House of Lords. She is the eldest daughter of the former Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan. She became Baroness Jay of Paddington in 1992. Margaret Jay is a supporter of the Olay Prince's Trust Awards for Visionary Women, and she has just released the Voices report, the largest-ever Government consultation of women's views. She has three children from her marriage to Peter Jay (former British ambassador to the US) and has been married to Professor Michael Adler, Chairman of the National Aids Trust, since 1994. They live in London.

Margaret Jay, 59, is Minister for Women and Leader of the House of Lords. She is the eldest daughter of the former Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan. She became Baroness Jay of Paddington in 1992. Margaret Jay is a supporter of the Olay Prince's Trust Awards for Visionary Women, and she has just released the Voices report, the largest-ever Government consultation of women's views. She has three children from her marriage to Peter Jay (former British ambassador to the US) and has been married to Professor Michael Adler, Chairman of the National Aids Trust, since 1994. They live in London.

Have you encountered any sexual discrimination as a woman in the House of Lords? Jenny Claus, London N16

An official title for my job as Leader of the House of Lords, which I don't use, is "Lord Privy Seal" - there's no female equivalent. Women are a small minority in the House of Lords, although we are changing this by bringing in more women life peers. The Government has made sure women have a better voice by appointing six women as Lords' Ministers. The fact only 17 of the 750 hereditary peers are women says a lot about what rare creatures women have been until quite recently.

Do you think the objectives and performances of female politicians differ from those of male politicians? If so, what are the differences? Norman Singleton, London NW3

I can only speak for politicians within this Government. We all share the same objective of improving everyday life for everyone, especially those who lack equality of opportunity. Individual performances are bound to differ, but men and women are equally able.

You reject the description of "feminist" yet this term describes someone who wishes for equality for both men and women. After all, feminism has been liberating for men in terms of family and career. What are your reasons? Alexandra Murrell, London SE17

I don't believe "feminist" is a useful label, it means so many different things to different people. I agree with Rebecca West, who said: "I have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is, I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express any senti- ments that differentiate me from a doormat."

Don't you feel uncomfortable being a Baroness in Blair's classless Britain? Eva Harris, London N1

I'd be very happy not to have a title attached to my place in the second chamber, but at the moment it goes with the territory. It's possible this is one of the issues the Royal Commission on reform of the House of Lords will recommend should change. I call myself Margaret Jay most of the time.

How were you affected by having a politician for a father? Eddie Parker by e-mail

My mother was involved in politics too, as a local councillor, so I learned a great deal from both my parents, especially about balancing busy working and family lives.

Do you mix socially with the hereditary peers? Catherine Jones by e-mail

I'm sure that we sometimes attend the same events, specially at the House of Lords. You shouldn't forget that the vast majority of them are Tories and our paths don't cross very often outside Westminster.

What advice would you give to working mothers? Francis Singer by e-mail

Take advantage of the help this Government is providing to make your choices easier and to assist you in juggling your life, recognising how difficult this can be. These include childcare places for one million extra children through the National Childcare Strategy, rights to parental and domestic emergency leave and the Working Families Tax Credit/Childcare Tax Credit for those on lower incomes.

Favourite pizza topping? Kenneth Wilson, Hayes

Extra pepperoni.

How do you relax? Quentin Barker by e-mail

Spending time with my husband, particularly walking in the countryside, and being with my granddaughter.

How long do you spend putting your make-up on in the morning? Paula Nathan, Southampton

It depends on the time of my first meeting, but generally five to 10 minutes. At the weekend, no time at all, because I don't put it on!

Have you ever tried an alternative health treatment? Debbie Rachid, Birmingham

Osteopathy and acupuncture, both very helpful for particular problems.

What can be said about a nation that needs a Minister for Women? Nicholas E Gough, Swindon, Wiltshire

That there is still some way to go before women's potential is fully realised.

What are the women's toilets like in Westminster? Janie Dawson, Faversham

There's nothing wrong with the facilities but, given the increasing number of female MPs and peers and female staff in both Houses, there aren't enough of them.

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