New Culture Secretary to meet angry gay rights groups

  • @iburrell

The new Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, has offered to meet "face to face" with gay rights groups after her appointment prompted questions about her parliamentary voting record on sexual equality and abortion.

Making her first public appearance in her new Cabinet role, Ms Miller defended her record, which has included voting in favour of lowering the abortion time limit and the notion that a child needs parents of both sexes. "I have worked for many years in the area of disability and also of women's equality and I am absolutely committed to making Britain a more equal society," she said.

Ms Miller voted in favour of an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in 2008 requiring both a father and a mother to be considered when taking account of the welfare of a child who could be born as a result of fertility treatment.

She also opposed a move to allow regulations banning discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation. Her actions prompted criticism last week when she was appointed as the successor to Jeremy Hunt as Culture Secretary in David Cameron's Cabinet reshuffle.

"Perhaps looking at voting records isn't the best way to assess what people think about in this world and perhaps actually talking to them is a better way of doing it," she said during a visit to technology companies in London. "Perhaps it is one instance where a face to face contact [would be better] than Twitter."

Asked how her approach to the job would vary from that of Mr Hunt, who was heavily criticised for his close relationship with News Corporation during negotiations over the future of BSkyB, Ms Miller – a former advertising executive – said her "absolute priority" would be to put the creative industries at the heart of the British economy.

Ms Miller announced plans to fast-track the rollout of superfast broadband, which she said was particularly important in tackling "rural unemployment and rural poverty". She promised to remove the "red tape and bureaucracy" which has previously delayed broadband provision in Britain but said strict protocols would be introduced to prevent unnecessary disruption to communities.