This week's big questions: benefits, homeowner rights and should we cut the abortion time limit?

"We need to  regain a sense that it’s good to be aspirational if we are to overcome our economic malaise"

Share
Related Topics

This week Helena Morrissey, the CEO of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30 Per Cent Club answers our questions on equality in the boardroom, employment rights and more

Are Cameron/Osborne out of touch  with the “strivers” and “struggling middle classes”?

I don’t know Osborne but I’ve met David Cameron a few times, and from all his interactions with the people around him, including his wife, I believe he’s a genuine person who should be judged on his actions, not his accent. The ongoing insinuation that because he’s an Old Etonian he must be out of touch is very prejudiced. I went to a comprehensive school and my son’s an Etonian and our respective attitudes are much more to do with what we’re like as people than our schooling. Cameron’s been mocked for the line “I’m here to spread privilege”, but we do need to regain a sense that it’s good to be aspirational if we’re going to overcome our current economic malaise. That will ultimately help the many people who are struggling today much more than a culture which decries success.

Does it matter that so few women are on the boards of top companies?

Better balanced boardrooms just make more sense. It seems so old-fashioned to have male-dominated boards. While there are still relatively few women on boards, the pace of change in the FTSE100 is striking. Since 1 March this year, 55 per cent of FTSE100 non-executive director appointments have gone to women, a rate that surely can’t be bettered if you believe as I do that appointments must be on merit. I’m vehemently anti-quotas to force change; they are a form of discrimination and don’t work. People cite Norway as a case for quotas but in fact Norway still has very few female CEOs and top managers – even below the European average. Quotas are a lazy, short-term fix. I’m interested in a sustainable increase in the pipeline, which will take longer but deliver real benefits to businesses that currently lose so much female talent.

Why are there no female frontrunners for the governorship of the Bank of England?

Perhaps women are smart enough to realise that might be an impossible job! There are probably only a handful of genuine candidates – male or female – with broad enough market and economic experience who could really do and want that job. We shouldn’t get too hung up on the fact that there isn’t an obvious woman candidate for this unique role. The reality is that there is a much smaller pool of very senior female executives in today’s world.

Should there be a cut in the benefits that unemployed people who continue to have children can claim?

We should avoid the temptation to think that complex issues might be solved with blunt rules. Many unemployed people are striving to secure a job. They might already have big families and their children have done no wrong and shouldn’t be penalised. We need much more thoughtful, compassionate approaches to problems and to avoid extrapolating from an example of one large family blatantly choosing to “live off the state” to cause suffering for others.

Do householders need more rights to protect themselves from burglars?

I think we need more common sense rather than rigid rules wherever possible. Our laws so often seem incompatible with rational behaviour and judgements. It simply seems wrong when homeowners are prosecuted for defending themselves in a reasonable way against an intruder. I think the proposed change of law is the right thing to do.

Trading workplace protections for company shares – an idea whose time  has come?

I definitely think it’s an idea worth exploring. Employment rights have been hard fought for but sometimes they discourage employers from taking on people because of the fear of litigation if things go wrong. Osborne’s proposal might encourage more open-mindedness among employers while allowing employees to have a share in the success of a business. Of course, it’s important that people understand the trade-off and there’s scope for abuse if the share value is very low. It needs to be thought through more before being implemented, but this idea might help more young people get their first job and participate in the growth of a company.

Should we cut the abortion time limit in light of medical advances?

I’m no medical expert but it does seem wrong to permit abortions at the same stage of pregnancy as premature babies can survive. Abortion is a very emotive, personal issue and I wish the subject wasn’t so politicised, but whatever your views on the rights and wrongs of abortion per se, 24 weeks just seems too late.

Is it going too far to lock up somebody who makes a tasteless joke on Facebook?

Yes. The rapid rise of social media means we’re in uncharted territory on so many aspects of its use and abuse. Internet trolls are despicable but a prison sentence for a bad taste joke seems disproportionate. Children are being killed in dubious wars and no one seems to be brought to account. We should try to have a sense of perspective.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links