Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 11:27 UK

'No rift in cabinet' says Baird

Vera Baird said there was "not the slightest sign of any split or argument or friction" over the rape review

Reports of a cabinet rift over plans to help rape victims have been dismissed by the solicitor general.

Vera Baird said a reported split between ministers Harriet Harman, Jack Straw and Alan Johnson were "a piece of silly season reporting".

There was "no friction" between them, she told the BBC.

It follows reports that a review of how the justice system treats rape victims had been delayed because Ms Harman had demanded changes at the last minute.

The government is making an announcement in Manchester how it will distribute £1.6m between charities which help the victims of rape.

Veto claim

But it is understood a separate announcement was due to be made launching a review into the way rape victims are treated.

The Times reported that Ms Harman, who is standing in for Prime Minister Gordon Brown while he is on his summer break, vetoed a "review of rape laws" at the last minute because she felt it did not address women's concerns.

I really have been aware of no friction
Vera Baird

Meanwhile the Daily Mail accused her of "grandstanding" while filling in for Mr Brown and said the Home Office and Justice Minister Jack Straw had refused to go along with it.

Ms Baird, who holds one of the government's top legal posts, told the BBC a nationwide consultation about violence against women had already been held to inform strategy - but had not got enough feedback about rape.

She said government was still working on the terms of reference for a rape review, but said it would "happen very soon", probably in September.

Ms Baird said she did not know where the report about "rape laws" had come from, as the review was not about the law but about getting information from rape victims about support they had been given.

She said: "I really have been aware of no friction.

"It's simply about getting the right terms of reference together ... that task will be accomplished very soon."

She added: "There is no split, no friction and it's just I'm afraid a piece of silly season reporting."

Ms Harman's stint filling in for Mr Brown attracted some controversy earlier in the week when she suggested in an interview with the Sunday Times that one of Labour's top two jobs should always be held by a woman.

Ms Harman, who has several roles as Commons leader, Labour deputy leader and equalities minister, said the party "owed it to women" to have a female as leader or deputy.

She also suggested men "cannot be left to run things on their own".



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