Women's Suffrage

Women and Equality – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 7th February 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lynda Waltho Lynda Waltho PPS (Rt Hon David Hanson, Minister of State), Ministry of Justice 10:30 am, 7th February 2008

What plans the Government have to mark the 90th anniversary of women's suffrage.

Photo of Barbara Follett Barbara Follett Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Government Equalities Office

The Ministers for women hosted a reception with the Fawcett Society on 6 February to mark the 90th anniversary of women's qualified suffrage. The event brought together about 200 parliamentarians, including Mrs. May, and stakeholders from a wide range of sectors to celebrate the achievement of women's suffrage and to highlight the need for a more representative democracy. I was pleased that the Prime Minister said yesterday that the Government would consider erecting a statue in Parliament square to honour the suffragette movement; that would be the first statue of a woman in Parliament square.

Photo of Lynda Waltho Lynda Waltho PPS (Rt Hon David Hanson, Minister of State), Ministry of Justice

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Despite all the progress, there are still only 97 Labour, 17 Conservative and 9 Liberal Democrat women MPs, and the Fawcett Society estimates that it will take at least 200 years to get anywhere close to having 50:50 representation. All-women shortlists have helped in our case, but those provisions contains a sunset clause and are due to end. What more can we do to ensure that we get closer to having 50:50 representation in my lifetime, rather than in the lifetime of my great-granddaughters?

Photo of Barbara Follett Barbara Follett Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Government Equalities Office

I thank my hon. Friend for that question and for her work in this vital matter. There is no doubt that the 98 Labour women MPs vastly outnumber the women on the Opposition Benches. I would like to see more on the Opposition Benches —[Interruption.] I said more, not enough, and that means some of the men have to move off those Benches. [Interruption.] There is no point in getting into an argument about that. We need the Opposition parties to take the issue seriously and to put their votes where their mouths are. We will—

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

There is an area of public life where women's representation is even worse than it is in Parliament—local government. Following the Councillors Commission report, have the Ministers responsible for women and equality had any conversations with their colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government about what action will be taken to promote more women councillors, given that every piece of evidence shows that they are the most effective councillors in representing their communities?

Photo of Barbara Follett Barbara Follett Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Government Equalities Office

This matter is very close to the Government's heart. We are doing what we can to increase the number of women councillors, in particular the number of black and Asian women councillors. We hosted the largest annual gathering in the Houses of Parliament for regional black and Asian ethnic minority women, which focused on the need for more women from different communities to become councillors; the Women Take Part campaign, which was launched by Ministers in October, is working on the same issue; and the Prime Minister has launched the National Muslim Women's Advisory Group. We are trying to ensure that more women come through in local government, because that is the seedcorn for Parliament.