Representation of Women

Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 23rd April 2009.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs) 10:30 am, 23rd April 2009

If she will make arrangements for the House to mark anniversaries of significant historical events which led to increases in the representation of women in Parliament.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

We are proud of every step that has been taken to increase the representation of women in Parliament, which is why we celebrated last year the 90th anniversary of a woman's right to stand. We shall shortly introduce the equality Bill, and the Speaker's Conference is already considering the issue of representation of women in the House. We very much hope that these events will become similarly important landmarks that Members will want to celebrate in 50 years' time.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs)

I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for that reply. One hundred years ago on Monday, suffragettes chained themselves to statues in St. Stephen's hall, and to remove those women, the statues had to be broken. In fact, one can still see a piece of that history today, as the repairs form part of the parliamentary tour. How might we improve and better use such anniversaries to highlight the history of women's representation and, most importantly, to encourage more women to become involved in politics?

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady ends with the most important point, which is how we ensure that more women want to come to Parliament and have the opportunity to represent a constituency in the House. We could celebrate many more events. For instance, next week is the 80th anniversary of the first woman Cabinet member taking her post; Margaret Bondfield was, appropriately enough, the Minister for Labour; of course, she was a Labour Minister. We are also delighted that it is our side of the House that has produced the first elected black woman MP. [ Interruption. ] If the hon. Ladies want a commemoration of the first woman Prime Minister, I suspect that it will not be happening in the Rhondda.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

As the hon. Gentleman, who chairs the Advisory Committee on Works of Art, points out, there is a very fine—if rather frightening—statue in the Lobby. I can assure him that if it were in the Rhondda, it would not get the same reception as it gets from Opposition Members.

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