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International Women's Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:25 pm on 11th March 2010.

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Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Minister of State (Government Equalities Office), The Leader of the House of Commons , Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 1:25 pm, 11th March 2010

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the matter of international women's day-women's representation.

[Relevant documents: The Final Report from the Speaker's Conference (on Parliamentary Representation), Session 2009-10, HC 239-I, the Government response, Cm 7824, and the First Spe cial Report from the Conference, HC 449.]

I am pleased to open the debate and want to raise two issues: the Equality Bill and the massive change in public attitudes to equality. For decades, those of us who believe strongly in women's equality and representation have been told that we are on an eccentric fringe-that we suffer from "political correctness gone mad". But all of the things that we have fought for so hard over the years-for women to have an equal say in all areas of life-are now in the mainstream of public opinion.

We carried out a poll last week in the run up to international women's day. It showed that the public have turned decisively against men-only decision making. They think it is important that men and women have an equal say over business decisions that affect the British economy. They think that should be the case even when men have more experience. They think that men and women should have an equal say over the political decisions that affect the way Britain is run. That is strongly our point of view and why we have increased the number of Labour women MPs up to 95.

People think that international political decisions should be taken by men and women having an equal say. That is strongly our point of view and why we are pressing for the establishment of the new UN women's agency this year. It is the same for decisions about the workplace and local services. That view backs up our commitment to new rights at work, a strong role for trade union equality reps and more women councillors, particularly black and Asian women councillors. We do not have a benchmark for public opinion on an equal say for women 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.