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International Women's Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:41 pm on 11th March 2010.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Minister (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 1:41 pm, 11th March 2010

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for clarifying her position, and I am happy to echo the tribute that the Minister for Women and Equality paid to her for her work on a number of important issues that relate particularly to women, such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation. We need to keep a focus on those issues because, sadly, there are still too many such cases in the UK. We need to keep taking strong action if we are really to make a change to those young women's lives.

The need to elect more women MPs does not arise from some politically correct desire for equality. It is necessary because Parliament will make better decisions if it has a greater diversity of people within its ranks. Debates will be better informed if a wider group of people with different experiences take part in them. That relates not only to having more women in Parliament, but to having more black and minority ethnic MPs and more disabled people in Parliament. Women tend to approach challenges and conflict in different ways to men. We also bring a fresh perspective to problems, and identify new and alternative priorities. Having more women would bring a more rounded approach to the big issues of the day and would put new issues on the agenda that have previously been neglected. That has to happen, not just for the sake of fairness and progress, but for the sake of Parliament itself. Having more women in Parliament could help to overcome the alienation that people now feel between themselves and Parliament and between themselves and politicians, which has been exacerbated by the expenses scandal of last year. If we were to have a true cross-sectional representation of society in the House, rather the domination by white, middle-class men that still exists, that would help to increase people's feeling of connection to politics and Parliament.