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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Women shortlist ban to end
Tony Blair and his women MPs in 1997
All-women shortlists saw the 1997 "Blair babe" influx
Political parties should be allowed to use all-women shortlists when choosing election candidates under plans announced in the Queen's Speech.

Some 118 of the 659 MPs are currently women - two fewer than before the election, which saw the number of women in parliament fall for the first time in 25 years.

All-women shortlists were used to select Labour candidates for the 1997 election before they fell foul of employment laws in a tribunal a year later.

The government says the move is part of its drive for a more equal society but all-women shortlists will not be imposed on any parties.

Equality drive

A spokesman for the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLGR), which is handling the plans, said: "Our aim is to ensure that any party keen to further its representation of women will not be prosecuted as a result."

The proposals, which were trailed in Labour's election manifesto, come after seven women were appointed to the cabinet this month - the most in history.

"This government is proud that more women than ever have been appointed to cabinet and a full range of ministerial appointments," said the DTLGR spokesman.

"The better balance in any elected body, the more certain we can be that the full range of leadership talent is available."

The plans also include ensuring that gender-balanced shortlists are legal.

Male dominance

Women Labour MPs, such as Oona King, say they were shocked by the male dominance of the Commons when they entered the Commons.

Trade unionists too have campaigned for more equal representation - GMB general secretary John Edmonds said there should be the same amount of men and women in parliament.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said in his response to the speech that he "very much subscribed" to moves to achieve greater representation for women in parliament.

But he urged the government to remember proportional representation in elections had achieved that elsewhere, pointing to the Scottish Parliament as a success story.


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06 May 01 | UK Politics
02 Oct 00 | UK Politics
07 Mar 00 | UK Politics
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