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Tuesday, 7 March, 2000, 17:57 GMT
MPs call for more women in Parliament

Joan Ruddock's bill come one the eve of International Women's Day
Fresh moves to ensure more women become MPs have been put forward in the Commons.

Labour MP and former minister for women Joan Ruddock has put forward a 10 Minute Rule Bill to amend the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act.

Her amendment would allow all-female shortlists to be put before constituency political parties.

Ms Ruddock said the bill would attempt to address a ruling made by an industrial tribunal in 1996 which found against all female shortlists, then being used by the Labour Party.

Women in Parliament
121 MPs are women
101 women MPs are Labour
34 ministers are women
80% of MPs are men
The member for Lewisham and Deptford told MPs, "the pace of cultural change is too slow to remove the structural and institutional barriers to proper political power sharing."

She said, her bill "is necessary for the future avoidance of doubt" and would end the confusion caused by the 1996 ruling which she said was not binding on any other cases.

Turning to the Conservative benches, Ms Ruddock told the House it would "also stop the party opposite hiding under the smokescreen of illegality," in opposing single sex shortlists.

Ms Ruddock said there was currently a "profound democratic deficit," and that Parliament "should mirror the society it represents".

Speaking for the Tories MP, Anne McIntosh said there should be a right for the candidate selection panel to have a "free choice" between selecting men or women for Parliament.

She said: "All male or all female shortlists would, if they occurred regularly, be deemed illegal under the Sex Discrimination Act."

And they could run into trouble with European law, she added.

Although the bill has cross party support it is unlikely to become law.

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06 Mar 00 |  World
Woman politicians move ahead
24 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
A woman's place is in the House
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