Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Harriet Harman: Women will forge 'new era' of diplomacy

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The rising influence of female politicians around the world could lead to a "new era in international relations", Harriet Harman has claimed.

Deputy Labour Leader Ms Harman said that by working together women might be able to make diplomatic breakthroughs which have eluded men.

Ms Harman also insisted her controversial Equality Bill, aimed at boosting the rights of women and minorities, would complete its passage through Parliament before the general election.

Opening a Commons debate on 11 March 2010 to mark Monday's International Women's Day, which occurred on 8 March, Ms Harman said: "Together we might just be able to help solve some of the problems which male diplomacy has yet to crack."

For the Tories, Theresa May said her party "broadly supported" the Equality Bill and wanted to see it on the statue book.

But she mocked Ms Harman's commitment to increasing the number of female MPs after the deputy Labour leader's husband, trade unionist Jack Dromey, was chosen to stand in Birmingham Erdington.

Mrs May said she hoped there was no reduction in Ms Harman's dedication to equality, questioning her "lack of commitment to all-women shortlists, at least certainly when it came to the selection for Birmingham Erdington".

For the Liberal Democrats, Lynne Featherstone said the "hostile" atmosphere in the Commons was very "off-putting" to women thinking about becoming an MP.

She said the "adversarial nonsense" of prime minister's question time had more to do with the "testosterone" of those taking part than rational decision-making.

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