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Nancy Astor: Centenary of Election

Volume 658: debated on Wednesday 24 April 2019

2. What plans the Government have to use the centenary of Nancy Astor’s election to encourage more women to stand for public office. (910472)

We are all indebted to this groundbreaking Conservative Member of Parliament, who won her seat the year after women first got the vote. The Government are using the suffrage centenary fund to support some 350 projects, including training in political leadership in Bradford and Birmingham, and skills sessions in the east midlands, west midlands and London.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming plans to commemorate Lady Nancy Astor, the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons, with a statue in Plymouth?

Absolutely. I welcome the extraordinary efforts of the campaigners who have achieved funding for a statue of Nancy Astor through public donations, particularly as there are—let us be frank—too few statues celebrating and commemorating the amazing contribution that women have made in helping to shape our nation. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that she has done to support this project.

Can we also remember the two pioneering women who closely followed Nancy Astor: the Liberal Margaret Wintringham and the great MP for East Ham, Susan Lawrence?

Absolutely—I am happy to do that. As I said, there are too few memorials and commemorations of the great efforts and contributions made to society by women throughout the ages, and I am very happy to congratulate all those who do their bit for public service.

Two years ago, we celebrated 50 years since Winnie Ewing was elected to the House of Commons; perhaps that should be reflected here. I do not know what the Government would do to celebrate Nancy Astor that they would not do to celebrate Constance Markievicz, who was the first woman to be elected to Parliament. The Scottish Government recently held a consultation on electoral reform that specifically included ways to improve gender and minority representation. Will this Government do the same thing and bring forward real proposals?

If I remember correctly, Constance Markievicz did not take her seat, but as I said, I congratulate anyone who contributes to public life. We must all work to highlight and promote the fantastic work done by women across our country over the years in a range of public service roles, which would be a good way to encourage more people to contribute in the future.