Speaker John Bercow: Parliament 'losing too many female MPs'

Speaker John Bercow pays tribute to Labour MP Meg Munn

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Commons Speaker John Bercow has waded into the debate about the gender balance in Parliament.

During a debate in the Commons chamber, Mr Bercow said Parliament was losing too many "outstanding" female MPs.

Mr Bercow made the remark as he praised Labour MP and former minister Meg Munn, who is to stand down at the 2015 general election.

Labour leader Ed Miliband last week accused David Cameron of failing to promote female Tory MPs.

The prime minister defended his record but acknowledged that he wanted to promote more women to his government.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Education Minister Edward Timpson paid tribute to Ms Munn for her work in supporting children in care.

Mr Bercow accidentally called Ms Munn, the MP for Sheffield Heeley, to ask a question - even though she had already asked it.

To laughter from MPs, the Speaker told her: "You've had one go, that's enough."

But he added: "But can I say I echo entirely what the minister [Mr Timpson] has said. This House is losing far too many outstanding members and far too many outstanding female members."

In recent weeks, veteran Labour MPs Ann Clwyd and Anne McGuire and Conservative MP Jessica Lee have announced that they plan to stand down at the next general election.

In January, Conservative MP Anne McIntosh was deselected by her local party, meaning that she cannot stand as a Conservative candidate in her constituency of Thirsk and Malton in the next election.

The number of female MPs has steadily increased over the past two decades and now stands at 147 out of a total of 650 but concerns have been expressed at the number planning to stand down at the next election.

Seven female Labour MPs have so far announced their retirement, including former minister Dame Tessa Jowell.

That puts them level with the Conservatives, when to comes to the percentage of women MPs standing down - 8%.

Two women Liberal Democrats are standing down so far, but the party has fewer female MPs than the other two main parties, which means it will be losing 28% of its female MPs.

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