UK Politics

Cameron going backwards on female equality, says Labour

David Cameron Image copyright PA

Downing Street has denied Labour claims that David Cameron has downgraded women in his mini-reshuffle prompted by Maria Miller's resignation.

The number of women in the cabinet has gone down from four to three - but No 10 says the role of women's minister has been "beefed up".

Tory MP Nicky Morgan has been handed the job that was previously part of Mrs Miller's portfolio.

Labour said the lack of women at the top showed the PM was "out of touch".

Sajid Javid was promoted to culture secretary from his position as number three at the Treasury after Mrs Miller was forced to quit over a row about her expenses.

'Step backwards'

In addition to being culture secretary, Mrs Miller was also minister for women and equalities.

Mr Javid will retain the equalities brief - but Ms Morgan has been made minister for women.

Her new role does not come with a seat in cabinet - but she will attend cabinet meetings where necessary.

A Downing Street spokesman said that she will have a brief to monitor women's issues across government and report directly to Mr Cameron, meaning the role had been enhanced.

But Labour argues that Mr Javid, as culture secretary, will be Ms Morgan's boss and retain overall responsibility,

Shadow women and equalities minister Gloria De Piero, for Labour, said: "David Cameron's decision to replace Maria Miller with Sajid Javid means that there is now no full member of the cabinet speaking for women.

"There are now just three women running government departments out of a possible 22, demonstrating that when it comes to women, it's out of sight, out of mind for this out-of-touch government."

She later added: "This is the first time that the minister of women will have a boss who's a man. It's never happened before.

"It's a step backwards when it comes to hearing women's voices at the top table of politics."

'90% male'

She said the reduction in the number of women around the cabinet table was a "step backwards" because British politics was "too male".

In other moves, Tory MP Andrea Leadsom joins the government as economic secretary to the Treasury.

Ms Morgan will attend cabinet, but she will not have full voting rights, meaning the only female full members of Mr Cameron's top team are Home Secretary Theresa May, International Development Secretary Justine Greening and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers.

In 2010 there were five women in the cabinet.

Daisy Sands, of the Fawcett Society gender rights campaign group, said: "The women's equality brief has sat, variously, in the then Department for Trade and Industry, the Home Office and most recently the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

"It now rests with someone who is not a full member of the cabinet, though she will have the right to attend meetings.

"Ahead of the 2010 general election, the prime minister pledged to make a third of his ministerial list female by the end of his first term.

"With just a year to go, he is governing the country with a cabinet almost 90% male."

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