POLITICS

George Osborne Accused Of Women Problem Over All-Men Bank Of England MPC

08/02/2014 08:19 GMT | Updated 08/02/2014 08:59 GMT
Oli Scarff via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 19: British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, attends the 'Lord Mayor's Dinner to the Bankers and Merchants of the City of London' at the Mansion House on June 19, 2013 in London, England. Mervyn King will address the Mansion House audience for the 10th and final time as Governor of the Bank of England before he is replaced in the post by former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney on July 1, 2013. (Photo by Oli Scarff - Pool/Getty Images)

George Osborne's failure to appoint any female economists to the Bank of England's entirely male monetary policy committee has been held up as further evidence that the Tories' "couldn't care less about diversity".

The furore over the Bank's nine-strong MPC centres around the fact that not a single women was appointed by the chancellor to replace the four members who have left the committee since May 2010 - just four more men.

This follows the embarrassment for David Cameron of being accused by Ed Miliband of "failing women" when he was flanked at Prime Minister's Questions by an all-male government bench.

Professor Danny Blanchflower, former member of the Bank's MPC, told HuffPostUK: "It doesn't seem to be that hard to find high quality female economists to join the MPC and other public bodies. The Tories do seem to have a problem with women, not just on their front bench.

"Economics has increasing numbers of women, my own department at Dartmouth has 6 female economists and my colleague at the University Stirling, Sheila Dow, looks like a highly qualified candidate for the MPC and there are many others. My friend Rachel Lomax was a fantastic Deputy Governor.

"The impression is the Tories couldn't care less about diversity; what matters is if you attended Eton and the Bullingdon club and are a man. No wonder they are so far behind in the polls amongst women."

bank of england monetary policy committee

Bank of England's all-male MPC meets in 2012, with then deputy governor Paul Tucker now replaced by Sir Jon Cunliffe

Blanchflower's criticism comes as Bank governor Mark Carney admitted last August that the all-male nature of the committee was "striking" and that the institution needed to do more to nurture female economists.

“What we have to do at the Bank of England is grow top female economists all the way through the ranks," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"That adds to the diversity in macroeconomic thinking, it adds to qualified candidates for the MPC including qualified candidates to be a future governor.”

The Bank has never had a female governor and the the last female deputy governor was Rachel Lomax, who left in June 2008. To date, 27 men and 4 women have served on the committee since its creation in 1997.

The MPC has always had one woman over 1997 and May 2010, with Osborne appointing during his chancellorship four men: Martin Weale, Ben Broadbent, Ian McCafferty and Jon Cunliffe.

Labour's shadow chancellor Ed Balls has hit out at Osborne's "astonishing" failure to appoint any women to the Bank's MPC, telling the Guardian: "I think this government's problem with women runs deep.

"You can't say that the fact that there are no women round the table doesn't have an impact on the decisions that are made.

"This is a government that is increasingly out of touch with the reality of women's lives and the cost-of-living crisis they are facing and that's a message we're increasingly getting on the doorstep.

"Look at one of the key economic decision-making bodies in our country. The monetary policy committee makes decisions that affect millions of women and men across our country. But there have been no women members of the monetary policy committee since June 2010, just a few weeks after this government came to office.

"That's an astonishing state of affairs. I know the new governor, Mark Carney, is worried about this too, but the membership of this committee isn't in his gift. The chancellor is solely responsible for appointments to the MPC."

Carney has recruited Charlotte Hogg as the Bank's chief operating officer, leaving her to the most powerful woman of the institution.

Balls' claim that Osborne is "solely responsible" for MPC appointments is not completely correct. Although the chancellor approves 7 of the 9 appointments, 2 of them - the Bank's chief economist Spencer Dale and the Bank's executive director of markets Paul Fisher - are picked by the Bank.