06/11/2013 11:06 GMT

Jo Swinson: 'It's Not Sexist To Offer Pregnant Women A Seat'

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Jo Swinson, Secretary of State for Employment, addresses the Liberal Democrat Party Conference on September 26, 2012 in Brighton, England. Leader Nick Clegg is expected to urge his party to stick with the coalition and insist that the government is on track to deliver a stronger economy when he delivers his keynote speech later. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Lib Dem minister Jo Swinson has insisted she does not think it is sexist for men to offer up their seats to pregnant women, following accusations MPs failed to give her a seat during prime minister's questions.

Last month the pregnant MP was spotted standing in the packed chamber - leading to suggestions her comfortably seated colleagues had not thought to be courteous enough to let her sit down.

The row took a twist when an aide to Swinson was reported to have said it was "sexist" to think the minister was not able to stand.

In an online interview with Mumsnet today, Swinson sought to put the issue to bed. "I never said that, and absolutely don't think it is sexist. It's lovely to be offered a seat - I don't always want one though," she said.

"On the Tube with heavy bags, often I say yes, though that day at PMQs I knew I could only be there for 15 minutes and was standing with my back against a wooden pillar very comfortably. It was a little frustrating that the media seemed not to care whether I actually thought it was a problem or not, and deemed that if I was standing it must obviously have been because I had been 'forced' to, as they put it!

Swinson said: "I just think it's great for people to offer, and part of life's little courtesies. Though when I was incredibly fatigued at about 10 weeks but of course didn't look pregnant was when it has been most difficult so far!"

The Lib Dem women and equalities and consumer affairs minister also told the Mumsnet audience there was still "a huge amount of sexism still in the media".

She asked: "Why are women suddenly 'past it' at 40ish but Bruce Forsyth, Jeremy Paxman, the Dimblebys etc continuing without their age making a difference?"

"Even at the younger ages, when did we last see an ordinary looking female newsreader? Somehow women don't just have to be great journalists to get these jobs, there is a "look" they have to have as well - a double standard that doesn't apply to men in the same way."

Swinson also rejected the suggestion it was patronising to have a women's minister in government. "I don't think it is patronising to have a women's minister in the 21st century - sadly women still face many disadvantages from the enduring pay gap, to violence against women, to outdated sexist attitudes in the media and elsewhere," she said.

"But I'll be celebrating when we get to a stage of equality where we no longer need to have the position of minister for women."