A Tory MP has attacked a historic move to secure a gender balance on a new Brexit committee as “politically correct codswallop”.
William Wragg railed against an amendment to ensure that at least seven of the 16 MPs on the newly-formed European Statutory Instruments Committee are women, saying he has always been opposed to quotas “as a Conservative”.
The Hazel Grove MP told the Commons: “As a gay man, I ask why there is no mention on LGBT members. Why do Scottish National Party members not object to the lack of a requirement for regional representation?
“Why dare I ask, is there no mention of the age profiles of members? I do not see how somebody’s gender improves their ability to scrutinise secondary legislation.”
Wragg went on to ask why there could not be a committee made up of entirely women MPs. “What would be wrong with that, if that was the will of the House and those members wished to put themselves forward?”
But fellow Conservative MP Maria Miller - who tabled the amendment - told Wragg women MPs were “simply trying to have a level playing field”, adding that he “may want to observe that women are not a minority; we are a majority in this country”.
The historic amendment - the first of its kind to successfully implement gender quotas for a committee in Parliament’s history - narrowly passed late on Monday night with 57 votes to 53.
Miller, who is chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, told the House of Commons she thought “that nothing could be better than ensuring that 50% of the members of this committee are women, because it will be considering issues of profound importance to the future of our country.”
The European Statutory Instruments Committee was formed in order to oversee the secondary legislation needed to push through Brexit.
Basingstoke MP Miller added: “We spend a lot of time in this place telling businesses the importance of having more women on boards and reporting on their gender pay gap, for example.
“We ask them to do a lot of things that they might think we are not prepared to do here.”
Tory Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the Commons, also voiced her support for the move, saying that it was “absolutely right that we do all we can to encourage equal representation in the decisions that the House takes”.