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Gender Balance on Corporate Boards debate

7th January 2013

Speaking in a debate on a draft European Directive on gender balance on corporate boards, Jonathan Djanogly welcomes the increase in the number of women serving on corporate boards, but believes this is a matter for UK authorities and not for the EU.

Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): I recognise this as an important issue and I recognise also that the number of women on boards has increased, which is welcome. Is not the question: why is the European Union dealing with this? Is this not a matter for the Financial Reporting Council, the UK Listing Authority and the Department? Why are we discussing it in the context of the European Union?

Matthew Hancock: We are discussing it because the EU has put forward a proposal. Whether we think it is right that it should do so is exactly what we are debating. I have an awful lot of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. In fact, I think I agree with all of it, although I am always cautious about saying that I agree with all of anything in case I missed something or misunderstood.

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Mr Djanogly: I thank the Minister for being so generous in giving way. I wholly support what he has said and the Government’s position. However, he might wish to look at the Financial Reporting Council’s most recent annual report, which basically says, “Over to you, Europe. We’ll see what you have to say and then we’ll deal with it.” I think that the FRC needs to be told that it must look at this, because it is an important issue and we want to deal with it.

Matthew Hancock: It might be that this debate and the decision of Parliament that will follow will be brought to the FRC’s attention. I wonder who might do that.

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Mr Djanogly: The hon. Gentleman mentions the 25% figure, but that is an absolute figure. He should also point out that 27% of all board appointments in FTSE 100 companies are now being taken up by women.

Mr Umunna: I do not disagree. As I said, I do not think that the progress in this country towards achieving the goals since the report came out in February 2011 has been insubstantial. Whether we are on course to reach the aspirations set out in the Davies report will be clearer next year, when the recommendations have had three years to bed in. At that point, we will form a view on whether further measures are needed. Let me be clear: if we are to continue with a business-led approach, we expect to see much greater progress towards parity.

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