The House of Commons has ditched the ‘sexist’ term “Chairman” from its proceedings and replaced it with “Chair”, but critics have slammed the move as “ridiculous”.
Conservative MPs Nadine Dorries and Sir Patrick Cormack lambasted the name changes, which were brought to the Commons by Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman.
Sir Patrick was incredulous at the plans, particularly since the term “Chairman” will be kept for some offices including Chairman of Ways and Means.
“It is a time-honoured custom to refer to “Madam Chairman”. Indeed, some of the women whom I have most respected, in this House and outside, have looked on such suggestions as rather silly cosmetics”, he said.
The MP for South Staffordshire continued: “I submit to the House that it is rather silly and demeaning to bother with it when we are moving on other matters that are so grave and important.”
And he commented that former Speaker of the House, Baroness (Betty) Boothroyd, would have given “short shrift” to the proposal.
Among the new terms to be used by the Commons is “Panel of Chairs” instead of “Chairman’s Panel”.
Nadine Dorries MP told the Daily Mail the move was “ridiculous”.
She said: “MPs should be getting on with the more substantive reforms in the Commons rather than dealing with this politically correct frippery.”
MPs voted 206 to 90 in favour of the changes last week, which were part of wide-ranging reforms to the House of Commons including giving more power to backbench MPs.
Harriet Harman has been spearheading the controversial Equality Bill through Parliament and both her and her department have come under attack in recent months.
In May she snubbed an MPs call for a debate on prejudice against Christians in the public sector.
Earlier in the same month MPs had criticised the Equality Bill at Second Reading, with one calling the legislation “250 pages of politically correct gobbledegook”.
And in April last year she failed to mention religion as one of the protected characteristics in the Equality Bill, naming instead gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation and class.
Miss Harman’s Government office came under fire in 2008 for spending £5.2 million on rent, wages and administration compared with spending £1.8 million directly on programmes.