Theresa May calls for greater female representation at Westminster

The centenary of the first women being granted the vote should be a spur to make Parliament more representative of the country as a whole, Theresa May said.

The Prime Minister said women were still under-represented at Westminster, adding that "greater female representation makes a real difference".

Mrs May also said there were "many other groups" who did not feel properly reflected in public life, including ethnic minorities, members of the LGBT community and people from poorer backgrounds.

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Celebrating the role of women in Parliament the Prime Minister also referred to the fact that "nearly all" the parties represented have a female leader or deputy - a pointed reference to Labour's all-male leadership.

At a Westminster Hall reception she said: "I'm the 54th person to be Prime Minister of this country, but only the second to be a woman.

"Women make up half the population of this country, yet only a third of its MPs.

"I've long campaigned to get more women into public life at all levels. It's not about appearances, or even just about giving women an equal chance to get on.

"I want to see more women in politics and government because greater female representation makes a real difference to everyone's lives.

"The same is true of the many other groups who do not see themselves properly reflected in public life.

"People from minority ethnic groups, members of the LGBT community, people with disabilities, or those from less privileged backgrounds."

She said the proportion of MPs educated at comprehensives reached a record high last year, but at 51% it was still far short of the 88% in the population as a whole.

In a speech just yards from the scene of brutality where suffragettes clashed with police in 1910, Mrs May said it was time to celebrate some of the lesser-known "Edwardian radicals" involved in the women's suffrage movement and the tens of thousands of "ordinary women and men whose names are lost to history".

Mr May said the ability of women to vote should never be taken for granted as she highlighted moves to ensure victims of domestic violence would be able to exercise their right.

Measures to make it easier for those who are at risk of abuse to register and vote anonymously will be debated on Wednesday.

"I'm sure that, in the week of this significant anniversary for women voters, MPs of all parties will set aside their differences to support this important change," Mrs May said.