Plan to move Emmeline Pankhurst statue withdrawn

I am pleased that the planning application to move the statue of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst from outside Parliament to Regent’s University has been withdrawn. Out of the 236 comments on the plan, 232 objected to it.

At Business Questions on 6 and 13 September, I called on Members to object to the planning application and wrote a letter to Westminster City Council Planning Department to express my objections. It is right that the statue remain in its current close proximity to Parliament owing to its historical and political importance. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst campaigned for votes for women and for representation of women in Parliament. MPs regularly visit the statue and hold an annual celebration there to celebrate Emmeline’s birthday.

The statue’s current location allows large numbers of visitors to Parliament, many of whom are schoolchildren, to pass the statue. Over the last academic year, 247 students from 9 schools in Walsall South participated in Parliament’s Education Visits Programme. If the plans to move the statue were approved, these students and the other 72,014 students who visited Parliament would have missed out on the opportunity to learn about Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst who tirelessly worked to change society for the better.

I am an alumni of Bedford College, which was established for the higher education of women. This was not a relevant consideration as Royal Holloway ad Bedford New College is now in Egham.

This year marks 90 years since the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act became law. The Act granted equal voting rights to men and women over the age of 21. The statue in memorial of these two great women should always remain in its position overlooking Parliament as a resolute symbol of the campaign for equal rights.