BURY’S two MPs have clashed on the subject of who should represent the public in parliament.

David Nuttall, Conservative MP for Bury North, joined a debate in the House of Commons on February 27 about whether enough women are MPs and if more could be done to increase their number.

Labour backs all-women shortlists, where the party only puts women forward to contest some seats.

In 2010, Labour used this method to select Maryam Khan for Bury North, although she lost in the election to Mr Nuttall by 2,243 votes.

During the debate, Mr Nuttall, a solicitor, said: “When people recruit for businesses like mine and when political parties choose candidates for selection to this house, they should choose the best person for the job, regardless of physical characteristics — male or female, white or black, Christian or Muslim, Hindu or Jew, gay or straight, it should not matter.

“We should simply choose the best person for the job.

“We should not try to engineer a situation in which the membership of this house matches exactly, or even approximately, the make-up of British society.”

However, Bury South MP Ivan Lewis, of Labour, disagreed.

Speaking after the debate, he said: “What is crucial is the House of Commons looks like the country it is meant to represent.

“In the past, that has not been the case.

“It is only in the past few years that it has changed thanks to Labour’s selection system. It has transformed the nature of politicians, how the House of Commons functions and the range of issues people are interested in and the kind of issues they champion. The Tory party has got a long way to go.

“David Cameron talks a lot about his top objective to get more women MPs and that hasn’t happened. Institutionally, they have got a major problem.”

Mr Lewis added: “It doesn’t surprise me that David Nuttall has taken that view, but the ‘employed on merit’ argument doesn’t stack up because, historically, plenty of able women have been denied the opportunity to become MPs due to sexism.

“All-women shortlists were controversial and remain controversial but you cannot have a parliament that doesn’t reflect the nature of this society.”