Treasury Minister Sajid Javid was jeered by Labour MPs today when he said all appointments to a powerful Bank of England committee are made "on merit" when asked why no women had been appointed since June 2010.
Shadow minister Cathy Jamieson urged the Government to "put right" the fact no women had been appointed to the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which sets interest rates, for nearly four years.
Provoking loud jeers in the Commons, Mr Javid said: "Appointments to the MPC should always be made on merit."
During the regular Commons Treasury questions session, the minister added: "Diversity, of course, is always an important consideration and when deciding on external members, the MPC looks at career training and background, as well as ethnicity and gender.
"The Government would like to see more women on the MPC and will encourage them to apply. It is also worth noting there have already been four women that have been part of the MPC."
Ms Jamieson had asked: "Can you tell us why there have been no women on the MPC since June 2010? Why is it that the Chancellor has not appointed a single woman to the MPC over those last four years?
"Do you agree with us that it is time to put that right?"
The Bank of England's MPC is made up of nine members - the Governor, the two deputy governors, the Bank's chief economist, the executive director for Markets and four external members appointed directly by the Chancellor George Osborne .
Members serve fixed terms, after which they can be replaced or reappointed.
In a statement outside the chamber after the exchange, Ms Jamieson said: "It's pretty outrageous for a Treasury Minister to imply that the reason there are no women on the Monetary Policy Committee is because appointments are based on merit.
"There are a great number of talented women economists who could serve on this key decision-making body. But George Osborne has not appointed a single woman to the MPC in nearly four years as Chancellor."