Mark Carney to review female representation on bank notes

Bank of England Churchill banknote design Sir Winston Churchill will feature on the new £5 note to enter circulation in 2016

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Bank of England governor Mark Carney will look at the women represented on banknotes by the end of July.

Mr Carney said he believed that those chosen should represent the diversity of great British historical figures.

He wrote a letter in response to a Conservative MP who is disappointed that the appearance of Sir Winston Churchill on a new £5 note leaves no female characters on the currency.

Mr Carney said discussions began on his first day in office on Monday.

Mary Macleod is the Conservative MP for Brentford and Isleworth and chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Parliament.

She told Mr Carney that the decision to leave no women on banknotes when Elizabeth Fry is replaced by Sir Winston Churchill was "completely unrepresentative of the role that women have played and continue to play in our country's history."

Current Bank of England banknote images

  • £5: Elizabeth Fry, social reformer noted for her work to improve conditions for women prisoners
  • £10: Charles Darwin, the scientist who laid the foundations of the theory of evolution
  • £20: Adam Smith, one of the fathers of modern economics
  • £50: Matthew Boulton and James Watt, who brought the steam engine into the textile manufacturing process. They are replacing notes featuring the first governor of the Bank of England, Sir John Houblon

"The symbolism of having no women on our banknotes leaves a chasm where there was once inspiration."

In reply, Mr Carney said that it was not the Bank's intention to leave women unrepresented and that he was already discussing with his new colleagues the best way to ensure that the currency celebrated a diverse range of figures, both now and in the future.

"Like you, I consider Sir Winston Churchill to be an excellent choice to appear on a banknote," he said.

"However, I fully recognise that, with Sir Winston replacing Elizabeth Fry as the character on the £5 note - in the absence of any other changes to the Bank of England's notes - none of the four characters on our notes would be a woman."

"That is not the bank's intention."

Mr Carney added that he expected to make a public announcement once his discussions have been completed, no later than the end of July.

The Bank of England issues nearly a billion banknotes each year, and withdraws almost as many from circulation.

Notes are redesigned on a relatively frequent basis, in order to maintain security and prevent forgeries. Other security features include threads woven into the paper and microlettering.

The most recent new design from the Bank of England was the £50 note, which entered circulation in November. This features Matthew Boulton and James Watt who were most celebrated for bringing the steam engine into the textile manufacturing process.

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