Mark Carney says he shares concern that replacing Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill on £5 note will leave no female faces
Just two days into the job, the new governor of the Bank of England has added his voice to the campaign to make sure a female face stays on English banknotes.
Mark Carney said he understood the concerns about the loss of a female character on English banknotes and promised a final decision by the end of the month.
Apart from the Queen, women are set to disappear from English banknotes when the wartime prime minister Winston Churchill replaces the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry in 2015 on £5 notes. The move has sparked threats of legal action against the bank under the 2010 Equality Act and a petition with more than 30,000 signatures.
In a letter to the Conservative MP Mary Macleod, Carney said he had raised the issue of women’s representation on banknotes with colleagues on Monday, his first day in the job. “I consider Sir Winston Churchill to be an excellent choice to appear on a banknote,” he wrote. “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.”
He added: “I believe that our notes should celebrate the diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields.”
Macleod had told Carney that “the symbolism of having no women on our banknotes leaves a chasm where there once was inspiration”. She put forward candidates including Rosalind Franklin, who contributed to the discovery of DNA; Emmeline Pankhurst, the figurehead of female suffrage; and the National Trust founder and campaigner against poverty Octavia Hill.
However, Jane Austen is the favourite for the next £10 note. Last month Carney’s predecessor, Sir Mervyn King, said the author of Pride and Prejudice was “quietly waiting in the wings”, a revelation that failed to satisfy women’s rights campaigners, who have called for more transparency about the decision-making process on banknote design.