THE absence of any female economists on the Bank of England monetary policy committee (MPC) is a symptom of a Conservative "problem with women", shadow chancellor Ed Balls has said.

Mr Balls said it was "astonishing" that the key economic policy-making body had been exclusively male for all but a short period of George Osborne's tenure and promised to redress the balance if Labour takes power in 2015.

All four of the Chancellor's appointments to the nine-strong panel, responsible for setting interest rates, have been male. Mr Balls said there were "lots" of women suitably qualified to join the MPC, and suggested the Bank's governor, Mark Carney, was also concerned.

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One of Mr Carney's first moves was to appoint senior banker Charlotte Hogg as chief operating officer.