EU plans for quotas for women in the boardroom were condemned today by London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis during talks at Conservative Party Conference.

Mrs. Yannakoudakis attacked proposals made recently by European Commissioner Viviane Reding which would meddle further in member states’ employment law by introducing a 40% quota for non-executive directors on the boards of EU companies.

At the event in Birmingham, organised by the think tank Politeia, the Conservative MEP said:

“Quotas are bad for women and bad for business. Women don’t want to be patronised and companies don’t want more EU red tape strangling their businesses.

“The boards of UK companies are now 17.3% female, up nearly 5% on last year. Voluntary targets are working and I expect the goal of 25% women on boards by 2015 can be easily exceeded.

“I want to see more women on boards, but quotas are not the answer, especially not quotas forced on British business by Brussels.”

Helen Grant MP, Under-Secretary for Women and Equalities, and Helena Morrissey, founder of the 30% Club which campaigns for women’s representation on UK boards, also spoke at the event.

Helen Grant said: “Our aspiration should be for fair, real and equal opportunities where meritocracy wins the day.”

Helena Morrissey said: “The pace of change could not be bettered if you believe in meritocratic appointments. This is all about creating a different type of culture.”

Mrs. Yannakoudakis is one of the lead MEPs fighting the quota legislation plans in the European Parliament. The UK government and eight other EU Member States have already written to the European Commission calling for more time for voluntary measures to support women onto boards.