Parliament is too white, male and middle class says Speaker’s Conference

July 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm Leave a comment

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The Speaker’s Conference on representation has produced an interim report.

It recommends a series of measures political parties can take to ensure more women, disabled and black and ethnic candidates are selected to stand for the House of Commons.

The Vice-chairman of the Conference, Anne Begg MP, said:

“Despite recent changes, MPs remain predominantly white, male, middle-aged and middle-class.

“The choices local and national political parties make as to the candidates who will represent them at the next election will be central to shaping what the next House of Commons looks like, and the extent to which it is genuinely changed.

“Increasing the diversity of MPs – having more women MPs, more BME and disabled MPs, who can speak in our debates with the authority of lived experience – would make the House of Commons a more legitimate, credible and effective legislature.

“The political parties will be selecting candidates for their vacant seats over the next few months.

“For a local party to select a capable candidate from an under-represented group is a really practical way for that party to demonstrate its support for political and Parliamentary reform.

“With this report we are challenging the parties to consider how they can use this opportunity for change.

“We are also asking them to reflect whether there will be reason for the public to trust the parties and Parliament more if, after the general election, they are apparently presented with more of the same.”

The Speaker’s Conference report stated:

“We call upon all those involved in the selection process to consider both the opportunity which is open to them, and the long term consequences of failing to take up these opportunities.

“We recommend that in circumstances where the sitting MP will not contest the general election, each of the political parties should commit itself to:

• Promote equality by selecting at least 50% women as candidates;

• Ensure that a significantly greater proportion of candidates than at the 2005
election are selected with BME backgrounds;

Seek to encourage a wider placement of BME candidates across the country than
was present at the 2005 election; and

• Ensure that a significantly greater proportion of candidates who identify as
disabled are selected than at the 2005 election.

“Additionally, we recommend that each of the political parties should commit itself
to:

• report by 12 October 2009 the result of selections by constituency giving the date
of selection, the method of selection, the candidate’s gender and the candidate’s
ethnicity and reporting in accordance with candidates’ identifications of disability
and sexual orientation; and to

• appoint a named party officer responsible for supporting the access requirements
of disabled candidates.

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Entry filed under: Committees, Commons. Tags: , , , , , .

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