Will the boundary review hinder gender equality efforts?

An inquiry into increasing women's parliamentary representation in 2020 has been launched


The Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry into the constituency boundary review, to ensure that it does not curtail efforts to achieve greater gender balance of the House of Commons.

Scheduled for 2018, the review will cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 by redrawing a range of constituency boundaries. The committee is concerned that, without a concerted effort by the parties, the process could cause women to fall even further behind in terms of parliamentary representation.

‘If the number of seats in the House is reduced we need to ensure it is not at the expense of a representative, modern Parliament,’ commented committee chair and Conservative MP Maria Miller.

“Nearly 100 years on since the first female MP took their seat in the House of Commons we have seen just 451 female MPs elected. There are more men in the House of Commons now than the total number of women MPs ever elected. We need to see proper diversity in public life – an important part of this is making sure the House of Commons is representative of the nation at large.”

As well as questioning what measures parties need to take to mitigate potentially negative impacts of the boundary commission, the inquiry will assess whether steps are being taken to increase women’s representation in other areas of public life, for example among mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners.

It will also examine the recommendations of Sarah Childs’s The Good Parliament report, published earlier this year.

Childs, a professor at the University of Bristol who was seconded to the House of Commons, laid out a series of recommendations for a more inclusive and representative parliament.

Her recommendations included reorganisation of the parliamentary calendar, better monitoring of gendered language and unprofessional behaviour in parliament, permission of breastfeeding in committees and the chamber, and the provision of creche facilities on the parliamentary estate.

While some of the suggestions have already been criticised, the Women and Equalities Committee will explore how broad consensus can be reached on its proposals.

The deadline for written submissions to the inquiry is 12 September.

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