Parties would face sanctions and fines under proposed laws
Women should make up 45 per cent of all parliamentary candidates by law to correct a ‘serious democratic deficit’, say MPs, with sanctions and fines for parties which miss the target.
The Women and Equalities Committee today called for legislation to be introduced in the current parliament so the new rules could take effect after the 2020 general election if more women are not elected MPs.
Less than a third of sitting MPs are female, placing the UK in 48th place for female representation – down from 25th in 1999.
The committee said:
“Women make up more than half the population of the United Kingdom and, at a time when more women are in work than ever before, there is no good reason why women should not make up half of the House of Commons.”
While all the main party leaders have said they want to boost the number of female MPs, the committee said it has seen little evidence of detailed plans on how to achieve this.
It said ministers should invoke statutory powers in the Equality Act 2010 forcing parties to publish their candidate diversity data for general elections and giving the Electoral Commission new powers to carry this data.
“If the commons is serious about being truly representative of the people that it seeks to represent, it must rise to the challenge of being a world leader on women’s parliamentary representation.”
The committee also called for the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 to be extended so parties can continue to have all-women shortlists after 2030, and expanded to cover elected mayors and police and crime commissioners.
Maria Miller, former Tory culture minister, and now committee chairperson, said:
“In their evidence to our inquiry, the leaders of political parties agreed that the commons would benefit from gender equality, and a range of initiatives is in place to improve the situation.
But we saw little to justify their confidence that these will be sufficient.”
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We need concrete action plans. We need party leadership to provide clear and strong direction in working with local parties to deliver more women candidates. We need to see more women candidates in winnable seats.
Above all, parties need to be transparent and accountable in their progress – or the lack of it.”