The Women in Parliament All Party Parliament Group (APPG) Inquiry [APPG Women in Parliament]

Today the APPG Women in Parliament will publish its report into the under-representation of women at Westminster [2].

Its conclusion is straightforward: the current percentage of women in the House of Commons – 22.6% – is simply not good enough. The UK ranks 65th out of the 189 countries included in the Inter Parliamentary Union’s monitoring report [3].

Professor of Politics and Gender

Sarah Childs,  Professor of Politics and Gender, University of Bristol

Whilst parity of representation remains a long way off, the APPG recognises that some progress has taken place over the last two decades, not least in terms of the number of women elected to Parliament; in the selection procedures employed by parties; and in making Parliament a more family-friendly work environment. Examples of progress can be seen in the changes to sitting hours, a significant improvement from their pre-2012 state, and the opening of a workplace nursery in 2010. But this is no time for complacency. Indeed, with a general election less than a year away, ‘all political parties agree that there is much more to do to create a modern, aspirational and representative Parliament.’

  • SUPPLY: “Getting into Parliament is a big secret for those who aren’t connected”
  • SELECTION: “More than two thirds of women surveyed had
    encountered discrimination during the selection process”
  • RETENTION: “Several MPs avoid the Chamber during Prime
    Minister’s Questions due to the testosterone fuelled atmosphere”

Chaired by Mary Macleod MP, the cross-party Inquiry was launched to investigate what could be done to deliver a more diverse set of Parliamentarians, specifically more women, at Westminster. Many of its findings however have validity for other under-represented groups, including men with caring responsibilities.

Key Recommendations:

  1. Create a zero tolerance response to unprofessional behaviour in the Chamber to ensure the standard of behaviour in the Chamber is what is accepted in other work environments. If behaviour fails to improve, additional ‘rules and sanctions’ may need to be created.
  2. Reconnect with voters by rebalancing parliamentary and constituency priorities given that the role and expectations of an MP have changed over time. Allow more flexibility so that MPs can better balance their work in the House, with being visible in their local communities and responding to local concerns in their constituencies:
    1. Monday-Wednesday: Government business and Opposition Day debates
    2. Thursday: Backbench business
    3. Friday: Private Members Bills
  3. Establish a Women and Equalities Select Committee to raise issues that are a priority for women and review how women are impacted by Government policy.  Women and Equalities Oral Parliamentary Questions already take place in the Chamber regularly and there is a Minister for Women at the Cabinet table, so it would be appropriate to have a Select Committee established.
  4. Improve the predictability of the Parliamentary calendar so that MPs know whipping requirements and timetable of the business of the House further in advance. They can then plan their time and work more effectively both in the House and in the constituency.
  5. Ask the DCMS Select Committee and Independent Press Standards Organisation to review sexism in traditional and social media including analysis of how female parliamentarians are represented.
  6. Provide clarification on support available for MPs with primary caring responsibilities within the new expenses system and with formal parental leave to make it a more family-friendly.
  7. Improve the online gateway to Parliament to enhance the parliamentary online presence and encourage more women and other currently under-represented groups to consider a role in public life, to help change people’s lives and the communities in which they live.

Additional recommendations are also identified. These target, amongst others, the image of Parliament, as symbolised by its artwork, parliamentary ceremonies, and language and terminology; the education of young people in citizenship and democracy; the cost of parliamentary selection; the introduction of gender quotas; parental leave and job sharing;  party training for candidates and Parliamentary professional development; and re-designing the parliamentary pass, so women MPs will never again have to justify their presence in a ‘members only’ part of Westminster.



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