Amendment to bill ‘could lead to more disabled MPs’


Political parties should be required by law to publish information on how many disabled people – and other under-represented groups – are selected to fight parliamentary seats, according to a Commons committee.

The recommendation came in an interim report by the historic Speaker’s Conference which aims to find ways to increase the number of disabled female and minority ethnic MPs.

The conference will introduce an amendment to the government’s equality bill which would force registered political parties to report every six months on the diversity of their candidate selection process, and publish the reports online.

The report says such a move “may help, over time, to secure a House of Commons which is more effective, more representative of our society and in which the public feels better able to place its confidence”.

Disabled people, women and those from minority ethnic groups who put themselves forward for selection as a parliamentary candidate are less likely to be selected than white men, and less likely to be selected for a seat the party thinks it can win, according to the report.

The disabled MP Anne Begg, the vice-chair of the conference, said: “Unless the performance of the different parties can be compared with each other, or with the performance of parties throughout the world, there is likely to be insufficient pressure for the political parties to pursue the cultural change which is needed from them before we can have a House of Commons fit for the 21st century.”

The interim report follows evidence to the conference given by the leaders of the three main political parties in which they each admitted they needed to improve the diversity of representation within their parties.

They also agreed in principle to publish future reports on the results of candidate selections.

A Government Equalities Office spokeswoman said they were “carefully considering the content of the report”.

The equality bill is due to begin its Commons report stage on 2 December.

26 November 2009