The Speaker's Conference was convened on 12 November 2008 to consider the disparity between the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large. It worked through 2009 collecting evidence and published its final report in January 2010.
The Equality Act 2010 allows political parties to use all women shortlists to improve representation of women in the House of Commons. The 2015 General Election returned a higher number and proportion of female MPs than any previous general election. Prior to 1987 women had never made up more than 5% of MPs. Now they represent almost 30% of MPs in the current Parliament.
The Coalition Government (2010–15) developed a special fund to assist people with disabilities to be adopted as candidates for Parliament.
The House of Lords has had seven female Leaders and three female Government Chief Whips. Two out of three Lord Speakers to date have been women. However, women were not permitted to sit in the House of Lords until 1958, which was 40 years after women were granted the right to stand as MPs. Today, women represent almost 25 percent of the membership of the House of Lords. A House of Lords Library Note provides further information on the subject.
Members of the House of Lords are not required to provide information about their ethnicity, religious beliefs or any disabilities they may have. However, a House of Lords Library Note provides background information on this subject.
Page last updated October 2016.