General election: opportunity for parties to commit to gender equality
24 April 2017
The Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee says that the 2017 general election is an "unmissable opportunity" for political parties to demonstrate their commitment to gender equality in the House of Commons.
Women in the House of Commons
In January 2017 the Committee published the report Women in the House of Commons after the 2020 election (PDF 533 KB), which made a number of recommendations to Government and to political parties for steps to increase the proportion of women on the green benches. The report noted that the UK ranks only 48th globally for representation of women in a lower or single chamber, having fallen from 25th place in 1999. It is only in 2017 that the total number of women MPs ever elected has surpassed the number of men currently holding seats.
The Committee made recommendations to Government for improving this situation, but also noted that it is political parties which have the primary responsibility for ensuring that women come forward as candidates, and that women candidates are put in positions from which they can win seats. Responses to the report from four parties agree that they have a vital role to play.
The Government has not yet made a formal response to the report. The Minister for Women and Equalities, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, informed the Committee in March 2017 that, due to the cross-cutting nature of the report, the response would not be ready before the customary two-month deadline.
The Committee Chair, Maria Miller MP, said:
"The early election is an unmissable opportunity for political parties to show that they are truly committed to increasing the proportion of women in the House of Commons. We heard a lot of encouraging promises when we took evidence on this last year from leadership figures in the Conservatives, Labour Party, SNP and the Liberal Democrats, but we expressed concern that warm words had not yet resulted in concrete strategies to deliver more women candidates, particularly in winnable seats. Candidate selection is happening now, and gender equality in Parliament can’t be put on the back burner for another five years. It’s time for the leadership of each of the parties to show that actions speak louder than words."
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