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Bercow: When it comes to diversity… first impressions count

24 May 2018 (updated on 25 May 2018)

Image of UK Parliament portcullis

Parliament should reflect the make-up of the nation - with more staff from diverse socio-economic and minority ethnic backgrounds, according to the House of Commons Speaker.

John Bercow spoke out at an event to launch the BAME Challenge toolkit, which helps UK businesses and organisations take action around the issue of under-representation among women and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Mr Bercow has staked his Speakership on increasing the number of women and people from BAME backgrounds into leadership positions within the Houses of Parliament.

During his almost nine years in the role, the Speaker has recruited the first BAME chaplain, Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the first BAME Serjeant at Arms, Kamal El-Hajji, and Saira Salimi, the first BAME Speaker’s Counsel.

But he says, more needs to be done – and urged the House authorities to emulate successful diversity strategies introduced by other organisations. He said:

“The Houses of Parliament are situated in the heart of the capital city of this country which is remarkably ethnically and socio-economically diverse, so it is essential our MPs and our staff reflect and represent London and the nation as a whole,

“More than one million people a year visit this place and for many it will be a once in a lifetime event - so the image that is forged in their minds of how we look, the way we behave and the values we hold is long lasting.

“While we have made significant progress over the past five years and have used recruitment consultants and head-hunters who specialise in diversity to help us in our quest, we need to learn from organisations who are ahead of us and better than us because it benefits us all.”

The Speaker launched the BAME challenge with Inclusive Employers in December 2016.

The aim of the challenge is to refocus energy and commitment in UK workforces to drive change that will ensure that businesses attract, recruit, retain and develop BAME colleagues to reach their potential and enhance businesses and organisations.