Skip to main content

Electoral Politics

Volume 455: debated on Thursday 18 January 2007

23. What steps she is taking to encourage greater participation in electoral politics among those groups of people with lower than average levels of participation. (116357)

The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 allowed positive measures to be taken to increase women’s participation. For instance, it enabled the use of quotas in local elections to increase the level of female representation. Currently, women make up 29 per cent. of councillors in England, and 19.5 per cent. of MPs. Additionally, the local government White Paper set out a commitment to review the barriers and incentives to becoming a councillor. That review will also consider the challenges facing under-represented groups.

The introduction of the 2002 Act was a major step forward, but the Labour party is the only major political party to use it to allow positive discrimination in favour of women candidates. Does my hon. Friend believe that the voluntary mechanism preferred by other parties is successful, given the composition of the Opposition Benches?

I have been a member of the Labour party for many years, and have always been interested in this matter. The Labour party tried the voluntary route for a number of years, but it did not work. Now, 28 per cent. of members of the parliamentary Labour party are female. Parties that are serious about getting more female members must be prepared to take the difficult measures necessary to secure all-women shortlists.