Skip to main content

Equal Opportunities: Public Bodies

Volume 461: debated on Monday 18 June 2007

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government are taking to increase diversity in (a) the judiciary, (b) the police, (c) Parliament and (d) other UK institutions; and if she will make a statement. (140848)

The Government are committed to increasing diversity and equality of opportunity in UK institutions. The Ministry of Justice is working with the judiciary and Judicial Appointments Commission to increase diversity, for example, by promoting the judicial service and widening the range of people eligible to apply for judicial office. The Judicial Diversity Strategy, setting out the approach, was announced to Parliament by written ministerial statement on 17 May 2006, Official Report, column 25WS. The Judicial Appointments 8th Report published in March 2006 showed that the proportion of female judges appointed in the previous year had increased from 31 per cent. to 41 per cent. Between 2001 and 2006 the percentage of female judges rose from 14 to 18 per cent. The percentage of those from a BME background appointed increased from 5 per cent. to 17 per cent. over the previous seven years.

Colleagues in the Home Office are extremely active in pushing for greater diversity in the police and have introduced a number of initiatives looking at recruitment, retention and progression. These include positive action guidelines on recruitment, and a toolkit looking into the setting of targets for the recruitment of women. Twenty-Two per cent. of police officers are women, and 3.7 per cent. of police officers are from ethnic minority backgrounds. Progress has been made in recruiting minority ethnic Special Constables (6.6 per cent.) and Police Staff (6.9 per cent.) and especially minority ethnic Police Community Support Officers (15.2 per cent.).

In 2002 we introduced the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act allowing positive measures towards women’s increased participation in politics. This legislation is having an impact. Women now make up 20 per cent. of MPs compared with 9 per cent. before 1997. However, there is still a long way to go: only 2.3 per cent. of MPs are from non-white backgrounds, compared with around 8 per cent. of the population. The Discrimination Law Review is considering the case for widening the scope of positive measures to target the selection of political candidates beyond gender. It is also looking at how to widen the range of voluntary positive action measures available to organisations as employers and service providers in order to prevent or compensate for disadvantage or to meet the special needs of groups protected by discrimination law. Our consultation paper, “A Framework for Fairness”, setting out our proposals for a Single Equality Bill, was published on 12 June.