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Disabled: Candidates

Volume 505: debated on Wednesday 10 February 2010

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps the Government has taken to encourage more disabled people to (a) apply for and (b) present themselves as candidates for election to public office. (309445)

The Government are committed to increasing diversity of representation in political life at both national and local level and firmly believe that to achieve a genuinely fair and just society their political decision makers need to reflect the population.

The Equality Bill contains new provisions allowing political parties to reserve places on electoral shortlists for individuals including disabled people. The Bill also allows a wide range of voluntary activities by parties to reduce inequalities in representation.

These include provisions enabling political parties to; set up separate forums dedicated to a specific protected characteristic; reserve seats for people with a protected characteristics on any forum, including electoral shortlist, representative groups, panels, committees etc; and adopt whatever forms of mentoring or shadowing parties themselves choose.

In direct response to a recommendation of the Speaker's conference, the Government have tabled their own amendment to the Equality Bill to require registered political parties to report on the diversity data to be collected in a systematic way at a national level for the first time.

This amendment could ultimately result in greater diversity in political parties. It may also increase participation in elections and in public office of those from under-represented groups.