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Gender Equality

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 21 January 2016

Equality, diversity and inclusion are core to the way in which the House of Commons service works. The Commission agreed a diversity and inclusion strategy that promotes gender equality, and receives regular updates on its delivery. Key measures include targets for the number of women in the senior pay bands, fair and open recruitment, and promotion of flexible working.

If gender equality is core to the way in which the House of Commons works, why are only two members of the 12-member House of Commons Commission women?

That is a good point, and in terms of the party appointees, it is for the political parties to respond to it. I am pleased, however, that the two lay people on the Commission are women, as the hon. Gentleman indicated.

The right hon. Gentleman may remember that in the previous Parliament I raised the issue of the representation of women, both as politicians and authors, in the Parliamentary Bookshop. When perusing its bookshelves, visitors from all over the world, potential MPs among them, would gain the impression that the House was almost exclusively male and white—as they would, for that matter, when viewing the walls in the Palace of Westminster. What steps is he taking to ensure that, superficially at least, the Palace of Westminster better represents the people and diversity of this country?

Again, the appropriate authorities will have heard the hon. Lady’s question. Like her, I think it is important that we recognise the very important role that women have played, and continue to play, in politics, and I hope that will be reflected in what is on offer in the bookstores.

It is very important that the House of Commons sets the agenda for gender equality. The right hon. Gentleman has outlined some of the things that have been done, but what more is being done to let people outside this House know that we are leading the way and setting the examples in raising gender equality issues?

Independent assessments are carried out of how Parliament addresses the issue of equality. For instance, members of the public could look at Stonewall’s assessment. That puts Parliament nearly in the top quarter, so progress is being made. More still could be done, but that is a very good way for members of the public to assess the progress we are making.