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Women on Local Councils

Volume 630: debated on Monday 30 October 2017

I recently met my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) and representatives of the Fawcett Society to discuss this important issue. As a start, I shall be holding a round table with local government organisations, cross-party councillors and chief officers in November to discuss how we can break down the barriers that prevent women from engaging with local politics and standing in council elections.

Women are disproportionately affected by services that are controlled by local government, but just one in four directly elected mayors and 17% of local authority leaders are women. In order to address that imbalance, will the Government now legislate for all-women shortlists in local government elections?

As I have said, the Government take this issue very seriously. We want to see more women on councils, and in cabinets. I think that the political parties have a considerable part to play in that, and I think that Members of Parliament have a part to play in encouraging people to stand for election. As I have said, however, we will be looking at the position far more carefully.

I thank the Minister for meeting me and the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge). Will he consider introducing consistent maternity and paternity leave and adequate childcare policies throughout councils to encourage more women candidates to come forward?

I thank my hon. Friend for that meeting, and for the work that she has done with the Fawcett Society. As I said to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft), we shall be looking at the issue very carefully, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will bring her ideas to the table when we meet in November.