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Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 19 November 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to take positive action to tackle any institutional racism in the United Kingdom's political bodies. [HL6224]

The Government intend to use the forthcoming Equality Bill to broaden the range of voluntary positive action measures which can be taken to the full extent allowed by European law. The Bill will allow political parties to take a wider range of actions in relation to matters regarding their constitution, organisation and administration, including:

carrying out an audit of political party membership to identify the proportion of members from under-represented groups and identify where gaps are present;

setting targets for recruitment drives;

carrying out general and specific or targeted recruitment drives;

running mentoring and leadership programmes;

setting targets for increasing the proportion of politicians and staff from under-represented groups; and

establishing and supporting in-house forums for under-represented groups.

Further, on 12 November the House of Commons agreed to establish a Speaker's Conference which will consider, and make recommendations for rectifying, the disparity between the representation of women and ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large. This will be an important platform to discuss the action needed and we look forward to the findings of the conference.