Interim Report - Speaker's Conference (on Parliamentary Representation) Contents

Summary of Conclusions and recommendations

1.  In recent weeks we have experienced unprecedented public anger in relation to the publication of Members' allowances. Trust in politicians and political parties has slumped. Data taken from the British Election Study survey for May 2009 indicates that when participants were asked to rate their trust in the political parties on a scale of 0 to 10, 85.8% gave a rating between 0 and 5; 91.6% gave a rating between 0 and 5 for their trust in politicians. Nearly a quarter (23.8%) said they had no trust at all in political parties and nearly a third (30.7%) said they had no trust at all in politicians.

2.  This is a matter of urgent concern. There is a real danger that in this furore people have lost sight of the importance of democracy. All of us now should take a step back and consider the fundamental value and importance of Parliament. Without it, our democracy would simply not function.

3.  We believe that the House of Commons needs to change. Increasing the diversity of MPs would make it a more just, legitimate and effective legislature. We believe that in the public's eyes this would make it a more credible legislature. There is now a significant opportunity to make this change happen, as current Members of the House announce their intentions to retire before the next general election - to be held before June 2010.

4.  Leadership will be required within the political parties nationally, regionally and locally to ensure that the current round of selections for vacant seats results in a diverse list of candidates.

5.  Putting forward candidates from under-represented groups is a very practical way for the 'selectorates' within the parties - those who choose the candidates to go forward for election - to show that they sincerely wish to change the culture of politics.

6.   The choices which local, regional and national political parties make in regard to the candidates who will represent them will be central to shaping what the next House of Commons looks like, and in determining the extent to which it is genuinely changed. We call upon all those involved in the selection process to consider both the opportunity which is open to them, and the long term consequences of failing to take up these opportunities. The political parties might reflect whether there will be reason for the public to trust the parties and Parliament more if, after the general election, they are apparently presented with more of the same.

7.  We recommend that in circumstances where the sitting MP will not contest the general election, each of the political parties should commit itself to:

  • Promote equality by selecting at least 50% women as candidates;
  • Ensure that a significantly greater proportion of candidates than at the 2005 election are selected with BME backgrounds;
  • Seek to encourage a wider placement of BME candidates across the country than was present at the 2005 election; and
  • Ensure that a significantly greater proportion of candidates who identify as disabled are selected than at the 2005 election.

8.  Additionally, we recommend that each of the political parties should commit itself to:

  • report by 12 October 2009 the result of selections by constituency giving the date of selection, the method of selection, the candidate's gender and the candidate's ethnicity and reporting in accordance with candidates' identifications of disability and sexual orientation; and to
  • appoint a named party officer responsible for supporting the access requirements of disabled candidates.

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Prepared 15 July 2009