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

7  Parliament: changing the culture of an institution

245. The culture and procedures of the House of Commons themselves deter some individuals from standing. In particular we heard concerns about:

·  The inflexible and unwelcoming attitude of the House towards families as evidenced by the lack of childcare support, unsociable working hours and absence of formal policies on parental leave;

·  Physical access and the availability of reasonable adjustments for disabled people;

·  Attitudes which attach stigma to certain conditions or personal characteristics; and

·  The confrontational and aggressive nature of Parliamentary debate.

Support for families

    When an MP becomes a parent … they face a very stark choice. Either their partners have to pick up the pieces, or they realise that they have to leave if they want to be sure of having a normal family life.[193]

246. The work of an MP makes significant demands both on the individual and on their immediate family. For the eight to nine months of the year when the House of Commons is sitting Members are generally required to be present at Westminster from Monday lunchtime until late afternoon on Thursday. Most Members will then return to their constituencies where they will work on local issues through Friday and the weekend, making themselves available to help constituents at times when the constituents themselves are free. When the House is not sitting, most Members expect to spend their time working in the constituency unless they are formally taking leave.

247. The MP's dual roles, as a legislator at Westminster and as a representative in their constituency (acting as an adviser and advocate) involve both unpredictable workloads and significant unsocial hours. Members who are Ministers or Shadow Ministers will be expected to carry out significant additional travel to represent the Government or their party. These duties make it difficult for Members to spend regular time with their partners and families either during the week or at weekends. Informally we know that this is a particular concern both to Members and to potential candidates who are parents of young children.

248. Some MPs with children maintain their family home in the constituency. This means that children have a single, stable base but in many cases will not see one of their parents at all between Monday morning and Thursday evening. Others maintain their family home in London, to make the best of any opportunities for the child and parent to spend time together during the working week—although the current working hours of the House of Commons mean that such time is likely to be found at breakfast only. For many MPs with families the effort to find family time either during the week or at weekends means moving the entire family between London and the constituency on a regular basis. This can be complicated, particularly where there is a small child who requires bulky and sometimes expensive equipment.

249. The inflexibility of Parliament's working practices (which are partly institutional and partly the result of the way that the political parties work), together with the increasingly heavy workload of constituency demands, combine to create a lifestyle which is detrimental to Members with caring responsibilities, both for children and other dependents. The decisions involved for Members seeking to manage a beneficial family life in the face of Parliament's and the constituency's demands are extremely difficult. We have been told informally that the lifestyle which a Parliamentary career imposes is a significant deterrent to many capable people who, in their 20s or 30s, decide either to abandon any thoughts of becoming an MP, or to postpone any plans for ten or more years until their children are relatively independent. We also recognise that if there is a deterrent for individuals who have a supportive partner the problems are even greater for individuals who are single parents.

250. We are not seeking to claim that the difficulties of Members with families are unique; there are of course many other professions (hospital medicine, the armed forces and the police being among them) which interfere with a 'normal' pattern of family life. What is different about the demands on an MP is the unique and

    potentially unlimited demands on an MP's time and the fact that an MP's duties are rarely, if at all, circumscribed in terms of hours or duties, in the way that most jobs are, either legally or by convention.[194]

An MP's job does not fit a conventional pattern either in the unique combination of demands and expectations placed upon the MP, or in its working hours or in its requirement to work on a weekly cycle in two places which, for many Members, are significantly distant from each other. Therefore it is important to create within the job's demands some space for family life.

251. In recent months there has been a push at Westminster to change many of the ways in which the House of Commons operates. The ultimate outcome of the various reviews and inquiries which are being conducted ought to be a revitalised House with much clearer rules, better accountability and, possibly, greater independence. If such changes are considered and implemented effectively they should benefit us all. There is, however, an opportunity within these changes also to make the House of Commons a more flexible, humane and responsible institution which, while it requires greater probity of those within it, also takes greater account of the circumstances in which each individual works.

252. The division of a Member's workload between Westminster and the constituency impacts substantively upon family life. This impact is not part of the job, but it is a direct consequence of the job, which has led some Members to choose not to seek re-election. If the changes made to the House and to Members' conditions worsen this impact, it will become harder for parents to commit to becoming an MP; yet if the House is to achieve greater credibility as a representative body it urgently needs to have a significant number of parents including single parents and parents of young children, people who have direct current experience of how our education, health and support services are working within it.

253. The same is true for those with other caring responsibilities. The current reviews of the House's practices and procedures are, like our own Conference, designed to secure a House which is more just and equitable and has greater legitimacy in speaking for the wider public. A diverse workforce for Parliament is not an aspiration but an imperative. It is essential to the House's credibility that the participation of Members who have young families and/or other caring responsibilities is maintained and supported. This must be kept in mind by all who are engaged in the current process of Commons reform.

254. We were told that women MPs with newly-born infants face a particular series of problems:

·  There is no formal provision for MPs to take maternity leave;

·  There are no formal procedures for proxy voting; and

·  The rigidity of certain customs of the House, including sitting hours, also causes problems for MPs (male and female) with small children.


255. Meg Hillier MP told us that "There is currently no provision for MPs to take maternity leave".[195] After having a baby she herself explored the options available so that she could spend time with the baby. She reported that the House authorities agreed to a limited number of variations on standard rules which made it easier for her staff to cover for her. These staff were also able to cover her absence from the constituency, to a degree, by taking on additional responsibilities for budgets, advice surgeries and correspondence.

256. She noted, however, that the "one responsibility that an MP cannot pass on to her staff is voting".[196] A Member of Parliament is appointed directly by his or her constituents to be their representative in Parliament and voting is one of the key ways in which this mandate is fulfilled. A Member's vote cannot formally be transferred to any other person except by the Member's resignation from office or by a general election.

257. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills confirmed that MPs are not currently entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave, since they are considered to be self-employed, and maternity leave is only available to women who are employed by someone else.[197] Such arrangements as there are to support Members who have caring responsibilities are in the hands of the party whips (the business managers), who have to ensure sufficient Members are present in the House for decisions to be made, and arrange for their parties to be properly represented on all official groups and committees.

258. We therefore wrote to the whips of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties to inquire about the arrangements they have made to support parents and other carers.

259. The Secretary to the Parliamentary Labour Party, Martin O'Donovan, wrote to us that "the PLP does not hold formal policy in this area as such … authorised absence from the Government Whip on maternity, paternity or other caring leave—is agreed with individual members. These are informal, flexible agreements that suit the needs of the individual Member. It is evident that these arrangements work in the feedback that we have received from Members."[198]

260. Rt. Hon. Patrick McLoughlin MP, Chief Whip for the Conservative Party, told us that "We do not have an official policy on this as we regard Members of Parliament to be autonomous … I believe that we are very sympathetic to all … needs and all that we would do in the case of a close vote is to inform and ask whether the Member would be available for voting." He added that "Looking forward to the next Parliament, the Conservatives … have taken significant steps to increase the number of female candidates. We also expect the Parliamentary party to have a younger profile and therefore I am confident that we will … ensure that all requests will be sympathetically looked at".[199]

261. Paul Burstow MP, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, told us that "arrangements for maternity, paternal and other caring leave for our MPs are made bespokely in discussion with the Chief Whip"; he noted that in practice the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party has never received a request for maternity leave "but our policy would be to endeavour to match the statutory rights afforded to women in other professions". Paternity leave, which is much shorter, had been taken by Liberal Democrat MPs including the party leader Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP.

262. Mr Burstow explained that in cases where paternity leave has been taken "the Whips' Office has ensured that cover for Parliamentary duties is arranged and that additional guidance and assistance is provided for their staff … we try to ensure that communication from the Whips Office is kept to real emergencies." Similar arrangements were in place for Members requiring other caring leave: "arrangements are normally discussed informally and formalised later."[200]

263. We find these comments interesting and, on the whole, supportive. Yet we believe that maternity, paternity and caring leave is an issue which all three main parliamentary parties have as yet failed to take fully seriously. Women, and particularly women of child-bearing age, have been absent from the House until fairly recently. If arrangements are made on a "bespoke" and "flexible" basis we believe this is largely because no one has thought it worth the effort of negotiating a more formal arrangement. Yet, as the Conservative Chief Whip points out, changes in the age and gender profile of the parliamentary parties are likely to increase the pressure for formal policies to be declared. We also believe that the development of formal policies, to address the various roles of Members as carers might encourage a wider range of individuals with caring responsibilities to consider a future in Parliament.

264. Each Parliamentary party should draw up a formal statement of policy on maternity, paternity and caring leave. This should set out clearly the minimum level of support which an individual requesting leave may expect from his or her party, and the steps which the individual should take to arrange a period of leave. Such statements should be agreed by party leaders, and published on party websites and in the party whip, by the end of 2010.


265. Meg Hillier MP drew to our attention the fact that MPs are not entitled to statutory maternity cover, nor to any grant or allowance which would enable the MP to employ additional administrative support during the critical period. She considered that this position was anomalous, given that the House of Commons would provide substitute administrative cover if one of her own staff were to take maternity leave.[201]

266. The reason for this state of affairs is that MPs are held to be self-employed and like other self-employed people have no entitlement; their staff are employees, and are thus entitled to the same conditions of employment as any other employee. Paul Burstow MP, the Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrats, told us that any future Liberal Democrat Government would look to extend statutory maternity leave to MPs. This is a very welcome aspiration.

267. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills explained that an individual taking statutory maternity leave and claiming statutory maternity pay may not also work during the period of formal leave, except on ten days allowed for 'keeping in touch' and career development.[202] All Members who are members of Parliamentary parties are subject to their party's whip: the business managers may insist that the Member is present for certain votes, and the comments we received from the party whips indicated that, while they seek to be sympathetic to requests for caring leave, they reserve their right to call on Members in an 'emergency'. The extent to which such 'emergencies' (votes where the numbers will be very close between the different parties) occur will vary considerably depending upon the balance of the parties in the House, and the pressures of external events. While there are arrangements for proxy voting these arrangements require the Member to be present in the House of Commons even if they do not go to the voting lobbies. It would be difficult therefore for a Member to claim statutory maternity pay when she does not have any certainty about when, or how often, she might be required to attend the House of Commons.

268. This factor, together with the unusual employment status of MPs, makes it difficult to see how statutory maternity leave and pay could be applied to MPs. Nonetheless, the urgent need to normalise the House of Commons as a workplace for parents provides a strong argument for tackling the problem. The Government has recently indicated its intention to give the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) the responsibility for setting salaries and pensions[203], with effect from 2011-12. We invite IPSA to consider the development of formal maternity, paternity and caring leave arrangements for MPs which are as closely equivalent to the general public sector provision as possible. In the mean time we would ask the Senior Salaries Review Body to look into the matter and to report in 2010.


269. The Administration Committee, following a request from the House of Commons Commission, has recently looked into the level of demand among Members for childcare support. The Committee's recommendations are being considered by the House of Commons Commission. Any increase in the facilities in the House of Commons for Members' families will be an improvement, and we therefore hope that the Administration Committee's recommendations will mark a significant step forward in providing practical and responsive support for Members' families.

270. We have said that it is essential to the House's credibility that the participation of Members who have young families is supported. It is likely that at the 2010 general election a number of younger Members, who have young children, will enter the House of Commons for the first time. We welcome the recent announcement of plans for a nursery facility within the Parliamentary estate and urge the House service to implement the proposal as soon as possible. This facility should be open to Members and staff.

271. Decisions on childcare are a matter of personal choice and for many MPs their arrangements will be essential to their ability to carry out their parliamentary duties. Parents will choose to have their children looked after in their homes (in the constituency and/or in London) by other family members, by nannies or registered childminders, or in a nursery or crèche. All of these choices are equally valid and should be equally respected by the parliamentary authorities. We agree with Meg Hillier that many parents will not wish to bring their small children into Parliament on a regular basis but will instead wish to have their child cared for, for the most part, close to the family home. The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip told us that a future Liberal Democrat administration would also seek to create a childcare voucher scheme for Members to run alongside the existing scheme for House staff. We recommend that a scheme be considered to allow Members to take a proportion of their salary in the form of childcare vouchers.


272. An informal arrangement known as 'pairing' operates to enable Members to absent themselves from votes. The arrangement, which is managed by the Party whips, ensures that the numbers of Members unavailable to vote on either side of the House are balanced. In this way the votes both for and against any proposal are reduced by one, ensuring that a single individual's absence cannot impact disproportionately on the progress of business.

273. Pairing arrangements are used to cover Members' absence from the House, either on official business such as a select committee visit or for family, personal or constituency reasons. Members find the arrangements extremely valuable. They depend, however, on the nature of relationships between the political parties and on the size of the governing party's majority. The Government Whips, as business managers, are much less likely to agree to pairing if they expect to win the House's support for a proposal by only a handful of votes.

274. While we recognise the business reasons why pairing must be negotiable, we consider that it would be better if Members' requests for caring or sickness leave were less subject to the state of relations between the parties and the turn of events. We believe that greater transparency about the organisation of pairing would help. We therefore recommend that the business managers for each Parliamentary party should regularly brief their Members about the process of pairing, the requests they have received for pairing and whether or not it has been possible to agree to those requests.


275. The current sitting hours of the House of Commons Chamber are:

a)  Monday: 2.30 until the conclusion of main business (normally 10.00pm);

b)  Tuesday: 2.30 until the conclusion of main business (normally 10.00pm);

c)  Wednesday: 11.30 am until the conclusion of main business (normally 7.00 pm);

d)  Thursday: 10.30 am until the conclusion of main business (normally 6.00pm).[204]

While the main business will normally end at, or close to, the scheduled time additional time will be required for the House to vote formally on certain questions: this can often add between 30 minutes and an hour to the working day. There will also be a significant number of occasions in each Parliamentary session when the House has to sit after the normal end of the working day in order to discuss particular questions in detail: these will normally be questions on the detail of a bill which must be settled before the bill can be enacted (become law). On 13 Fridays each session the House sits additionally from 9.30 am to 2.30 pm to consider proposals for legislation which have been prepared by backbench Members (Private Members' Bills). Debates take place in the Commons' second chamber, Westminster Hall, from 9.30 am to 2pm on Tuesdays, from 9.30 am to 11.30 am and from 2.30 pm until 5pm on Wednesdays and from 2.30 to 5.30 pm on Thursdays.[205]

276. Many Members are also required to attend sittings of select committees or public bill committees which take place outside the sitting hours for the Chamber, beginning at or after 9.00 am. Agreed absences from the House must be negotiated with the party whips whose first priority is to manage the progress of business in the House: a pastoral role, while recognised by the Whips, is a secondary consideration.

277. The consequence of this working pattern for Members with families is that even a Member's children who live in London can expect, routinely, to go "three days without seeing [the Member who is a parent] after the walk to school each day … simply because of late night votes."[206]

278. Kitty Ussher MP wrote to us to make the case for a change in the House's sitting hours:

    The core working hours of parliament should be changed to 9am to 4.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, followed by voting as normal. There would be no loss to the number of hours of parliamentary time (7.5 hours per day): the hours would just [be] brought forward. Given that the standard two votes, for example on a second or third reading debate, tend to take around half an hour, then this would give a reasonable working assumption that whipped activity would usually finish around 5pm.

    Since the extended school day runs from 8am to 6pm this means that MP parents with children nearby could feasibly expect to be able to do the school run, and see their children in the evenings, on three out of five days each week yet still spend as much time in the main chamber of parliament as they currently do.

    MP parents with children in constituencies outside London would probably not be affected by the changes as parliament can theoretically sit until 6pm on a Thursday at present. And of course there is no reason why whipped business cannot finish earlier on a Thursday as is often the case currently.

    In a stand-off situation, for example if the two houses of parliament cannot agree on an issue at the end of the session, there is no reason why the day cannot be extended as a one-off. But sitting beyond 4.30pm should only occur in circumstances that are clearly understood to be exceptional.[207]

279. Issues around the sitting hours of the House have been considered relatively recently. The Modernisation Committee in Session 2004-05 recommended making permanent a sitting pattern which would see the House sit at 2.30 pm on Mondays, at 11.30 am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and at 10.30 am on Thursdays. These suggestions were only partially implemented by the House, with the result that on Tuesdays as on Mondays the House now sits at 2.30 pm. The commentary in the Modernisation Committee's report helpfully sets out the problems which have always made changes to the House's sitting hours difficult to negotiate:

    "6. It is clear from debates in the House, the responses to the Procedure Committee's questionnaire and the submissions we have received, that many, if not most Members feel strongly about the issue of sitting hours. It is equally clear that there is no strong consensus of opinion on which of the many possible options for change should be pursued. …

    7. The initial impetus for the change in hours came from a widespread feeling that it was wrong in principle for Parliament to be legislating at 10 p.m. or later and that sitting late contributed neither to the quality of the debates nor to the esteem in which the House was held. But Members would be less than human if these points of principle were not interwoven with many other considerations, such as how the hours could be made to fit in with their constituency work, with their family life and with patterns of travel between home, constituency and Westminster. These considerations, however, affected Members in a host of different ways, depending not only on whether they had a family and where they lived, but also on their approach to the work of a Member of Parliament. The same considerations often weighed on both sides of an argument. While some Members welcomed the family-friendly nature of the new hours, others pointed out that it was no improvement for those with family homes in constituencies away from the London area. While some thought the new hours made better use of the Parliamentary day, others complained that they created congestion in committees and kept them away from their offices during normal office hours. Some Members argued that the new hours appear more normal to constituents, whereas others emphasised the special nature of the House's business and the consequent need sometimes to adopt unusual working practices. To compound matters, some Members who originally opposed the changes now support them, and vice versa."[208]

280. It is unlikely that these arguments will have changed substantially in the space of the current Parliament. We therefore note also that Kitty Ussher suggests a compromise option which, we believe, has not previously been considered by the House. Under this option, an agreement might be reached to defer divisions occurring in the late afternoon and early evening on certain days. If this were done, the 'running whip'—that is, the formal requirement by the parties that their Members remain close to the Chamber throughout a day's sitting, in case votes are called—could be suspended for an agreed period. This would allow Members of all parties with family in London to return home and spend some time with their children at teatime or bedtime before returning to Parliament to vote. Divisions deferred under such an agreement could either be deferred to 12.30 pm on the next Wednesday the House sits (the current procedure for deciding questions which are deferred having been called at the close of daily business)[209] or, if it should be considered more appropriate, could be deferred from early in the sitting day to the conclusion of business on the same sitting day.

281. Kitty Ussher's proposal presents some problems: while it is relatively easy to defer divisions on certain types of business—such as the introduction of backbench Members' '10-Minute Rule' bills—it would be impractical to defer divisions on occasions when detailed amendments to Government bills are being considered. This is because discussion on one part of a bill may depend upon what has previously been agreed about another part of the bill.

282. Nonetheless we believe that there is merit in considering Kitty Ussher's proposal in greater detail. We have looked at the business which was conducted at Monday and Tuesday sittings of the House in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and have found that votes were called between 4pm and 8 pm on only half of those sitting days.[210]

283. It is likely that some whipping arrangements were in place for many of the days on which votes were not called until the later evening. The business on these days was, in the main, the initial consideration (second reading) of bills. Second reading debates normally last for an entire Parliamentary day: therefore an agreement to defer afternoon divisions on these days would have had no impact on the progress of business. It could, however, have given those Members not directly involved in the debate greater flexibility either to spend time with their families, or to work with constituents, according to their chosen pattern of work. Even on those days when votes were called between 4pm and 8pm, there were decisions taken (for example, on opposition motions or motions to approve European Union documents) which could have been deferred at least until the close of business that same evening.

284. Deferring afternoon divisions and suspending the whip on certain days is not a full answer to the difficulties faced by Members with young families but it would be a step in the right direction. We also believe that it might be of assistance to official Commons committees which sit at the same time as the Chamber, and to Members who would value the certainty of time uninterrupted by divisions, to conduct meetings with constituents.

285. We recognise that there has been some progress in addressing the issue of sitting hours. Developments such as programming have helped to make parliamentary business more efficient, but there is a need to go further.

286. The sitting hours of the House should again be reviewed, and voted upon by the House, early in the new Parliament. Ideally, sitting time for the main chamber should be brought in line with what is considered to be normal business hours. Respecting the difficulty of achieving this, given the multiplicity of other duties inside and outside the Palace of Westminster carried out by Members, we recommend a substantial further development of deferred voting in order to facilitate a more family friendly approach to sitting arrangements and unscheduled (unprogrammed) votes. Further consideration should be given to modern methods of voting to facilitate a more efficient and practical use of time, in line with other legislatures.

Other cultural barriers

287. The customs and working practices of the House of Commons more generally can appear unwelcoming towards Members' families. While Meg Hillier noted that House staff had made administrative changes which enabled her staff to provide maternity cover for her, she reported that on an occasion when she had been forced to bring her young baby in to work both she and the child had been made to feel unwelcome by Commons staff.[211] It is also forbidden for anyone other than a Member—including a baby—to enter the lobbies during a vote. These rulings make it very difficult for an MP who is also a new mother to carry out either role as she might wish to do so. As an MP she cannot transfer her vote to another person; and if as a mother she wishes to follow World Health Organisation guidelines and have a baby who is exclusively breastfed until six months old, this preference creates another duty upon her which only she can fulfil.

288. The House's record on addressing such difficulties, once they are highlighted, is reasonably good and therefore we hope that the House service will review, and draw up new guidelines to clarify, the circumstances in which a child under the age of one may accompany his or her MP parent within restricted areas of the House of Commons.


289. The House of Commons can appear unwelcoming to people other than new parents. We were interested to hear the suggestion from the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP, that lesbian and gay MPs should be permitted to celebrate civil partnerships within the Palace of Westminster in the same way that heterosexual MPs are permitted to celebrate marriages within the Palace Chapel.[212]

290. We recognise that this affirmation of Members' civil partnerships would send a significant message of inclusion to the LGBT community. We think it is important that Members who wish to undertake civil marriages and civil partnerships should have the same rights as Members undertaking Christian marriage rites to hold their ceremonies within the Palace of Westminster. The House service should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that such civil ceremonies can take place within the Palace of Westminster from 2010.


291. Little is known about the composition of the House in terms of Members' sexual orientation, racial background or the extent to which Members experience impairment. However, it seems clear that all these groups are under-represented. For example, working from the figure of 11 million people in the UK with some form of impairment, a representative House of Commons would perhaps include about 130 disabled MPs. Even if one used a more restricted definition, to include only those with major impairments, you would expect 10%—about 65. We do not believe that the numbers in the Commons are anywhere near 65, let alone 130. Without a significantly larger number of openly disabled MPs there is the risk that, as RADAR put it, disabled people will continue to be seen as "the passive recipients of public services and public policy" instead of, as they should be, "part of the solution and leadership."[213]

292. If numbers in these groups were better known, and experiences better understood, the House would have a better understanding of what it should do to encourage people from under-represented groups to come forward. A strictly confidential and anonymous survey would provide greater transparency and understanding and promote greater openness. The result could be the emergence of more role models and a boost to confidence among those considering standing for Parliament.

293. It is important for the House to obtain much better information about the percentages of Members who belong to under-represented groups, and to know more about their experiences of politics and of the House. We believe that the arguments in favour of regular, sensitive and appropriate monitoring of the situation are convincing. The House should consider how this might be done. One approach would be for the House's occupational health department to ask Members to complete confidential questionnaires about their experience of any illness or impairment while attending the Department for screening/self referral or disability assessment. The anonymised questionnaires could be collated and analysed by the department and the analysis fed back to the appropriate committee annually. The survey might also secure similar information about the racial origin and, if possible and appropriate, the sexual orientation of Members.

294. Accurate information about public attitudes to Parliament is also hard to find. We said in Chapter 1 that Parliament's legitimacy and effectiveness will be enhanced if firm action is taken to increase the diversity of MPs. The measures recommended in our reports will help achieve that goal, but there must be regular and rigorous monitoring of progress. Similar though not identical work is carried out already: the Hansard Society's annual Audit of Political Engagement is one major survey which covers closely related issues.

295. We recommend that there should be a regular survey (at least once every five years) of public attitudes to Parliament and its composition, and in particular of the impact of the measures taken following this report. This should test whether greater diversity among MPs is bringing greater public approval and acceptance of the work of the House, and should be carried out by an independent body such as the Hansard Society.


296. There have been three major Acts aimed at making life better for disabled people in recent years: the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 which amended the 1995 Act, and the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. Parts of this legislation apply to Parliament—for instance some parts of the 1995 Act.[214] Section 19 of that Act states that a provider of services must not discriminate against a disabled person in refusing to provide any service which he provides, or is prepared to provide, to members of the public. The requirement on employers to make "reasonable" adjustments also applies to Parliament—as an employer. When the House allows public access to areas such as Central Lobby and areas where members of the public are invited, such as the dining rooms, it is providing a service to the public and its work is subject to the 1995 Act. As an employer, the House must also make reasonable adjustments under section 6 of the 1995 Act, if the premises or arrangements place a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with a non-disabled person. Responsibility for coordinating the House's policy in this area lies with Corporate Diversity, a team of three people based in the Department of Resources. There is a Single Equality Scheme which concentrates mainly on the House's work as an employer and a provider of services for visitors.

297. But the legal duty only extends to employment and to services which are provided to members of the public. The House does not employ Members or their staff. Both Houses of Parliament are excluded from the definition of a 'public authority' for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act of 2005 which prohibits such authorities from showing discrimination in carrying out their functions.

298. The reason for this mixed picture is that while Parliament makes laws, an important principle of the constitution says that some laws do not apply to it as they apply to other public bodies. This is the long-standing principle that the courts should not interfere with the activity of Parliament in making law. The Clerk of the House of Commons and the Clerk of the Parliaments sent a Memorandum to a Committee looking at the draft Disability Discrimination Bill in 2004. The Memorandum talked about the possibility of clauses in the Bill requiring Parliament to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment and to promote equality of opportunity. The Memorandum said:

    If [the clauses from the Bill] were applied to Parliament, court proceedings might be instituted which would require the courts to examine the rules, proceedings and procedures of the two Houses in order to assess allegations of discrimination against disabled persons, or to examine the extent to which Parliament had complied with its duties ... in the course of its proceedings … If the courts were to entertain cases of that nature there would be a constitutional revolution—interference by the judiciary in the core business of Parliament.[215]

299. The Memorandum also noted some more practical problems:
"If [this law] were applied directly to the two Houses there would be potential for considerable disruption to parliamentary proceedings if, for example, a sign interpreter was for some reason unavailable when a deaf person wished to follow proceedings in the public gallery of a chamber or committee room. This might cause particular problems for committees meeting at short notice or taking evidence away from Westminster."[216]

300. We see the difficulties caused by such demands. No doubt it will take time for the practical—and financial - obstacles to be overcome. But progress can be made. This is something the Clerks of both Houses accepted in the 2004 Memorandum mentioned above, saying:

    We recognise, … that the two Houses should take reasonable and proportionate steps to enable disabled Members, witnesses and others to take part in their proceedings without suffering discrimination. In our view, the two Houses can achieve this, as effectively as if the legislation were in terms applied to them, by applying [the sections on discrimination and equality of opportunity] by analogy.[217]

301. The House has worked hard and with some success to apply the law in its work, and has gone further. There have been a substantial number of improvements in facilities for disabled people in Parliament in recent years, including:

·  more lifts;

·  induction loops fitted in the Public Gallery and committee rooms, and checked regularly;

·  better wheelchair access and lighting;

·  arrangements for accessible tours for visitors with hearing and visual impairments; and

·  more parking for disabled people.

Most of these improvements have related to the House's role as an employer or as a provider of services to visitors.

302. Some improvements have had a more direct impact on the work of Members, like the provision of 'speech to text' services (live subtitling) to help deaf visitors at oral evidence sessions—including some of our own—and the availability of British Sign Language interpreters when Members have deaf visitors. The House authorities have allowed guide dogs onto the floor of the Commons Chamber and in the officials' box. The recent session of the UK Youth Parliament showed what could be done for deaf people in the Chamber: two BSL interpreters were found seats which are not technically "on the floor of the House" and were able to assist those taking part.

303. There is also a broader scheme of help from the House authorities for MPs with disabilities, aimed at making reasonable adjustments to the working conditions and equipment of Members with particular needs because of disability, and covering necessary additional continuing costs. Assistance can take the form of additional staff, necessary equipment or help with travel. Funding has for instance been provided for journeys on parliamentary business, specialised computer equipment (or alterations to existing equipment to suit particular work needs arising from disability). Extra staff (including training where necessary) to act as carers or facilitators have been funded along with specialised furniture, for example special chairs or desks. The introduction of this scheme and the other improvements we describe above are heartening developments and we welcome them.

304. The House of Lords has also made good progress towards meeting the needs of disabled members. Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, a wheelchair user, paid tribute to the support she had been given by the House of Lords authorities, telling the Conference that she had found her need for reasonable adjustments had been "absolutely superbly met by the House authorities [who had] all been extremely positive about my requirements, and have gone out of their way to make things happen."[218] This includes the provision of a specially-adapted room close to the Lords Chamber. The Lords authorities for some years have put in place effective arrangements to help deaf and blind peers, and a number of peers with impaired mobility, to play a full part in debates.

305. But Baroness Campbell then explained the effects of the tradition which says that only members of the House of Lords can sit on the chamber's red benches. Because her condition leaves her short of breath and she finds it hard to speak for long periods,

    I asked six months ago whether or not tradition could be broken and I would be allowed to bring a PA [personal assistant] to sit next to me on the floor of the House to assist me with debates, or in Committee, and of course, the answer was no. No commoner shalt come on the House floor.[219]

A similar principle applies on the floor of the Commons Chamber, and John Knight of Leonard Cheshire Disability urged the Commons authorities to be "flexible" about allowing BSL interpreters to sit on the green benches to support MPs with hearing impairments.[220]

306. Not surprisingly given the age of many of the buildings, many parts of Parliament are difficult for people with mobility problems to get around. The layout of the Commons Chamber, with its rigid seating, makes it hard for wheelchair users. When mobility problems are temporary (though sometimes long-term), Members sometimes find it difficult to persuade the Whips that suitable accommodation should be provided. Facilities for people with other impairments are developing but still hampered by the design of the buildings. Facilities for individuals using larger wheelchairs are still inadequate and some signage needs to be improved.

307. Although it is unfair, the impression is sometimes given that Parliament is not an easy place for disabled people to work. The perception may not be the same as the reality, but when disabled people come to consider becoming a candidate, the perception is extremely important. John Knight of Leonard Cheshire Disability told us that there was nothing set out regarding the support a disabled MP might expect to get from the House of Commons:

    I think just formalising what the House can do, and as importantly, what it cannot do, and where it might need to go to get that support if it cannot do it, would be an enormous asset to people, not only entering the House, but people aspiring to enter the House, because they know that they would get what support they can get once they are in the House. It is actually setting it all out, in terms of what you would be entitled to, and I think that would be an enormous asset.[221]

308. Publishing such a statement would, in our view, offer one proportionate means by which Parliament might stop appearing to act "as both a physical and symbolic barrier" to disabled people who want to become MPs.[222] It would send out just the right message to those thinking about becoming parliamentary candidates. We do not believe that the provision of proper arrangements for disabled Members to do their jobs and represent their constituents need upset important constitutional principles or cause "considerable disruption to parliamentary proceedings", as long as the House is organised to do it and explains what is available.

309. Above all, and consistently with our overriding belief in the importance of the 'social model' of disability, we see 'reasonable' adjustments for disabled Members as a right, not a privilege. Parliament already publishes a clear and helpful booklet of information for "Members of both Houses and pass holders escorting visitors with disabilities". Something similar, meeting the need for clarity and enshrining the House's acceptance of responsibility for making adjustments, could be produced to cover other aspects of the working lives of Members. A new leaflet is in preparation explaining the facilities available to Members with disabilities and where they can get support. It is important that disabled Members should have all the information they need, and that a clear signal comes from the House to every potential disabled candidate that Parliament is committed to demolishing the barriers.

310. We welcome the range of effective measures which have been taken by the authorities in both Houses in recent years to meet the needs of disabled Members. Parliament responds well, in the vast majority of cases, to specific requests for assistance. However, there is still a largely unfair impression among some people that the House of Commons does not welcome disabled Members. The House needs to put this right. We recommend that the House should explicitly accept its responsibility to provide the support needed to enable disabled Members to do their job. In particular, the Parliamentary ICT service (PICT) should designate an experienced liaison officer to provide customised advice and support to maximise access to computing and other communications technology for disabled Members who require it. The passage into law of the Equality Bill currently before Parliament will be a good opportunity for the House authorities to announce publicly how committed they are to supporting disabled Members. The House should therefore make an early policy statement that it will apply fully the principles of the Equality Bill on reasonable adjustment and discrimination. This should cover both areas where the House is required to act within the law and those where it is not so required.

311. We also recommend that the House should provide to each Member information on all the facilities and assistance available for disabled Members, which should be given wide publicity amongst disabled people and updated regularly. We also urge the parties to make this information widely known among their own members, to give potential parliamentary candidates confidence that support will be provided. We would also encourage the authorities in the House of Lords similarly to consider what further steps can be taken to improve the situation for disabled peers. In general we believe that any recommendations made by the occupational health service about the facilities and assistance which should be made available for disabled Members should be accepted by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

312. Funding can be a problem for disabled MPs, as it is for disabled candidates. As noted above, the House currently makes additional funding to disabled Members through its allowances system. However, Scope's research suggested that MPs "often had little knowledge of what was perceived as a highly ad-hoc system of allocating additional funds. There is also virtually no knowledge of the availability of such funding outside of Westminster, potentially dissuading good PPCs from standing." The current discussions on reforms to parliamentary allowances should take account of the need to reduce the barriers to disabled people who wish to become MPs. We are also concerned to see better provision specifically to enable disabled MPs to serve their constituents better, for instance through provision of BSL interpreters for surgeries. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is to take over responsibility for the determination and payment of allowances from the House and decisions about the level of funding for disability assistance will be for the new authority, although we would expect that the House's occupational health department would also continue to have a key role in the operation of any new scheme.

313. We see benefits in the idea of a ring-fenced fund to assist disabled Members to make reasonable adjustments to help them serve their constituents. This might fund better access to constituency offices or the provision of BSL interpreters for surgeries, and would be of particular assistance to newly-elected disabled MPs. We recommend that the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority includes provision for this in its allowances scheme, and we expect IPSA and the House authorities to work closely together on the provision of services and allowances to disabled MPs, and to devise a scheme which provides the help that is needed.

314. But how should this new approach be taken forward? Internally, there will be a need for a plan and consistent and coordinated monitoring of it, covering both internal and external activities. There is a successful precedent in the UK. The National Assembly for Wales has a very active Equalities Team, the main aims of which are to widen access and engagement and promote equality. It works with a mandate from the Presiding Officer and the Assembly Commission to make the Assembly an exemplar organisation on diversity for staff, Members and the general public. We met informally with some of the members of the team when we visited Cardiff. There would be value in a similar permanent team being established in the House, building on the House's existing Corporate Diversity team, with clearer responsibilities for promoting and monitoring progress on equality issues both internally and externally.

315. We believe that the House and its Members would benefit from having a small in-house team on the model of the National Assembly for Wales Equalities Team, responsible for monitoring how the House is doing on all equalities issues and also for planning provision for disabled Members, staff and visitors. The team would have responsibility both for internal and external work to promote greater diversity and equality. It should also liaise with IPSA.


316. A number of witnesses suggested that society's attitudes to those who experience mental illness discouraged such people from putting themselves forward for selection as candidates. In the opinion of several witnesses, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983 illustrated this problem vividly. Section 141 provides for the notification of the Speaker if a Member of Parliament is authorised to be detained on grounds of mental illness.[223] This means that a Member could lose his or her seat in Parliament if detained under the Mental Health Act for a period of six months or more. The provision has never been used.

317. The Royal College contrasted the position of those detained in this way with the situation facing those with a physical illness:[224]

    By contrast there are no provisions to remove an MP if he or she suffers from a physical illness, even if the illness (e.g. a serious stroke or cancer) is very debilitating and substantially affects the person's ability to perform their parliamentary functions. Furthermore, a person who lacks mental capacity may also be detained under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 but does not thereby automatically lose his or her seat as a result.

318. The Royal College then went on to urge repeal of s141 on the basis that "there is no relevant distinction between these two latter situations and that covered by section 141 of a person who has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act." The College believed that "type of illness, and whether the MP has been subject to the Mental Health Act should not be the primary concern, but rather it should be the effect the particular health problem has on an individual's ability to perform the functions of an MP."

319. The Royal College then argued that :

    By removing the seat of an MP who is detained under the Mental Health Act, the law also gives the false impression that an MP cannot recover from a mental disorder. This is a wholly out of date viewpoint and runs counter to the modern approach to recovery in mental health.

320. Several witnesses pointed out that s141 has never been used, but believed that its very existence meant that mental illness carried an unjust stigma. A survey carried out on behalf of the All-Party Group on Mental Health showed that "MPs had a significant experience of mental distress both personally and among friends and family, but they were worried about disclosing this because of fear of the stigma and discrimination that is associated. The Group therefore argued that repealing Section 141 of the Mental Health Act would be a symbolic step towards addressing this stigma."[225]

321. Similar evidence was provided by the charity Rethink,[226] which considered that Section 141 breaches Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights because "there is no provision for any hearing and no locus for the MP to represent themselves." Rethink pointed to the case of the former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who "spoke to the UK Parliament about his experience of mental ill health when in office as he recovered and went on to be re-elected for a second term."

322. Those who advocate repeal of Section 141 do so partly on the basis that its very existence is symbolic of prejudiced attitudes to people experiencing all kinds of mental health problems. Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications to Prime Minister Tony Blair, told the Conference of a report he had co-authored, entitled A World Without. This report, he said,

    was trying to show that if employers adopt discriminatory attitudes vis-à-vis people's history of mental illness, then an awful lot of very interesting, clever people would be cut right out of the workforce … the point was that if people were excluded from gainful employment on account of having mental health problems then you would be kicking out not just Churchill, but Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, all sorts of people who, today, had what would be termed mental health problems. [227]

323. Mr Campbell noted the difficulty for politicians, and public figures of all sorts, in admitting to mental health problems, and saw one answer in greater openness among Members:

    "if there were a few parliamentarians around the place who popped up at conferences, and so forth, and were able to give really open support to the work that the mental health charities are doing, that would help, and I think also it would help change the mood within this place."[228]

324. There are arguments both for and against Section 141. In its favour, it may be said that the crux of the issue is not the illness itself but the detention of the Member by law, and the effects of that situation upon his or her ability to fulfil their parliamentary and constituency duties. A Member unable to attend Parliament is incapable of working for constituents or attending the House. A similar principle lies behind other categories of disqualification, such as disqualification because a Member is in prison for more than a year. Neither is s141 directly relevant to people with a wide range of milder conditions which impair their mental health; it could only ever apply to a small number of people with serious conditions that really need to be detained.

325. On the other hand, the law on disqualification from Membership is not consistent or logical in its treatment of various types of illness or disorder. If a Member suffers from serious physical illness—say a stroke—that can leave constituents effectively un-represented in much the same way as if a Member has a serious mental disorder. Yet there is no parallel provision to s141 of the Mental Health Act 1983 for cases of physical illness. We have received substantial evidence from a number of sources, both expert and lay, to suggest that s141 wrongly implies that mental illness is in some way fundamentally different in its effects from physical illness. Yet the House, through its medical services, can provide care and assistance for those with mental illness, just as it can for those with physical illness.

326. We have seen the evidence that, fearful of stigma, disabled people and those with illnesses sometimes fail to make their impairments public. There is a danger, therefore, that s141 might deter Members from admitting their mental health problems and seeking suitable treatment. So, from a purely medical point of view, the section may not operate in the best interests of MPs. Section 141 is a vivid, continuing and unfair symbol of the particular and potentially harmful stigma that attaches to mental illness.

327. We believe that s141 of the 1983 Mental Health Act is unnecessary and damaging. It embodies attitudes which stigmatise and sap the confidence of people with mental illness. Section 141 should be repealed as soon as practicable.

328. We recognise, however, that some provision may be needed to protect the legitimate interests of constituents and the House in circumstances where a Member is physically or mentally incapacitated to the extent that he or she is entirely unable to fulfil their duties for an extended period. We recommend that the House should invite an appropriate select committee to undertake an inquiry into this issue, consider whether new legislation or other measures may be needed, and make recommendations to the House and to Government as appropriate.

329. The House medical services can provide care and support for those with mental illness when necessary, but information about what is available should be more effectively circulated. We recommend that an information pack and supporting guidance on the House's occupational health services should be sent to all Members of Parliament immediately after each General Election.

Aggression in Parliamentary culture

330. The image of a 'yah-boo' culture in Parliament is widespread and clearly off-putting, not only to the general public but also to potential candidates. The perception of parliamentary culture as aggressive was frequently cited as a barrier to participation in the written evidence we received, on our online forum and in our discussions around the country.[229] The example many people give for Parliament's aggressiveness is Prime Minister's Questions which, every week, is a focal point for media reporting on Westminster.


331. Media reporting of Parliament is attracted to the dramatic, and it is often personalities and emotions which make the headlines, rather than the policy under examination. We accept that in many cases the tensions between people and parties, which are frequently displayed at Prime Minister's Questions, create an easy 'entry point' to a story for the media. The cumulative effect of continually reporting conflict, however, is to portray Westminster as a crudely aggressive place when, most of the time, it is not.

332. The work Members do outside the main Chamber of the House is less widely reported than debates on the floor of the House. We can understand why. Some of it, such as discussion of the fine print in bills on taxation or pensions, can be deeply technical while other parts such as a committee inquiry into the collapse of dairy co-operatives, or a presentation to a Minister (an adjournment debate) about a constituency problem, may be of particular interest to only a small number of people. There is also a great deal going on at any one time and on any one day. Parliamentary news has to compete for space and airtime with news from many other sources; no wonder journalists put the emphasis on the stories that grab the attention most easily.

333. The simple fact that there is so much activity in the House means that broadcasters and journalists need to be selective about what debates and meetings they attend, write about and broadcast. At present, it can be argued that there is a lack of balance in media coverage of Parliament between 'set piece' debates in the Chamber and the less heated discussion in other settings. When the media do cover select committees, they naturally tend to focus on confrontation and tough scrutiny of individuals rather than the measured debate which is the norm. Correcting the balance would benefit Parliament in several ways. Greater reporting of constructive committee hearings and events outside the main Chamber would:

·  increase public understanding of the breadth of Parliamentary activity and the work of backbenchers;

·  clearly demonstrate that there is more to the work and culture of the Commons, and of individual Members, than barracking, shouting and trying to get one over on the other side; and could

·  re-engage those members of the public who find the presentation of debates and questions in the Chamber tiresome and off-putting.

334. Part of the responsibility for the predictable and occasionally sensationalist nature of current Parliamentary coverage must rest with the House itself: Parliament itself could take more of the initiative in explaining what is happening, and why it matters. We welcome the establishment of a central Press Office for the House of Commons (the Media and Communications Service) following the Modernisation Committee's report of 2003-04[230] and particularly its role in actively promoting the work of select committees. However, if the media tends to focus on the more confrontational and dramatic elements of the House's work, this may be because more needs to be done to address the challenge presented by mainstream news values.

335. The House of Commons Media and Communications Service should identify new approaches in both old and new media which would bring the more measured and less heated elements of the House's work to a wider audience. We urge Members to take the opportunities thus offered to present the work of the House in a more constructive light.

336. While there is little reporting of the work Members do to scrutinise Government outside the main Chamber, the national media is even less interested in the work Members do for their constituents. If we accept that much of what Members do is unlikely to be reported on by the media, a logical response must be for Members to seek to report it themselves more effectively than they do at present. Many Members are able to correspond with their constituents through local or regional newspapers but the internet, and the development of blogs and social networking sites, are changing the ways in which events are reported. It is now much easier for individual Members to communicate their achievements and ideas directly to constituents, if they can harness the technology.

337. At present many Members remain reluctant to use the internet. We acknowledge that it is not as easy for Members to blog as it is for journalists. The public expects MPs to be consistent in their views, sometimes over periods of many years, where the same expectation does not exist for journalists. There will also be those who will read blogs in search of opportunities to manipulate and exploit perceived differences between the Member and their political party. These concerns, however, can be addressed. A Member should not have any more difficulty communicating via a blog than via a newspaper column or television interview, if it is approached in the same way as those more formal communications. Blogging regularly, if not daily, could help inform people what Members do on a daily basis. It can also be a relatively low-cost way for Members to communicate with their constituents. The House service should make training available to Members for communication through the internet.


338. In politics, as in other walks of life, individuals are frequently criticised not for their performance but for some aspect of themselves. Politics as a profession requires Members of Parliament to invest much of their personality in their work, and they live their lives substantially in the public eye. Their families also live partially in the public eye, by association: one has only to think of what is generally known about the family life of political leaders compared to what is generally known about the family life of captains of industry to see the difference. The fear of intrusion and personal attacks is a major deterrent to people standing for office, and there is a perception that Members and candidates who "deviate[] from the norm, as it were … white male, middle-aged, middle-class"[231] are more likely to suffer them.

339. Both disabled people and members of the LGBT communities told us of their deep concern over such attacks, which are sometimes the result of prejudice and stigma. A witness from the Leonard Cheshire Foundation wrote of his conviction that both political opponents and the media would "draw out maggoty slurs" against disabled candidates: the phrase powerfully indicates the unpleasantness of such an experience.[232] Paul Martin of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation noted the stereotyping which prompted the media to label one party leadership candidate a "Limp Dem",[233] while community activists in Manchester told us that the media treatment of local MP Maureen Colquhoun, when she came out as a lesbian in the 1970s,[234] was so vicious that it continued to be a deterrent to potential lesbian candidates more than thirty years on.

340. The anticipation of such attacks can create a double barrier: potential candidates may not only fear public humiliation of itself, but also perceive that the only way to escape such attacks is to be impossibly perfect. Paul Martin said,

    "It is that real fear that people will be criticised because of their sexual orientation, that they will be humiliated in public, that actually does stop them from disclosing, and my sense is that "out" lesbians and gay men, in the same way as many black politicians, disabled politicians and so on, have to be better than their peers in order to participate and get up the slippery pole because of that difference".[235]

341. While specific concerns about stigma may be less acute in other groups, similar fears and concerns were expressed to us by others. Contributors to our informal meetings and online forum said that they would not stand as Members of Parliament because they did not want their past lives and particularly their sexual history subjected to media scrutiny.[236] Women were particularly likely to express concerns that, by putting themselves in the public eye as political candidates, they might expose their partners and families to unwanted media attention and possible criticism. The recent press censure of a woman Member for her childcare arrangements validates their concerns.

342. The 2001 Commission on Candidate Selection expressed a vision of "a virtuous circle in which Parliament works better and is seen as more socially inclusive—thus encouraging a wider variety of people to put themselves forward"; it said that this could only be achieved if there were

    a more mature debate in the media and elsewhere about the role of politicians. The strident, hostile and intrusive nature of reporting and editorialising in some newspapers about politicians and their private lives turns many voters off politics and discourages talented people from putting themselves forward as candidates.[237]

343. The media are, quite properly, an independent force in our political system. Yet we, like the Commission on Candidate Selection before us, would wish to see an end to strident, hostile and intrusive reporting of politicians' private lives which is destructive not only of those individuals but also of their families, relationships, and of the democratic process itself.


344. There is a responsibility upon us as individual Members also to remember that we should uphold the dignity of our profession and of Parliament. We acknowledge that Members as well as outside commentators have been known to abuse other Members, of their own and other parties. Such behaviour among colleagues would not be considered acceptable in most professions and brings the profession of Parliamentarian into disrepute. Members should treat their colleagues, across all parties, with courtesy.

193   SC93 Back

194   MPs' expenses and allowances, Twelfth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life November 2009 Cm 7724 paragraph 2.8 Back

195   SC103 Back

196   SC103 Back

197   SC104 Back

198   SC105 Back

199   SC111 Back

200   SC108 Back

201   The House voted on 30 April 2009 that Members' staff should be centrally employed by the House; the Commission then reported on 27 October that Members should remain the employer. The House has yet to consider the Commission report. Back

202   SC104  Back

203   HC Deb 10 Dec 2009: Column 35WS Back

204   Standing Order No. 9. The times given here do not include the final half hour of each day which is allocated for backbench Members' debates. Back

205   SO No. 10 Back

206   SC103 Back

207   SC93 Back

208   Modernisation Committee, First Report of Session (2004-05), Sitting Hours, HC 88 paragraphs 6-7 Back

209   SO No. 41A Back

210   On sitting Tuesdays in session 2008-09 divisions were called before 8pm on 54% of days. On sitting Mondays in both sessions and on sitting Tuesdays in session 2007-08 divisions were called before 8pm on less than 50% of days. Back

211   SC103 Back

212   Q434 Back

213   Ev 8 Back

214   Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Section 65  Back

215   Joint Committee on the Draft Disability Discrimination Bill,2003-04Report, Volume II HL 82-II/HC 35-II:Memorandum from the Clerk of the House of Commons and the Clerk of the Parliaments (DDB 100)  Back

216   Ibid.  Back

217   Ibid. Back

218   Q 326 Back

219   Ibid.  Back

220   Q 317 Back

221   Q 316 Back

222   Ev 182 Back

223   The Mental Health Act 2007 amended the Mental Health Act 1983, changing the term "mental illness" to "mental disorder" which is more broadly defined.  Back

224   Ev 223 Back

225   Ev 223 Back

226   Ev 237 Back

227   Q265 Back

228   Q267 Back

229   See, for example, Ev 43; Ev 47; Ev 49; Ev 72; Ev 167; Ev 170; Ev 173; Q 174  Back

230   Modernisation Committee, First Report of Session 2003-04, Connecting Parliament with the Public, HC 368, para 121 Back

231   Q352 Back

232   Ev 183-184 Back

233   Q374 Back

234   See The Divided House:Women at Westminster by Melanie Phillips, Sidgwick & Jackson 1980 Back

235   Q374 Back

236   http://forums.parliament.uk/speakers-conference/index.php?read,1,121 Back

237   Report of the Commission on Candidate Selection, Peter Riddell, 2003 p33 Back

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