Responses to the Speaker's Conference (on Parliamentary Representation): Final Report of Session 2009-10 - Speaker's Conference (on Parliamentary Representation) Contents

Appendix 4: The Labour Party's response

Recommendations 7-10

Political parties are the mechanism by which people of any background can be actively involved in the tasks of shaping policy and deciding how society should be governed. While they are not perfect organisations they are essential for the effective functioning of our democracy. Without the support of political parties it would be difficult for individual Members of Parliament, as legislators and/or as members of the Executive, to organise themselves effectively for the task of promoting the national interest—including by challenge to the Government, where that is necessary and appropriate—and ensuring that proposed new laws are proportionate, effective and accurately drafted. (Paragraph 55)

The extent to which political parties are the subject of both contempt and general public indifference should be a cause of concern to all who are interested in how our country is run. We acknowledge that the recent disclosures about Members' allowances and some Members' expenses claims have been extremely damaging, but a general dwindling of attachment to political parties—going wider than the decline in formal membership—has been apparent over more than 40 years. (Paragraph 59)

It is important to the future of our democracy that political parties are able to continue to function. As Nan Sloane, Centre for Women and Democracy, put it, "The democratic process we have may not be a perfect way of governing ourselves but it is better than most of the other ones that there are out there and it is very dangerous to have that undermined." In this context it is clear that the effective functioning of political parties is very much in the public interest. (Paragraph 60)

It is in the interests of any political party which wishes to achieve, and sustain, a period in government that it should foster local activism and seek to build up social capital and trust. Active, healthy and accessible local political parties will also play a vital role in identifying and nurturing a greater diversity of MPs for the future. (Paragraph 64)


We are pleased that the Conference has recognised the importance of political parties to the health of our democracy. Political parties are the main vehicles for political representation and accountability in this country, and as such are the main vehicles by which equality in Parliament will be achieved.

If the body politic is to be representative and relevant, then it follows that political parties must be too. The Labour Party recognised this some decades ago, and has sought to improve its structures and processes from the grassroots up, to build a party that is inclusive, accountable, and looks like those it seeks to represent.

Though it has not always been an easy path down which to travel, the Party has made great strides forward. Yet there is still more to do, and we would be delighted to work with the government, the Speaker's Conference, other parties and the House Authorities in addressing these important issues.

Recommendation 11

The Government should consult on the introduction of a scheme enabling local political parties to apply for funding linked to their receipts from member subscriptions. The scheme should be administered by a suitable independent body and the details of all funding allocations made should be published. Local political parties should also expect to make some account of the way in which they use the funding to support the development of social capital. This consultation should take place in the first session of the 2010 Parliament. (Paragraph 74)


Political parties are essential to the health of our democracy, and must be resourced effectively if they are to properly fulfil this role. Active and vibrant local parties in all parts of the country will clearly be of benefit to our communities and develop social capital within them. Any decision to link public funding of political parties to membership subscriptions is, of course, a matter for government. We have recently experimented with providing financial incentives—in the form of additional campaign materials—to local Labour parties based on their level of engagement with the community, and found it to be extremely effective. We would be happy to participate in any consultation on how such a scheme would work in practice.

Recommendation 12

Each national party needs to develop a systematic plan of action to support the development of local parties. As part of this plan parties should draw up a checklist of actions which will promote diversity (such as meeting in accessible venues) and might also offer practical support and incentives to local parties which adopt measures on the checklist. (Paragraph 77)


We are committed to making the Labour Party accessible to its members at every level, from local party meetings to national conferences. Working closely with the Labour Party Disabled Members Group, we have developed an accessibility guide which has been sent to all local parties to make them aware of their responsibility to conduct their business in a way that reflects our collective commitment to involving people with different accessibility needs. Similarly, we have recently developed a pack for local parties outlining measures they should take to make their meetings and activities accessible to younger members. We also provide a Women's Officer handbook to those elected as Women's Officers in local parties which outlines their role and provides practical advice for both recruiting and involving women members. We will look to work with the relevant national groups—BAME Labour and LGBT Labour to develop similar guides to ensure that both BAME and LGBT members play as full and active a role as possible.

Recommendation 13

We recommend that all political parties appoint national and/or regional community champions for women, and people from BME and LGBT communities, and disabled people. The champions' remit should include supporting individuals from those communities in finding and sustaining a suitable role within the party. Consideration should also be given to formalising strategies for talent spotting within parties and within the wider community. (Paragraph 79)


The Labour Party currently supports a range of organisations operating both nationally and regionally to represent people from the diverse range of backgrounds who are active within the Party, and to increase participation amongst these groups. These include the Labour Women's Network, LGBT Labour, BAME Labour and the Labour Party Disabled Members Group. These groups play a particularly important role in talent-spotting and supporting members through mentoring and other means. We welcome any suggestions from the Speaker's Conference as to how we can formalise and improve these mechanisms.

The executives of local Labour Parties must contain officers representing women, BAME members and young members, and we employ quotas at every level of the Party to ensure that all committees are gender-balanced. This ensures that at every level there are women championing diversity, and we will look at new mechanisms to similarly support and encourage champions from other diverse groups.

Recommendation 14

A description of the main functions of a Member of Parliament should be drawn up, agreed between the parties and published. The description should not remove the scope for MPs to approach the job of representing their constituency in various ways; it should contain general principles and main objectives and tasks, rather than highly detailed prescriptions. Greater transparency about the terms and conditions under which MPs work has been achieved since the mid-1990s but the process has not been completed; nor has it been matched by a clearer explanation of the role of Members. More is needed. This information should be consolidated, published (on the internet and in hard copy) and made widely available to the general public. (Paragraph 87)


The Labour Party already publishes a Job Description for Members of Parliament and this is readily available to members on our website. We sent a copy of this to the Speaker's Conference at an earlier date. The job description and accompanying person specification are designed to highlight that many different backgrounds and experiences can be relevant to the role of MP, beyond those of local council leader and parliamentary researcher/SPAD. We are particularly keen to stress the relevance of experience such as juggling work and caring responsibilities; voluntary work; and trade union activism. We would be happy to work with the Conference and other parties on a more general job description accessible to members of the public.

Recommendation 15

It is important to ensure that there is no single route into politics which is accessible only to a privileged few. The routes by which future Members come into Parliament should be monitored and information published by the political parties. (Paragraph 102)


We absolutely agree with the Conference's conclusion that many different backgrounds provide relevant experience to the job of MP. The Labour Party was founded to give working people a voice in Parliament, and we are proud of our record in opening up the House to people of diverse backgrounds. Currently the Parliamentary Labour Party numbers in its ranks former miners, transport workers, trade union officials, and many who worked in our public services. We have begun monitoring the professional background of our PPCs, and will look to improve this in the next parliament.

Recommendation 16

There would be value in the parties being more open about both the qualities, and the experience, they consider to be desirable for a prospective parliamentary candidate. If it becomes clear that certain types of experience—such as a spell as a party employee or as an MP's researcher—are preferred, the parties should consider how those experiences can be made more accessible. (Paragraph 103)


The Labour Party's job description and person specification for MPs is freely available to members on our website. This clearly states the qualities and experiences we consider desirable in a prospective parliamentary candidate. We stress that many different types of experience are relevant, and think we are a more diverse parliamentary party, with a wider range of expertise because of it.

Whilst knowledge of Parliament and party structures is useful for an aspiring MP, so too are other forms of experience, such as knowledge of local government, local campaigns and community activism. Our affiliated trade unions, who participate fully in our selections process, provide many opportunities for non-professional candidates, who nonetheless have extremely relevant experience for Parliament to draw upon.

We accept that internships and posts as MP's researchers are many young people's first experience of the political process, and some may go on to become MPs. It is important that every member has an equal opportunity to take up such positions, and we will work with the PLP to ensure this is the case.

Recommendation 17

Greater diversity in our elected representatives will be achieved only when the culture of our political parties has been changed. This change in our political parties should be driven by the changes we see in wider society, which requires and demands greater diversity in all representative organisations and bodies. Party leaders can help to challenge stereotypes of an effective Member, or Minister, by ensuring that MPs from all backgrounds and communities are able to demonstrate their skills in positions of prominence, either within Government or within the party. (Paragraph 104)


We agree that role-models for under-represented groups are important to breaking down perceptions and stereotypes.

We are proud to have had the:

first Black MPs (Bernie Grant and Diane Abbott);

first Muslim MP (Mohammad Sarwar);

first Asian Minister in the Commons (Keith Vaz);

first Black Cabinet Minister (Paul Boateng);

first Asian and Muslim minister to attend Cabinet (Sadiq Khan);

first black Leader of the Lords (Baroness Amos);

first Black, and female Attorney General (Patricia Scotland);

first Black female Minister in the Commons (Dawn Butler).

Recommendation 18

Behaviour at selection panels which discriminates against candidates on grounds of their sex, background or personal circumstances can never be justified. (Paragraph 112)


The Labour Party's rule book specifically prohibits such behaviour and where it can be proven, would take strong action against any individual found to have engaged in such behaviour.

Recommendation 19

Political parties should make diversity awareness training, advice and support available to party members involved in candidate selections. (Paragraph 116)


The importance of diversity as a core value of the Labour Party is highlighted throughout the guidance provided to CLP procedure secretaries when conducting a selection. We run special selections training for ethnic minority candidates and women, and we are looking to extend that to LGBT and disabled candidates.

Furthermore, groups such as Labour Women's Network, BAME Labour, Dorothy's List, and the Labour Party Disabled Members' Group have provided training and guidance to local parties. Affiliated organisations, such as trade unions, have also provided their own training to under-represented groups within their own organisations who wish to be Labour Party parliamentary candidates.

Recommendation 20

In practice all-women shortlist selections have been carried out by UK local parties in exactly the same way as traditional or 'open' selections, in every respect other than the formal requirement that all the candidates are women. We were told that the role of the all-women shortlist is solely to reduce the discretion available to local party selection committees to demonstrate bias in favour of men. (Paragraph 138)


The Labour Party changed the law to permit political parties to use positive action to address the shameful under-representation of women in the House of Commons. Our Conference's subsequent adoption of All-Women Shortlists had immediate and dramatic results. Women's representation in the PLP rose from 14% in 1992 to 24% in 1997 when we used All-Women Shortlists. After they were declared illegal, at the next election (2001) the number of women in the PLP fell. Once we changed the law to once again permit All-Women Shortlists, our number of women MPs rose once again, to 28% in 2005. This year (as at March 2010) 57% of candidates selected in Labour-held seats are women.

We have never used All-Women Shortlists in a vacuum, but alongside other measures such as training, mentoring, quotas on shortlists, etc. However, it is our belief that All-Women Shortlists are a temporary necessity in order to counter discrimination until such time as the House is more balanced in composition and the political culture has changed to one in which people are accustomed to seeing women in positions of power and influence.

It is important to reiterate that the decision to adopt All-Women Shortlists was taken by our Conference, reflecting the views of the majority of our members, rather than imposed from above. We have since worked hard to maintain and build support for that policy, and to maintain a dialogue with members who disagree, especially where controversial decisions have been taken. It will never be a policy with which every member agrees, and as such it is important to continually argue the case for it, specifically that its continuation is a democratic imperative.

There is no doubt that All-Women Shortlists have been the decisive factor in the improvements that we have made to our levels of women's representation, and we are disappointed that other political parties have not followed our lead. There has never been a country in the world that has significantly increased its levels of women's representation without the use of positive action mechanisms to address discrimination.

Recommendation 21

If the number of women MPs in the House of Commons falls at the 2010 election it will make more pressing the need for all the main parties to be assertive in their equality policies. (Paragraph 143)


We are very hopeful, given the progress that we have made in our selections this parliament, that the number of women in Parliament will not fall, but rather increase. However, whether the number of women MPs rises or falls, as long as women remain so shamefully under-represented in the House, the need for all main parties to be assertive in their equality policies will remain pressing for a considerable time to come.

Recommendation 22

We welcome the progress which each of the main parties has made over recent years towards ensuring that its local selection procedures are more professional and objective than they have been in the past. Yet the fact that, in most cases, it remains more difficult for a candidate who does not fit the "white, male, middle-class" norm to be selected, particularly if the seat is considered by their party to be winnable, means that the case for equality of representation has not yet been won. It is essential that the leadership of each of the political parties—large and small—continues to make this case in discussion with their members and activists, and also takes the measures necessary to secure progress. (Paragraph 146)


We dispute the premise that it is easier for "white, male, middle-class" candidates to be selected by the Labour Party in Labour-held seats. Whilst this might have been true in the past, since the Labour government passed the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 and we reintroduced All-Women Shortlists, some in our party have argued that the opposite is true!

The reality is that we have sought to strike a balance between taking the necessary action to improve women's representation in our Party, whilst maintaining opportunities for the many talented men in our ranks who aspire to be MPs. We believe this is a balance we are maintaining well: in 2005, in Labour-held seats, 70% selected women; as of March 2010, in Labour-held seats, 57% have selected women.

We have also selected Black and Asian candidates in some of our safest seats, and whilst we acknowledge that there is a lot more to do, these are problems we recognise and are intent upon addressing.

Recommendation 23

We fully support the proposed extension of the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 to enable the use of all-women shortlists until 2030. Equivalent enabling legislation should now be enacted to allow political parties, if they so choose, to use all-BME shortlists. Like the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 such provision should be time-limited and should be subject to review prior to 2030. (Paragraph 149)


We are pleased that the government proposes to extend the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002, and that the Conference recognises the value of this move. We hope that other political parties will follow our lead and introduce All-Women Shortlists as the swiftest and most effective means of addressing the under-representation of women.

We also recognise the under-representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic MPs, and agree that much more needs to be done to address this. We presently use quotas when drawing up shortlists for selections to ensure those shortlists are reflective of the wider community. This ensures that women and BAME candidates are included on shortlists, even where an open selection is taking place. This ensures that there is always at least one BAME candidate on every shortlist (where an All-Women Shortlist is being used, there must be at least one BAME woman candidate). We are pleased that we have selected BAME candidates in some of our safest seats, including some excellent BAME women candidates.

However, whilst we think more needs to be done, there is no consensus amongst our BAME activists, nor the wider BAME community, that all-BAME shortlists are the best way to address this under-representation.

Recommendation 24

Candidate selections for the following general election will begin, for some parties, within the first twelve to eighteen months of the 2010 Parliament. These selections will be equally important for securing cultural change within parties and within the House of Commons. In this context we particularly welcome the indications from the opposition party leaders that they are open-minded on the matter of equality guarantees. If the political parties fail to make significant progress on women's representation at the 2010 general election, Parliament should give serious consideration to the introduction of prescriptive quotas, ensuring that all political parties adopt some form of equality guarantee in time for the following general election. (Paragraph 156)


We are confident that at our current rate of selections, we will make significant progress on women's representation at the 2010 general election.

Nonetheless, the Labour Party is not opposed to quotas in principle. We use them in the Party to ensure women's representation at every level, from Constituency Committees, to Annual Conference, to the National Executive Committee. We also used a variation on quotas: 'twinning' when selecting seats for the newly-established Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament.

However, imposing quotas on a long-established Parliament, under the First-Past-the-Post electoral system, presents practical problems, and would likely encounter public opposition. The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act provides political parties with every opportunity to take steps to address under-representation. We would encourage all political parties to take full advantage of the Act's provisions. If all political parties had taken the same steps we have since 1997, there would be substantially more women in Parliament today.

Recommendation 25

We welcome the openness of all three main party leaders—Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP, Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP and Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP—to the principle of publishing monitoring data in relation to candidate selections. This is an important indication of the commitment of all three main parties to the promotion of fairer representation in Parliament. We recommend that all political parties registered under part 2 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 should be required to publish details of their candidate selections online every six months, on 31 March and 31 October, setting out, for each potential candidate at each stage of the selection process, the following information:

(a) the administrative region in which the selection took place;

(b) the method by which the candidate was selected;

(c) whether the party:

(i) currently holds the seat for which the candidate was selected; or

(ii) came second or third in the seat at the last general election within a margin of less than 5% of the votes cast; or

(iii) came second or third in the seat at the last general election within a margin of more than five per cent but less than ten per cent of the votes cast;

(d) the sex of the candidate;

(e) the ethnicity of the candidate; and

(f) whether the candidate is willing to identify as a disabled person.

The reports might also include the following information:

(a) where a candidate is willing to identify as a disabled person, the nature of the impairment;

(b) where a candidate is willing to state his or her sexual orientation, the sexual orientation of the candidate;

(c) the age of the candidate;

(d) the occupation of the candidate at the time of selection; and

(e) the highest level of the candidate's educational attainment. (Paragraph 160)


Monitoring provides extremely valuable information in determining the extent of under-representation, and the pace of progress to address it, and we are pleased that the Conference recognises its importance.

We have monitored candidates by region, selection method, gender, and race for some years, as the Conference will have seen from the extensive data we provided. More recently we have begun monitoring disability, age, and occupation, and will look to improve this monitoring in the next Parliament. On sexual orientation, we have taken guidance from LGBT Labour, who provide us with the names of MPs and candidates who have advised them they are willing to openly state their sexual orientation. Given the sensitivities involved, we would prefer to continue with this approach. We are happy to add educational attainment to the list of factors we monitor.

As far as publishing this data, we are happy in principle, but would want to work with the Conference to ensure that candidates could not be identified from data given to us in confidence, and to ensure that data protection regulations are not breached.

We also believe that such an exercise, whilst valuable, should not place too onerous a burden on the parties' financial resources and staff time. Some seats receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants, most of whom are swiftly eliminated at the long-listing stage of a selection as not having met the person specification. To monitor all of these candidates, at every stage of the process would be onerous and do little to meet our shared objectives. Similarly, we anticipate that there are easier ways to establish a seat's marginality than complex calculations involving majorities and percentages. However, we anticipate that these are minor difficulties and look forward to working with the Conference in resolving them.

Recommendation 26

Following the 2010 general election all political parties represented at Westminster should publish a statement setting out the current proportion of their Parliamentary party which is: female; from a BME community; and/or identifies as a disabled person. The statement should also set out what proportion of the Parliamentary party the national party would like to see appearing in each of these categories in December 2015 and December 2020. This statement should be published by December 2010. In December 2015 and December 2020 the parties should publish further statements setting out what progress they have made towards just representation within the parliamentary party, compared to the 2010 baseline and the percentage of each group within the UK population as a whole. These reports should also include an evaluation of the mechanisms the parties have used to secure progress. (Paragraph 165)


We believe targets are important benchmarks against which to measure progress and provide an incentive to faster, more effective action. We would be happy to publish and evaluate our progress on a cross-party basis such as that described.

Paragraphs 28

We do not doubt that party leaders are sincere when they say that they want better access for disabled people. We recognise that they may be finding it difficult to make sure their policies are carried out at a local level where it matters. Nevertheless the shortage of funds must not be an excuse for local parties failing to make proper arrangements for disabled people to play their part in politics. (Paragraph 199)


We agree that access is essential in ensuring that disabled people play a full role in public life. Whilst resources are always constrained in local parties, they also have the benefit of being relatively flexible in their arrangements. We have therefore worked closely with the Labour Party Disabled Members Group to develop an accessibility guide which has been sent to all local parties to make them aware of their responsibility to hold fully accessible meetings and conduct their business in a way which reflects their commitment to involving people with different accessibility needs.

However, we accept that there is more work to be done to ensure that local parties are fully complying with our accessibility guidelines, and we will look at developing processes through our Regional Offices to ensure that all local party officers are fully up-to-date with accessibility guidelines.

Recommendation 30

We believe that all political parties should make it easier for disabled people to play a full part in party activities, initially by setting out a clear policy on access. At national level, this would mean for instance making sure that campaign documents are produced in Braille and other formats, that websites are easy to use for people with sight impairments, and that BSL interpretation or speech-to-text technology is available at major events. (Paragraph 201)


We produce an accessibility guide for disabled members that clearly sets out our policy on accessibility. We also provide BSL at all major events. Our website is designed to be accessible to disabled members, and we invite feedback as to how we can improve on this. Whilst we would find it prohibitively expensive to produce all campaign literature and party documents in Braille, we promote the fact that we are happy to produce documents in alternative formats on a case by case basis, such as for blind delegates at Annual Conference. We constantly solicit feedback as to what more we can be doing in this area, and would be willing to consider any further suggestions the Conference might have.

Recommendation 31

But there also needs to be a realistic policy for local parties, encouraging co-operation and making the best of the limited money available. The ideas and practical suggestions set out in the guide and handbook produced by the Labour Party Disabled Members' Group would form a good basis for this policy, for all political parties. (Paragraph 202)


We are pleased that the Conference recognises the good work of the Labour Party Disabled Members' Group, and their efforts to support the Party in promoting accessible and inclusive local CLPs.

Recommendation 32

All political parties should place a ceiling upon the expenses which candidates can incur during any single selection process. (Paragraph 212)


We did not recognise some of the large sums, running into the thousands, that were cited during evidence to the Speaker's Conference as the costs involved in running for Parliamentary selection. Indeed, in the Labour Party we have found that candidates who have spent large sums on leaflets and other campaign materials have found it to be counter-productive.

However, we do accept that lack of resources should never be a barrier to selection. Several internal groups, including Emily's List, Bernie's List, Dorothy's List and our affiliated trade unions, provide financial support to aspirant candidates, and we will look to see how that level of support can be improved to reach all candidates who are in financial or practical difficulty in selection campaigns.

Recommendation 34

There is overwhelming evidence that shortage of money and the necessity of additional expenditure to support disabled people through candidacy, make finance a particularly significant barrier to elected office for disabled people. Disabled people should be able to fight for parliamentary seats without having to face the complicated financial barriers that confront them at present. This is not a question of political advantage, but a simple matter of achieving just representation. (Paragraph 220)


We entirely agree that lack of money should not be a barrier to those wanting to be MPs, and as detailed above, there are numerous internal Labour Party organisations which provide assistance to those in financial need. However, we are not complacent, and recognise there may be those whose particular needs may mean money is still a problem. We look forward to working with the Speaker's Conference to consider and consult on the various ways additional financial support for such candidates might be obtained.

Recommendation 35

We therefore believe that the Government should urgently consider, as part of the Democracy Diversity Fund, a ring-fenced scheme to support disabled parliamentary candidates. This scheme for disabled candidates should use as its model the Access to Public Life Fund which has been proposed by Scope. The scheme should be devised and operated by the Department for Work and Pensions, and should be administered in the same way as the Access to Work scheme. (Paragraph 221)


We recognise that those with disabilities may have additional mobility and other needs that necessitate additional expenditure. We are happy to consult with the government, Speaker's Conference, and other parties on the best way to address this.

Recommendations 36-38

A measure which could help to reduce the burden on candidates would be for the Government to legislate to give approved prospective parliamentary candidates who are employees the right to request a reasonable amount of unpaid leave during working hours and/or a right to work flexibly for the purposes of campaigning. This would also, symbolically, recognise that the action of standing for election, whether or not the candidate is successful, is an essential part of our democratic process and of public benefit. (Paragraph 223)

The Government should legislate to enable approved prospective parliamentary candidates who are employees to take unpaid leave, rather than resigning their employment, for the period from the dissolution of Parliament to election day (Paragraph 224)

We recognise that, in the first instance, making such leave unpaid protects employers from any suggestion that they may be improperly financing a political campaign. In the long term we would like the Government to move to a position where candidates are entitled to receive a grant from the state equivalent to the minimum wage for the period sometimes known as the short campaign. (Paragraph 224)


We recognise that some candidates may experience a lack of understanding from their employer that might make it difficult for them to participate properly in selection contests. We are happy to consult with the government, Speaker's Conference, and other parties on the best way to address this.

Recommendation 39

Each central political party should consider drawing up statements of expectation setting out the role, and the reasonable demands which may be made, of both prospective parliamentary candidates and local party associations in different types of seat. (Paragraph 229)


We already produce a job description and person specification for parliamentary candidates that outlines the role of MP and some of the demands it entails. We will consult with our relevant stakeholders and look to drawing up a formal statement of expectation for both candidates and local parties after the 2010 election.

Recommendation 40

First-time candidates, in particular, would benefit from the establishment of formal mentoring schemes and/or 'buddy systems' which can provide pastoral support and independent advice on issues arising within the constituency. (Paragraph 230)


We strongly believe that mentoring schemes offer first-time candidates (and even those just considering putting themselves forward for selection) a hugely valuable insight and support mechanism. We have launched a formal mentoring scheme for women candidates—Winning with Women'—which is co-ordinated by the Women's PLP (the group of Labour women MPs). This scheme ensures that every woman candidate is offered a woman mentor in the PLP who can help them with both practical advice and pastoral support. We recently extended this scheme, working with the Labour Women's Network, to link women who are keen to put themselves forward for selection with women MPs who can provide them with support and advice about the selection process. We also work with the Youth and Student sections of our Party to ensure that young women members who are keen to gain experience or find out more about what public life entails are offered a mentor relevant to the section of public life they are considering—be that Westminster, Local Government or the devolved governments.

The regional groupings of MPs within the PLP also oversee a mechanism through which new MPs are supported by longer-standing MPs from the same region, helping to introduce new members to Parliamentary life and processes.

We believe the opportunities provided by the mentoring schemes we already have in place would be beneficial to other under-represented groups within the Party, and we will look at ways to extend the systems currently operating to that end.

Recommendation 41

Regional or central party officials should also consider whether further training support might be beneficial to candidates who have limited experience of formal management, team building and leadership roles. (Paragraph 231)


We currently hold a series of training events for parliamentary candidates, designed to prepare them with the skills needed for public life, including media training and public speaking. This training is part of a national programme, but candidate training also takes place at a regional level throughout the selections cycle. We regularly consult candidates on their training needs, and we will consult new MPs entering the next Parliament on whether additional training would have been helpful to them, so as to inform our next cycle of training events for new candidates.

Recommendation 42

We believe it should be possible for each Parliamentary party to maintain a list of individuals from under-represented groups, perhaps nominated by stakeholder organisations, who might by this means be notified of internships and temporary vacancies arising in Members' offices. All reasonable adjustment costs for the successful applicant should be funded for the duration of the appointment. We invite the political parties to work with stakeholder organisations to establish how this can best be done. (Paragraph 237)


We are keen to develop systems that will enable party members keen to gain experience in a political office the opportunity to do so through an internship. Currently an informal system is in place through the Youth and Student Sections, but we appreciate the need to widen this opportunity to other sections. We find that arrangements and systems for other under-represented groups are very informal, and are co-ordinated through the relevant group. For example LGBT Labour would assist an LGBT member who wanted to gain some direct experience by helping them to arrange an internship with one of our LGBT MPs. We recognise that these informal systems need to be tightened and formalised to ensure that everyone who wishes to access such opportunities is able to. We welcome any recommendations that the Speaker's Conference can provide as to how to do this most effectively.

Recommendation 44

The parties should each draw up a formal code of conduct for campaigning. This should make clear that campaigning is unacceptable where it seeks to undermine a candidate by reference to his or her family life, racial background, sexual orientation, health status or disability. These codes of conduct should be in place in time for the 2010 general election. (Paragraph 244)


We are happy to enter a cross-party formal code of conduct for campaigning. There is no place for discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, health status or disability in any election campaign.

Recommendations 45-48

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. (Paragraph 249)

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. (Paragraph 251)

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. (Paragraph 253)

Maternity, paternity and caring leave is an issue which all three main parliamentary parties have as yet failed to take fully seriously. (Paragraph 263)


As a Party we are extremely proud of our record in this area. Labour extended paid maternity leave to 39 weeks, which has now been increased to £123.06 a week. New mothers now have the right to 9 months paid maternity leave and up to a year in total. We have extended parental leave so that fathers have a right to paid paternity leave for the first time. New fathers now have the right to two weeks paid time off when their baby is born. Labour also introduced the right to request flexible working for parents of disabled children, and has extended this to cover carers of adults.

We introduced the rights for parents of young children to request flexible working from their employer—and from April 2009 we extended this to parents of all children up to 16, benefiting around 4.5 million parents. In addition, all parents and carers now have the right to time off to deal with unexpected problems such as family illness.

However, we recognise the need to ensure that MPs feel able to take up these rights just as other UK citizens are, and are willing to work with the House Authorities, other parties and the Speaker's Conference to address any existing problems.

Recommendation 49

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. (Paragraph 264)


The PLP does not presently hold formal policy in this area, though every effort is made to accommodate the individual needs of Members of Parliament. In part this is due to the unique employment status of a Member of Parliament.

With regards to authorised absence from the Government Whip on maternity, paternity or other caring leave—this is agreed with individual members. These are informal, flexible agreements that suit the needs of the individual Member. We have sought and received very positive feedback from the Members concerned on how these arrangements operate in practice.

Recommendation 53-54

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. (Paragraph 274)

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. (Paragraph 286)


We are proud of the modernisation of Parliament that has taken place since 1997, though we recognise there is more to do. We are happy to work with the Speaker's Conference, the House Authorities and other parties as to how best this can be achieved to ensure caring responsibilities are no barrier to a successful career in Parliament.

Recommendations 70-71

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. (Paragraph 343)

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. (Paragraph 344)


We entirely agree that in a 21st century Parliament MPs should treat their opponents and their colleagues with respect, and discrimination should not be tolerated. Public trust in Parliament is low, and it is essential that it be restored as soon as possible. Having a Parliament that looks like the communities it represents is one way to reconnect with the electorate. We are proud that we have led the way upon this issue, but recognise that we can build on our successes and do very much more. We welcome any support the Speaker's Conference can give us in addressing inequality within our own ranks.

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