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Centre for Women & Democracy
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What has happened to the Speaker's Conference Report?

21 May, 2010

The new Government's promise to 'shake up democracy' has dumped the contents of the recent all-party Speaker's Conference Report on Parliamentary Representation.

Earlier this year the Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation made its final report following a series of hearings lasting nearly a year, to which many organisations made detailed submissions, and at which all three Party leaders appeared in person to give evidence. The eventual report was published with all-party agreement, and the interim and final reports, as well as the evidence and responses, can be  downloaded here.

However, virtually none of its recommendations seem to appear anywhere at all in the new Government’s Coalition Agreement

CFWD is concerned by this on many levels, if only because the report contained a clear recommendation that, if there was not a real advance in the number of women in the House of Commons parliament should discuss the introduction of a quota system.

But the increase has actually been a total of just 16 women. Less than a quarter (actually 22%) of the UK's MPs are women. Despite all-party agreement that this is not good enough, the new coalition – whose leaders subscribe in theory to the need to increase women’s participation – seemed to regard doing anything about it as not even important enough to get into their agreement as a footnote.

CFWD's Director, Nan Sloane, said: 'The Speaker’s Conference report was not perfect, and although CFWD broadly welcomed it we had reservations about some of its conclusions. But it did offer us a real opportunity to have a serious debate in this country about how the diverse nature of our society should be represented in its legislature. That opportunity has been missed, and the implication is that it will not return during the course of this parliament – that is, for another five years.

'And we do not believe that measures to promote representational justice which have been widely consulted and reflected upon, and recommended in a parliamentary report with all-party agreement, should be unceremoniously dumped, whilst proposals – such as the promise to give anonymity to defendents in rape trials - which did not appear in any manifesto and have not had any public debate appear out of thin air.

'We are not going to give up on this, however, and we will be seeking to work with a wide range of people to keep women’s representation on the agenda.'