Parliament urged to encourage gay MPs

Political parties should do more to get gay MPs into Parliament, according to a report from a conference chaired by Commons Speaker John Bercow.

In a bid to increase the number of women MPs the report contains controversial plans to impose legal quotas for female parliamentary candidates on parties.

The report falls short of imposing the same radical requirement for homosexual candidates, but it calls on parties to work harder so that more homosexuals will stand as MPs.

The controversial cross-party Speaker’s Conference report was published on Monday. It aims to encourage greater participation in politics.

However, the report has been attacked by critics who insist that MPs should be chosen on their merits.

Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe said: “The concept of merit is going out of the window. I don’t care whether an MP is male or female, black or white, rich or poor, old or young.

“What matters is the merit they bring.”

The report repeats the statistic that between six and nine per cent of the population is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The six per cent figure was used by Government actuaries calculating the financial implications of civil partnerships, but has been called into question by official statistics released in 2008.

An Office of National Statistics survey revealed that just one per cent of Britons described themselves as homosexual.

The last Census, the most comprehensive survey of the UK population, found there are fewer than 40,000 same-sex households in England and Wales, representing less than 0.2% of all households.

The Speaker’s Conference report also calls for all political parties to have “community champions” from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and renewed calls for civil partnerships for MPs to be held inside the Palace of Westminster.

Anne Begg, who is Vice Chair of the Speaker’s Conference, urged the Government, political parties and Parliament to implement the changes “without delay”.

Last year Mr Bercow voiced his support for the Prime Minister’s controversial idea that Parliament should host homosexual civil partnership ceremonies.

A vocal supporter of “gay rights”, Mr Bercow said it “isn’t really a question of how many people would benefit from it”, but the principles involved.

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