Speaker’s Conference wants more gay MPs
Thu, 16 Jul 2009
Political parties have been urged to report how many openly homosexual candidates they are putting up for election as part of plans to modernise Parliament.
The recommendation comes in the interim report of the Speaker’s Conference, a cross-party group of MPs dealing with electoral issues led by the new Speaker, John Bercow.
The report calls for greater ‘diversity’ among MPs in order to restore public confidence in the system.
It claims that the current make-up of Parliament does not reflect the population in terms of sex, race and disability.
The report adds: “The proportion of the population which is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) is not currently monitored, but official and third sector estimates for the lesbian, gay and bisexual population put the proportion at 6 to 9%.”
The six per cent figure was used by Government actuaries calculating the financial implications of civil partnerships three years ago, 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 describe 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 Chief Executive of gay lobby group Stonewall, Ben Summerskill, has used the six per cent figure to claim there should be 39 homosexual MPs.
The former speaker, Michael Martin, reportedly blocked attempts by Harriet Harman last year to introduce homosexual-only shortlists for parliamentary candidates, because her plan failed to cater for MPs who would rather not disclose details about their private lives.
Miss Harman had said previously: “For people in this country, their identity comes not just from where they live, but from whether they are men or women, whether they are disabled, whether they are black or white and whether they are gay or lesbian.
“Society has changed and we must recognise that the House of Commons needs to change, too.”
However, Philip Johnston of The Daily Telegraph criticised the plans at the time.
He wrote: “It is because the Commons does not talk enough about their lives that most people are put off the place.
“If it did, there would be no need for quotas to improve representation.”
Also last year, Ann Widdecombe MP protested against Miss Harman’s plans to use all-women shortlists for the selection of Parliamentary candidates, calling upon “all women of character to repel such patronising interference”.