By Hannah Folsz
A new report from the Women and Equalities Committee urges political parties to increase the number of female general election candidates to at least 45%, recommending that they face fines if they fail to do so. The government is considering the recommendations of the report.
There are currently 195 female MPs in the House of Commons, a mere 30% of all MPs. This ranks the UK 48th in the world for female representation in equivalent institutions. This means a considerable fall in the ranking for the country, as just in 1999, it was ranked 25th. In total, since the election of the first female MP, Sinn Fein’s Constance Markievicz in 1918, there have been 455 female MPs in the House of Commons in history, exactly equal to the number of male MPs currently serving in the House of Commons.
In the 2015 general elections, the number of female MPs in parliament has risen to 29% from 18% in 1997, yet the committee believes that such progress is dissatisfactory. It believes that Parliament should remove “barriers to women’s participation” and introduce outreach programmes to “actively encourage women to participate in democracy”.
The report recommends that parties put forward female candidates to run for seats where the chances of winning are high. Yet if the proportion of female MPs does not rise to at least 45% after the 2020 elections, the government should legislate to achieve progress, introducing financial penalties – fines or confiscation of electoral deposits. In this case, the government should also introduce a statutory minimum proportion of 45% of female parliamentary candidates for parties.
A representative of the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons said that the government is considering the recommendations of the committee and will respond within the following weeks.
Image: Duncan Hull via flickr.