Maria Miller sets out to tackle sexist parliament 'nonsense'

Written by James Millar on 10 January 2017 in Diary

Women and Equalities Committee report will be welcomed by young women according to Girlguiding charity

Maria Miller's Women and Equalities Committee has called for political parties to be fined if they don't field more female candidates at elections.

The committee's latest report has been welcomed by campaigners including Girlguiding UK and the Fawcett Society, which has warned that proposed boundary changes could make things even worse for women looking to get into politics.

The UK parliament now ranks 48th in the world for female representation. Just 30% of MPs are women and the number of male MPs today is the same as the number of female MPs in the 99 years since women won the right to vote.

Women and Equalities Committee chair Maria Miller said: "A global ranking of 48th is shockingly low. We must rise to the challenge of being a world leader on women's parliamentary representation."

The report calls on the main political parties to publish plans not just for increasing the number of female candidates but ensuring they stand in winnable seats. The committee wants a target of 45% of MPs to be women by 2030. And if the situation does not improve after the 2020 election members suggested parties could be fined for failing to stand enough women or have their deposits confiscated in constituencies where no female candidates were fielded.

Maria Miller said: "Political parties bear the lion's share of responsibility for improvement. Trusting in long term trends is not enough: we need intervention to accelerate their pace."

Girlguiding UK's youth panel, which worked with the committee on a previous report into sexual harassment in schools, welcomed the report. In a statement the members - 18 teenagers drawn from Girlguide groups across the country - said: "Three quareters of girls aged 11 to 21 say that having fewer female than male politicians leads to increased gender inequality in wider society. So it's not just symbolic, it has a real impact on girls' everyday lives and it negatively affects their aspirations. Inequality in parliament sends a clear message to girls and young women that their voices and experiences aren't important in our country's deicsion making process - and that is nonsense."

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