Mixed response to calls for law to guarantee women make up almost half of election candidates

12 January 2017 4:42PM

CALLS to introduce a law to guarantee that women account for 45 per cent of all parliamentary candidates have been met with a mixed response.

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee said there should be a minimum proportion of females standing for each political party in general elections, with fines or other sanctions for those that failed to comply.

READ MORE: Majority of voters think Westminster is sexist, poll reveals

The idea has been proposed to tackle a "serious democratic deficit" as just three in ten MPs are women, a feat which has seen the UK slip down the global democracy table for female representation.

We recognise that there is more to do until parliament accurately reflects the society it serves...

One of those in favour of efforts to ensure greater gender parity is the Barrow-born MP Cat Smith who serves as Labour's shadow voter engagement and youth affairs minister and represents Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Ms Smith said: "The Labour Party is committed to increasing the representation of women in Parliament and at every level of politics. That's why we changed the law to allow political parties to use all-women shortlists to select parliamentary candidates.

 Cat Smith MP.

Cat Smith MP.

"Labour is proud to have more women MPs than all of the other political parties combined, and proud of our action to tackle the under-representation of women in Parliament.

"But we recognise that there is more to do until parliament accurately reflects the society it serves, and will continue to work with other parties and the government to ensure that we are doing everything we can to play our part.

"Jeremy Corbyn has committed to working towards a 50-50 target for Labour's women MPs in 2020, and the party is pursuing numerous strategies to increase the number of women in local government and senior parliamentary positions."

The committee urged the government to bring forward legislation in the current parliament so that the new requirements could be brought into force if the proportion of women MPs does not increase significantly at the next general election in 2020.

Currently, 30 per cent of MPs are women with the UK ranking 48th globally for female representation in the lower or single legislative chamber, having fallen back from 25th place in 1999.

 Louise Bours MEP.

Louise Bours MEP.

Louise Bours, who represents the North West in the European Parliament for Ukip, said the policy would be the "wrong path" to follow.

She said: "This just smacks of positive discrimination which blights various aspects of life these days. Women should get to the top of whatever profession they choose through talent and suitability not just because of their sex.

"Quota systems based on whether a person is male or female, disabled, their sexual orientation or ethnicity are wrong. Everyone should be treated as equal in that regard and be given a job on the basis they are the right person for it.

"I agree that we need to encourage women into politics and we should be considering why they are not entering that field and try to remedy that situation."

What our readers had to say

A poll on the Evening Mail website showed roughly three-quarters of respondents were against the idea.

Writing on the Evening Mail Facebook page, Jonathan Wheeler said: "It must always be the best person for the job whether they are male or female."

While Paul Griffiths asked: "What happens if 45 per cent of the candidate applications are not female?"

Twitter response

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