- Political parties should face fines unless they select more female candidates
- Report also calls for an extention of the law on all-women shortlists
- The move is needed tot ackle a 'serious democratic deficit' at Westminster
Political parties should face fines unless they select more female candidates for Parliament, a committee of MPs says today.
The Commons women and equalities committee is calling for a change in the law to force parties to ensure at least 45 per cent of their candidates are female.
Under this proposals, political parties would be fined if they failed to select enough women.
The report also calls for an extension of the law on all-women shortlists to guarantee the selection of more female candidates.
MPs on the cross-party committee say the move is needed to tackle a ‘serious democratic deficit’ at Westminster, where 30 per cent of MPs are women.
The report says: ‘Women make up more than half the population of the United Kingdom and, at a time when more women are in work than ever before, there is no good reason why women should not make up half of the House of Commons.
‘If the Commons is serious about being truly representative of the people that it seeks to represent, it must rise to the challenge of being a world leader on women's parliamentary representation.’
But the idea is likely to run into stiff resistance in the Conservative Party, which has historically opposed moves to set quotas for women.
Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe described the report’s recommendation as ‘ridiculous’.
She added: ‘I have always said that every female MP should be able to look every male MP in the eye and know they got there by the same route.
‘As soon as you start setting quotas you diminish the quality of MPs because instead of straightforward competition to find the best candidate you start to rig things.
‘The whole idea is a complete nonsense. The only way you could hit a quota of that sort is to have all-women shortlists, which mean a man cannot be selected even if he is the best candidate.’
Theresa May has been a champion of moves to help get more female candidates selected. But she has said previously that the Tories would not impose all-women shortlists – and recently mocked Jeremy Corbyn over Labour’s failure to ever pick a women leader, despite the adoption of all-women shortlists for MPs.
Tory Party chairman Patrick McLoughlin told the committee that all-women shortlists caused ‘resentment’ and would not be adopted.
Today’s report says Britain is falling behind on the issue of female representation. With 30 per cent of MPs now women, the UK is ranked 48th in the world, compared to a ranking of 25th in 1999.
The committee says its ultimate goal is to achieve 50 per cent female MPs. But it says a legal target of 45 per cent is ‘reasonable’.
It also calls for an extension of all-women shortlist legislation, which is currently due to expire in 2030, and which does not cover new elected roles, such as police and crime commissioners.
Currently, the committee said, just 30% 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.
Committee chairman Maria Miller, a former Tory culture secretary, said there was ‘little evidence’ to suggest parties were currently taking the issue seriously enough.