Parliamentary representation debate

27th February 2014
Brooks Newmark calls for more action to ensure more diverse representation in Parliament.
Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) and I welcome today’s motion, for the fact remains that, notwithstanding recent progress, both women and ethnic minorities are woefully under-represented in our Parliament today. So what are the facts? As we have heard, we have 27 ethnic minority MPs, which is just 4% of the total number of MPs, whereas about 18%—not the 8% mentioned earlier—of the population are represented in the 2011 census as coming from a non-white background. We have 147 women MPs in Parliament, which represents 23% of all MPs, whereas just over 50% of the population are women. Clearly, we can do better and we must do better.
As co-chairman and co-founder of Women2Win, I intend to limit my remarks to what my organisation has been doing to address the concerns legitimately raised in the motion. Parliament and political representation is made stronger by diversity, and we should all be working to make this change happen. Without buy-in from men, attempts to encourage more women into Parliament will not be as successful as they could be, so we all need to engage with the issue of diversity of representation. I strongly believe that, which is why I co-founded Women2Win in 2005, in order to work with other parliamentarians to address the imbalance. Back then, there were only 17 female Conservative MPs—a paltry 9% of our MPs. Women2Win was launched in November 2005 by myself and Baroness Jenkin to support and enable more Conservative women to gain election to Parliament. Women2Win helps a substantial number of women candidates to gain selection and election, through headhunting, mentoring, training and supporting in a variety of ways. Over the course of 2013, we have had more than 30 MPs volunteering their time and expertise to run training sessions and to mentor candidates, and I am pleased to say that more than half of those volunteers have been men.
I will take a moment to give special thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), the vice-chairman of Women2Win, who, as our head of training, has dedicated countless hours to ensuring that we are doing everything we can to increase the number of women applying for seats and doing so successfully. Over the course of 2013, we have provided more than 150 hours of training to women candidates, and the feedback and success have been extremely positive.
We have made progress since 2005. Indeed, given the leadership provided by the Prime Minister on this issue, with the support of organisations such as Women2Win and the Conservative Women’s Organisation, we saw the number of women go up from 17 to 49 in 2010. We also saw the number of ethnic minority MPs in our party rise from two to 11.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who recently pointed out:
“On the important issue of getting more women into public life…this is…important for our country, because we will not represent or govern our country properly unless we have more women at every level in our public life and in our politics.”
He ended his statement with the words,
“we need to do much more.”—[Official Report, 5 February 2014; Vol. 575, c. 264.]
Amen to that.
I believe that, with more women in politics and public life in general, we not only get better decision making but better policy outcomes for the country as a whole. More women in politics will mean more role models, leading to a virtuous circle whereby, hopefully, political associations will increasingly select and the public in general will increasingly elect women to become their representatives in Parliament.
In my party, we will continue to work hard to strive for more equitable representation in Parliament as we head towards the 2015 general election and beyond. Indeed, my slogan for the 2020 general election campaign would be, “50:50 by 2020.”
Let me end my speech by thanking my co-chairman and co-founder of Women2Win, Baroness Anne Jenkin; the director of Women2Win, Ellen Miller; our vice-chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham; and our chief operating officer, Resham Kotecha, and her predecessor, Dolly Theis. I am delighted to support the motion.

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