Business of the House
Anne Begg (Aberdeen South, Labour)
That is an excellent point, which may explain some of the narrowing of the backgrounds of some of the people who are now trying to stand for Parliament. It is crucial for work to be done to deal with that. We, as political party animals ourselves, should be spotting people’s talents and encouraging them. Many people out there have never dreamt of being Members of Parliament, but we know that given the right chances and the right encouragement they would make excellent MPs, and we diminish this place by not giving them such encouragement. Some women are a bit more diffident than many men, and may need that extra push. Once they have bitten the bullet and put themselves forward they may make excellent candidates and excellent MPs, and be a credit to their parties.
I congratulate the Government on going some way to help disabled people to overcome the financial barrier which may exist by means of their access to public life fund, which I understand is due to be launched next month. The Minister may want to say something about that as well. However, although the fund will provide financial help with the extra costs of having a disability, there will still be the basic cost of becoming and being a candidate, which can be prohibitive for many people.