Participation in Public Life

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 2nd July 2015.

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Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Eastleigh 9:30 am, 2nd July 2015

What steps the Government are taking to continue to ensure greater participation of women across all areas of public life.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Following the general election we now have the highest number of women in Parliament in our history, although we recognise that we still have further to go. I congratulate my right hon. Friend Mrs Miller who has been elected as the first chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee. That Committee will play a pivotal role, and we are sure that it will take a close interest in increasing the number of women in public life.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Eastleigh

I thank my hon. Friend for that fine reply and look forward to seeing that work in action. I am proud to support the Government in their steps to increase the representation of women in Parliament and to give local communities more power to shape their future. What steps is the Minister taking to encourage women to stand for their local councils?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I welcome my hon. Friend to her place and as the new chair of the all-party group for women in Parliament. How can we get more women to be local councillors? I know that my hon. Friend served as a local councillor, as have many colleagues across the House, and she will know that women are under-represented on local councils, making up only 31.7% of members. That is why schemes such as the Be a Councillor campaign, which has been run by the Local Government Association since 2012, are important. We want to encourage new candidates from all walks of life to come forward and represent their local community.

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway

Despite the lauded progress that is apparently being made, only 26% of 110 Government posts are occupied by women. Does the Minister agree that it would be a fine time to follow the example of the Scottish Government and persuade the Prime Minister to create a gender-balanced Cabinet?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We have made enormous progress on that and a third of the Cabinet is now female. I do not like the idea of quotas—I may speak for myself on that—and I do not like anybody thinking that the women in Parliament or in our Cabinet are there only because we took men out of the equation. We know that all women in Parliament and in our Cabinet are there under their own merits.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

What steps are the Government taking to promote mentoring and positive role models to encourage greater participation in public life across all sectors?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Mentoring can play a fantastic role in all areas of public life and business. The Meet a Mentor scheme across the UK is encouraging women into business, and I would like such schemes to be extended to other areas of public and political life.