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.
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?
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.
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.
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.