Following the recent general election there has been an increase in the number of MPs from under-represented groups, including an increase in the number of women MPs and those from an ethnic minority background to 22% and 4% respectively. Numbers of disabled MPs and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender MPs are unknown, but we believe there is under-representation of these groups in Parliament.
There is still more to do. That is why the Government are considering the recommendations by the Speaker's Conference on representation very carefully. We have already made an early commitment as part of our coalition agreement to introduce extra support for disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials.
The Equality Act will allow political parties to have selection arrangements for candidates designed to reduce inequalities, including all women shortlists, until the end of 2030. These Provisions will come in to force in October 2010 during the first wave of implementation of the Act.
The Government Equalities Office has commissioned research to understand the barriers faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people participating in civil society. This is looking at a broad range of ways to participate, including standing for Parliament. In light of the findings of the research, we will consider what further steps we can take to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to participate visibly, including developing tools to support those who want to participate but are unsure how to.
I look forward to working closely with the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure that equality and diversity are at the heart of the constitutional reform agenda.