Parliament: Discrimination

House of Commons Commission written question – answered on 22nd May 2018.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

To ask the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps are being taken to tackle everyday sexism, biased language and unconscious bias in Parliament.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

The House of Commons Commission is committed to making Parliament a more inclusive place to work and visit. It has taken steps to implement those recommendations of the Good Parliament report within its remit: for example, it formally supported the establishment of the Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion; and a review of the Parliamentary pass regime to address the fact that female Members and staff were disproportionately questioned about their identity and status, reinforcing assumptions about who belongs in Parliament. It has encouraged the House Service to introduce strategies which improve the diversity of its workforce, yielding positive results year-on-year.

The Good Parliament report also noted that formalising the principles of inclusion and representation in official parliamentary proceedings should positively affect wider cultural change over time. In March 2015, the Procedure Committee published proposed revisions to the Standing Orders which included amendments for gender-neutral language. The proposed revisions have not yet been put before the House.

The House agreed in February 2018 to introduce a Code of Behaviour for Parliament and a system of training to support it. The draft Code sets out expectations of how we treat each other, whatever our status, background or appearance, and is open for consultation until 30 May. The training that will accompany it is intended to support all passholders to understand these expectations and to speak up when they witness unacceptable behaviour.

All House of Commons and Digital Service staff are required to undertake Equality and Diversity training which covers equality legislation, types of discrimination, unconscious bias and valuing others. In addition, the House Service provides a specific workshop on unconscious bias which is also open to Members’ staff; and arranges tailored sessions where required.

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