Women in Parliament

Scope of the inquiry

The Committee is following up its 2016 report, in light of the 2017 snap election, to look at what progress has been made.

It has been almost 100 years since the first woman was elected, and there have only ever been as many women MPs as there are men sitting in the House of Commons today. However, what can be done to encourage more women to enter into politics?

At present 30% of MPs are women. Government, Parliament and political parties all have a vital role in the encouragement of women into politics – but the parties bear the main responsibility because they ultimately decide who they wish to field as candidates for general elections.


The 2016 report argues that: 

Political parties need to do much more to promote a fairer and greater proportion of women parliamentary candidates, and be transparent about their plans and their performance. The report recommends that parties should set out what they intend to do to increase the proportion of women in the House in 2020, including adopting ambitious targets for women candidates in 'winnable' seats.

Parliament as an institution should actively encourage women to participate in democracy and continue to investigate ways of making the working environment of Westminster one that does not present unnecessary actual or perceived barriers to women's participation.



15th November 2017


Evidence given by:

  • Rt Hon Ian Blackford MP, Leader, SNP Westminster Group 
  • Dawn Butler MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Labour Party 
  • Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats 
  • Amanda Sater, Deputy Chairman, Conservative Party


Questions from Philip Davies MP:

Q35          Philip Davies: Vince, it is all very well hearing all this pious stuff about what you are doing personally and everything. However, what you did personally in the last election was stand in Twickenham. Surely, if this is so important to you, Twickenham was clearly a key target seat for the Lib Dems at the last election. You are piously saying what you are doing personally to do this and to do that. If it was such a personal ambition of yours, why did you not stand aside and let an all-women shortlist take place in Twickenham at the last election? That would surely have been the most useful personal thing you could have done, if this agenda was so important to you.

Sir Vince Cable: I am conscious of impending age and mortality. No doubt at some point I will stand down. At that point there will be an all-women shortlist in Twickenham.

Q36          Philip Davies: So you are not prepared to make any personal sacrifice to see this happen. Women are only allowed once you have decided you have had enough. That is basically what the rule is for the Lib Dems. You have your run and Ed Davey has his run, and once you are all sorted out then it is fine, but you are not prepared to make any personal sacrifice to pursue this agenda.

Sir Vince Cable: It was never suggested to me that I should, as it happens. I am very relaxed and positive about the fact that when I do eventually retire there will be an all-women shortlist in my seat. They will inherit a substantial majority, which I think I have helped to create.

Q119          Philip Davies: Just before Dawn goes, you said that you expel people who engage in the behaviour that Jess talks about. There was a Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington who was talking about lynching a Conservative MP during an election campaign, repeating it, endorsing it, and going around talking about it. What did the Labour Party do? They made him shadow Chancellor. They promoted him to shadow Chancellor. So if you are saying, “Yes, we expel people who behave in the kind of way that Jess has mentioned”, what are you going to do about the shadow Chancellor, or do you endorse that behaviour?

Dawn Butler: I think you are misrepresenting the situation.

Chair: I think going into individual cases can be difficult.

Philip Davies: No, I do not think it is. There is a real, live case. We know exactly what he said. It is on the record. There is a recording of what he said. I want to know why the Labour Party promoted somebody in that situation, rather than doing what you say that you do.

Chair: Shall we ask Dawn to write to us on that? I am just conscious of time.

Dawn Butler: You are misrepresenting the situation, but I will happily write to the Committee.