The Good Parliament

‌The Good Parliament report (PDF, 1,058kB), launched in Parliament on 20th July 2016 by Professor Sarah Childs, shows Parliament's working practices still reflect the traditions and preferences of those who historically populated it.  The report sets out a clear and comprehensive reform agenda. It concludes it is time for Parliament to accept an institutional responsibility to become more representative and inclusive.  It makes 43 recommendations, which aim to transform who sits in the House of Commons, significantly enhance MPs' effectiveness, improve the quality of parliamentary outcomes, and ultimately raise the public's regard for the House of Commons. 

Professor Childs, was seconded to the House of Commons in September 2015 to work on the report, at the request of the Speaker, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP.  The Speaker set up a group of MPs – 'The Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion' – to lead the reform agenda. It comprises a small number of MPs, male and female, nominated by the parties. Formally chaired by the Speaker, it will meet after the summer recess and will draw up a programme of action for the rest of the Parliament.

Each of the 43 recommendations is attached to a named, responsible decision-maker, so Parliament and individual members are held to account. The recommendations focus on three elements:

  • Equality of participation. The report asks how a diverse group of MPs might be selected for, and elected to, Parliament and how, once present they could be most effective in representing their constituents' interests, scrutinising laws and holding the government to account. Specific recommendations are made to the new Reference Group, the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, the House of Commons Commission, the Women and Equalities Committee, and the political parties. 
  • Parliamentary Infrastructure. This covers everything from the buildings and furniture of Parliament to the official rules and working practices. Recommendations are made to the Speaker, the House of Commons Commission, the Leader of the House, the Liaison Committee, and IPSA.
  • Commons Culture. This dimension looks beyond the formal rules to examine Parliamentary culture and its effect on diversity.  Recommendations are aimed at the Speaker of the House, The House of Commons Commission, the Women in Parliament All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), and the Works of Art Committee.

Professor Childs provided evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry on women's representation and the constituency boundary reviews.  The select committee also looked into recommendations made in Professor Childs’ The Good Parliament report (PDF, 1,330kB) on creating a more representative and inclusive House of Commons.  You can watch the witnesses giving evidence here (Sept 2016).

Professor Sarah Childs was a guest on BBC Radio4's 'Women's Hour' where she discussed a new report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee that is calling on political parties to publicly set out their plans to increase the number of women parliamentary candidates by 2020, currently only thirty per cent of MPs are women. The reports is also calling for the government to set a target of 45% representation of women in parliament and local government by 2030 (Jan 2017). 

Professor Childs gave the Spring 2017 Chrystal Macmillan Lecture on "The 'Good' Parliament and the Feminist Critical Actor" based on her Good Parliament report (April 2017)

The work to produce this report was funded by the University of Bristol and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Related research centre

The Gender Research Centre

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