The Good Parliament
Creating a more gender and diversity sensitive UK Parliament
Across the globe, national and international parliaments face urgent challenges regarding representativeness, inclusivity and accountability, which negatively impact institutional effectiveness and legitimacy. The Good Parliament Report, launched in Parliament on 20th July 2016 by Professor Sarah Childs, sets out a comprehensive reform agenda to improve representation and inclusion in the UK Parliament, with 43 formal recommendations. The report aims 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. Each of the 43 recommendations included in The Good Parliament Report 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.
Since the publication of the report, Professor Childs has continued to engage with policymakers and academics to implement the gender sensitive reforms contained in The Good Parliament report in the UK and beyond. For instance, Prof. Childs provided evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry on women's representation and the constituency boundary reviews. The select committee looked into recommendations made in Professor Childs’ The Good Parliament Report 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 calling on political parties to publicly set out their plans to increase the number of women parliamentary candidates by 2020. The Good Parliament Report has also had an impact beyond the UK Parliament, with some of its recommendations being adopted, for instance, by the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the States Assembly of Jersey.
The work to produce this report was funded by the University of Bristol and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).