No gays on Speaker’s conference but DUP preacher is appointed
A special parliamentary committee that is examining ways of making the House of Commons more diverse has no gay members.
The Speaker’s Conference was established in November. MPs from all parties are brought together to consider issues within the electoral system. It must report before the end of this Parliament.
Speaker’s Conferences are rare. The last one took place in 1977-78 and there were only five conferences in the 20th century.
Commons leader Harriet Harman told MPs it would “make recommendations for rectifying the disparity between the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large.”
Ms Harman also said: “I would hope that it will include at least one gay Member of Parliament.”
Not only has no openly gay member been appointed, but one of the most homophobic politicians in Britain has been asked to serve on the Speaker’s Conference.
Rev William McCrea is an obscure figure at Westminster.
The MP for South Antrim, he is a member of the Democratic Unionist Party and a minister in the Free Presbyterian church. Both organisations are outspoken in their homophobia.
He became notorious in Northern Ireland for sharing platforms with Protestant terrorists.
The Free Presbyterian church mounts a yearly counter-protest at Belfast Pride, which it regards as a celebration of sodomy, and his party collegaues have repeatedly attacked gay people as an abomination.
He is the only Northern Ireland MP appointed to the Conference, which has met once. Rev McCrea did not attend the first session.
In December the Daily Mail reported “a fierce backlash led by devout Catholic Mr Martin (the Speaker Michael Martin), who says MPs’ sex lives should stay private. He vetoed a government bid … to include a reference to gays in a Parliamentary motion.”
The official announcement about the setting up of the conference said: “It may also agree to consider other associated matters.”
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MPs from all three main political parties called for the Conference to consider gay and lesbian representation, and PinkNews.co.uk has learned that gay equality organisation Stonewall may be called to give evidence.
A spokesman declined to comment on whether or not Stonewall has been formally asked to do so.
“We strongly urge the Speaker’s Conference to take this historic opportunity to remedy the chronic under-representation of lesbian and gay men in Parliament,” he said.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has called for the Conference to include gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
Minister Angela Eagle is the only out lesbian either the Commons or Lords. There are around a dozen out gay MPs and three openly gay peers.
The Treasury estimates that 6% of the UK population is gay, lesbian or bisexual, that means there should be at least 39 LGB MPs and 42 peers.
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