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Speaker’s Conference will consider gay and lesbian representation

PinkNews Staff Writer February 16, 2009

A special House of Commons committee looking at ways to improve the numbers of women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in Parliament will also look at gay representation.

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.

Commons leader Harriet Harman told MPs she hoped that it will include at least one gay Member of Parliament.

When it emerged that not only has no openly gay member been appointed, but one of the most homophobic politicians in Britain has been asked to serve, there was concern that gay and lesbian representation would not be addressed.

DUP MP Rev William McCrea is a Free Presbyterian minister. His church constantly rails against gay equality.

Today Anne Begg MP, Vice-Chairman of the Conference, told

“The membership of the Speaker’s Conference was appointed by Mr Speaker from nominations presented to him by each of the political parties.

“While the motion which established the Conference formally requires us to consider the under-representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons, it also enabled us to take account of other ‘associated matters’ such as sexual orientation.

“We are concerned that a person’s sexual orientation might be perceived by others as a stigma and become a barrier to their participation in public life.

“We have agreed to take evidence on this subject and will announce the details once prospective witnesses have been consulted.”

It is expected that gay equality organisation Stonewall will be asked to give testimony.

Speaker’s Conferences are rare.

The last one took place in 1977-78 and there were only five conferences in the 20th century.

A Stonewall report released in April and based on responses to a YouGov poll of more than 1,600 gay, lesbian and bisexual people across Britain found that respondents thought they would get worse treatment on the grounds of their sexuality if running for office.

89% of those polled think they would face barriers from the Conservative party if they wanted to be selected to run for Parliament.

61% said the same about Labour and 47% about the Liberal Democrats.

Of those respondents who are party supporters, 71% of Conservatives, 46% of Labour and 28% of Lib Dems thought they would face barriers if they wanted to stand for Parliament.

More: Northern Ireland

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