Parliament told to introduce gender-neutral toilets to ‘plan ahead’ for transgender MPs
A report has urged the UK Parliament to introduce gender-neutral toilets – though there are currently no transgender MPs.
The recommendation was made in The Good Parliament Report, commissioned by Commons speaker John Bercow.
The report, which was authored by Bristol University’s Professor of Politics and Gender Sarah Childs, makes a number of recommendations on how to improve accessibility to Parliament for MPs, staff and visitors.
Among the string of recommendations are an end to the ban on breastfeeding in the Commons chamber, a new format to make Prime Minister’s Questions less male-dominated, and a commitment to ensuring artworks across Parliament feature women and minorities.
One recommendation is to introduce gender neutral toilets “to be planned for a future sex/gender parity and diverse Parliament”.
It states: “Unisex/gender neutral toilets should be provided. In respect of the latter, a US restaurant has succinctly explained why: ‘for single dads with daughters, single moms with sons, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and adults with ageingparents who may be disabled’.
“Failure to do so will limit who can visit, participate in the formal activities of, and work in Parliament.”
The report also controversially calls for more male MPs to sit on the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
It states: “Prohibit single-sex/gender select and domestic committees, and encourage political parties to be conscious of representativeness in
the membership of committees.
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“It highly undesirable in 2016 that the composition of some select committees is so skewed by sex/gender: Culture, Media and Sport has a single woman MP and the Women and Equalities Committee just two men, for example.”
Professor Childs said: “As we welcome the second female prime minister, we must not forget that Parliament itself remains far from diverse and inclusive. Change will not happen on its own.
“Parliament needs to accept its responsibility to ensure a diverse composition of MPs and that present members are able to equally participate. Established ways of working need to be questioned.”
Speaker Bercow has set up a new group of MPs – ‘The Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion’ – to lead the reform agenda.
Mr Bercow said: “I am delighted to launch Sarah’s report, which is the result of a great deal of work and extensive consultation with Members and staff.
“Not everyone will agree with every recommendation or suggested outcome, which is a condition of an independent report, but I am confident that my colleagues on the Commons Reference Group will scrutinise its contents very closely, with a view to taking on board a good number of its suggestions.”