The House of Commons should install gender-neutral toilets and allow female MPs to breastfeed in the chamber, a new report has advised.
The Good Parliament report, conducted by Professor Sarah Childs of Bristol University, set out 43 recommendations to tackle sexism and gender diversity within Parliament.
The report claims by allowing women to breastfeed in the chamber, it would allow them to “fully participate in house business.” The introduction of gender-neutral toilets would help single parents with children and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
The report also recommends that quotas are introduced that will ensure that at least 40 per cent of political journalists and committee witnesses are women. The report also suggested that if political parties failed to fill at least half of their target seats and held seats for the 2020 election, then sex and gender quotas should be introduced by the 2025 election.
Recommendations were also extended to increasing the number of women in portraits on the walls of Parliament; and an inclusion and celebration of diversity within the Common’s gift shops.
The Speaker, John Bercow said of the report, “ I am delighted to launch Sarah’s report, along with my Parliamentary colleagues, 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.”
Quoted in the report, a number of MPs have come out in support of gender equality. The late Jo Cox is reported as saying, “First, we are behind the curve compared with working practice in much of industry, and the charitable and public sectors and that is a problem. Secondly, if we act differently and change the culture and working practices here, we can change how others operate. We should do that, because we are here to change and improve the United Kingdom.”
Melanie Onn MP said, “Our democracy is worse off if parents, women, and disabled people don’t think the life of an MP is for them…[but] this isn’t just about MPs…over 2000 staff are employed by the House of Commons alone. The unpredictable hours, difficulties with Parliament sitting during school term time, and childcare issues matters just as much to them.”
You can read the full report here.