UK Politics

Women's Equality Party calls for quotas for female MPs

Sophie Walker speaking in London Image copyright PA
Image caption Sophie Walker said the fight for equal representation had taken too long

The Women's Equality Party has called for quotas for female MPs, an end to the gender pay gap and more affordable childcare as it set out its agenda.

The party, which was formed six months ago, said it would field candidates in elections starting next Spring.

Leader Sophie Walker said Parliament could have equal representation of men and women within a decade if parties prioritised women in safe seats.

She attacked other parties for thinking they could "dole out" equality.

The party, the brainchild of broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and journalist Catherine Mayer, says it is prepared to work with other parties to secure genuine equality in society but has challenged David Cameron "to put us out of business" by implementing all of its ideas.

'Special measures'

At a policy launch in London, Ms Walker, herself a former journalist, said many of the problems facing women were a product of the fact they were not "equal decision makers", whether in politics, business or other areas of public life..

"We have made some progress but the path to shared power is taking too long to pave," she said. "So we have concluded that as a temporary measure quotas are necessary."

It was lamentable, she said, that women still made up less than a third of the Commons - 191 of the UK's 650 MPs.

"We will put Parliament into special measures for two elections. Political parties should field women in two thirds of seats, including two thirds of safe seats. We can have a 50:50 Parliament in a decade."

She also called for 75% of new peers to be women and for all publicly listed companies to have a 50:50 gender ratio on their boards and executive committees by 2025.

'Realising potential'

The party has called for action to tackle the "exorbitant" cost of childcare, which it says is stopping at least 600,000 women from either returning to the workplace or working the full hours they want to.

It has called for government-subsidised childcare to be available to all parents at the end of their parental leave, a £6.5bn commitment it says could be paid for by introducing a single rate of tax relief on pensions.

"We want women to realise their potential and we want to do that by providing a system of childcare that does not cost the earth and does not have to be waited for," Ms Walker told party supporters.

Among its other priorities are to challenge gender stereotyping in schools, to tackle discrimination against older women, to increase the rate of prosecutions for domestic violence and to make the purchase of sex a criminal offence.

"Our country has a gendered culture where men are seen as entitled to dominate and the media portrays women as sex objects," she said. "The acts of everyday sexism that permeate our culture must not be trivialised, they must be challenged and they must be defeated."

Ahead of Tuesday's launch, the party released a report suggesting women earned £245bn less than men each year in the UK.

Ms Walker accused the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems of treating equality as a political football, saying it "seems to me that they are more interested in claiming the right to deliver equality than actually deliver it".

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