Green Party Women

Parliament has a "clubland culture and family unfriendly working practices"

19 October 2011

In a speech at the Institute for Government today at 6pm, Caroline Lucas will say that the system in Westminster is set up "for the convenience of the power brokers" .  She will also argue that the UK parliamentary system is itself a barrier to a wider range of voices being heard: "If the Greens were to stand candidates in every seat in Britain, it would mean spending over three hundred thousand pounds just in deposits. That's more than we'd have to spend on the entire campaign. And the question of how much you'd get back in saved deposits is not very relevant if you have no money left over for leaflets, posters or broadcasts".


Lucas will also reflect on the fact that men outnumber women by five to one in parliament and claims that this "undermines the quality of law-making and scrutiny" and that  " a mix of ignorance of the problem and self-interest affect issues such as equal pay, rights for temporary and part-time workers, and funding for rape crisis and domestic violence centres".

Yet, Lucas will say in today's speech, there are some advantaged to being the lone representative of your party in the Commons, where she does "have a lot of freedom to submit my own amendments, some of which have been supported by other parties".

Lucas also argues that with a coalition in government, it becomes even more important to have independent voices in Parliament:

"On so many issues, from setting up Academies to bringing in the private sector to run the NHS, the three main parties all line up on one side. So it falls to the Greens to make the alternative case. That is what we are doing, on climate change, fuel poverty, and a steady state economy, and on Afghanistan, electoral reform, public sector pensions, and many other vital issues".


Lucas is a passionate advocate for parliamentary reform and with spending cuts beginning to bite, she argues that the need for change is becoming more pressing: "Just queuing up to vote, for example, accounts for around £30,000 a week in MPs' total salary costs. In the last Parliament there were over 1200 votes. Since it takes about 15 minutes per vote, that means an MP with an 85 per cent voting record would have spent over 250 hours queuing to vote over the course of the Parliament".

What needs to be protected

Lucas will conclude her speech with her assessment of what should be valued and protected. She lists the first of these as "a skilled and impartial civil service" , although she adds that the principle of impartiality is "under direct attack". Pointing to the practice of individuals moving in and out of the civil service, taking jobs in industry and secondments in other sectors and organisations, Lucas asks: "So to whom do these modern civil servants owe their loyalty? The Crown? Their department? Or to their former or future employers?".

Lucas also feels that the wider public service "is being undermined from above". She questions the support of the main political parties for private sector involvement in the delivery of public services saying: "All three parties believe that the private sector should have a significant role in the delivery of public services, and that competition, financial incentives and the profit motive are the most effective spurs for greater efficiency. I think they're wrong".

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