Examination of Witnesses (Questions 820-823)
JULIE MELLOR, JOHN SHARMAN, BRYAN HEISER, DANIEL SILVERSTONE AND BERT MASSIE
THURSDAY 13 JUNE 2002
820. Let us narrow the field, in terms of representation on public bodies; do you think there is more of an absence of working-class men or middle-class women?
(Ms Mellor) I do not know.
821. Let us pursue it a bit further. Do you think it is perfectly possible, on public interest grounds, to do injustice to individuals, in particular cases, in order to advance a particular public interest good? It seems to me to be fairly fundamental to these questions.
(Mr Silverstone) We would need notice of that question.
822. We have just passed a law here, for example, have we not, which you are very much in favour of, to make sure that we can fix the selection of parliamentary candidates to redress the imbalance against women in the political system, which is the greater good; and it leads you to ask, as people in my constituency would ask, are we entitled to stop a working-class man becoming a Member of Parliament in his area in order that a middle-class woman should represent that area?
(Ms Mellor) But then I would argue that that legislation, in the use of it by the political parties, should be for the benefit of all women, including working-class women; so I would not argue that it is a middle-class women versus working-class men issue.
823. No; but the effect in a particular case can be that gender trumps class, that is what I am saying to you, and we have to be clear about that, in terms of what
(Ms Mellor) That is how it is operated. I do not think that is an inherent consequence, I think that is about how the legislation is used.
(Mr Massie) I think there is a point here, perhaps speaking as a working-class Scouser, I am not quite sure whether you can lose the tags. If you advertise your vacancies in The Times and Telegraph, you are not going to attract the Sun reader; and when you look at the activity round this country in local communities it is enormous, and there are people who are from working-class backgrounds, some who have achieved an education, some who have not, but even those who have not are making huge contributions in local housing associations, community groups, etc. So there is a huge body of knowledge, of skill and expertise, which would see parliamentary systems and processes as not necessarily being for them, I am sure that is right, and do not necessarily tune into Government websites, because it is just not where they are at; but if they did, and they were sucked into that field, they could probably make an important contribution. And, I think, without getting too tied up over definitions, working-class people would bring a different, a valuable and very illuminating perspective on many areas of public life.
Chairman: Thank you for that. That extricated us from difficult territory very nicely. Thank you very much indeed for that, and to all of you. And I forgot to say at the beginning, thank you for the excellent written submissions that you made to us, too, which will prove very valuable. I am sorry we have skated, obviously, over many things, but I hope you have said all you feel that you wanted to, and that we shall be able to pick up and move forward on some of the things that you have talked to us about. Thank you very much indeed.