6 Tackling supply-side barriers|
Barriers to access for disabled
167. We heard a great deal about the barriers which
face people who have experienced injury, illness or disability
who wish to take part in politics. In this section we discuss
these barriers and what might be done to reduce and even remove
168. When we talk about injury, illness and disability
we mean a wide range of impairments, including:
illnesses or serious injury;
that affect mobility;
that affect the senses, such as blindness or deafness;
impairments such as stammering;
· mental health
· learning disabilities.
169. We do not believe in what has been described
as the "medical model" for thinking about disability,
which considers that the key obstacles encountered by disabled
people in everyday life are posed by the welfare or medical situations
of those individuals. In recent years many of the traditional
assumptions about the lives and capabilities of disabled people
have been challenged. The impact of impairments varies considerably
from person to person, but disabled people make adjustments, for
example successfully overcoming the impact of fluctuations in
energy levels by skilfully managing their workload. Today there
is general agreement that the best way to support the independence
and inclusion of disabled people lies in tackling the barriers
that society puts in their way. This is sometimes known
as the "social model" for thinking about disability:
it has been accepted as the basis for government policy, and is
the basis for several of our recommendations in this chapter and
170. This point was made very well in the 2005 report
of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit on life chances for disabled
people. This summarised
the barriers they face as:
caused by people's attitudes;
· physical barriers
such as the design of the built environment;
· barriers resulting
from policy design and delivery which fail to take disabled people
into account; and
· barriers linked
to lack of empowerment, as a result of which disabled people are
often not listened to, consulted or involved.
171. The report concludes that:
The cumulative effect of these barriers is to
marginalise disabled people from the mainstream of society and
the economy. Removal of these barriers is key to empowering disabled
people, and giving them the opportunity to exercise their responsibilities
as citizensin the home, in the community and in the workplace.
The Strategy Unit identifies four major areas of
life for disabled people where particular barriers still need
to be overcome: independent living, early years and family support,
transition to adulthood, and employment. The navigation of complex
modern society and public services can be a challenge for anybody;
the added barriers which confront disabled people can severely
limit and compromise their life chances. The "structural"
barriers that, from the early years, shape society's and disabled
people's own expectations deter far too many disabled people from
even beginning to consider a life in politics.
AN UNTAPPED POOL OF TALENT
172. Because of these barriers there is "a significant
untapped pool of talent"
among disabled people. This applies as much to politics as to
other aspects of life. For one thing, the number of disabled MPs
does not reflect the proportion of the population that has an
173. At a local level the figures for elected offices
are better, but they are still disappointing. While there is a
fairly high proportion of disabled local councillorsin
2007 disabled councillors made up 13.3% of the totalmany
of them appear to have age-related conditions which may well have
developed years after first election; the Councillors Commission
said that 'younger disabled councillors are notably absent from
most council chambers.'
174. Public bodies offer an alternative option for
people who want to get involved in public life. Being appointed
to, and serving on, a public body can help people to learn the
skills needed to run for and achieve elected office, including
public speaking. While service on a public body is a valuable
contribution in itself, for disabled people as well as others
public appointments can be a good way of taking the first step
towards elected office. Yet the Cabinet Office calculates that
only 5% of all public appointments are held by disabled peoplea
CHANGING THE CULTURE: ASSUMPTIONS
ABOUT DISABLED PEOPLE
175. Disabled people can find their life chances
restricted by public attitudes towards them. The general public
often wrongly assumes that people with impairments are not able
to perform in the workplace as well as others, or indeed to play
a full part in life generally. There can be an assumption "that
disabled people are passive
which can result in a lack
John Knight of Leonard Cheshire Disability described the "bumps"obstacles
that can corrode the confidence of disabled people :
[disabled people] generally live against a backdrop
of having to get over that bump, and it can be a small bump or
a big bump, depending on who you are talking to, of people not
actually seeing our abilities before they see our disabilities.
That can be terribly corrosive and depressing in terms of how
we see ourselves and what we strive for.
176. One outcome of this lack of confidence, at least
for those with a condition that is not always obvious to others,
is said to be the temptation for people to "hide" their
disability. Leys Geddes of the British Stammering Association
the problem with stammering is that the condition
is extremely variable
Because you are not quite sure how
it is, or how it is going to be, it is easier to hide it.
because if you expose the disability, it diminishes you in the
eyes of others.
We were told that there were "a number of deaf
and hard of hearing people in Parliament, and in politics, but
they are not particularly open about it, perhaps because they
feel they cannot be."
177. We heard about 'referred prejudice': this is
the tendency of parties to assume that disabled people would find
it difficult to get elected, for instance, because there is perceived
to be public reluctance to vote for them.
Disabled people themselves often feel that they will find it hard
to make an impression. However there is no evidence that disabled
people are less likely to be elected than others, once they get
through the selection process. In fact in some cases an apparent
negativesuch as a disabled person's reliance from time
to time on assistance from family and friendscan become
a positive when treated by the selectorate as evidence that a
person is able to build a team to get things done.
CHANGING THE CULTURE: THE NEED FOR
MORE DISABLED ROLE MODELS
178. Lack of self-confidence would be a big obstacle
to progress in most careers. But self-confidence is especially
important for success in public life, and above all in politics.
Those who have overcome the obstacles are aware of the size of
the task. They include one of our witnesses, Chris Holmes, who
lost his sight at 14, and became both a highly successful swimmer
in the Paralympics and a Commissioner for the Disability Rights
Commission. He has personal experience of political partiesparticularly
the Conservativesand of the selection process. He told
us that, despite his success, he believed there were plenty of
barriers in the way of ambitious disabled people:
I do not think any of us should be surprised
that there are not many disabled people in Parliament, in the
sense that if you look at the boardrooms, senior civil service
or any part of society, there are not that many disabled people
at the top level of anything.
179. The shortage of disabled people at the top means
there is a lack of disabled role models in most parts of public
and political life. The Labour Party Disabled Members' Group (LPDMG)
was encouraged by the success of the paralympians, and called
for similar role models to come forward in public office.
The election of substantial numbers of disabled MPs was something
that the Equality and Human Rights Commission saw as very important:
The danger of being identified purely by one
characteristic is a pressure that a lot of members from under-represented
groups face. As constituency MPs and individuals with their own
interests and passions it is clear many members are unhappy to
be labelled; the gay MP, the MP who is a young mum, the MP who
uses a wheelchair or the black woman MP. The solution to this
is clearly to reach critical mass across Parliament so these characteristics
aren't unique. 
PHYSICAL AND PRACTICAL BARRIERS
180. Attitudes are crucially important because they
influence how other barriers are tackled. Many of the biggest
barriers for disabled people are physical and practical. Disability
discrimination legislation requires "reasonable adjustments"
to be made for disabled people in many aspects of life in the
UK, in private, public and the third sectors, and the number of
bodies subject to the law has been expanded in recent years.
A number of existing regulators and public bodies have to take
account of access and inclusion in their work. There is, for instance,
the role assigned to the Equality and Human Rights Commission
(EHRC) to take the lead in bearing down on discrimination. In
order to do this, EHRC has regulatory responsibilities of its
own and must provide, for example, reliable advice and guidance
on how to comply with the disability laws on access and discrimination.
181. But many physical and other practical barriers
to access for disabled people still exist, right across the country,
in all sectors. Buildings are not always adapted for wheelchair
users. Braille versions of documents are not always readily available.
While the law has been widened and strengthened, the experiences
of disabled people do not always appear to have improved proportionately.
Our evidence suggests that this is certainly the case in respect
of the practical provision made by national and local government,
and Parliament, for meeting the needs of disabled people.
182. We found that many disabled people are deterred
from any sort of involvement in politics or public life by problems
at the most local level, with their councils. Local authorities
play an important role along the pathway to politics, but they
do not always make it easy for disabled people to get involved.
183. Local councils and other "public authorities"
were explicitly brought into the Disability Discrimination Act
2005, which initiated the Disability Equality Duty and states
It is unlawful for a public authority to discriminate
against a disabled person in carrying out its functions.
The Act goes on to say that
it is the duty of the authority to take such
steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case,
for it to have to take
to make sure that its premises do not place
a disabled person who is a member of the authority
at a substantial disadvantage, in comparison with members of the
authority who are not disabled persons, in connection with his
carrying-out of official business.
So councils have a double responsibility to provide
the right environment for disabled people, both as public bodies
who have to obey the general law on discrimination and reasonable
adjustment, and specifically towards their elected members.
184. According to several of our witnesses, local
authorities do not always do what is required of them. The Labour
Party Disabled Members' Group (LPDMG) for instance told the Conference:
Many local government offices and officers are
not fully aware of their obligation to ensure the office of being
a Councillor is fully "accessible" in the real sense
of the word. Under the legislation there should be procedures
ready for all types of access to information and offices, buildings
and all amenities accessible but there seldom is.
185. The Councillors Commission, reporting in 2007,
said that some local authorities were failing to make sure that
practical help for disabled councillorssuch things as sign
language interpretation at official meetings, induction loop systems
and accessible meeting roomswas available and publicised.
They said that few authorities had appointed officers responsible
for making sure help was in place.
We also heard that disabled people can find it difficult to negotiate
public transport to attend meetings.
186. Our own experience of Speaker's Conference meetings
held in local authority premises was generally good. For example,
buildings in Manchester, Leeds and Cheltenham were well adapted
for wheelchair users and facilities for signing were generally
available. We found all the support we needed from council officers.
However, it is clear that not all councils match the best, either
in providing good public access or in helping disabled councillors
do their job.
187. Funding provided through the Access to Work
scheme is a possible source of financial support for councillors
but Scope, the disability charity, told us that some authorities
failed to make use of it. They said that it was not really certain
that "the scheme is available to sitting Councillors as it
currently seems to operate on a council by council basis with
some Councillors receiving support while others are denied [such
188. We also believe that this issue brings up an
important principle. The responsibility for making adjustments
to buildings lies with the organisation for which or in which
they work. We believe scarce cash-limited Access to Work fundsintended
for use by individualsshould not be used by councils to
fund core legal requirementssuch as action to make reasonable
adjustments to buildings. Making such adjustments is a key part
of being a good employer and complying with the law.
POLITICAL PARTIES: CENTRAL INITIATIVES
AND LOCAL REALITY
189. As we have noted, political parties are key
to involvement in political life. Very few people get into Parliament,
or onto their local council, without support from one party or
another. But we found that disabled people who want to get involved
in political parties find a number of barriers in their way. Some
witnesses suggested that political parties were not working hard
enough to make politics more accessible for disabled people. For
instance, Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of RADAR, told us she believed
that "there has been less positive action, less specific
work, by political parties on disability than there has been in
relation to race and gender."
190. This is despite explicit legal duties aimed
at ensuring that political parties and other groups remove barriers
and encourage disabled people to become involved. In the 2005
Disability Discrimination Act there are sections prohibiting "associations
of persons" with more than 25 people from discriminating
against disabled people. Political parties are considered to be
associations for this purpose. The law is clear; there should
be no discrimination against disabled people who want to take
part in politics.
191. Chris Holmes said he was concerned at the lack
of practical support from the parties for blind and partially-sighted
people who wanted to play a part in politics, or even to understand
political issues as informed citizens. He noted that in the 2009
European elections in the UK:
only the Green Party offered the option of a
Braille manifesto. The Conservatives had audio files for their
manifesto on their website, but other than that, for a blind person,
if they wanted to engage in politics, see what the parties are
[it was] incredibly difficult at that stage,
purely through very, very simple and straightforward barriers
which would be very easy to overcome.
192. It would be unfair, however, to suggest that
political parties are not trying to tackle the barriers to access
for disabled people. Party headquarters are aware of the need
to increase access, and Abigail Lock of Scope was able to praise
the work that some of the central party organisations have been
doing to increase access for disabled people.
193. In many ways the main issue is not the policy
laid down by party headquarters. The key to fair chances for disabled
people in political life is access to local party meetings and
events. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 applies to all
private clubs and other associations with more than 25 membersmeaning
that many if not all local branches of parties have to make reasonable
adjustments for disabled people. These legal requirements are
not intended to be burdensome for small branches; the Government
has stated clearly that associations "will only ever be required
to do what is reasonable and may take into account factors like
the resources of the club."
194. The Labour Party Disabled Members' Group (LPDMG)
has produced a guide and an associated handbook which are intended
to help constituency parties understand their legal duties to
avoid discrimination and make adjustments, and to underline the
general need to use and promote best practice; the guide and handbook
were endorsed by the Party at national level.
These publications contain a range of suggestions covering physical
access arrangements, communications issues such as signage and
the availability of induction loops for people who use a hearing
195. Despite backing from senior people in the central
party, the LPDMG General Secretary, Janet Kirk, believed that
the recommendations in the guide were not always implemented by
local Labour parties. She told us: "I go round the constituencies
advocating this and asking them to use it, [the LPDMG guide]
but unfortunately, I do not think it is used as much as it should
be, and although the Labour Party have made it a policy document,
they do not seem very keen on actually impacting it, and actually
making sure that constituencies are adhering to it."
196. Our evidence suggested that this difference
between central and local attitudes was not confined to the Labour
Party. Abigail Lock of Scope said that there was often a divide
between the access policies announced by central parties and the
approach taken by some local party bodies:
"there is a real disconnect that often exists
the central party, and their work promoting diversity,
and what is actually going on on the ground, when disabled people
are going for selection and election
We had [a case of]
a wheelchair user who was told, because you could not go out door
knocking, you could not possibly be a candidate. The parties often
are putting off disabled people right from the first stage."
Although the financial demands of the legislation
are modest, it is understandable that local parties would prefer
to spend their limited money on campaigning. It is hardly surprising
that, as the Labour Party Disabled Members' Group told us, "many
disabled people are so used to not having their access needs met
that they don't even ask". 
197. It is therefore fortunate that good organisation
can overcome some of the financial problems. The LPDMG handbook
for instance contains a number of ideas which could help, if
taken up by the parties, including branches joining together to
buy a shared induction loop for small meetings. The handbook suggests
that branches who use premises that are not their own might consider
"informing the owners of the venue of their obligations under
the DDA"; in almost all cases local parties will meet in
premises which must by law make reasonable adjustments already.
It also suggests that room bookings should be changed if the original
venues are not suitable for wheelchair usea way perhaps
of using the power of the purse to encourage better access.
198. Scope, which has carried out detailed survey
work on disability and participation with each of the three largest
Westminster parties, urged that all parties should have "a
more strategic approach to disability policy" for their central
party organisations, but should also recognise "the pragmatic
nature of local party politics". This would mean, we believe,
better central planning to provide the materials and facilities
needed by disabled peoplesuch as campaign documents produced
in Braille and in language that is more understandable and accessible
for all. It would also mean better guidance on access to meetings
for local parties, bearing in mind the inevitable shortage of
cash. LPDMG suggested to us that the principles contained in their
should be undertaken by all political parties
thus ensuring that any disabled member of the public who
wants to involve themselves in politics by attending their parties'
meetings or organisations can be assured that they will be able
to enter and be fully involved from the start.
199. We do not doubt that party leaders are sincere
when they say that they want better access for disabled people.
We recognise that they may be finding it difficult to make sure
their policies are carried out at a local level where it matters.
Nevertheless the shortage of funds must not be an excuse for local
parties failing to make proper arrangements for disabled people
to play their part in politics.
200. In our interim report we recommended the appointment
for each party of "a named party officer responsible for
supporting the access requirements of disabled candidates."
We now urge the parties to take the next step.
201. We believe that all political parties should
make it easier for disabled people to play a full part in party
activities, initially by setting out a clear policy on access.
At national level, this would mean for instance making sure that
campaign documents are produced in Braille and other formats,
that websites are easy to use for people with sight impairments,
and that BSL interpretation or speech-to-text technology is available
at major events.
202. But there also needs to be a realistic policy
for local parties, encouraging co-operation and making the best
of the limited money available. The ideas and practical suggestions
set out in the guide and handbook produced by the Labour Party
Disabled Members' Group would form a good basis for this policy,
for all political parties.
The costs of candidacy
203. We heard a great deal of evidence about the
high cost of parliamentary candidacy, and the problems this poses
for groups that are currently under-represented. There are different
classes of costs relating to parliamentary candidacy. Initially
there are costs relating specifically to the task of being selected
by a local constituency to stand as their official candidate (prospective
parliamentary candidate, or PPC). Once selected, there are the
further costs of campaigning at a by-election or general election
for the support of the wider electorate. These are costs which
are recognised by the parties and by outside bodies such as the
Electoral Commission as being required by the electoral process.
In addition, however, for most candidates there will be the cost
of sustaining and building a candidacy between selection and the
formal start of the election campaign. This period can last several
years and the costs to the candidate, both in financial and personal
terms, can be considerable.
204. The formal costs for someone who is seeking
to be selected as a parliamentary candidate seem relatively small.
The Scottish National Party said that "potential candidates
are only charged a nominal £10 for the assessment procedure,
many candidates will spend under £100 in total".
The Ulster Unionist Party said that the cost was "minimal",
while the Liberal Democrats told us the average selection cost
for Liberal Democrat candidates is £178.
Similarly, the official costs of campaigning for a general election
are considered to be relatively low, partly because the political
parties may offer support in certain circumstances.
205. While the reports of the parties themselves
suggest candidacy is largely inexpensive, a survey of Conservative
candidates in 2006 estimated the cost of candidacy to the individual
at £41,550 over an electoral cycle (from the start of a Parliament
to its dissolution, normally a period of 4 to 5 years). Candidates
we spoke to ourselves thought that this was a reasonable calculation
for the costs arising through the process. Individual candidates
told us that they estimated their expenses at approximately £10,000
per year which, over a four or five-year electoral cycle, would
come to roughly the same amount.
206. The difference between the official and unofficial
accounts of candidate expenditure reflects the highly variable
and often hidden financial demands which may arise for any candidate.
In addition to the relatively small costs which may be involved
in attending formal selection panels and meetings, expenses can
· Whether the
candidate has to travel a long distance between the constituency
and their home, and how often that journey is made;
· How easy it
is to travel around the constituency (by bike, on foot, by bus
or by car);
· Whether the
candidate has to find somewhere to stay in the constituency, away
· Whether the
candidate has to pay for childcare or other caring cover while
away from home;
· Whether the
candidate feels that they have to move themselves and their family
into the constituency; and
· The ways in
which the candidate seeks to communicate with the selectorate
(for example, by personal visits, by telephone canvassing, direct
mail or, reportedly, by DVD).
Anecdotal evidence suggests that candidates still
feel obliged to contribute to local and national party fundraising,
for example by attending functions, buying raffle tickets, etc.
207. In addition to actual expenditure a significant
part of the total may be the cost of lost income, if the candidate
has to take unpaid leave from work, reduce their working hours
or even give up their job in order to spend time in the constituency.
208. Much of the expenditure above is not formally
required for a candidate to be selected by a constituency. In
practice, however, the competitive nature of the selection process
and the expectations of constituency parties mean that candidates
who wish to succeed have to invest considerable time and money
in order to make their case. For example, one candidate told us
that she took four months leave of absence from her job in order
to live in the constituency and get to know the local 'selectorate'.
In that four months she met every member of the local party (which
numbered more than 200 members) between three and seven times
to discuss their concerns. We have heard of several cases where
a potential candidate has felt that they had to move themselves
and their family to a constituency in order to demonstrate their
209. Many people from under-represented groups will
be disadvantaged by these demands. Women, people from BME communities
and disabled people are more likely to be in low paid employment,
in receipt of benefits such as Incapacity Benefit or without any
income. This would also be true of working-class men. People
in this position will simply lack the resources to make frequent
trips to a far-off constituency. Anyone with caring responsibilities
is likely to find it difficult to travel away from home on a regular
basis and it can be equally difficult to move and resettle an
210. The candidates we spoke to insisted that they
accepted these costs, and believed that the goal of becoming an
MP was worth the expense. Many of them however noted that they
were relatively fortunate in having a supportive family, a reasonable
income and/or a job which enabled them to work around the constituency's
demands. Concern was expressed that the costs would deter others
who did not have that support, particularly if they were faced
with contesting a series of elections over many years, to build
a reputation, before being successful. We have heard anecdotal
reports of candidates accruing significant debts and being forced
to give up the contest because they simply could not afford to
211. The party leaders told us of their concerns
on this issue. The Prime Minister, speaking as Leader of the Labour
Party, told us that he recognised candidacy was "more difficult
for people who have family responsibilities" and he was "sure
that [his] party was trying to deal with these issues." David
Cameron MP, the Leader of the Conservative Party, agreed that
the cost of candidacy "is a problem and if anything it is
getting a bit worse" although like the Prime Minister he
believed that local candidates would not experience such severe
financial demands as those who had to travel away from their homes
and families. Nick Clegg, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats,
acknowledged the "personal financial costs" but also
spoke of the time costs which affect candidates: these are discussed
further in paragraphs 221-230 below.
212. None of the leaders had an answer to these problems.
The Prime Minister reminded us of the creation of voluntary support
schemes within the Labour Party: Emily's List, which provides
financial and other support to women candidates; Dorothy's List,
which provides support to LGBT candidates; and, most recently,
Bernie's List, which supports candidates of BME origin. Emily's
List provides grants to candidates to assist with specific campaigning
needs such as leaflet production, telephone bills or dependent
care. These grants are currently capped at £350 which, while
helpful, still leaves the candidate potentially with many thousands
of pounds to find. David Cameron said that the Conservative Party
had helped individual candidates "on one or two occasions".
The Liberal Democrats told us that the "relative lack of
funds available to the Liberal Democrats means that candidates
will tend to contribute more to their campaign costs than may
be the case in other partiesespecially if they are seeking
They also noted the potential significance of lost earnings but
added that it was not possible to quantify the costs involved.
All political parties should place a ceiling upon the expenses
which candidates can incur during any single selection process.
213. Several witnesses suggested to us that a fund,
called by one witness a "Democracy Diversity Fund",
should be established: this would be administered independently
by the Electoral Commission and would support the parties in their
identification, training, development and mentoring of talented
individuals who might not otherwise be able to fulfil their potential
as parliamentary candidates. Part of this fund could be used to
provide bursaries to candidates who can "show that they are
strongly committed but would struggle with the economic costs";
the amount given in this way to any political party over the course
of an electoral cycle could be capped.
214. We support the suggestion of a Democracy
Diversity Fund which could be drawn upon by local political parties
to support the work of developing talented individuals from under-represented
groups and also to provide bursaries to individuals who would
otherwise be unable to sustain the costs of candidacy. There must
be strong controls in place to make sure the money is not abused
and therefore the scheme's effectiveness and propriety should
be regularly evaluated by the Electoral Commission, in reports
which should be laid before the House at least once every Parliament.
The Electoral Commission should consult the Equality and Human
Rights Commission when evaluating the scheme.
THE SPECIFIC COSTS OF CANDIDACY
FOR DISABLED PEOPLE
215. While candidates from under-represented groups
generally need financial support, we heard a considerable amount
of evidence that the financial barriers facing disabled candidates
were particularly high and acted as a considerable deterrent.
For example a deaf candidate may have to meet the costs of a British
Sign Language Interpreter or a candidate with a mobility impairment
may need to use more taxis than a non-disabled candidate.
216. There is also another side to this mismatch;
the necessary extra spending has to be borne by candidates who
are often poorer than other candidates. Disabled people, said
the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, were on average "twice
as likely to live in poverty, twice as likely to be out of work
and significantly less likely to go on to further and higher education."
Equality 2025, a network of disabled people which advises the
Government on how to achieve disability equality, noted another
barrier to Parliament in the funding of social care. Because social
care funding "packages" only operate in a single geographical
area, many disabled people are unable to move around the country,
which limits the area in which they can be candidates.
While assistance to those in employment and to MPs can be provided
through the Access to Work scheme, it is not available to candidates.
217. Scope has suggested that an "Access to
Public Life Fund" should be established to level the playing
field for disabled candidates. This would help to meet the cost
of reasonable adjustments during campaigns and would operate in
the same way (and using the same offices) as the Access to Work
scheme. Candidates could apply directly to the fund for assistance
with, for example, help with the costs of employing a BSL interpreter
during the selection processes, and support with the extra costs
of travel or accommodation, for example the extra cost of taking
a taxi rather than a bus, or staying in an accessible hotel room
rather than at a party member's house. It would be funded from
public money and guidance on who should be eligible would be drawn
up by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Office of the
Commissioner for Public Appointments and the Electoral Commission.
218. Scope has provided a detailed explanation of
how the scheme might work setting out, for example, case studies,
including how paying for additional transport and accommodation
costs might help a candidate. Scope accepts that useful data on
disability is in short supply, but calculates that "an initial
fund of £500,000 [should] be made available over two years,
with take-up monitored to provide a more robust data set that
can be used to determine future levels of funding."
219. Scope itself raises some questions about the
idea of the Fund, saying that it should be used to "level
the playing field between disabled and non-disabled candidates"
and not to provide "unfair political advantage".
There would have to be agreed rules on how the fund would be divided
between the parties and what would happen with independent candidates.
But such questions should not be an excuse for inaction.
220. There is overwhelming evidence that shortage
of money and the necessity of additional expenditure to support
disabled people through candidacy, make finance a particularly
significant barrier to elected office for disabled people. Disabled
people should be able to fight for parliamentary seats without
having to face the complicated financial barriers that confront
them at present. This is not a question of political advantage,
but a simple matter of achieving just representation.
221. We therefore believe that the Government
should urgently consider, as part of the Democracy Diversity
Fund, a ring-fenced scheme to support disabled parliamentary candidates.
This scheme for disabled candidates should use as its model the
Access to Public Life Fund which has been proposed by Scope. The
scheme should be devised and operated by the Department for Work
and Pensions, and should be administered in the same way as the
Access to Work scheme.
TIME OFF WORK FOR CAMPAIGNING
222. We have discussed the need to ensure that there
is no further narrowing of the paths to Parliament. In particular,
Membership of the House must not become the sole preserve of those
with a private income; there must be room for people with full-time
jobs to campaign if they are selected.
223. A measure which could help to reduce the
burden on candidates would be for the Government to legislate
to give approved prospective parliamentary candidates who are
employees the right to request a reasonable amount of unpaid leave
during working hours and/or a right to work flexibly for the purposes
of campaigning. Such provisions exist already under the Employment
Rights Act 1996 for employees who undertake various forms of public
service such as being a member of a local authority, a police
authority or a prison monitoring board; some employees are also
permitted time off for trade union duties under the Trade Union
and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Extending similar
rights to approved prospective parliamentary candidates would
affect only a relatively small number of individuals and businesses,
but might be sufficient to protect candidates on low incomes from
having to resign their posts completely. This would also, symbolically,
recognise that the action of standing for election, whether or
not the candidate is successful, is an essential part of our democratic
process and of public benefit.
224. Extending this measure further, the Government
should legislate to enable approved prospective parliamentary
candidates who are employees to take unpaid leave, rather than
resigning their employment, for the period from the dissolution
of Parliament to election day (this period is called the 'short
campaign' in Electoral Commission documents). This again would
affect only a small number of individuals and businesses, but
might remove a barrier from those on low incomes who would find
it difficult to stand for election if they had to abandon their
source of income to do so. Sir John Rose, the Chief Executive
of Rolls-Royce, told us that, as part of its drive for corporate
social responsibility, the company had defined being a parliamentary
candidate, or a parliamentary candidate's agent, as a civic duty.
The company gives candidates on its staff up to two weeks paid
leave immediately prior to the election, while agents may take
up to three weeks unpaid leave immediately prior to the election.
Other civic duties for which the company grants leave include
service on certain public bodies, and service as a local councillor.
In the three years since the company began to monitor the take-up
of leave for civic duties in 2007 it has seen the number of staff
requesting such leavefor service across the range of public
dutiesrise from 58 to 171.
225. We recognise that, in the first instance,
making such leave unpaid protects employers from any suggestion
that they may be improperly financing a political campaign. In
the long term we would like the Government to move to a position
where candidates are entitled to receive a grant from the state
equivalent to the minimum wage for the period sometimes known
as the short campaign.
226. Becoming a prospective parliamentary candidate
can be hugely demanding on the individual. Once the selection
campaign is won, local activists will frequently look to the new
candidate to take on a leadership role within the constituency.
This may involve living in the constituency or being present in
the constituency throughout the week, attending meetings during
the day and in the evening, carrying out administrative work at
home and participating in party social events at the weekend.
The candidate may feel under an obligation to make a substantial
donation to local campaign finances, or to the general finances
of the local party. The greater the expectation of the local party
that the seat can be won, the higher its expectations of its candidate
are likely to be.
227. The work of the PPC is essentially unpaid voluntary
work, with the prospectbut no certaintyof their
position becoming formalised at some future point if they were
to win at the election. At the same time as seeking to meet the
demands of the local party, the candidate may have to hold down
a paid job in order to support themselves and their family. The
candidate's partner and family also will have reasonable expectations
of time and attention from the candidate. The candidate may not
initially have a network of close friends in the constituency
to whom they can turn for advice and support. Our attention has
been drawn to several cases where candidates, both male and female,
have resigned their candidacies because of the strains which the
combined pressures of work and the constituency placed upon their
relationships with partners and children, particularly younger
228. In many such cases it is likely that the pressures
placed upon the candidate by the constituency are unintended.
Many activists are retired and the demands of the workplace and
of young children are not at the forefront of their minds. As
local parties are themselves voluntary organisations, individual
activists may request assistance or support from the candidate
without anyone formally managing or co-ordinating these demands.
Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, which has carried
out some research into these issues, described a failure of some
local parties to appreciate that their candidates are "not
campaign robots" but people with complex and demanding responsibilities
229. It was suggested to us that some of these difficulties
could be avoided by clarifying for both the candidate and the
local party, at the point of selection, what demands upon the
candidate would be appropriate, and what would not. These would
vary depending upon the nature of the seat, and how 'winnable'
the central party deemed it to be. We endorse the suggestion that
each central political party should consider drawing up statements
of expectation setting out the role, and the reasonable demands
which may be made, of both prospective parliamentary candidates
and local party associations in different types of seat. Like
any professional job specification such a statement could be used
at the local party level to specify campaign priorities and could
be subject to regular review by an independent assessor.
230. We also believe that first-time candidates,
in particular, would benefit from the establishment of formal
mentoring schemes and/or 'buddy systems' which can provide pastoral
support and independent advice on issues arising within the constituency.
231. Regional or central party officials should
also consider whether further training support might be beneficial
to candidates who have limited experience of formal management,
team building and leadership roles.
232. Many individuals in under-represented groups
lack the confidence to put themselves forward as candidates. A
number of witnesses suggested that an effective way of building
individuals' confidence is to provide them with training and increase
their contact with current elected representatives. For many people,
some element of this confidence-building experience can be gathered
through joining, and being active within, a local political party.
Some individuals, however, may benefit from a more structured,
and intensive, process such as internship or mentoring.
233. Many Members of Parliament already make internshipsan
extended period of work experienceavailable in their Westminster
and/or constituency offices, but access to these opportunities
234. The difficulties for people interested in accessing
number of opportunities available at any time is limited;
· They may not
be widely advertised;
· Access may
be restricted to a particular group, for example, university students;
· They are frequently
In consequence, the individuals who tend to benefit
most from internships tend to be those who have existing contacts
within Westminster (which enable them to find out about openings),
those who can stay with family or friends within a reasonable
travelling distance from Westminster (i.e. within London and the
South East) and those who have sufficient financial backing to
enable them to work and perhaps live in London, unpaid, for a
number of weeks. Many of those with whom we are concerned live
on low incomes and the cost of an internship is therefore a significant
235. Disabled groups in particular were keen to suggest
to us that internships at Westminster should be made more widely
available. They argued that creating opportunities for disabled
people to act as interns would not only give those people valuable
work experience and raise their expectations, but would demonstrate
to the disabled community the importance of engaging with politics;
it would also help to increase disability awareness amongst politicians
and others within Westminster, and challenge their assumptions
about what disabled people can achieve. 
236. Evidence about the value of such specialised
internship programmes was provided by Transport for London (TfL).
TfL told us that different parts of its organisation offer internship
programmes designed specifically to address under-representation
of particular groups in its workforce, including those from BME
backgrounds and disabled people. Two of its divisions, London
Underground and Surface Transport, run programmes for unemployed
disabled people which offer placements lasting between eight weeks
and six months. Rather than creating specific roles for interns,
the Surface Transport programme places disabled people in currently
vacant positions within the organisation: after six months the
intern can apply for the vacant post. TfL claims that its working
environment is thus enhanced for all staff.
The use of vacant posts rather than additional roles is attractive,
as it potentially gives the participant the benefit of a defined
role as well as a salary. In order to make the use of vacant posts
feasible, however, a participant would realistically have to commit
to a fairly long period of work so that they could make an effective
237. Members of Parliament are individual employers
of their own staff teams. Within these small teams vacancies can
arise fairly frequently through resignation or extended leave
such as maternity leave. We believe it should be possible for
each Parliamentary party to maintain a list of individuals from
under-represented groups, perhaps nominated by stakeholder organisations,
who might by this means be notified of internships and temporary
vacancies arising in Members' offices. All reasonable adjustment
costs for the successful applicant should be funded for the duration
of the appointment. We invite the political parties to work with
stakeholder organisations to establish how this can best be done.
238. A further way to make the role of an MP less
distant from other people is to use work shadowing, or mentoring,
for those who aspire to be candidates. A mentoring programme,
during which an individual meets and follows an MP for a fixed
number of days over an extended period, may be a more suitable
option than internship for many people, particularly those with
caring responsibilities, or those who are in employment. Mentoring
provides a less intensive experience than internship but, if sustained
over a period such as two years,
can offer people the opportunity to learn a lot about public life,
and, by building a relationship between an aspirant candidate
and their mentor, do much to support the candidate and build their
confidence. Witnesses including the National Federation of Women's
Institutes told us that mentoring can be particularly beneficial
to women, who are likely to lack confidence in their own abilities
and who may, because of family commitments, have missed out on
opportunities for formal training in the workplace.
239. Some witnesses said that there was a risk in
concentrating mentoring and shadowing schemes exclusively on high-profile
high achievers and on Parliament alone, because confidence had
to be built up gradually, and small steps were important. Liz
Sayce of RADAR called for publicity for
a range of role models at different points and
levels in the system. Not everybody is going to think: oh, I could
be a Secretary of State. But they might think: perhaps I could
be a councillor. Then, once they are a councillor, they might
think: actually, maybe I could be a local MP.
Any mentoring scheme should take into account the
need to encourage involvement in public life at all levels, from
local community organisations to Parliament itself. It should
also ensure that people from under-represented groups gain experience
of constituency activities, which form such an important part
of a Member's work.
240. We heard from Operation Black Vote and the National
Assembly for Wales about the success of shadowing/mentoring programmes
which have been run in Cardiff and Westminster to promote participation
from within the BME communities. For example, in 2007-08 Operation
Black Vote (OBV) and the National Assembly for Wales ran a very
successful AM Shadowing Scheme which encouraged BME individuals
to engage in the political process by shadowing Assembly Members
(AM) from all the main political groups. The Assembly is now operating,
along with the Welsh Local Government Association and other partners,
a pilot mentoring/shadowing scheme for a wider range of under-represented
groups. This scheme, called Step Up Cymru, involves both Assembly
Members and local councillors mentoring people from under-represented
groups and encouraging them to get involved in active citizenship,
especially in their local communities. This seems a practical
and measured approach and Step Up Cymru may well turn out to be
a good model for something similar across the UK.
241. We believe that there is scope for the development
of a UK-wide scheme similar to the Step Up Cymru mentoring scheme,
but with a strong Westminster element. This could bring together
elected members at all levels of government to provide opportunities
for people from under-represented groups to find out about their
work. The initial aim might be to encourage involvement in community
groups, but it should also give encouragement to those who might
wish to become candidates for elected office at local and national
level or be appointed to a public body.
Unacceptable conduct in campaigning
242. Concerns were raised about negative personal
campaigning in local areas. While campaigning should focus upon
party policies, and the effectiveness of different candidates,
we are aware that on occasions activists and candidates may mount
personal attacks on specific candidates by commenting on, for
example, their family life, their racial background, their sexual
orientation or their state of health. At the extreme, a local
election candidate in London was jailed in 2007 for publicly accusing
a competing candidate who was homosexual of being "a paedophile
with a 16 year old boyfriend".
Derek Munn of Stonewall told us that "there have been instances
of unacceptable homophobic behaviour by activists and candidates
in all the political parties and we would not single anybody out".
243. Such behaviour and such comments are completely
unacceptable. The task of ensuring they do not happen is, unfortunately,
extremely difficult. Where allegations are made very publicly,
as in the 2007 case, or where they are made in writing, prosecutions
may be mounted. Most cases, however, are more likely to hinge
upon what is said on the doorstep, where there are few witnesses.
In these other cases, the task of enforcement will rest mainly
with the parties themselves.
244. This is an area where strong leadership will
be needed from the parties, both nationally and locally. Candidates
will have to join with the leaders to state unequivocally that
they will not tolerate campaigning based on personal attacks.
Derek Munn pointed out that at previous elections the parties
have made such statements in relation to racist campaigns. The
parties should each draw up a formal code of conduct for campaigning.
This should make clear that campaigning is unacceptable where
it seeks to undermine a candidate by reference to his or her family
life, racial background, sexual orientation, health status or
disability. It is for each party to decide how it will respond
to any breaches of the code. These codes of conduct should
be in place in time for the 2010 general election.
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