Y Pwyllgor ar Ddiwygio Etholiadol y Senedd - Y Pumed Cynulliad
Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform - Fifth Senedd13/01/2020
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|David J. Rowlands AC|
|Dawn Bowden AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Delyth Jewell AC|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AC|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Dr Nicole Martin||The University of Manchester|
|The University of Manchester|
|Yr Athro Rosie Campbell||Kings College London|
|Kings College London|
|Ruth Coombs||Y Comisiwn Cydraddoldeb a Hawliau Dynol|
|Equality and Human Rights Commission|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Sian Giddins||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Stephen Aldhouse||Ail Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 10:16.
The meeting began at 10:16.
Good morning, everybody, and welcome to this meeting today. Can I just advise everybody that the National Assembly does operate through the medium of Welsh and English languages? There are headsets for simultaneous translation on channel 1 and sound amplification on channel 2. This is a formal public meeting, so Members do not need to operate the microphones themselves. And I just ought to mention that, in the event of an emergency, an alarm will sound and ushers will direct everyone to the nearest safe exit and assembly point. So, if we can move on then to item 2—. Sorry, can I ask if there are any declarations of interest before we move on? No.
Okay, we can move on to item 2, then, and this is the oral evidence session on the diversity of the Assembly. I'd like to welcome Ruth Coombs, head of the Wales Equality and Human Rights Commission to the meeting. Welcome, Ruth, thank you for your time and coming in to speak to us this morning. We've got a number of questions that we'd like to ask you, so we'll move straight into questions, if that's okay with you? Firstly, can I ask you: what consideration has been given to where responsibility lies for ensuring that the National Assembly for Wales is a diverse and representative legislature?
I think that's a really interesting question, Chair. I think that it has to be a joint responsibility with both the Assembly and Welsh Government, and also political parties, playing their part in developing something that actually looks more representative. And of course, there are some constraints on the Assembly for some of the enablers that could assist, because the responsibility lies at UK Government level.
For example, commencing section 106 of the Equality Act 2010. It's not in the gift of either Welsh Government, National Assembly or political parties to do that, but we think that that's one example of where working collaboratively might actually make more impact. So, if Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission were to call on the UK Government to either enact that or to devolve the powers to Welsh Ministers to be able to do that, then that would be opening up a mechanism for you to use to look at diversity, because it would be a requirement to collect diversity statistics on all candidates.
If it can't be done through regulation or legislation, it could be done through voluntary action. And if it was to be done by voluntary action, that would be where we would want to see political parties each playing their part in that voluntary code. So, that's an example of the complexity of the matter.
Yes, I appreciate that. We probably are going to explore some issues around section 106 a little later on, so thank you for flagging that up. How do you interpret your organisation's role in relation to promoting—amongst political parties and their candidates for Members of the Assembly?
Obviously, we have a role as a regulator. We do regulate the equality Act, and if we have concerns about actions that are being taken by political parties, we can write to them asking if they have done equality impact assessments and what was the rationale behind their actions.
We have recently used that power to try and clarify some of the things that political parties are doing, because—and I'm sure we'll come on to this later—there's a difference between positive action and positive discrimination. Positive action is okay, but it's about making sure that—.
We would see our role, if there was any commencement of section 106, as we would be able to advise on what that looks like and what the data might look like. But we also have that regulatory power, and if people stray over into what we think might be legal, then we can challenge that.
Through the general equality duty of fostering good relations, for example, we would be able to advise Welsh Government, Assembly Commission and political parties on what 'good' might look like. So, we can use one of our softer powers.
In an advisory role. I understand that, yes.
David, you want to come in.
Yes. Just on that business, they would have to be negative actions by a political party before you could really get involved—is that right? What sanctions do you have?
It would be—. If, for example, you wanted to take positive action but actually strayed into doing something that was perceived as positive discrimination, i.e. going further than you can do in law, we could write and talk to you about that. We do have some enforcement powers. We can enter into agreements with organisations to try and put things right. Quite often, pointing out that there is a potential issue or problem is enough. Usually, we find that people want and organisations want to co-operate. Ultimately, we can do things like carry out a judicial review, but we would much prefer to work with organisations than to hold them to account with our enforcement powers; apart from, of course, repeat offenders, as it were—people who clearly don't want to make any changes to something that we would consider to be straying outside of the provisions of the Act.
For the record then, for some clarity, perhaps you could just give us an example of what is considered as positive action and what is considered to be positive discrimination, in the context that we're talking about.
Yes, absolutely. Positive action—. You've probably seen, for example, all-women shortlists. We would see that that's kind of—. Or you might look at other protected characteristics and say, 'Actually, we need to look at under-representation from those particular groups and have some positive action around that.' The difficulty is whether or not that is positive action, or whether or not it is actually positive discrimination. It's not a very clear area of law.
Much more clear are positive actions around things like mentoring schemes, education schemes, encouraging applications from diverse backgrounds. For example, I've been a mentor for two years on the Women's Equality Network mentoring scheme that's encouraging women to get into politics.
It's when you start perhaps looking at saying, 'Well, we need, for example, an all-male shortlist in a particular area', and you think, 'Well, where is the under-representation of men?', for example. It might be that you've got an under-representation of men from ethnic minority backgrounds but men per se might not be seen as being under-represented; they're certainly not in the Assembly at the moment, and they wouldn't be at local government level at the moment. So, that would be an example of where you were using a positive action, but actually in a way that wasn't appropriate.
You start to discriminate, yes. Okay, I understand. Thank you for that, Ruth. David, you've got a series of questions.
Yes. I just want to follow up on that a little. Obviously, you were saying whether it would be a positive action to have, say, shortlists for men or women. Yet, the last Assembly had a fairly equal number, but you didn't challenge shortlists for women in the selection process on that basis, did you?
No. Because the ambition of the Assembly is to be 50:50, then actions in order to do that would be considered appropriate.
But it was actually at sort of 50:50, wasn't it, at the time?
It was then, but it's obviously not now, which again shows that, sometimes, you can put in place positive actions and you don't always then get the outcome that you would be hoping to get. Because, at the end of the day, there is an electoral system that needs to support however you select candidates. But yes, if the Assembly was to look at, for example, increasing its ethnic diversity, or its disability diversity, there could be positive actions that you may want to take on those.
Or, rather than a positive action, you might want to use a removing-barriers approach. Because there are people who have specific barriers, and it might be that your action is around removing those barriers rather than saying, 'We'll have a quota system', for example. We did some research in 2019 in Wales—a small study of between 30 and 40 people—looking at those barriers for women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and trans people. Not everybody in that small study thought that quotas was the right way to go forward; there was a bit of a mixed view on it. So, we wouldn't see that as the only solution. We would want to see other ways of reducing the barrier, knocking the wall down, as it were, alongside that as well.
Okay. Obviously, coming under that could possibly be further measures you think could encourage political parties to follow the principles of the public sector equality duty, and that would—. What sorts of measures are you taking with regard to that?
Political parties: we believe that they should develop comprehensive strategies in order to do that. Our 'Is Wales Fairer?' 2018 report has recommendations for political parties in that regard. We are happy to advise political parties that want to move in that direction. And if people raise concerns to us about how political parties are conducting their business, we can write and seek clarity and make recommendations.
Of course, if section 106 was implemented then there would be a duty on parties to collect data, wouldn't there, with regard to diversity? What could you do with that data, if it was collected?
Well, if that data was collected, then there would be a twofold approach. Certainly, it would enable political parties to really look and see where their gaps were and what they needed to do. But we could also look at that data and monitor that data over time and look to see what's the direction of travel, is there a direction of travel, are there particular instances where we feel that progress isn't being made, looking at benchmarking at the beginning, and looking at that progressive journey.
It would have to be a longitudinal study, really, because we don't have elections at national level all that often, but we would be able to look at trends, and we would be able to write to parties, reminding them of why section 106 of the Act has been commenced, what that means for them and what they need to do in order to—
But the collection of that data is flawed anyway, isn't it, in that certain candidates might not wish to publish the fact of either a disability or—I mean, if you are autistic in some way, you might not want that to be known, or transgender people might not want it. So, the data that you are collecting on that basis could be quite flawed, couldn't it?
It could be, but what we do know—and this is where there needs to be work to change hearts and minds—is that, if you have got an organisation that's confident in itself, and its members feel confident about it, they are much more likely to share their protected characteristic status. But, you are right: there will be some people who would choose not to, but that's an individual's prerogative. We couldn't make organisations enforce on an individual basis, but what you would have when collecting your diversity stats is, you would have—it's standard to have a 'prefer not to say'. Now, if an organisation has got a huge number of 'prefer not to says', that tells you something about the organisation, and that demonstrates, of itself, that people don't feel very comfortable. And, if you're only getting a take-up rate of 30 or 40 per cent of people disclosing, again, you can see for yourself that there's something not right there.
So, do you really think that this collection of data would, in fact, transform into more diversity in the Assembly?
It is certainly one mechanism that would help. We know that where diversity data is collected, then there is greater diversity. We know that not simply in terms of political parties, but also in all organisations. We find that the more that you collect data and the more people are open about data, the more diverse you can be because you can start looking at what we need to do in order to bring in more people from ethnic minorities, for example.
I think that with the Welsh Government's apprenticeship scheme—the last one, which was about 18 months ago—they did a huge amount of work in schools to encourage people to move into it. They did that in a targeted way, and that then resulted in an increase in applications from candidates from ethnically diverse backgrounds; also, the number of successful applicants form ethnic minorities increased. So, we know that it is one of the mechanisms that works.
But, we wouldn't want to see that done in isolation. We would want to see that done with other, softer examples of what you can do around mentoring, for example, and education, et cetera. We commissioned a report in 2011 around pathways to politics, around greater diversity in legislatures, and we found that there were three inter-linked grounds around justice, effectiveness and legitimacy. We found that by making yourselves more legitimate, more effective, you get more diverse candidates coming through because people want to belong to an organisation that looks a bit more like they do.
I think that we all tend to move towards people who reflect the diverse society that we have in Wales. The more that we can reflect that, the more that we can be confident that we are speaking the voice of the people.
Huw, you had a supplementary around this particular area.
Yes, I'm just interested—. Regardless of either the devolution of section 106 or the UK adopting section 106, you've been able to wrestle with the data and then give guidance, steer, advice, or look at regulatory ways in which we can drive that. One of the things that we can reasonably anticipate, going forward to the next Assembly election when we won't have major wholesale reform in the next election, certainly, is that political mishap, mischance and whatever can affect this as well. For example, in the parliamentary elections at the moment, my understanding—and I haven't looked at the figures—is that partly through positive action that my own party has taken, but partly through mishap, in that a lot of the seats that we lost tended to be guys like me—older white males. A lot of the ones that we've held or new ones that have come on board have actually been women candidates, but that's just chance.
Now, if you look at going forward to the Assembly election next, all the speculation is that my party's under pressure, so the twinning, the zipping, the whatever that we've done in the past will come under pressure. So let's say other parties make inroads. So you could reasonably anticipate that unless positive action through those parties has led to not only an increase in the number of people on their shortlist and their panel, but also in winnable seats and they make the breakthrough, then we're up in the areas of chance again. Am I wrong with this? Because a lot of the inroads in the UK Parliament have been driven by hard action that Labour has taken on the benches when it was in power. A lot of the action here has been through positive action amongst parties but actually hard decisions that we've taken to zip seats and twin seats and so on.
If Labour slips—. So, this isn't a party political point, but it's an issue to do with diversity. If Labour goes into a minority, if Labour slips down to 20, 21 seats, whatever, and there aren't similar mechanisms there that have propelled then we could be looking at quite a different next Assembly, regardless of further electoral reform. So, it's a long—. So, what role do you have now in that discussion with other parties to say, 'There might be more of an onus on you'?
Well, I do think that—. It's a well-made point, and yes, things can happen by chance; good things happen by accident, bad things happen by accident, we know that. So it is really the—. Political parties need to take the responsibility for plotting their own paths and looking to see where they want to go and what that might look like. We would want all political parties to have a broader representation of the people that they serve in their constituencies, and that's not just at national level, that's also particularly at local government level where there are greater disparities. There are obviously opportunities with local government reform to perhaps use that as an impetus to change things.
But there are all sorts of things that can be done through the National Assembly, through Welsh Government agreeing to do certain things, for example, the opportunity of the new curriculum for Wales—really good opportunity to actually put citizenship and understanding politics, be that party politics or politics more broadly, on the agenda for young people. The Youth Parliament is a good start; I think the Youth Parliament is a lot stronger than the previous set-up. And you've got young ambassadors there. Now, to link that in with the new curriculum so that all schools, not just schools that happen to be situated in Cardiff, but all schools make visits down to Tŷ Hywel, to the Senedd, to see how the situation, what it looks like—.
If we're going to have the voting age lowered to 16 that has to be done in conjunction with educating young people. One of the things that all studies have found in terms of the barriers to political participation is a lack of education. And that's a lack of education for everybody, not just some of the schools that tend to produce either local or national politicians, but all schools, so that all young people see those opportunities, and all those young people see, 'Actually, this is something that I can do.' And because the Youth Parliament is visibly quite diverse, you could enable them to go out, link in with the curriculum, and go through into schools and start that. And start it young.
So, are there other things, then, in advance of the next Assembly election that you'd like to see definitely happen, regardless of wider electoral reform?
Yes. I think it's certainly about education. It's also removing some of those social and cultural barriers, prejudice, abuse. We do know, anecdotally, that there can be an awful lot of difficult behaviour within political structures. People who are in a minority, whether that be people from ethnic minority backgrounds, disabled people, women, trans people, they're experiencing really quite poor behaviour from their colleagues, and you can understand that if that's what you're expecting to get out of it, why would you want to do it? And there are a lot of people who say, 'We actually don't want to do this because it's too hard.' So, we would want to see organisations changing their approach, being much more robust in challenging poor behaviour. And that's not simply things that you can say, 'Well, actually, this is something that you can be disciplined for', but that low-level stuff that goes on.
If your local councillors, for example, are out there on social media saying, 'We've got this application for a Gypsy/Roma/Traveller site. Come to our meeting where we can tell you how to object to planning permission.'—and this does go on in Wales—. If that's what people from the Gypsy/Roma/Traveller community—if that's their only engagement or participation with political life, they're not going to want to join it. The same in terms of racially motivated incidents, why would you want to put yourself in that position? So, there is a lot that can be done around changing the culture.
The other thing where I think more could be done is around promoting those positive stories. We had that a few years ago; we had four Assembly Members, one from each of the four political parties, stand up in the Chamber and talk about their mental health problems. So, using good role models to help break down those barriers, and getting it out there that this is for everyone. That, coupled with education, would go a long way, I think.
The other thing to look at would be elected office funds, so, funds for disabled people to remove the barriers and the additional costs for them standing, and that being a fund that doesn't have to be declared towards their campaigning fund, because it's not fair. That's not levelling the playing field. If you're somebody who is disabled with mobility concerns—you may be a wheelchair user, you may be an ambulatory wheelchair user—actually doing the doorstep-to-doorstep approach is really difficult. If you were campaigning where I live in north Cardiff, you wouldn't actually get to the doorstep because most of them have got steps. So, it's about looking at doing things differently, but supporting people to do that. And then, for some disabled candidates, for example, it's not just the funding to get them to stand and get them elected, it's also that ongoing support and being able to access ongoing support that doesn't appear to inflate expenses claims. Because if you need a British sign language interpreter every time that you go to a meeting, you need a BSL interpreter. That's going to cost money, but that's what you should have. Nobody—and rightly so—challenges having use of simultaneous English-Welsh translation, so why would anybody want to challenge that and say, 'Oh, look at how expensive this person is', because it's what they need in order to be able to participate. So, it's things like that that could be done, and could be done on a voluntary basis if it can't be changed in time in terms of legislation.
And it's interesting—we looked at that particular aspect of the use of the fund, and the expanding use of the fund and what it can be applied for, in another committee that I sit on, the Equalities, Local Government and Communities Committee, in respect of local government. So, we're waiting to see what response might come from that.
Certainly, we've had on mentoring schemes here—I mentored last year a fantastic young guy from the Gypsy/Traveller community, also, in terms of other characteristic groups, himself homosexual, and so on and so forth. And he was brilliant. He's better politically connected than I was. I was learning more from him than he was from me, quite frankly, and it would be great to see somebody like him standing. He's got the confidence, it's whether—it's that breakthrough moment, because we don't have independence here, but within a political party, that somebody like that, and from other groups, could actually stand, because it sets the example.
But I'm really interested in the fact that you've touched on a lot of soft, political-cultural aspects, voluntary measures, as opposed to some of the harder ones. You haven't talked about things such as quotas, which have caused such mayhem in my own party, and political discontent, but we got on with them, and there's been twinning and all of that. You haven't touched on that.
No, and I think, in terms of quotas, we would—. It's a balance. Quotas are a balance, because we know that the expert panel on Assembly electoral reform talked about quotas. We know that having quotas can lead to change. We know that can happen. But we also know that not everybody views quotas as positive, and that's people who might benefit from a quota system—'I want to stand on my own merit. I don't want to be seen as if I've got this through a quota system'.
So, it's a balance, and it's also about educating both the electorate, and those people in parties that are considering standing, about why you're doing it, that there is a particular reason why you're doing it. It's not just because you've plucked this idea out of the air. It's actually because we want our legislature to look and to be more reflective of society. I think that, if there was much more communication around that, then that would help.
And of course we do have harder powers as well. You will know that we can conduct investigations. We're conducting investigations at the moment. I'm obviously not able to share any information about that—it's not appropriate—but we can conduct and do conduct investigations if we feel that there is a weight—. There has to be a body of evidence in order for us to consider commencing an investigation, so that's one of the harder powers that we can do. But, as I say, we'd much rather help people get it right than wait until it gets to that stage. However, if we don't, if things are not drawn to our attention, we can't always know what's going on in the internal machinations of different places. But those are the kinds of things that we want to do.
Another thing is that, for disabled people, for women, for men with caring responsibilities, having a more regular hours base might actually encourage a wider representation. If you're always going to hold your meetings at a particular time in the day, then you're going to encourage a particular group of people, particularly at local government level, where—you know, perhaps there needs to be a bit more flexibility.
I think, Ruth, we'll probably come on to that in a moment. There's some work that you have been doing specifically that Huw's got some questions around. Perhaps we could deal with those, and then I've got some questions from Delyth that I think might pick up that very point that you were just raising in the last section.
I think I've covered most of them.
You've covered most of what you wanted to, yes?
Okay. That's fine. Delyth.
Thank you, Chair. Good morning. I think that I know what you're going to say to this question, but I don't want to ask a leading question. So, should the diversity of the Assembly reflect the diversity of the population? And, if so, why?
Well, we know that—. Yes, it should, obviously. You would expect me to say that. We know that, where there is more representation, it actually gives you three elements, really. There's the justice element: so, people from underrepresented groups, if they're prevented from standing because of their gender, background, sexual orientation or perceived disability, that's actually an injustice at an individual level. So, to have a more diverse legislature is a more justice-based legislature. It also increases effectiveness. It improves the nature of policy making, because you've got more voices around. You are hearing a broader range of experience. You're able—. We know that, when you share somebody's story, when you are walking and talking with them, then you get much more out of it; you understand each other better. So, it helps with effectiveness. It helps make your decisions more informed because, with the best will in the world, how can we as a group around this table make informed decisions about what's best for, I don't know, Butetown, for example? We can make an educated guess, but actually we need to hear the voices and we need to have those voices at the table.
On that, quickly—. Sorry, I had a quick supplementary on exactly that point, actually, that looking at the fact, for example, as you were implying there, there are very specific areas in Wales where you will have, for example, far more people from black and minority ethnic communities, like in Butetown, how can we incorporate that localised element into representation so that we're not—? Does that mean that we should have specific actions taken to reflect the specific diversity of specific locations, or—?
I think it's—. It's difficult to do that at national level. I think it's easier to do that at local government level. But, if you look at the national level, you might want to see, well, how is ethnic diversity reflected in the legislature and how is that actually drawing from different cultural experiences, because if you've got—. This is a wild example. If we were to change the Assembly overnight and you had 50 per cent of people from—you know, 50 per cent women, 50 per cent men, you've got 25 per cent, 26 per cent of whom are disabled, because we've got 26 per cent of people identifying as being disabled in Wales, and you also had the percentage of people from ethnic minority backgrounds, but they're all people who have got medical degrees and they're all consultants, it's diverse, but it's only diverse in—
If you're looking at one particular angle.
Looking at one particular bit of it. So, it's about looking at that diversity broadly. That would be a start, but you'd want people from diverse ethnic backgrounds coming, again, with an understanding of the community.
And presumably—. Well, not presumably, actually, because I don't want to assume what you're going to say, but—. Does ultimate equality—? Would that mean that we would want people organically to be represented without the need for quotas, but that this would end up happening, and that those groups with protected characteristics would not feel the need to or feel the desire to raise issues more than other groups about that particular group? Because at the moment, obviously, there is inevitably an element of, if a woman from a Pakistani background were elected, she would be statistically far more likely to raise Pakistani-related issues that would affect the Pakistani community more. Does ultimate equality mean that, actually, we would not expect that, or can we never, really—will we always need people from specific groups to be a voice for that community?
I think we should be striving towards not needing a quota system because, actually, there's enough confidence in the system, the system is sophisticated and mature enough, to have a wide, diverse group of people representing Wales. If you look at the legislature now, you will have people that will champion particular causes for very good reasons, and we wouldn't want to lose that, and we wouldn't want to look at somebody championing a cause for their interest group being looked at differently from somebody else's championing of their interest group. But we've got a long way to go before we could be anywhere near that at the moment. It would be just such a wonderful celebration if that were—
That would be a nice problem to have.
It would be a lovely problem to have.
Delyth, can I just bring David in for a second before you wind up with your questions?
The fundamental basis of this whole discussion is representation, isn't it? Now, you're talking about minority groups, et cetera, but what about the socioeconomic representation? For instance, in this Assembly there are very few people who have been in business all their lives, okay. So, when we start talking about quotas of representation, you're getting into very, very difficult waters with regard to that. It's just as important that the private enterprise people out there have representation as it is to make sure that, say, disabled people have representation in the Assembly. Once you start gerrymandering the composition of the Assembly, I believe that you're going into very difficult waters.
I think that, obviously, we have a different situation inasmuch as people across the nine protected characteristics have protection by law. Somebody who has the role of a businessperson doesn't have that same protection by law. With the commencement of the socioeconomic duty on 1 April, when organisations are making decisions of a strategic nature, they will also have to take into account the potential impact on people from socioeconomically deprived circumstances. So, it might be that you would want to look at the socioeconomic make-up of the legislature as well, so that you're drawing from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. I think possibly the Assembly already has a fairly wide range of different backgrounds of different people, but that is something that you might want to take into account. Different people will bring different experiences to bear, and I think it's interesting that we might think about public sector, we might think about the private business sector. We possibly don't tend to think about what the contributions of people who are in workless households can bring—that they bring a different socioeconomic perspective. But, then, if you broadened the base to include more disabled people, more people from ethnic minority backgrounds, you might actually also increase people's socioeconomic diversity as well, because we do know that our 'Is Wales Fairer?' report does show a strong link between poverty, socioeconomic disadvantage and disability, ethnicity and single-parent households. So, by broadening the diversity there, you would also be broadening that socioeconomic diversity at the same time.
Can I just say that we are out of time on this particular evidence session now, but there were a couple of quite important questions that Delyth had? Can you deal with them quickly, Delyth?
Yes. Well, in fact, I think there's one question that we haven't raised much at all. So, it's about our focus on that. You've mentioned about how, if local government specifically were to move towards regular hours, that would help diversity. Looking at the flip side of that, in the interim period before any wholesale changes are brought in, it's very likely that this Assembly's way of dealing with workload will change. It is very possible that that will mean that—. Well, it's at least possible that there would be longer hours. How do you think that will impact on the diversity of the next Assembly, both people who put themselves forward for election and people who are able to cope with those hours?
That might not be as positive as it could be. It might put some people off. People with caring responsibilities, disabled people perhaps, people with other family commitments might find it more difficult in that short term. The Assembly could be bold and consider things like job share of elected Members.
I see my colleague smiling. [Laughter.]
It's not an easy one. Another thing—
Sorry, go on; I am conscious of time. Did you want to follow up on this, Huw, very quickly?
Yes, it's linked to that, and the comment you made earlier about this issue of hours of work, meetings being held at times that are appropriate. Of course, what we do know is we're very focused here on a modern style of working, constraining the hours into a working day, as opposed to a parliamentary one, going into some macho style or whatever. However, it's not for everyone that nine to five works. And this is quite interesting, because we have this discussion with colleagues of mine within my Labour group—family friendly means nine to five. Not for everybody, and not for carers necessarily, and so on. So, what are your thoughts on that, because if we have to look at going forward with the next one, adjusting things, do we adjust it all within nine to five?
Well, we would always recommend flexible working. Obviously, you can't be flexible in terms of meeting time, but the time that you all spend outside of meeting time, we would certainly recommend flexible working from day one, and agile working, so flexible working in terms of time and location. Let's be honest, the kit that people have these days—laptops, smart phones, all of that, Skype or Jabber, all of those technologies—. People tend to sometimes baulk at Skype because they think, 'Oh, is it actually safe?', but you can have your own corporate one. We've got one called 'Jabber', which is totally secure, and it means that we can join in meetings and conversations from wherever we happen to be. So, for closed meetings, that would be something that you could consider.
And, then, if somebody feels that, actually, the best time for working to do their paperwork is, I don't know, 3 o'clock in the morning, well, so be it. It doesn't stop the world from turning if people choose to do those parts of the job—. But, obviously, you couldn't have a session like this that's flexibly timed. It could be flexible in terms of you all agree a time, but it would have to be 'a time'. So, there are some constraints, obviously.
Okay. I think we're going to have to call a halt there. Ruth, thank you very much indeed for your time this morning. There was very useful information you presented to us. We will let you have a transcript of the proceedings this morning, so that, if there's anything that you don't agree with that's in there, in terms of a reflection of what you've said, then please let us know, and we'll also send you a note of any relevant decisions that come out of this session as well. So, can I thank you very much indeed for your time?
Thank you very much. And if there's anything that you think, 'Oh, we didn't get to—', if you wanted to e-mail us, we could respond by e-mail, if that was considered appropriate.
We may well come back to that, yes. That would be very helpful, Ruth, thank you.
Thank you very much.
Right, we will be moving on to item 3 shortly. We are still in public session, we're just waiting for the next witnesses to come in.
Good morning. Thank you, and welcome to this second evidence session this morning on the diversity of the Assembly. So, can I welcome both of you—Professor Rosie Campbell, from King's College London, and Dr Nicole Martin, from the University of Manchester? Thank you both for coming along and providing us with your expert opinion this morning. We'll move straight into questions, if that's okay.
Can I start with just asking you a general question about whether you believe that the make-up of the Wales parliamentarians should mirror the diversity of the country as a whole?
I think that the question is, when it doesn't mirror the diversity of a country as a whole, that should lead us to ask why. So, you would expect there to be variation over time, just naturally—some random variation—but when you see, systematically, that sections of the population are not present in their legislative Assembly, then that raises a lot of questions about why they're not there, and what the impact of their absence is.
Yes, I agree.
You agree with that—that seems almost self-evident, doesn't it? So, do you think there could be a common approach to improving diversity of representation or do we need different approaches to achieve that objective?
I think that it depends on—a common approach might be more difficult. I know gender approaches are often discussed, but you might wonder whether other approaches might be more appropriate for other types of diversity that you might wish to see reflected. So, some other examples of this, with regard to disabled candidates, is the EnAble fund for elected office, and this is to meet the costs of reasonable adjustment to standing for office for disabled candidates. So, this is the kind of thing that would only apply to one group, I think.
I would agree, and I think there are probably two strands. One of them is general approaches that you look at—barriers that might apply to lots of different groups, for example financial barriers, or time barriers, or cultural barriers. And then there are specific interventions that target barriers that are particularly faced by certain groups.
Okay, that's fine. Thank you for that. Huw, you've got some specific questions, I think.
Indeed. Good morning. Can I ask Professor Campbell first of all: the expert panel recommended that the National Assembly push for the UK Government to commence section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, and we've heard from an earlier witness this morning that either we get on with that or, alternatively, seek the devolution of it, so that we can get on with it here? Would that lead automatically to increased diversity of Members?
It doesn't lead to anything automatically. But if you don't measure it, you can't track progress. And there is a body of work done by academics and other interested bodies to try and collect this data, but it's quite difficult when it's not publicly available, and sometimes that's not a reliable way. For example, ethnicity—I've been involved in looking at pictures of people, which is rather a crude way to work out what your ethnic diversity is. So, it's a tool, just like, for example, gender-pay-gap reporting can be a tool to start a conversation, but it's not a solution.
Right. So, you would see this as a necessity now, then—to get on with this.
I really think so. I think a lot of time—. I personally, at the Westminster parliamentary elections, run an Economic and Social Research Council funded candidate survey. We spend a lot of time trying to find this data just as a baseline, which then means that we can't move on to the analysis. And, actually, it would be much more reliable and efficient and effective for parties to gather this data, because they know who their candidates are. So, I think if we want things to move forward more quickly, it would be a much more efficient use of resources.
It's a fairly simple thing to actually enact. Have you any—? Sorry, I'm not asking you to speculate unreasonably. Why haven't we not just got on with it?
That's a really interesting question, and I think if the Westminster Parliament won't get on with it, then Wales should steam ahead in whichever way is possible.
The new Secretary of State for Wales here—an interesting discussion early on. [Laughter.]
Can we move this to job sharing? We ran out of time with the earlier witness—it would be interesting to have heard the earlier response to this. But what are both of your views on job sharing—whether it can or can't be made to work—and what the impacts of that would be on diversity if it could be made to work?
I think I'll defer to Rosie as the expert on job sharing.
I'm a real passionate advocate of this. It's a really new idea in the political world, so I can't say that we have all the evidence about exactly how we make it work, but listening to the previous conversation and particularly your points about people in the private sector—. On the train I was re-reading the Welsh Governance Centre's report about diversity for the remuneration committee, and they had a doctor who was saying, actually, salary was not commensurate with what he was earning as a doctor, and that he felt he would like to be able to keep—. And also, the risk associated of being out of his practice for five years—that if he could actually be a half-time Assembly Member and keep his medical work going, that would actually make him consider participation in politics more seriously. I think one of the reasons we have fewer people from the business world than we would ideally like is very similar. If you've got a business, you've got to keep it going. You've got to invest time in it. And frankly, although this might not be politically something that's very easy to say, the salary might not be in keeping with your historic lifestyle.
So, I think the issue is actually one of those that could be quite a general solution, in that people who suffer with issues like chronic fatigue and so on need to have ways of managing their time. People with caring responsibilities—if they've also got to travel, if they're a single parent—actually, the full-time commitments can be very difficult. But if they can job share, they can make a really important contribution. And people with other kinds of professional careers to maintain, businesses to support—I think it could actually mean that a much more diverse pool of people from a variety of backgrounds could access a political career.
And how do you deal with those who would be sceptical of this, because we haven't seen a lot of use of this within the political sphere? Those challenges that are things such as—. Right, you might end up with two people who don't get along for a long time, or don't get along. They start off with the best intentions and then they fall out. They have differences of political opinion when it comes to either major policy debates or when somebody comes to pushing the button on a vote, as we do here. And democratic accountability—'Who exactly are we voting for? We voted two people, what's going on?' What are your thoughts on this? Are they insurmountable?
It's widely used in the private sector. There are very senior civil servants and senior people in business now increasingly using job shares. But, obviously, there are some slightly different issues when we're talking about democratic accountability. But I think, just as when you present yourself as a job-share partner to a business or to an employer, you have to say how you are going to make it work as a pair, how you are going to work together. I think, in the same way, a potential job-share pair would need to put that to the voters. And I think in some ways, some of the tensions you describe, actually, also operate within parties and with individuals. So, individual AMs disagree and fall out with their party and don't vote the way they're supposed to vote, and, actually, that is complicated from a representational point of view, because individuals are voting both for a party and a person, and we find ways to deal and reconcile with these. I think the recommendations that were in the report of the committee on Assembly reform was that, actually, if one member of the job share decided to resign or switch party, that applied to both. You treat them as one person, legally and every way, and that also applies to salary.
That puts a bit of incentive for them to actually hold—[Inaudible.]—together.
Exactly. You're both out if you can't keep it together. [Laughter.]
Okay. Thank you very much.
Okay. Thank you. David, you had a supplementary.
Just on that, the experts' report, when they commissioned a survey of it, only, I think it was, 54 per cent were against job sharing. And we might as well have the other figure as well, which is that there were, on formal quotas, 47 per cent against them. Only 26 per cent were for formal quotas.
Are you talking about the survey of politicians or of voters?
These are the expert committee when they actually had surveys with regard to this. That's the figures they gave out.
But were they the surveys of voters or surveys of politicians because I can't remember off the top of my—?
This was a consultation with the public.
This was the public, yes.
I've done similar survey research at the public level, and my figures—I don't remember seeing the majority being against. That's why I was asking the question. But there was a large substantial group against and a substantial group in support and a very large group who don't know. But, actually, if you ask—. When you ask potential candidates—well, actual candidates in the Westminster elections—whether they support job shares and whether they might use them, something like 65 per cent of women candidates who stood in the Westminster elections in 2017 said that they would consider using a job share, and those are people who have already put themselves forward. So, I think this is a conversation that hasn't taken place publicly. So, we're asking people whether they like something without really knowing what a difference it might make or what the purpose is, and I think if we had this debate when we said, 'It's actually about bringing a wide group of people with different kinds of expertise that they can sustain and experiences into politics, and we can see that there's a demand from people to use it', I think it would be really worth while at least having that debate publicly, because so far, this has been—. With 'The Good Parliament' report, this was not even a formal recommendation. It was pushed right down to the suggestions. And I think the reason for that is because it's so controversial politically amongst politicians because we have this concept of what political representation is, but I think there's room to have a conversation about it. Just in the world of work, job shares were a very radical idea and they've been shown to be usually pretty successful.
Would it be possible for you to send us that information?
Because I don't think we've actually seen that sort of research or consultative information. So, that would be really useful for us to have a look at. Thank you. David, you've also got a question on—.
Just a little bit further on the gender quotas, I think you're a supporter of gender quotas, aren't you? But there are quite a few risks associated with—well, let's say with quotas in general. I think I may have alluded to this in the last session, the fact that once you go down the road of having quotas, then you then have to look at within those quotas, do you have businessman quotas, do you have—? Now, even within the protected characteristic quotas that we're talking about, you could say, 'Well, do we have to have a quota for disabled people?', but in that disabled people, 'Should you have a quota for blind, for deaf or—?' Once you get into the quota system, what I'm saying is it can become very, very complicated.
Yes. I mean, that's, sort of, in the literature called the slippery slope argument, where we start worrying about people with green eyes being represented. I think the issue is when you can see real evidence of historic injustice and that you have groups that have been not just marginalised but legally marginalised and not counted as whole persons for millennia, then there can be quite a strong argument for temporary special measures, and I think quotas are widely used in the case of gender around the world. They haven't led to this slippery slope. I have no knowledge whatsoever of any green eye quotas or businessperson quotas, and that's because people with green eyes or people from business backgrounds tend not to be the most marginalised in society.
Now, we have seen a lot of progress in terms of gender equality, in, actually, really quite a short period of time. I mean, when my mother went to university to do chemistry, a few years before there was a cap: no more than 5 per cent women to do chemistry. The fact that we've got to this point and my mum is still not a terribly old lady is pretty impressive, but we are nowhere near there. Women are also not a minority. They are the majority of adults. So, we are not talking about a minority group, that it's quite difficult to go out there and find and fill these—I mean, we're talking about most people. And I think one of the really exciting things about politics in Wales is how progressive gender politics has been historically, but we do know that that isn't baked in. We've seen fallback, we know that a lot of the reason for the real high levels of women's representation is because of measures that have been taken inside the Labour Party and then, increasingly, inside other parties, but that can slip back. So the recommended quotas in the report from 30 per cent the first place, actually, is quite a low bar for Wales, but it keeps putting Wales at the forefront of this debate. And, as I said, gender quotas are so very widely used internationally and there is no evidence that they lead to this problem of ever diminishing groups that you would like to apply them to. Taking that back to your point earlier, there are specific measures we might target at particular groups, and I think quotas are one that's very well established.
So, are you saying that you're only in favour of gender quotas?
Well, I've said, I think there is a nuance to the argument. When you've got evidence of real historic marginalisation, then I think there can be a case. I particularly think there might be a role for ethnic minority quotas. Legally, that's much harder to do; we don't have it. Even political parties in the UK don't formally do that. So, I wouldn't say personally that I would rule it out because I think the political case, the enormity of the case is there, but when it comes to gender equality, we have the evidence, we know it works, it's something that's routinely done internationally, and it speeds up something that, without them, might take 100 years or might even go backwards.
Just to clarify that point, the Labour Party has done black, Asian, minority ethnic-only shortlists in London.
Yes, but I think officially, is that not by accident? Because I think it's actually not excluded legally from—. I mean, you might know this better than me.
I'm not sure, but there certainly have been BAME-only shortlists.
Yes, but I think that's not official in the way that—. Because legislation, with the sunset clause, has allowed until 2030 all-women shortlists for women. I don't think there's the same legal—. So, it has to be that it just so happens, just as there are many all-white shortlists, that there was an all-BAME shortlist.
I don't know. I'd need to check that because I thought that was a deliberate course of action. But, Huw, you had a—
Yes. I think you may have heard my earlier question on this very issue in terms of the next Assembly elections. You mentioned there that it's been quite progressive here from day one, but there is always a risk of slippage, and I'm in danger of twice in a day anticipating a situation where Labour is not in Government here and we drastically cut our numbers and so on. But it does strike me that, realistically, in terms of diversity, then it does put an additional onus across all the other parties. It genuinely isn't a political point because I'm not talking down our prospects in the future, I'm not talking down measures that have been taken in other parties to try and deal with this, but we could, just by default and electoral arithmetic, suddenly find that our proud record is greatly diminished and nothing is in place, and I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on that. No, I'm not advocating here to say that every party should have quotas automatically. We've had to make hard decisions within my own party, but what are your thoughts on that? Because, as you say, there is no guarantee that forever and a day we'll have—.
I think a 30 per cent legislative quota with either incentives or rewards doesn't actually force parties to employ them, it incentivises them to do so. And I think working in that way—to push everyone to 30 per cent and above, and then, as time goes on, to move the quota up to 40 per cent—would ensure that the progress that has historically been, really, globally renowned can be sustained over time. So, yes, that's what I would recommend.
Sorry, Nicole. Yes.
In the case of ethnic diversity in the Westminster Parliament, it is certainly the case that it's been the cross-party efforts that have institutionalised ethnic diversity. And I think that if you're relying on one party in any one sphere, then that's always going to be less secure in terms of gains for diversity, and normalising it across parties is much more important.
Yes. That's a fair point. David, you had a—?
Yes. I think the questions here are still exploring that. I'm sorry, Nicole, if it's leaving you out a little bit, but it is still about exploring these formal quotas. Again, we're talking about characteristics, for other non-protected characteristics, level of education, socioeconomic background, et cetera, so there is a difficulty when you start to go into quotas, which I really—.
But the other side of what I'd like to discuss as well is that, obviously, my party, whether it was UKIP or Brexit, has had a much softer approach to this equality of opportunity for women, as such, and yet it still turned out we had three women AMs elected originally with UKIP and just four gentlemen, and we've had our representatives on the London Assembly, one was black, one was gay. It doesn't seem to have worked in a very hard way against what we'd achieve, and I must admit that there's a very good soft approach.
Myself, I've encouraged women candidates to stand, and I know a lot of my colleagues within—. I think we now have an understanding, individually, that it's not right to have a Parliament where you have only 20 women and 40 men. I think we're all accepting of that. So, do you really think that we need to have legislation to make sure that these quotas are maintained?
It's heartening to hear the progress that's happened with cultural change naturally, but if you look at parties that don't employ any kind of quotas, they tend to do much less well. So, they may have some women, and it would be really, really troubling if they didn't put any women candidates forward in an election, or if they didn't have any women elected, which does happen sometimes. But the difference between the representation of women amongst the Labour Party, which is still at least not 50 per cent, compared to UKIP or the Brexit Party is astonishing. I, personally, just thinking about my daughters growing up, don't want them to wait 150 years or whatever it might be unless we do something.
I think your points about socioeconomic background are well made, and the point is that the gender quota is not a fix-all for everything. It does get women's bodies into Parliament, but it might actually not get single mothers or women who haven't got the financial resources, but that's when some of these generalised measures, like job share, like thinking about what are the financial barriers to standing for selection, even, let alone campaigning—. Actually, those apply to socioeconomic and to particular groups of women. So, I think if we treat any one of these possible remedial measures as if it's going to solve the whole problem, that would be a mistake. But, I think gender quotas, in terms of speeding up the pace of change, are proven.
But you could have all the women that are elected come from the public sector for instance—
There's no reason, really, to think that the women who are elected through quotas are any different from the men who are elected. So, what we tend to get is middle-class, professional women joining middle-class, professional men. So, then, the problem with the quota is just the same problem as with the existing AMs, so then we have to find another solution to say what we do.
This is at the Westminster level, but the candidate survey that we did, we were getting in 2015, I think, very, very high responses for average selection expenses. I think, off the top of my head, I can't remember the exact figure, but it was in the tens of thousands, and we thought it must be wrong, so we did a lot of qualitative interviews, and it was absolutely right when you actually looked at forgone earnings, rental costs, childcare, travel. Actually, just seeking selection costs a great deal of money, and depending on what part of the country you're representing, that could increase massively. So, I think that's an enormous area we need to do work on about access to democratic politics, but that's not an argument against quotas.
Thank you for that. Delyth, you had a few questions.
Thank you, Chair. My questions do focus on gender, but I'd be very interested to hear equivalent—as far as they can be equivalent—answers about ethnic minority groups as well. Looking at barriers, at gender specifically first then, what would you say are the barriers that stop women from wanting to go into politics in the first place and from being successful in that? And how are those barriers distinct and not the same as the barriers that would face—? You've made the point, Rosie, that women are not a minority, but how would the barriers facing women, even though they're not a minority, be different from the barriers facing people who'd have different protected minority characteristics?
Well, I think that the specific barriers women face, which really are just targeted at women rather than experienced by other groups as well, are unconscious gender bias. And we have unconscious bias around other groups too, but one of the reasons that just asking people to stand doesn't work on its own is that, although we all think we're very fair minded, we all have grown up in a society where we tend to think that—. We've seen more men as politicians, and we tend to think politicians are more likely to be men. And so, if given a choice of two—. Which is why, in majoritarian systems versus the PR list, you're more likely to make those choices; if you've got a choice of a man or a woman and you can only choose one, you'll tend to choose the man. That might be thinking that, 'I'm not prejudiced.' I might be just as likely to do that as you. You can all go online and do those unconscious bias tests, and you can be, 'Oh'. [Laughter.] So, there is—. It's just—. As I said earlier, societies change very, very quickly, and some of the stereotypes that we hold are very deeply seated, are hard to change. So, it's about making sure that things are meritocratic, and actually there's a level playing field and that we find ways to dampen that unconscious bias.
So, that unconscious bias we know happens amongst electorates—they are more likely to choose a man than a woman who's equally qualified. But it also happens inside ourselves. So, we know from the research that equally qualified women are less likely to put themselves forward unless someone asks them, which is why your asking people, encouraging people, is really, really important. Women are less likely to look in the mirror and, 'Here's the next AM for wherever it is.' If someone says, 'I think you'd be great', that's going to have a bigger impact.
Then a lot of the other barriers are barriers that do only impact on some women, and impact on other groups too. So, we know that women continue to do a disproportionate share of childcare and other kinds of caring work; there are lots of men who take a role and a responsibility in terms of caring and childcare. So, policies that are job-sharing or trying to have family friendly hours, whatever they are, will disproportionately help women, but also will help a number of men. They also might mean the kinds of women who come through the quota might be of a more diverse sort than if you haven't got those measures in place as well.
Nicole, how would you say that those barriers are different or distinct from the types of barriers—? I'm sorry to put all protected characteristics into one box, then, but how would you say that—? Would you say that those barriers are distinct for women, as opposed to some of the ethnic minority groups that you would focus on?
I think we have to remember that some of the barriers that Rosie was talking about will apply to female ethnic minority potential candidates as well. I think that the main things that are specific to potential ethnic minority candidates are this thing about networks—so, being asked to stand, being in a political network, and having the self-efficacy to do that. We know that—. Well, we think that one of the things that contributes to fewer candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds is that also there are fewer ethnic minorities in the traditional routes into politics—so, working for parties, working in legislatures as advisers, that kind of thing. So, you don't have the—you know, if you're outside of those political networks then you're not going to be asked, you're not going to have that information to know how to stand, which is why I think mentoring schemes like that run by Operation Black Vote are really important; they provide that information that you don't get without some kind of hands-on political experience or insider knowledge or socialisation, that kind of thing.
I think for disabled candidates there are the extra costs and lack of consideration about access requirements, or not having a translator, and that kind of thing. Then, as Rosie was talking about, the financial element, the financial burden, of standing for election, obviously that applies far more to people on low incomes.
Thank you. Picking up on the first point that you very fairly made, how do you think, in any of our deliberations, we, or political parties who would take any positive steps, or Government—how do you think we could allow for that intersectionality, the fact that we do inevitably end up thinking of people in groups in terms of characteristics, but, actually, we are all made up of all of our characteristics? How can we ensure that intersectionality is taken into the equation, then, do you think? That's for both of you.
So, I think one of the really positive things about ethnic minority representatives in the UK as a whole is that they tend to be far more gender-balanced than white representatives as a whole, which suggests that at least some thinking around this is going on. I think it comes back to what Rosie was saying about what do you want to tackle and having the measure to tackle that particular form of inequality. So, a gender quota will help ethnic minority women just as much as it might help white women, especially if there are targeted schemes towards potential ethnic minority candidates as well that will address that element of disadvantage and protected characteristics.
I would really strongly agree with that—that, if you have efforts to try to bring in more ethnic minority Assembly Members but you haven't got a gender quota, then there might be a tendency to default to ethnic minority men, whereas, when you've got a gender quota, then you actually start to think differently. And I think that's evident inside the Labour Party in the Westminster elections, although the Conservative Party have done an awful lot in this regard by putting ethnic minority candidates and ethnic minority women candidates in safe Conservative seats, haven't they?
Thank you. My final question in this section is: what research would you cite to say that an increase in the number of women, for example, would lead to better representation of the interests of women being raised in a legislature and, as an equivalent, more candidates of different ethnic minorities being elected would mean that issues particularly pertaining to those communities would be raised more?
There's a whole range of research on this, starting by looking at suffrage. There's some really nice research from the US looking at states that gave suffrage to women at different points, and they make an argument that, actually, almost all social provision in terms of welfare provision, which I know is much more limited in the States than in the UK, was brought in as a result of the perception that women voters would care about and want those things. So, sometimes it's quite hard to see—
A direct correlation.
Yes. But we certainly know, when it comes to the impact of women politicians rather than women voters—. For example, things like domestic violence, before women were represented in politics, were explicitly private matters that were not for public discussion, were not for public debate, and, if you called the police, they might say, 'This is a domestic'. We literally had the term, it's 'a domestic'. So, I think, if you look at the big picture like that, it is inarguable that women politicians have made a difference, but it's quite difficult to separate the influence of women politicians from women voters. But I just think that the conversation is shaped by experience, and I think the question you raised earlier about will a non-Pakistani AM ever be able to take the place of a Pakistani AM, well, maybe, if they've spent a lot of time travelling in Pakistan, they've got Pakistani relatives, maybe they've got a large Pakistani community in their constituency—all of these things are likely to raise your exposure and your interest. But one very simple way of making sure you really care about something is to have it as part of your lived experience.
Yes. Thank you.
I think there are two examples I would cite with regard to ethnicity. The first is a study of questions asked in the Westminster Parliament and the topics of those questions by whether the MPs were from an ethnic minority background or a white background. And it turns out that more questions about ethnic minority rights and immigration are raised by ethnic minority MPs, and we know that these are issues that are important to ethnic minority voters. Two things are really important about this study: it shows that MPs' parties still matter. So, Conservative ethnic minority MPs ask different questions about these issues than Labour ethnic minority MPs. So, there's still a representation of a party, which—we know that voters vote for parties as well as MPs. And, secondly, how MPs behave is also linked to who their constituents are. So, regardless of your own ethnic background, it might be that, if you have many ethnic minority constituents, you're going to raise those issues in Parliament, and that's representation working well.
I think the flip side of that coin is some other research done by Becky McKee, where she sent e-mails to MPs from a fictional constituent asking for help and direction in how to register to vote. When she changed the name of the respondent from a typical white surname to a Nigerian-sounding surname, that constituent, the fictional Nigerian constituent, did not get as many responses, did not get responses that directed them how to vote, how to register to vote. And these are issues of fundamental access to democracy. So, I think having more diverse parliaments can—. The evidence not just from this study but internationally, is that that can really help with those kinds of issues.
Thank you. Thank you, Delyth.
David, I think your questions you probably asked earlier around quotas and so on, and I think, Nicole, you were just dealing with the issues of barriers for the BAME community. So, I think we've covered most of those. One thing that we didn't cover was on political parties taking voluntary action to gather and publish diversity information, and whether you think that that would make a difference in terms of diversity in representation—just the fact of recording that information. Do you have views on that?
I suppose it's 106 but in a voluntary—
In a voluntary capacity for the political parties, yes.
We could have that now, couldn't we?
We could, yes.
So, I think if there were the political will, it could happen. That would be fantastic. But, because it hasn't happened, I tend to think we need 106.
Yes. But 106 still doesn't require people to provide the information, does it?
Oh, you mean to require the individuals to provide the information.
Yes. Well, there's two things: 106 is suggesting that's what should happen, but it doesn't require the individual to provide it.
No, and I don't know if you can ever do that. I know that a lot of businesses—as we're moving towards BAME pay gap reporting, some businesses report that they have had difficulty, because you don't have to declare your ethnic minority status to your employer if you don't want to. And some businesses have got quite poor data. Some businesses have got really good data, because they've explained to their employees why they want this information, and how it's going to be helpful to them for making sure that they can move towards equality in their workplace. So, I think I would not force people to give out private information of this kind, but instead really explain why it's needed and that it's about trying to make things more equal and fairer.
So, I'm just wondering, in terms of political parties don't do it at the moment because it's not a requirement, what might it be that's actually preventing them. I wonder if it just is that nobody's asked them to do it because it's not a requirement; I don't know.
I think political parties are underfunded and overstretched, and, if you don't make them do it, they've got a lot of other things to be doing. I think that's—. With the best will in the world, we know that state funding of parties in the UK overall is pretty negligible, and I think that's probably the issue.
So, strong advocacy there for the commencement of section 106, basically. Delyth, young people.
Younger people tend to be under-represented not just in the Assembly, but in legislatures—unless you can cite another example, I think that that tends to be the case. There's one other Member of the Assembly who I'm aware of who's younger me, so I'm the youngest but one and I'm 32, so there aren't that many young people here. How do you think—? What steps can we take to better represent the views and viewpoints of young people?
Well, there's a big difference between being a young person and—
Being able to represent.
Well, also lots of other characteristics in that, fortunately or unfortunately, we do most of us become older people. [Laughter.] But that doesn't mean it doesn't matter because, of course, there are different experiences that younger people are having, especially in a rapidly changing global environment, and we know that the issues and priorities that people care about vary by age. So, I think it is really important. I don't think we can treat it quite the same as other kinds of groups, but I think lots of the initiatives that we're talking about, about how you break down some of the barriers to participation, particularly the financial barriers, et cetera, those could also be targeted at young people. And this issue of demand—going out and asking people, seeking them out, finding where young people are—and, for the sake of our democratic politics in the future, making sure that new generations are being pulled into the system.
Yes. I think we've talked a lot about candidates and Assembly Members but I think, with young people especially, one thing that would increase representation is more young people voting—so, focusing on registration and turnout gaps. I think the more—. I'm sure you will know that politicians respond to their voters, and so, if you have more young people voting, then I would expect representation of young people's views to increase.
Yes, indeed. I'd just make the observation, Chair—it came up in the committee that I was on the other day, a different committee—that the voting age, the age of suffrage, in South Africa, there is a clause in their National Assembly legislation that means that that age at which you're entitled to vote is also the age at which you're entitled to stand for office. It's the only one in the world to my knowledge. As we're dropping the age to 16, it's quite an interesting one. Sorry, I just put that—I just mention that.
I wanted to turn to the issue of carers specifically. Now, some of their matters you've raised already in terms of things such as job sharing, financial support to overcome the additional financial burdens of caring and so on—are there other ways in which you think that we can get the voice of carers heard here by seeing carers elected to this Assembly?
I personally think job share is a really important—. I know that I've said this already, but the reason I'm so passionate about it is that I think—. In my previous job to this, I was working at Birkbeck, University of London, where all the teaching is in the evening. I had a young family. I only had to live in one place and I knew my hours. I know that you've done a lot to change the working hours, but, actually, if you've got to return somewhere that's further away, I think people who've got ongoing caring responsibility—. Children, as we've just discussed, grow up. You can have—. If you're caring for someone with a disability, you might actually have a very, very long time of having that level of support that you need to provide. And I think that job share is—. In other worlds of work, you can work part time, you can work flexibly, you can think about how you—. But, actually, this is one place where it's really important that everybody's voice is heard, and I just can't see any way that some people's lives can accommodate what's required unless it can be done in some part-time format, which is why I think job share could really make a difference.
And the reality of something like that, if you were to apply job share in here, if you had north Wales job sharing AMs, then they could then split the Plenary and the committees between them. They'd still—. I can't see a way in which they could say that one does constituency, one does legislative and policy stuff down here, but there could be ways. It would still be a heck of an impact on somebody who had, for example, full-time caring responsibility to say, 'You need to take a day and half to get down there and travel back and so on.' But it would be more work—
I don't think someone with full-time caring responsibilities, who never sources any kind of outside support, would be able to hold down this kind of role. But I think, if you can make it so that you can do it—. I don't even know if the most important thing is, actually, that it's part time; it's that you can control when the hours are done. I think the point about three in the morning is really important there. I think that that's what makes a really big difference. And, actually, it would be up to the job sharers to work out how they manage it. I think, if you've got caring responsibilities, there'll be times when you intended to go to that meeting, but, actually, you can't, but you've got the situation where you could say, 'Could we swap days this week?' You've suddenly got that flexibility where—. And I think for a job share to work, you need to be in constant communication anyway, so I think that's how I'd imagine it working.
Okay, thank you for that.
All right, thank you for that. Just one final question from me. We've had a lot of published research about the barriers around gender, race and religion—not quite so much in some of the other strands, whether it's gender reassignment, socioeconomic background, disabilities, whatever it might be. Why do you think that is, and what can we do that we haven't already covered, and we've covered quite a wide range of subjects, to improve the representation in those groups, where we really haven't done the kind of research to find out why those groups are not coming forward?
I think the reasons are twofold. One of them is that, as we've said, women are the majority of the population. So, it's a very large group not to be researching. But when we think about some of the other groups that are also sometimes much more complicated to measure—. So, I heard the previous witness talking about the percentage of people who say they have a disability, but that will cover a wide range of potential disabilities. And so, how do you capture that data, how do you measure it accurately?
I think, going back to it again, section 106 will help, because we will actually have that baseline for more groups. We know how many women there are in the population, roughly. We don't need to go out and do the work to find that out. And I think, with visible ethnic minorities, again, it's much easier to measure, isn't it?
Yes, certainly. And I think, with some characteristics like socioeconomic background and disability—those things can change during a person's life. So, you can acquire a disability as you grow older. Your socioeconomic background—if you measure the job you have before you enter the Assembly, that might give you a very different picture at different points in people's lives. So, I agree with Rosie that it's partly to do with—
Do we find—does the research identify that the barriers are greater because of gender or because of some of the other characteristics? So, for instance, if you are a disabled woman, is the barrier twice as great as if you were a disabled man? Or is the greater barrier the disability and not the gender?
As you said, there's not a huge amount of research in that area. And I think, again, because disabilities range from those that are not even visible to those that are very physically impairing and places might not actually be organised in a way that allows you to access them, we need a lot more information about that. But I certainly think—. Nicole raised and mentioned that—although the UK perhaps, in some ways, is an outlier—very often, ethnic minority women, for example, at least when it comes to the harassment of candidates, they are the target of that, disproportionately. So, we can sometimes see how being part of a particular intersection has an exacerbated effect.
I think we also have to think about it not as, 'How many protected characteristics do you have, on a scale from 1 to 5?' I think perhaps being an ethnic minority woman changes how you've experienced ethnic disadvantage and discrimination, and the same with disability. So, it changes how someone experiences those characteristics, rather than being a kind of additive, 1 to 12 score.
Okay. Well, can I thank you both very much for coming in this morning? It's been very, very helpful, the information you've provided to us. We will send you a transcript of the proceedings this morning, for factual accuracy, and any action points from today will also be sent to you, so that you can see what we're doing in relation to the evidence you've given.
Can I say that, when I was on the expert panel, I job shared it with Professor Sarah Childs from Birkbeck? And she's the author of 'The Good Parliament' report. So, you can say I was here as Sarah and Rosie. [Laughter.]
Excellent. Thank you. Thank you both very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
So, we now move on to item 4, which is to move into private session. So, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, the committee is invited to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Any objections? No. Then we'll move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:52.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:52.