Chair Norman Lamb writes to Labour and Tory whips to outline why lack of women would impede committee’s ability to work effectively
The first seven committee members elected by Labour and the Conservatives contained a cumulative total of zero women
The chair of parliament’s Science and Technology Committee Norman Lamb has written to the chief whips of the government and the opposition to urge them “in the strongest terms” to do more to ensure diversity in select committees. Lamb’s comments follow the publication of an initial all-male list of eight members of his committee.
The MP for North Norfolk was appointed as the committee’s chair in July, having been elected ahead of fellow Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson. Earlier this week another seven members – all of them men – of the committee were unveiled, following nominations by their parties. Bill Grant, Stephen Metcalfe, and Neil O’Brien were nominated by the Conservatives, with Labour putting forward Martin Whitfield, Graham Stringer, Darren Jones, and Clive Lewis.
At this point there were still three vacancies to be filled – two MPs from the Conservatives and one from Labour – and Lamb wrote to the respective chief whips, Gavin Williamson and Nick Brown to express his concern that the complete absence of women would “affect the ability of the committee to perform its role effectively”.
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“I would like to encourage you in the strongest terms to do whatever you can to ensure that women are included in the remaining nominations to the Science and Technology Committee.”
Since then, Conservative MP Vicky Ford has been nominated by her party to the committee. The other two positions are still vacant at time of writing.
Lamb stressed to the whips that more must be done from now on to make sure that committees are more diverse in their make-up.
“Looking to the future, I would be grateful if you, with the other parties, could review the way in which parties invite nominations to encourage an appropriate gender balance and a wider diversity,” he said. “ln due course I intend to raise questions about this area of the house’s practice with the Liaison Committee and others.”
The initial lack of women prompted criticism from numerous commentators in the press and on social media. Sarah Main, the executive director for the Campaign for Science and Engineering, wrote a piece – which PublicTechnology has republished here – claiming that the lack of women would be damaging to science, and reflected “a startling lack of thought” on the part of Labour and the Conservatives.