Thinker's Corner

Regulating Doctors (Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2 Lord North Street, London SW1P 3LB, ISBN 1-903 386-01-2, £5). The philosophy behind the General Medical Council (GMC) is to protect consumers by issuing a licence only to doctors who have undergone a standardised programme of education. Trust in public healthcare has been shaken by recent scandals, such as the "Bristol case", involving the deaths of a number of babies at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and the conviction of Harold Shipman. The contributors to Regulating Doctors consider whether self-regulation in the medical profession should continue. Before the GMC was founded in 1858, there were 21 licensing bodies. David Green argues that such competition was advantageous, and that, as long as doctors are on a medical register controlled by fellow doctors, bad or criminal practitioners are safe from serious scrutiny. William Pickering proposes a medical inspectorate to guarantee confidence in public healthcare.

Women's Representation in UK Politics: what can be done within the law? by Meg Russell (The Constitution Unit, School of Public Policy, University College London, 29/30 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9EZ, £10). Women's representation in British politics remains relatively low, particularly at Westminster. Women account for 18 per cent of MPs, compared to 31 per cent of parliamentarians in Germany, 37 per cent in Denmark and 43 per cent in Sweden. Since 1996, when an industrial tribunal ruled that Labour's "all-women shortlists" were in contravention of the Sexual Discrimination Act, political parties have been cautious about introducing quotas. Furthermore, a change in the law could create problems under the European Convention on Human Rights. This report examines new evidence suggesting that an electoral law could be introduced which would allow parties to adopt quota systems, without making them compulsory, thus working towards fairer representation.

This article first appeared in the 21 August 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - What are we doing to our children?