WELSH Conservatives today launched their search for more women and people from ethnic minority communities to apply to become candidates for the party at elections for all levels of government in Wales.

The party is seeking to broaden its representation starting with selections for next year’s National Assembly elections.

In December Conservative leader David Cameron announced his plan to correct the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities within the Parliamentary party.

Welsh Conservatives are determined to ensure this is reflected in Wales as the party selects candidates for next year’s assembly poll.

More women stood as Welsh Conservative candidates at last year’s General Election compared to 2001, rising from eight to 10.

The party also increased its number of ethnic minority candidates standing at the 2005 election.

Two of the 11 Welsh Conservative assembly members are women. Senior party figures want to increase this figure in 2007.

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan MP said:

“It was Margaret Thatcher who encouraged me to apply to become a Conservative candidate.

“Working in politics provides people with an exciting opportunity to make a real contribution in shaping the society we all want to see in Wales.

“We are determined to engage the whole of Wales in our party. Doing so will help us to develop ideas that benefit the whole country.

“To create effective policy, we must involve all those who are affected by it.

“We can only achieve that with a balanced party that reflects the needs and hopes of a modern Wales.

""People should be given every opportunity both in our party and society as a whole not on the basis of some arbitrary quota, but on ability and merit.

“I hope more Conservative women and people from ethnic minority communities will come forward and stand for office at all levels in Wales.”

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the National Assembly, Nick Bourne AM, said:

“David Cameron is already reaching out to all sections of British society and it is only right that we reflect that in Wales.

“The Conservative Party has always been a party that has evolved to reflect the society around it.

“Taking positive action to increase the number of women and ethnic minority candidates representing the Welsh Conservative Party is about political effectiveness, not political correctness.”