Oliver Letwin
Letwin apologised at the end of 2015 for co-authoring a 'racist' document in the 1980s Getty

Conservative policy chief Oliver Letwin has admitted that the number of black and ethnic minority (BME) politicians rising to top government roles is running at a "frustratingly slow" pace. The Old Etonian, a close aide to David Cameron, made the remarks at an event attended by IBTimes UK and hosted by the liberal conservative think tank Bright Blue on 21 January.

"It isn't just [diversity around] the cabinet table. In fact, the boardrooms matter too and the heights of the other professions matter. That's true across the spectrum – people in every company have to be able to feel that they can reach the top," the West Dorset MP said.

"I accept you can't [increase diversity] overnight and I accept that it's frustratingly slow, but if we don't keep trying we won't succeed, if we do keep trying we will eventually succeed."

The comments came after Letwin's speech on "opportunity for all", where the philosophy graduate outlined his definition of "equal opportunity". Letwin, drawing on the writings of conservative political thinker Michael Oakeshott, stressed that it was imperative to distinguish the aim from "delivering dreams on a plate".

"None of this is about offering an easy ride or making excuses for antisocial behaviour, it's about removing barriers and helping people to make their own way through their own efforts – justly appreciated and justly rewarded," he declared.

The 59-year-old, who apologised at the end of 2015 for a "racist" document he co-authored for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, also said it was important to get more MPs from BME backgrounds into parliament in order to for them to rise to cabinet roles.

Letwin concluded the lecture by describing the Tories' social reforms efforts as a "massive, sustained, consistent, courageous attempt to create a society where there is genuine equality of opportunity".

Diversity in the House of Commons

BME MPs: 41

Female MPs: 191

Male MPs: 459

LGBT MPs: 33