The EU has been urged to put its house in order and address a "shocking" lack of racial diversity in the European institutions.

Speaking today in a European Parliament debate on rising socio-economic inequalities, Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, pointed out the EU was still often accused of being a rich white man's club.

He told MEPs: "I realise that I am the first non-white leader of any political group, but I remain shocked by the lack of racial diversity not only in this house but across all EU institutions.

"If the EU is going to have any credibility on the issues of diversity and equality, it needs to get its own house in order.

"Let us, across the political spectrum, reach out to young people in all our countries and tell them whatever your colour, your gender, your religion, your orientation or your background, you should not be afraid to put yourself forward for political office.

"It is time to take action if the EU wishes to truly live up to the motto of 'United in Diversity'".

On tackling economic inequality, Mr Kamall stressed that the role local communities can play should not be overlooked.

He said: " When we talk about socio-economic inequality there are often two simple solutions offered - make the richer poorer or make the poorer richer. I believe we should focus on providing pathways out of poverty.

"Last month the ECR Group held a Global Poverty Summit bringing together local community projects from across the world to tell their inspiring stories of how they have offered solutions to poverty on a grassroots level.

"So, whether the left call it co-operative socialism or the right call it community conservatism or localist libertarianism, I hope we can all champion the role of grassroots anti-poverty projects in our local communities."