A review of the rules around babies being allowed in to the Parliament chamber has been announced by the Speaker of the House of Commons. It comes after a Parliament member complained that she was not allowed to take her three-month old babies into the building.
Stella Creasy of the Labour Party was told it was against the rules to bring a child into Parliament as she was trying to enter for a debate at Westminster Hall. Creasy had regularly been taking her son into the House of Commons whom she is currently breastfeeding, and before him, she had been taking in her daughter. In this instance however, the Private Secretary to the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dame Eleanor Laing, sent her an email telling her that her behavior was not aligned to the current House rules on “behavior and courtesies”.
These rules were recently been updated in September, and apply to all chamber members of the House of Commons and Westminster Hall. They have been issues by the Speaker and the deputy speakers.
After receiving the email about her conduct Creasy to took to posting on Twitter in disbelief. Creasy urgently asked for clarification on this letter and said, “Without maternity cover, the residents of Walthamstow would be denied representation if I didn’t keep working – but anyone with a three-month-old baby knows they are too young to leave on their own”.
Sir Lindsay Holye, speaker at the House said it was “extremely important” for parents who have children to be able to fully participate within activities at Parliament and pointed out to the Commons Procedure Committee that there is a nursery on site. He said, “Rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times” as he addressed the House of Commons in hope of change.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle went on to say, “This House has to be able to function professionally and without disturbance. However, sometimes there may be occasions when the chair can exercise discretion assuming the business is not to be disturbed”.
Boris Johnson has supported Stella Creasy in her quest to change the rules, his spokesperson said, “We completely understand the difficulties faced by MPs who are new mothers, new fathers or adopted parents and parliament has made some positive changes to becoming more family friendly in recent years, including on proxy voting”.
His spokesperson continued, “We want to make sure that all work places are modern, flexible and fit for parents. This is obviously a matter for the House. I know they have issued a statement on that today, but we very much do want to see further improvements”.
It also reads, “You should not take your seat in the chamber when accompanied by your child, nor stand at either end of the Chamber, between divisions.”
Other female parliamentarians have come together to support Creasy in agreement that the current system does not cater for their needs or support females in politics.