MP's baby banned from debates in 'mother of parliaments'

Official rules for MPs state they must not bring children into the House of Commons

A British opposition MP was reprimanded for bringing her 3-month-old baby to a Westminster Hall debate.

Labour Party MP Stella Creasy was told her decision was not in line with the recently updated rules for MPs’ “behaviour and courtesies”.

The handbook published in September states “you should not take your seat in the Chamber when accompanied by a child”.

The rule, which also applies to adjoining Westminster Hall, was also laid out in a previous version of the book.

Ms Creasy posted a screenshot of an email she was sent by a parliamentary official on Twitter and pointed to a lack of rules on the wearing of face masks in Parliament.

“Apparently Parliament has written a rule which means I can’t take my well behaved, 3-month old, sleeping baby when I speak in chamber. (Still no rule on wearing masks btw)”, she tweeted.

“Mothers in the mother of all parliaments are not to be seen or heard it seems …”

Ms Creasy, who carried her son in a sling wrap when she attended a debate on Tuesday, has on separate occasions brought her infant son and daughter into the Commons.

The politician told Sky News that sometimes having to bring a child to work is “part and parcel of modern life” for parents.

She said she does not have maternity cover and if she cannot bring her baby to Parliament her constituents “don’t get heard”.

“I was told that I’d committed a parliamentary faux pas and I wasn’t allowed to bring him with me,” she said.

“I think it’s just representative of the way in which often if you’re a mum you can’t win because, obviously, if I had maternity cover it would be a different issue, but I don’t and I don’t want to short-change my residents.”

After Ms Creasy raised the issue, her fellow Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones wrote to Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, calling for “urgent clarification” on the rules, after saying the warning left her and other mothers “hugely concerned”.

Ms Davies-Jones said the reprimand of Ms Creasy appeared to be a “contradiction” to Sir Lindsay’s assurance in January 2020 that he “wouldn’t be upset by” a mother deciding to breastfeed her baby in the chamber.

In a statement delivered in the Commons later on Wednesday morning, Sir Lindsay said he was not aware of the advice issued to Ms Creasy until Tuesday evening.

He ordered the chairwoman of the parliamentary procedure committee, Karen Bradley, to review the rules and said any recommendations “will ultimately be for the House to take a view on”.

He said he had been contacted by MPs expressing differing views on the matter and reiterated the rules banning children and babies from the Commons must be adhered to.

But he added “rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times”.

Sir Lindsay said there may be times when the chairman of a parliamentary meeting can “exercise discretion” on the rules to allow a parent to attend with a child.

Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister, said he has “a lot of sympathy” for Ms Creasy, but said the decision is for the House authorities to make.

“Quite what the right balance is in terms of the chamber, let me leave that to the House authorities but frankly I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Stella Creasy on all of these things because I’ve seen her with her young child, I’ve seen many other MPs on all sides of the House balancing this, and it’s difficult,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“I think we do need to make sure our profession is brought into the modern world, the 21st century, and can allow parents to juggle the jobs they do with the family time that they need.”

The father-of-two said he is a “sucker for young kids” and he would not be bothered giving a speech at the dispatch box in their presence, adding: “When you see your colleagues with their children, given the rough and tumble of politics, I just always think it brings out the best in people.

“Whether it’s the right thing in the chamber, there will be different views on that, it will be for the House authorities to decide but it certainly wouldn’t distract me or get in the way of me doing my job.”

Updated: November 24th 2021, 12:39 PM
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