MPs should not bring babies into Commons, says cross-party review | Women in politics

MPs should not be allowed to bring babies into the House of Commons chamber during debates, a cross-party review has recommended after mounting “confusion” about the rules.

The procedure committee report was ordered amid an outcry over Labour backbencher Stella Creasy being told she could no longer bring her newborn son while making statements or asking questions in parliament.

The group ruled that MPs should not bring babies into the chamber or nearby Westminster Hall if they wanted to “observe, initiate, speak or intervene in proceedings”.

Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

But they said there should be a “degree of de-facto discretion” that “should be exercised sparingly”. Creasy said this was not enough and railed at the “antiquated” rule remaining in place.

The committee did, however, back the extension of proxy voting for “serious long-term illness”.

The review into the rules was ordered by Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle in November after Creasy was told she could no longer bring her son Pip, then three months old, with her into the chamber.

The mother of two, who represents Walthamstow in London, hoped the review would allow “parenting and politics to mix”.

Creasy was shocked when the Commons authorities emailed her rules prohibiting bringing children to debates after she took Pip into Westminster Hall.

MPs described the boy as “as good as gold” during the debate.

But the committee’s report said it was a “longstanding practice” underpinned by previous rulings that “babies should not be present” during debates and question times.

They noted there had been “several occasions” when MPs had brought babies into debates “without disruption”, but this had “contributed to some confusion and a gap” between the practice and the rules.

Many MPs were supportive of Ms Creasy, with deputy prime minister Dominic Raab saying he had “a lot of sympathy” for her and that he would not be distracted by a baby. But Tory backbencher Alicia Kearns argued the chamber was “no place” for a baby.

Creasy said that she was “not surprised” by the recommendation because the committee “didn’t speak to a single person outside parliament despite many of us encouraging them to do so”.

“They don’t recognise who is put off parliament by its antiquated rules and approach to women who have children and the need to modernise,” she added.

“They are not alone in working like this – in the last year we’ve seen no progress on parliament having any form of adequate maternity or paternity policy in place, and no progress from IPSA [the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority] on providing proper maternity or paternity funding either.

“Change will only come when we start listening to those outside the status quo.”

Leave a Comment