House of Commons chamber is ‘NO place’ for a baby, Tory MP says, after speaker Lindsay Hoyle says MPs SHOULD be able to bring in well-behaved infants
- Alicia Kearns said she has always been able to leave chamber to feed daughter
- Mother-of-two added she does not need to have that ‘live-streamed to the world’
- MPs allowed to take babies when voting but not when participating in debates
- It follows an outcry over Stella Creasy being told she cannot have son with her
The House of Commons chamber is ‘no place’ for a baby, Tory MP Alicia Kearns has said after speaker Lindsay Hoyle backed allowing MPs to take their babies into parliamentary debates as long as they are not disrupting proceedings.
Rutland and Melton MP Ms Kearns, 34, said she has always been able to leave the chamber to feed her daughter and does not need to have that ‘live-streamed to the world’ from the Commons.
MPs are allowed to take their babies with them when voting but not when participating in debates, although the Speaker and his deputies have exercised their discretion on the issue in the past.
Sir Lindsay has requested a review into whether the rules should be updated amid an outcry over Labour’s Stella Creasy being censured for carrying her son Pip, then aged three months, while speaking in a debate in November.
But Ms Kearns, who announced the birth of her second child in January 2021, said: ‘Babies have no place in the chamber. I’ve asked to leave debates to feed my child a few times – I have never been turned down.
‘This is a debate about childcare that is wrongly being presented as one of rights and representation.’
Alicia Kearns (pictured), 34, said she has always been able to leave the chamber to feed her daughter and does not need to have that ‘live-streamed to the world’ from the Commons
It comes amid an outcry over Labour’s Stella Creasy being censured for carrying her son Pip, then aged three months, while speaking in a debate in November (pictured above)
Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured on November 17) backed allowing MPs to take their babies into parliamentary debates as long as they are not disrupting proceedings
Ms Kearns added: ‘In no professional workplace would you feed your baby in a meeting with your chief executive, or in a pitch to new clients, or on a stage in front of shareholders.’
She acknowledged there are difficulties in combining being a mother with being an MP, and there have been ‘a couple (of) days where security would not let my then eight-month-old daughter, in her pram with her childcare, into Parliament because someone deemed it not to be “essential Parliamentary business”, but that was resolved by the Commons authorities.’
She said: ‘You’ll also see me frantically running around Parliament feeding baby between votes/debates/meetings’ in corridors, on the Commons terrace and in Central Lobby.
‘I don’t think being a mum should be hidden in Parliament/workplaces. But I don’t want to feed my baby live-streamed to world. And I definitely don’t need to.
‘This is a matter of childcare.’
The cross-party Commons Procedure Committee has been asked to examine the rules around babies in the chamber.
Sir Lindsay told the Daily Telegraph his view is that the ‘chair on the day has got to make a decision’.
Referring to Ms Creasy’s son, he said: ‘I saw that baby come into the chamber when I was in the chair. And did it affect the debate? No. Was it a quiet and peaceful baby? Absolutely. Did it disrupt? Not in the slightest. So did it matter to me? Absolutely not.
‘What I would say, and I’ll be quite honest with you, is each chair will make a decision. Unfortunately it’s become highly political.
‘It is now for others to decide, that’s why the committee is reviewing it. And I will then have to respect (that decision).’
Ms Kearns, who announced the birth of her second child in January 2021, said: ‘Babies have no place in the chamber. I’ve asked to leave debates to feed my child a few times – I have never been turned down’ (part of her Twitter thread pictured above)
Ms Creasy pictured with her baby in a sling while speaking in the chamber of the House of Commons in September this year
Ms Creasy argues that, while she can take maternity time off with full pay, the current Commons rules do not allow her constituents to be fully represented while she is off, and has continued to work.
She pointed out that she has previously been allowed to speak in debates with her son in a sling, with authorities taking a relaxed view.
The case polarised opinion with some MPs saying the rules should be eased for mothers with very young children, and Downing Street indicating it was sympathetic to her case.
But others have accused her of ‘grandstanding’, while a YouGov poll found the majority of Britons believe MPs should not be allowed to take babies into the chamber.
Ms Creasy, a mother of two, welcomed the review after she was emailed by authorities about rules prohibiting bringing children to debates after bringing Pip into a Westminster Hall debate.
The Walthamstow MP Ms Creasy said she hopes the move ‘means some of these rules will be reviewed to make parenting and politics possible to mix’.
Pip, who is breastfeeding, has regularly attended the Commons, as did Ms Creasy’s older daughter.
What are the rules for MPs who are new mums and dads?
All MPs have to follow the Rules of Behaviour and Courtesies in the House of Commons, which was most recently updated in September.
Under the section on children it states: ‘You may take babies or toddlers with you into the division lobby, and – if necessary to get to the division lobby – take them through the Chamber.
‘For safety reasons, you are asked to carry your child and not to bring pushchairs through the lobby.
‘You should not take your seat in the Chamber when accompanied by your child, nor stand at either end of the Chamber, between divisions.’
However, Ms Creasy and other new mothers in Parliament have previously carried their newborn children – who are often still breastfeeding – into the Commons for debates, with authorities taking a sympathetic stance until now.
The situation is further complicated because of the rules covering maternity leave. MPs can take time off on full pay. But they have argued that this means they are unable to take part in votes and debates when they should be representing constituents.
Earlier this year the Government changed legislation to ensure Cabinet ministers received six months maternity leave, to allow the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, to keep her post after having a baby. But backbench MPs have not been afforded access to the same arrangement.
In 2019, the Labour MP for Walthamstow took part in a pilot programme which meant when she was pregnant with her first child, she was replaced by a locum who covered the role while she was on leave.
The post came with £50,000 pro rata salary and covered a period of seven months absence.
They were able to meet ministers and handle casework, but could not vote or speak in the Commons.
But this summer Ms Creasy was told by Parliamentary authorities that she could not appoint a locum MP to cover her second child.
Instead she was was offered £35,000 to hire a new junior staff member or promote an existing member of her team.
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