Stella Creasy criticism sparks review of rules preventing MPs bringing their babies into Commons

Rules on allowing MPs to take babies into the House of Commons are to be reviewed after Labour's Stella Creasy was told not to bring her three-month-old son into the Chamber.

Ms Creasy had condemned the rule by saying "mothers in the mother of all parliaments are not to be seen or heard it seems."

The Walthamstow MP said she was “pleased to hear” that Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle asked a cross-party committee to consider the rules preventing MPs bringing their babies into the Chamber.

She was not in the Chamber for the statement as she is taking part in the “proxy voting scheme” allowing another MP to vote for her and the “rules say I am not allowed in anyway due to having baby leave”.

But she added: “(I) Hope this means some of these rules will be reviewed to make parenting and politics possible to mix.”

MPs do not get maternity leave, and Ms Creasy said she was forced to take her baby son into the chamber to ensure her Walthamstow residents "had representation".

'It did feel a little bit like mothers really can't win,' Stella Creasy tells ITV News

When asked if the email came as a surprise, given she has taken a baby into Parliament before, she told ITV News on Wednesday: "To be honest I was quite baffled because Parliament has also said that I couldn't have proper maternity cover because somebody needed to be able to speak in the Chamber for my constituents.

"They knew I was coming in because I had to give up my baby leave proxy vote in order to speak.

"My son is 13 weeks old so he's really too young to be left any length of time because I need to be able to feed him."

"I'd made sure he was fed so he would be quiet, so people could hear the speech I was giving," she added.

"So, when I received the email telling me that here's another hurdle to participation in parliament, it did feel a little bit like mothers really can't win."

'We make it much harder to combine this job with looking after a family'

Ms Creasy said she thought it was really important that the rules are being reviewed because there aren't many women with young children in politics.

"And that's not by accident. It's because we make it much harder to combine this job with looking after a family," she continued.

"But I also just want to know what I do next week. I had plans to speak in Parliament and I don't know what I should do next."

"Solving this crisis isn't just for me - I'm not the first to bring a baby into the Chamber but I probably won't be the last if we want to make sure our politics is open to a wider range of people."

She wants more mums to have a voice at the decision-making table.

She added: "I believe that parliament should uphold the rules that we ask other employers and public agencies to uphold ourselves and how we treat each other because if we don't think they're important for MPs, how can we fight them in the rest of the country?"

On Wednesday, Sir Lindsay asked the Commons Procedure Committee to look at the rules around bringing babies into the House after Ms Creasy received an email from a House of Commons member of staff reminding her that she should not take her seat in the Chamber "when accompanied by a child".

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs: “It is extremely important that parents of babies and young children are able to participate fully in the work of this House.”

He said he had been unaware of the advice given to Labour’s Stella Creasy, who was told she can no longer bring her three-month-old son into the Commons chamber, but it “correctly reflects the current rules”.

“However, rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times,” he said.

The Commons “has to be able to function professionally and without disturbance” but there “may be occasions when the chair can exercise discretion”.

He continued: “I accept there are differing views on this matter, indeed I have been contacted by honourable Members who have babies with a range of views.

“There are also likely to be some consequential matters, therefore I have asked the chair of the Procedure Committee if she and her committee look into this matter and bring forward recommendations which would ultimately be for the House to take a view on.”

The email received by Ms Creasy said: "We have been made aware that you were accompanied by your baby in Westminster Hall earlier today.

"I just wanted to make you aware that the recently published rules and behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons states that "you should not take your seat in the Chamber when accompanied by a child".

"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this also applies to debates in Westminster Hall."

Labour MP Stella Creasy holds her baby daughter in the House of Commons in June 2020. Credit: PA

It is not the first time the Labour MP has brought a child to work, in 2019 she was accompanied with her first born daughter in a sling.

And in September she brought her second child into the Chamber, warning that new mothers are “rebuked” rather than supported when returning to Parliament.

She asked Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, if he would consider changing rules which meant that MPs on parental leave must give up the proxy vote if they want to speak in the chamber.

She said: “We know that the Leader of the House is keen to see MPs return to the chambers of Parliament, and indeed the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority refused to fund appropriate maternity cover for myself on the basis that people needed to be able to speak in the chamber.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson with her baby Gabriel in the Commons in 2018. Credit: PA

“Yet today, in order to speak I have had to abandon my baby proxy leave vote or else be reprimanded by the House authorities for speaking in the chamber, making Parliament one of the few workplaces in this country where, when a new mother comes in for a ‘keep in touch day’, she is rebuked, not supported."

What are the rules are around maternity leave and MPs?

MPs do not official get maternity leave as they are deemed to work for the public.

The law prevents a locum from being able to cover the parliamentary work of MPs on parental leave - a stance Ms Creasy is fighting to change.

If a minister does who wants to go on maternity leave, they must seek permission from the Prime Minister. If approved, another minister already in government could temporarily cover the functions and responsibilities of the minister on leave. But, parliament admits this is “particularly difficult to apply” to a minister in a “very senior office” as the “legal excise of functions a high ranking role cannot be covered by another minister.

Earlier this year, MPs voted to give ministers formal paid maternity leave for the first time.

But the bill omitted any reference to paternity leave and did not extend similar benefits to backbenchers.

Ms Creasy is not the first female MP to cradle a baby in the House of Commons.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson was thought to be the first MP to cradle her baby during a debate in the Commons chamber in 2018.