Politics

MPs should be able to bring babies to debates, Commons Speaker says | House of Commons


MPs should be allowed to bring their babies with them to parliamentary debates, the Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has said.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he said that it should be up to the chair of the debate to decide whether the presence of a baby would cause any disruption.

The Labour MP Stella Creasy asked for clarification from Commons authorities after being reprimanded for having her infant son in a sling as she spoke in parliament last month, saying it had not been a problem on previous occasions.

Commons rules state that MPs should not have children or infants with them in the chamber, but Creasy has taken both of her children into the chamber before without any complaints being made.

Hoyle requested a review into whether the rules should be updated and reiterated his view that the “chair on the day has got to make a decision”.

Referring to 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” its decision.

He also said he had asked the cross-party procedure committee to examine the rules and whether changes were needed, and that he and his deputies could use their discretion in applying the existing measures.

The issue sparked an outcry when Creasy, the MP for Walthamstow, tweeted an email she had received from Commons authorities, which read: “We have been made aware that you were accompanied by your baby in Westminster Hall earlier today.”

It referred to the latest edition of the Commons rulebook, which says MPs should not take their seats in the chamber with a child.

The email from the private secretary to the chairman of ways and means, the formal title for the most senior deputy speaker, read: “I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this also applies to debates in Westminster Hall.”

Creasy had been leading a debate about buy-now-pay-later consumer credit schemes in hall, a subsidiary chamber where MPs can raise issues of interest to them.

Writing in the Guardian about the argument, the she said: “With little support from the authorities or indeed my own political party, I have worked as best I can while managing the needs of my now 13-week-old son. That’s why I was baffled to be told I could not take him into parliament with me.

“It doesn’t have to be like this. Whether in New Zealand, Canada or in Europe, parliaments around the world have shown a family-friendly legislature is possible.

“There are thousands of mothers out there who have something valuable to add to our politics, and they want to run. For now they see the mother of all parliaments discouraging mothers and rightly wonder if they will be welcome.”



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