French parliament to open nursery after unprecedented number of female MPs elected

David Chazan
French President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte attend the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, at the Elysee Palace for a meeting on March 19 - Getty Images Europe

Babies will soon be welcome at the French parliament, where a nursery will be opened allow MPs to bring children to work, in a controversial move that has divided Emmanuel Macron’s party.

The current parliament has a record number of female members, after the president’s party fielded equal numbers of men and women as candidates in last year’s elections.

Of the National Assembly's 577 MPs, 223 are female. Many are new to politics and are balancing family responsibilities with their parliamentary duties.

The plan to open the day care centre for about 40 children before next January sparked a row within Mr Macron’s La République En Marche! party.

Unexpectedly, some of the most virulent opposition came from women. Aurore Bergé, 31, an LREM MP, said: “MPs earn a good enough living to find their own child care solutions.”

Other pointed out that the Assembly already boasts a bar, a hairdresser and a dry cleaner.  They said the introduction of a nursery was inappropriate at a time when MPs’ privileges and expense allowances were being cut. 

But another of Mr Macron’s MPs, François de Rugy, the parliamentary speaker, said the nursery was “justified” because of the massive influx of women into the Assembly.

Clémentine Autain of the opposition far-Left party, France Unbowed, said: “Why should MPs be any different from others in society who want to better balance working hours and family life?”

The arrival of so many women MPs and the nursery plan  stand in stark contrast to the sexism that has been associated with the formerly male-dominated parliament in recent years.

In 2016 eight women accused Denis Baupin, then the deputy speaker, of harassment or sexual assault. He subsequently resigned.

Ms Bergé has also spoken out against lewd remarks and catcalling in parliament.

The nursery will be also be open to the children of MPs’ assistants and other parliamentary staff.

It will be housed in one of the parliamentary buildings adjacent to the Palais Bourbon, where the Assembly sits, and must offer ground floor access to a garden, officials said.

One possibility being discussed is the Hotel de Broglie, an elegant 18th century mansion which is being refurbished at a cost of nearly £20 million. The only problem, officials say, is that work will not be completed before 2022.

Whatever their views, many MPs will be relieved that an earlier proposal to convert the parliamentary bar into a nursery appears to have been dropped. 

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