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The House of Commons will review rules that led to the Labour MP Stella Creasy being reprimanded for bringing her young baby while she spoke at a debate in parliament, the Speaker has announced.
Creasy had asked for urgent clarification from Commons authorities after being reprimanded for having her infant son in a sling as she spoke in parliament on Tuesday, saying this had not been a problem on other occasions.
Commons rules state that MPs should not have children or infants with them in the chamber, but Creasy has taken both her children into the Commons before, without complaint.
“Without maternity cover, the residents of Walthamstow would be denied representation if I didn’t keep working – but anyone with a three-month-old baby knows they are too young to leave on their own,” she told the Guardian on Wednesday.
The Walthamstow MP brought her three-month-old son in a sling as she led a debate about buy-now-pay-later consumer credit schemes on Tuesday afternoon in Westminster Hall, a subsidiary chamber in the Commons.
After an outcry when Creasy posted an email she had received telling her that her son’s presence was against the rules, the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, asked the Commons procedure committee, chaired by Karen Bradley, to look at the rules.
“It is extremely important that parents of babies and young children are able to participate fully in the work of this House,” he said, saying he had been unaware of the advice given to Creasy until last night.
“However, rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times,” he said. “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.”
Creasy said she had received an email from the Commons authorities saying the latest edition of rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons, the handbook for MPs, says they should not take their seat in the Commons while with a child, adding: “I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this also applies to debates in Westminster Hall.”
This edition of the rules, published in September, states that MPs can take babies or toddlers with them through the lobbies to vote, and if needed through the Commons to do so, but adds: “You should not take your seat in the chamber when accompanied by your child, nor stand at either end of the chamber, between divisions.”
Politicians have rallied in support of Creasy, with the deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, saying he had “a lot of sympathy”. Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Wednesday, Raab said the profession of MP needed to be “brought into the modern world, the 21st century, and can allow parents to juggle the jobs they do with the family time that they need”.
The presence of babies in the chamber was for the authorities to decide, he said, adding: “When you see your colleagues with their children, given the rough and tumble of politics, I just always think it brings out the best in people.”
The former leader of the Scottish Conservative party, Ruth Davidson, gave examples of the support she had received at Holyrood after the birth of her son, Finn, which included a note from the presiding officer of the Scottish parliament (the Scottish equivalent of the Speaker) assuring her that her baby was welcome on the estate.
“If it helps to know how other parliaments around the UK operate, @stellacreasy before I came back to work, the chief exec & PO got in touch to ask what I needed (I got a fridge for my office for storing breast milk) & to reassure me Finn was welcome on the estate & in the chamber,” she wrote.
After Creasy’s tweet another Labour MP, Alex Davies-Jones, tweeted that the rule seemed “a complete contradiction”. When she was breastfeeding her child, Hoyle had assured her “that if the need arose I would be able to feed my child in the chamber or Westminster Hall”, she said.
The MP has also launched a campaign called This Mum Votes – originally named Vote Mama UK, after an existing US campaign – to help support parents in politics, saying she did not think her own party had properly backed her push for maternity rights.