Labour MP Stella Creasy has argued that mothers in parliament “can’t win” after being reprimanded by parliamentary authorities for taking her 13-week old son into a Westminster Hall debate earlier this week.
In a Sky News interview this morning, the Labour backbencher explained that she takes her child into parliament when she votes so that she can “make sure that my constituents have representation because I don’t have maternity cover”.
“If I don’t have my child with me and I don’t go in, then my residents in Walthamstow don’t get heard,” she explained.
The Walthamstow MP led a debate on buy-now-pay-later consumer credit schemes on Tuesday afternoon in Westminster Hall, a subsidiary chamber where MPs can raise issues of interest to them. She subsequently revealed that she had later received an email from Commons officials.
The email stated that taking a child into the Commons chamber breached the recently published “rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons”, and that this also applied to debates held in Westminster Hall.
The lates copy of the rules tells MPs: “You should not take your seat in the chamber when accompanied by your child, nor stand at either end of the chamber, between divisions.” The same wording was also in the previous version of the rules.
But MPs have brought their children into the chamber to enable them to participate and vote on behalf of their constituents. Earlier this year, Jacob Rees-Mogg congratulated Creasy on “the impeccable behaviour of her infant”.
“He’s very tiny, doesn’t really do very much, he’s quite well-behaved, even Jacob Rees-Mogg has acknowledged that and perhaps some of my colleagues are noisier than him,” Creasy told viewers this morning.
“But I was told I’d committed a parliamentary faux pas and I wasn’t allowed to bring him with me. I think it’s just a representation of how, often, if you’re a mum, you can’t win – because obviously if I had maternity cover it would be a different issue, but I don’t and I don’t want to short-change my residents.”
The backbencher was told by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority earlier this year that she could not appoint a ‘locum’ to provide full maternity cover as IPSA said the concept was “misconceived in relation to an MP”.
This was despite the body having provided budget for her to do so in 2019, when she was the first MP to appoint a ‘locum’. The staffer was paid the equivalent of £50,000 per year and was given a parliamentary pass, though could not speak in the chamber or vote in the House of Commons.
Creasy’s subsequent call for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to “follow the law on maternity cover” was backed by senior figures across the labour movement, trade unions and women’s organisations.