A British politician has called for reforms to the parliament’s rule book after receiving an official rebuke for attending a debate with her three-month-old baby.
Stella Creasy, an MP with the main opposition Labour Party, took her son to the debate in parliament’s Westminster Hall on Tuesday.
Later the same day, she received a letter from the private secretary to the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee saying the infant’s presence had not been in line with recently published rules on “behaviour and courtesies” concerning conduct in the House of Commons and Westminster Hall, an historic building used for some MPs’ sessions.
Creasy, 44, said she had previously taken both her son and her older daughter to parliament without problems but had been told the rules had changed in September.
The current rule book advises MPs against taking a seat in the chamber, meaning the Commons or Westminster Hall, when “accompanied by your child”.
Apparently Parliament has written a rule which means I can’t take my well behaved, 3-month old, sleeping baby when I speak in chamber. (Still no rule on wearing masks btw).
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) November 23, 2021
Creasy said the edict undermined efforts to make politics more family friendly and called for it to be reviewed.
“There are barriers to getting mums involved in politics, and I think that damages our political debate,” the MP for the London constituency of Walthamstow told the BBC on Wednesday.
“I’ve had a baby, I haven’t given up my brain or capacity to do things and our politics and our policy making will be better by having more mums at the table,” she added.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, a member of the governing Conservative Party, said he had “a lot of sympathy” for Creasy.
“I think we do need to make sure our profession is 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,” he said, before adding that it was ultimately up to parliamentary authorities to decide on the rules.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas meanwhile slammed the baby ban as “absurd”. She said infants were “far less disruptive than many braying backbenchers”.
Solidarity Stella 💪 – this absurd ruling absolutely needs to be challenged – besides, babies far less disruptive than many braying backbenchers … https://t.co/tWPSwFX3qg
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) November 24, 2021
Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he had asked parliament’s procedure committee to review the rules amid the outcry over Creasy’s case but noted that there were “differing views” on the matter.
“The advice given yesterday … correctly reflects the current rules. However, rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times,” Hoyle told the Commons on Wednesday.
“It is extremely important that parents of babies and young children are able to participate fully in the work of this House,” he added.
MPs have previously brought babies to debates without reprimand. Former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was considered the first to do so in 2018 when she attended a debate in the House of Commons chamber with her then-infant son, Gabriel.