British MP stirs debate after being told not to bring baby to work

British MP stirs debate after being told not to bring baby to work

LONDON — A British legislator told to stop bringing her baby to Parliament is stirring a debate around how accessible a career in politics really is for working mothers.

“Mothers in the mother of all parliament are not to be seen or heard it seems,” Stella Creasy, a member of the opposition Labour Party, wrote on Tuesday after she brought her son to Westminster Hall, a grand building on the parliamentary estate in London where lawmakers debate issues of the day.

Creasy posted on Twitter an email she received from House of Commons authorities, telling her that bringing her son to the debate was not in line with the current rules. 

“We have been made aware that you were accompanied by your baby in Westminster Hall earlier today,” the letter reads. “The recently published Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons states that ‘you should not take your seat in the Chamber when accompanied by a child (para 42).’”

The incident has reignited the conversation about mothers with young children in British politics — resulting in the announcement of the review of the rules on Wednesday. 

It was unclear what prompted Tuesday’s letter.

“It’s a bit of a mystery to me because I have two children and I’ve taken them both previously into the chamber as needs must to make sure my constituents have representation,” Creasy told Sky News.

A House of Commons spokesperson had no comment Tuesday when asked what prompted the email to Creasy. The spokesperson added that communication had been made with Creasy on the matter.

Creasy has been calling for changes to parliamentary rules around maternity leave for MPs for years amid a general push to make Parliament more family-friendly.

In February, Britain introduced its first formal maternity leave for government ministers, but campaigners said the government should extend similar leave to all lawmakers with newborns.

Stella Creasy, seen here with her first child in 2019, was not met with universal support on social media, where some users said Parliament was not an appropriate place for a baby. John Sibley / Reuters file

On Wednesday, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told the Commons he has asked for a review of the current rules on bringing babies into Parliament, saying “rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times.”

Another female MP, Alex Davies-Jones, tweeted that she was previously reassured by Hoyle that she could breastfeed her child in the chamber if she needed to, and was “hugely concerned” by what happened to Creasy.

Caroline Lucas, a Green MP, also said on Twitter that the rules on children in Parliament were “absurd” and need to be challenged. 

Creasy was not met with universal support on social media, where some users told her to get a nanny and that Parliament was not an appropriate environment for a baby.  

In countries where it’s allowed, a number of female politicians have made a point of bringing their children to work.

In 2017, Australian Senator Larissa Waters became the first politician to breastfeed in the nation’s Parliament. A year later, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden became the first female world leader to bring her infant baby to the United Nations General Assembly. 

The same year, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., made history in the U.S. by bringing her 10-day-old newborn with her to vote a day after the Senate voted to allow babies onto the chamber’s floor.

Reuters contributed.

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