The UK House of Commons will review a parliamentary rule forbidding lawmakers to bring babies into the chamber, after a female MP complained she had been told not to take her 3-month-old son with her during debates.
After Labour MP Stella Creasy brought her son Pip into a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, she received an email from the private secretary to the chairman of Ways and Means reminding her of the Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons, which were updated in early September.
Paragraph 42 of the Rules states an MP “should not take your seat in the Chamber when accompanied by a child,” with the private secretary telling Creasy this also applies to Westminster Hall.
Creasy said it appears “mothers in the mother of all parliaments are not to be seen or heard.”
She told Sky News that it was “a bit of a mystery” to her because she had previously taken both Pip and her older daughter to the Commons.
Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones wrote to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle calling for “urgent clarification” on the rules. Caroline Lucas, the only MP from the Green Party, said the rule is “absurd” and “absolutely needs to be challenged.”
But not all MPs were supportive. Conservative MP Scott Benton wrote on Twitter: “Parents who get paid a fraction of what you do pay for childcare and juggle responsibilities so they can go to work. What makes you so special?”
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said he has “a lot of sympathy” for Creasy, but he added the decision is for the parliamentary authorities to make.
On Wednesday morning, Lindsay announced that he had asked the Procedure Committee to conduct a review into whether MPs can take babies into the chamber.
He stressed it is “extremely important” that parents can fully participate in parliamentary work, and said he was unaware that the warning was going to be issued to Creasy.
He accepted the email “correctly reflects the current rules,” but said “rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times.”
“This House has to be able to function professionally and without disturbance,” he told MPs in a statement. “However, sometimes there may be occasions when the chair can exercise discretion assuming to the business not being disturbed. I accept there are differing views on this matter.”
He said Procedure Committee chairwoman Karen Bradley would review the matter and bring forward recommendations that will be “ultimately for the House to take a view on.”
Creasy welcomed the review, saying she hopes the move “means some of these rules will be reviewed to make parenting and politics possible to mix.”
PA contributed to this report.