LONDON – A UK lawmaker who has been asked to stop bringing baby to parliament is sparking debate over how accessible a career in politics is to working mothers.
“The mothers of the mother of any parliament are not to be seen or heard, it seems,” Stella Creasy, a member of the opposition Labor Party, wrote on Tuesday after bringing her son to Westminster Hall, a large building on the parliamentary domain in London where lawmakers debate topical issues.
Creasy posted on Twitter an email she received from House of Commons officials, telling her that bringing her son to debate did not comply with current rules.
“We have been informed that you were accompanying your baby to Westminster Hall earlier today,” the letter read. “The rules of behavior and courtesy recently published in the House of Commons state that ‘you must not sit in the House when you are accompanied by a child (para 42). “”
The incident reignited the conversation about mothers with young children in UK politics – prompting the announcement of the rule revision on Wednesday.
It is not known what prompted Tuesday’s letter.
“It’s a bit of a mystery to me because I have two kids and I’ve already taken them both to the chamber because my constituents need to be represented,” Creasy told Sky News.
A House of Commons spokesperson made no comment on Tuesday when asked what prompted the email to Creasy. The spokesperson added that communication had been made with Creasy on this matter.
Creasy has for years called for changes to parliamentary rules regarding maternity leave for MPs as part of a general campaign to make parliament more family-friendly.
In February, Britain introduced its first official maternity leave for government ministers, but campaigners said the government should extend a similar leave to all lawmakers with newborns.
President Sir Lindsay Hoyle told the Commons on Wednesday he had called for a review of the current rules on admitting babies to parliament, saying “the rules need to be seen in context and they change over time” .
Another MP, Alex Davies-Jones, tweeted that she had already been reassured by Hoyle that she could breastfeed her child in the bedroom if she needed to, and that she was “extremely concerned” about what had happened to Creasy.
Caroline Lucas, Green MP, also said on twitter that the rules relating to children in Parliament were “absurd” and should be challenged.
Creasy did not meet universal support on social media, where some users told him to take a nanny and Parliament was not a suitable environment for a baby.
In countries where it is allowed, a number of women politicians have made it their business to bring their children to work.
In 2017, Australian Senator Larissa Waters became the first female politician to breastfeed in the country’s Parliament. A year later, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden became the first female world leader to bring her baby to the United Nations General Assembly.
That same year, Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Made history in the United States by bringing her 10-day-old newborn with her to vote a day after the Senate voted to allow babies on the bedroom floor.