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UK News: 'No babies in the Commons': Speaker says some mum MPs want ban to stay

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Demands for rules barring MPs from taking babies into the Commons to be eased are being opposed by female politicians with children, the Speaker has revealed.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he has been 'heavily lobbied' not to change the regulations amid a row over a ban handed to Labour backbencher Stella Creasy this week.

He requested a review amid an outcry over the Walthamstow MP being told she can no longer have her three-month-old son Pip with her, despite it being allowed in the past.

The case has polarised opinion with some MPs saying the rules should be eased for mothers with very young children, and Downing Street indicating it was sympathetic to her case.

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But other have accused her of 'grandstanding', while a Meanwhile, a YouGov poll found the majority of Britons believe MPs should not be allowed to take babies into the chamber.

Sir Lindsay admitted to MPs earlier this week there were 'differing views on the matter'. And last night he told the BBC's Newscast podcast: 'I have been heavily lobbied not to change the rules, by other mothers... I have texts on my phone saying do not give in.'

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What are the rules for MPs who are new mums and dads?

All MPs have to follow the Rules of Behaviour and Courtesies in the House of Commons, which was most recently updated in September.

Under the section on children it states: 'You may take babies or toddlers with you into the division lobby, and – if necessary to get to the division lobby – take them through the Chamber.

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'For safety reasons, you are asked to carry your child and not to bring pushchairs through the lobby.

'You should not take your seat in the Chamber when accompanied by your child, nor stand at either end of the Chamber, between divisions.'

However, Ms Creasy and other new mothers in Parliament have previously carried their newborn children - who are often still breastfeeding - into the Commons for debates, with authorities taking a sympathetic stance until now.

The situation is further complicated because of the rules covering maternity leave.

MPs can take time off on full pay as they are regarded as self-employed.  But they have argued that this means they are unable to take part in votes and debates when they should be representing constituents.

Earlier this year the Government changed legislation to ensure Cabinet ministers received six months maternity leave, to allow the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, to keep her post after having a baby.

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But backbench MPs have not been afforded access to the same arrangement.

In 2019, the Labour MP for Walthamstow took part in a pilot programme which meant when she was pregnant with her first child, she was replaced by a locum who covered the role while she was on leave.

The post came with £50,000 pro rata salary and covered a period of seven months absence.

They were able to meet ministers and handle casework, but could not vote or speak in the Commons.

But this summer Ms Creasy was told by Parliamentary authorities that she could not appoint a locum MP to cover her second child.

Instead she was was offered £35,000 to hire a new junior staff member or promote an existing member of her team.

Ms Creasy said Ipsa have never justified the discontinuation of this pilot project.

Ms Creasy, 44, was censured by Commons authorities after bringing Pip into a debate on Black Friday regulations on Wednesday.

She pointed out she has previously been allowed to speak in debates with him in a sling, with authorities taking a relaxed view. While she can take maternity time off with full pay she argues the current Commons rules do not allow her constituents to be fully represented while she is off, and has continued to work.

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Sir Lindsay has asked the cross-party Procedure Committee to examine the rules and whether changes were needed but has said he and his deputies could use their discretion in applying the existing measures.

He told MPs on Wednesday it is 'extremely important' that parents can fully participate in parliamentary work.

Ms Creasy, a mother of two, welcomed the review after she was emailed by authorities about rules prohibiting bringing children to debates after bringing son Pip into a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday.

Sir Lindsay said he was unaware that the warning was going to be issued to Ms Creasy but accepted it 'correctly reflects the current rules'.

'However, rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times,' he told MPs.

Walthamstow MP Ms Creasy said she hopes the move 'means some of these rules will be reviewed to make parenting and politics possible to mix'.

Pip, who is breastfeeding, has regularly attended the Commons, as did Ms Creasy's older daughter.

Later on Wednesday, at just before 10.45pm, Ms Creasy was seen sitting at a table with pip during the final stages of the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards in London, the main presentation stage of which finished around 11pm. And yesterday morning she was on Lorraine with Pip sleeping in a cot beside her.

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Asked on Twitter she could not just leave Pip at the parliamentary nursery - which is ranked Good by Ofsted and caters for children from birth to aged five, she replied: 'There is not a free creche, I pay for it and it's great and I use it for my older child, but this one is just 13 weeks old and needs to feed so not practical. Without maternity cover to make sure Walthamstow gets heard, baby needs to come with me for now.'

The little-used Commons nursery was set up in 2010 at a cost of £750,000 to make politics more family friendly and initially counted David Cameron's daughter Florence amongst its pupils.

But an FOI four years later showed it had lost a further £383,500, taking total costs to more than £1million. Use of the facility among MPs has been low, with only around 10 politicians currently believed to be using it.

The nursery charges £1,278 per child per month for five days a week care for those aged under two, and £1,170 for older children.

It opens at 8am Monday to Friday, but is only open late on a Monday, when it closes at 10:30pm. It closes at 7.30pm on Tuesday and Wednesday and 6.30pm on Thursday. On Fridays it closes at 6pm.

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This means it was not open last night when Ms Creasy attended the Spectator event in her capacity as an MP.

Ms Creasy's partner is Dan Fox, a former director of Labour Friends of Israel.

Ms Creasy has previously taken part in debates in the Commons chamber while carrying one of her two children, and following the 2019 election was sworn in while carrying daughter Hettie.

Ms Creasy was criticised by Red Wall Tory MP Scott Benton, who questioned why she needed to bring her son to work.

'Parents who get paid a fraction of what you do pay for childcare and juggle responsibilities so they can go to work,' the Blackpool South MP said.

'What makes you so special?'

Ms Creasy later hit back, saying: 'We don't have employment rights so don't have maternity cover to be able to do juggling, hence needing to take baby with me.

'But great to hear your support for ensuring mothers can be part of politics. Guess being anti choice for women is just in your DNA.'

And the issue divided users on Mumsnet, with some suggesting they would not take a baby into their own business meetings, while others said Ms Creasy was 'highlighting an important point'.

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