UK

Stella Creasy takes her baby to late-night awards show


Labour backbencher Stella Creasy took her 13-week-old son to a late night awards show yesterday as a row continued over a decision to ban her from bringing the infant to Commons debates. 

The Walthamstow MP was pictured sitting at a table with Pip just before 10.45pm during the final stages of the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards in London. 

She hit out yesterday after receiving an official rebuke for carrying 13-week-old son Pip in a sling during a discussion on Black Friday regulations. 

She 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. 

Today, appearing on Lorraine while Pip was asleep in a cot beside her, Ms Creasy said she was ‘baffled’ at the ticking off, and said she was considering bringing her son into Parliament next week too. 

She said: ‘I don’t know whether next week I can take my son into parliament with me for the work I need to do…a lot of these rules seem to have been written not thinking about the flexibility [women need]. 

‘I think we do need to have the conversation, it’s a bit of a chicken and an egg there aren’t many mums of young children in politics which means it’s not seen as an important issue which means there aren’t many mums with young mother.’ 

Parliament has a nursery caring for children from birth to aged five which is open from 8am to 6pm. MPs are not allowed to take children into the Commons chamber but authorities had previously taken a flexible approach when it has happened. 

The Walthamstow MP was pictured sitting at a table with the infant just before 10.45pm during the final stages of the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards in London

Today, appearing without her baby on Lorraine, Ms Creasy said she was 'baffled' at the ticking off, and said she was considering bringing her son into Parliament next week too

Today, appearing without her baby on Lorraine, Ms Creasy said she was ‘baffled’ at the ticking off, and said she was considering bringing her son into Parliament next week too

Ms Creasy took part in a debate on the promotion and regulation of financial products on Black Friday with son Pip in a sling

Ms Creasy took part in a debate on the promotion and regulation of financial products on Black Friday with son Pip in a sling

Last night’s row prompted Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to today launch a probe into the rules barring MPs from bringing their children into work. 

But 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.’

But she was also criticised by a female politician. 

Susan Hall, who leads the Tories on the Greater London Assembly, said: ‘Mothers have to find childcare in the real world, it’s what they do.’

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

Ms Creasy - pictured last night - hit out yesterday after receiving an official rebuke for carrying 13-week-old son Pip in a sling during a discussion on Black Friday regulations

Ms Creasy – pictured last night – hit out yesterday after receiving an official rebuke for carrying 13-week-old son Pip in a sling during a discussion on Black Friday regulations

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

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

 

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced he has asked a committee to examine the regulations after Stella Creasy was admonished in a letter last night.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced he has asked a committee to examine the regulations after Stella Creasy was admonished in a letter last night.

While taking part in the event she was accompanied by Pip, who is still breastfeeding, and received the terse email afterwards.

While taking part in the event she was accompanied by Pip, who is still breastfeeding, and received the terse email afterwards.

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. 

‘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.

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 had earlier tweeted a photograph of an email addressed to her apparently 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 the 44-year-old mother of two this also applies to Westminster Hall.

The Walthamstow MP took part in a debate on the promotion and regulation of financial products on Black Friday in the building, the oldest part of the Westminster estate which is used for additional discussions outside the Commons chamber. 

While taking part in the event she was accompanied by Pip, who is still breastfeeding, and received the terse email afterwards. 

Sir Lindsay told MPs: ‘It is extremely important that parents of babies and young children are able to participate fully in the work of this House.’

He said he had been unaware of the advice given to Labour’s Stella Creasy, who was told she can no longer bring her three-month-old son into the Commons chamber, but it ‘correctly reflects the current rules’.

‘However, rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times,’ he said. 

Ms Creasy said she was ‘pleased to hear this’, adding:  ‘(I) Hope this means some of these rules will be reviewed to make parenting and politics possible to mix.’

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. 

‘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. 

‘Mothers in the mother of all parliament are not to be seen or heard it seems…. #21stCenturyCalling,’ Ms Creasy posted with the photographed email on Tuesday afternoon.

In a separate post, Ms Creasy urged support for an campaign to get more mothers involved in politics.

‘Other countries show it doesn’t have to be this way – If you want things to change so politics and parenting can mix, please join our project to help directly support mums of young children to stand for office.’

The BBC cited the House of Commons as saying it was ‘in communication’ with Ms Creasy.

Susan Hall, who leads the Tories on the Greater London Assembly, said: 'Mothers have to find childcare in the real world, it’s what they do.'

Susan Hall, who leads the Tories on the Greater London Assembly, said: ‘Mothers have to find childcare in the real world, it’s what they do.’

Labour’s Liz Kendall to become mum aged 50

Labour shadow minister and former leadership challenger Liz Kendall has announced she is to become a mother at the age of 50.

The Leicester West MP revealed she and her partner are expecting a child in the new year with the help of a surrogate. 

She said she  plans to temporarily step down as shadow minister for social care ‘to make the most of this precious time with the newest member of our family’.

She is believed to be the first MP to have a child in this way, though Labour peer Baroness Oona King had a child via a surrogate in 2013. 

Ms Kendall revealed to the Spectator that she has suffered two miscarriages and required surgery during attempts to conceive naturally, adding: ‘We have been through a lot to get here but it really is happening now and we’ve been telling people this week.’     

Last night she tweeted: ‘Overwhelmed by all the messages today. 

‘I’m sorry I can’t reply to everyone but this has been a properly lovely day and I’ll remember it for a very long time. Thank you x.’

Boris Johnson wants to see ‘further improvements’ on making Parliament family friendly, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked by reporters whether MPs should be allowed to bring their babies into the Commons, said: ‘We completely understand the difficulties faced by MPs who are new mothers, new fathers or adopted parents and Parliament has made some positive changes to becoming more family friendly in recent years, including on proxy voting.

‘We want to make sure that all work places are modern, flexible and fit for parents.

‘This is obviously a matter for the House. I know they have issued a statement on that today, but we very much do want to see further improvements.’

Asked whether that comment was akin to Mr Johnson signalling his support for a change on the baby stance, the No 10 spokesman replied: ‘Like I say, we want the workplace in any circumstances to be modern and flexible and fit for the 21st century.

‘The exact way that operates is rightly a matter for the House.’

This morning Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said he has ‘a lot of sympathy’ for Mr Creasy, telling BBC Breakfast: ‘Quite what the right balance is in terms of the chamber, let me leave that to the House authorities but frankly I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Stella Creasy on all of these things because I’ve seen her with her young child, I’ve seen many other MPs on all sides of the House balancing this, and it’s difficult.

‘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 he is a ‘sucker for young kids’ and he would not be bothered giving a speech at the despatch box in their presence, adding: ‘When you see your colleagues with their children, given the rough and tumble of politics, I just always think it brings out the best in people.

‘Whether it’s the right thing in the chamber, there will be different views on that, it will be for the House authorities to decide but it certainly wouldn’t distract me or get in the way of me doing my job.’

Ms Creasy with her newborn in September during a debate where she demanded new mothers were 'supported' by Parliament

Ms Creasy with her newborn in September during a debate where she demanded new mothers were ‘supported’ by Parliament 

In late September, Ms Creasy’s then-newborn was strapped to her as she rose in the chamber to ask Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to ensure new mothers were supported rather than ‘rebuked’ when returning to Parliament.

Mr Rees-Mogg said in response he thought the rules were ‘perfectly reasonable and entirely in line with the law’. 

Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones last night  described the rule as a ‘complete contradiction’ after she said she received an assurance from Sir Lindsay that she could breastfeed in the chamber.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, said the rule is ‘absurd’ and ‘absolutely needs to be challenged’, adding that babies are ‘far less disruptive than many braying backbenchers’.

The issue has left social media users divided, with many speaking out in support for Ms Creasy, while others argued that people in other professions cannot take their children to work with them.

One user wrote: ‘In some ways I applaud this. In other ways (as pointed out by someone else), we as a working class couple had to pay high childcare fees which was hard. We couldn’t take our kids to work, most people still can’t.’

Another commented: ‘Shame on parliament. A child under 1 yes, especially if being breast fed, should be allowed. Again another barrier for women.’

One teacher penned: ’22 years ago, I breast fed my baby while giving a lecture and tutorials too. My students didn’t suffer and my baby grew up just fine. 

‘My workplace took it in its stride. Stella Creasy is doing her job, in 2021 it’s outrageous there are rules stopping her.’ 

Following the 2019 election she was sworn in while carrying daughter Hettie in a sling (centre)

Following the 2019 election she was sworn in while carrying daughter Hettie in a sling (centre)

One person penned: ‘Since when as a nation did we become so anti child? Of course every case is different, and I think we should seek to be more accommodating where possible.’

While another said: ‘All the people saying Stella should use childcare: the baby is very young, she is breastfeeding him, and she can do her job far more efficiently if she does it with the baby rather than is going backwards and forwards to a nursery every 90 mins to feed him.’

But another disagreed, saying: ‘Could my mum have me in a sales showroom for AGA cookers or my Dad on a building sight? No, they couldn’t.’ 

And one person tweeted: ‘Do what the rest of the country has to do… get a child minder/family to help or work from home.’

Ms Creasy had regularly taken her son and previously her daughter Hettie into the Commons chamber.

Neither child had been held by the Speaker, however, unlike in New Zealand in 2019.

Speaker Trevor Mallard attracted global fame as a so-called ‘baby whisperer’ after helping to soothe a colleague’s infant – including rocking, bottle feeding and burping the child – during a debate in the chamber in Wellington.

A year earlier, the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern became the first world leader to take their baby on to the floor of the UN General Assembly.

As a mother of three toddlers, I say to Stella Creasy: No, you can’t bring your second job to Parliament, writes CLARE FOGES

Order! Order! The Speaker of the House of Commons could soon be chastising real toddlers – as well as MPs who act like them – if Stella Creasy gets her way.

The Member for Walthamstow is mounting a campaign for politicians to be allowed to bring their infants into the chambers of Parliament, after being rebuked for bringing her three-month-old son into a debate.

Shortly after being spotted with the babe strapped to her chest, Miss Creasy received an email from a parliamentary body alerting her to the rules on ‘behaviour and courtesies’ which say you can’t bring a child into the Commons.

‘News to me,’ she fumed. ‘Apparently Parliament has written a rule which means I can’t take my well-behaved, three-month-old sleeping baby when I speak in chamber’. 

The MP has form in bringing babes in arms to the Commons – this is her second child to have made an appearance in these hallowed halls – and has been on the airwaves demanding change.

And almost all her m’learned men-folk – terrified of appearing like sexist dinosaurs – are falling over themselves to oblige.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has said politicians need to make sure ‘our profession is brought into the modern world’, while Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle says it is ‘extremely important’ for parents to be able to participate fully in the work of the House.

‘Red Wall’ Tory MP Scott Benton, perhaps fearing we are two shakes of a rattle away from nappy-changing mats at the despatch box, had the guts to speak out, saying: ‘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?’ 

Don’t get me wrong, I admire Miss Creasy. She is an energetic MP who has scored some important victories, such as curbing those ghastly payday loan companies. But on this she is wrong.

Having a baby in the Commons chamber is about as conducive to the proper workings of Parliament as having a rabid ferret scuttling about on the green benches.

Miss Creasy is an energetic MP who has scored some important victories, such as curbing those ghastly payday loan companies. But on this she is wrong, says Clare Foges (pictured)

Miss Creasy is an energetic MP who has scored some important victories, such as curbing those ghastly payday loan companies. But on this she is wrong, says Clare Foges (pictured)

Babies are the enemy of clear thought. They screech, they cry, they let off foul-smelling odours. They are also utterly inconsiderate about interrupting while you make a crucial point.

I write this not as someone who thinks children should be seen and not heard, but as someone who’s had three babies in three years and thus joyfully sees and hears them all day long.

They are great as children, but as colleagues they are pretty undesirable. I struggle to even make scrambled eggs while wrangling my brood – so how on earth is an MP meant to participate in debates on great matters of state or focus on the finer points of fiscal policy with a baby pinned to her chest?

As distractions go, they are surely up there with the furore over MPs’ second jobs, the thrust of that argument being that working on other things means that Members can’t focus enough on the day job.

Surely the same principle applies here: Can you truly represent your constituents when you’re shushing a baby back to sleep? Never mind second jobs, looking after a baby is equivalent to a third and fourth job, too.

I am not saying that work and small children shouldn’t mix. Often they have to. I write this in the front seat of my car while my toddler son naps in the back, writing to the dulcet chords of ‘Wee Willie Winkie’ and other lullabies on the CD player.

I have tapped out dozens of articles with one hand at two in the morning while holding a breastfeeding baby with the other.

Not that I feel in any way like ‘Superwoman’. It’s more an exceedingly bedraggled woman who is close to a meltdown because one of the children has tipped Cow and Gate porridge powder over her Mac keyboard, rendering the ‘u’ unusable. Or ‘nusable’ if I don’t press the key very hard.

But all this happens behind closed doors. If I ever had a face-to-face meeting, or public engagement, I wouldn’t dream of bringing my eight-month-old with me. 

Because though my world revolves around my babies, I recognise that the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around them.

Why should other people be made to feel uncomfortable, irritated or distracted by my children? While I find my children’s mutterings about dinosaurs and zoos delightful, I am well aware that others won’t. 

Besides, while there might be scope for some offices to allow babies along for the ride, the House of Commons is a very special workplace.

It is the heart of our democracy, the crucible of national debate on matters which will shape the lives of 67 million souls. It should feel like a sacred place, not a creche.

‘What’s the harm in one little baby?’ you might ask, as Miss Creasy did. But if she wants to bring in her three-month-old, what’s to stop another Member bringing in their two-year-old or four-year-old? 

We live in such barmy times that I wouldn’t be surprised if bringing your child into the Commons became a ‘progressive’ badge of honour.

No, Miss Creasy should continue to champion her far worthier cause, namely to secure backbench MPs an official period of paid maternity leave.

Although all MPs are paid in full while on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, not all their duties in Parliament are covered during their absence, creating not only uncertainty for constituents but also anxiety for the MP over how long their absence should be.

Let’s hope that Miss Creasy wins that fight – but not the one to get babies on the green benches.



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