LONDON – Several British politicians demanded a change in parliamentary rules on Wednesday after a lawmaker was told she couldn't bring her 3-month-old baby into the House of Commons.
Labour Party legislator Stella Creasy said she had received a letter from Commons authorities after she took her infant son Pip to a debate.
She said she had previously taken both Pip and her older daughter to Parliament without problems, but had been told the rules had changed in September. Members of Parliament are now advised that they “should not take your seat in the chamber when accompanied by your child.”
Creasy said the rule undermined efforts to make politics more family-friendly.
“There are barriers to getting mums involved in politics, and I think that damages our political debate,” she told the BBC.
Britain's Parliament, once known for its boozy, macho culture and late-night hours, has changed in recent years. One of the building's multiple bars was converted into a nursery for the children of politicians and staff.
Lawmakers are entitled to maternity, but without the ability to have someone cover their job while they are away, most can take only a short time off.
Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas said the baby ban was “absurd.” She said babies were “far less disruptive than many braying backbenchers.”
House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he had asked Parliament’s procedure committee to review the rules, and noted that there were “differing views on this matter.”
“The advice given yesterday … correctly reflects the current rules. However, rules have to be seen in context and they change with the times,” he said.
“It is extremely important that parents of babies and young children are able to participate fully in the work of this House.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said the government wanted to see “further improvements” to make Parliament more family-friendly.
“We want to make sure that all workplaces are modern, flexible and fit for parents,” he said.
“The exact way that operates is rightly a matter for the House.”