MPs rule against allowing babies to be taken into the Commons

Labour MP Stella Creasy said that it 'has to be possible for politics and parenting to mix'.

MPs rule against allowing babies to be taken into the House of Commons UK Parliament TV
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle asked the House of Commons Procedure Committee to review the rules.

Babies should not be brought into the House of Commons by MPs, it has been ruled.

The issue of whether MPs could do so was considered by Westminster’s Procedure Committee.

In a report, MPs on the committee concluded that MPs should not bring babies with them into the Chamber, Westminster Hall or at general committees.

It would apply to when they are seeking to observe, initiate, speak or intervene in proceedings.

However, the committee indicated that chairs should still retain a degree of discretion which they said should be “sparingly” exercised.

The issue was raised by Labour MP Stella Creasy, who has brought her baby to Parliament on several occasions.

She held her daughter, Hettie, during a debate on access to abortions in Northern Ireland, which took place in the Commons in June 2020.

The MP for Walthamstow also brought her infant son with her as she led a debate in Westminster Hall in November last year.

Creasy later revealed that having done so, she received an email from Commons authorities where she was reminded of the rules instructing MPs not to be accompanied by a child when taking their seat in the Chamber.

She insisted that it “has to be possible for politics and parenting to mix” after being reprimanded.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle asked the House of Commons Procedure Committee to review the rules.

As part of its considerations, the committee heard evidence from Creasy about her own experiences.

In its conclusions, it recommended that the Government should ensure a nominated member of staff of any MP exercising a proxy vote has access to any meetings, calls or briefings made generally available to MPs.

The move is aimed at empowering staffers to further support MPs using a parental proxy.

Also in its report, the committee suggested that a debate should be held in the coming weeks to give MPs the opportunity to debate whether proxy voting should be extended.

A system of proxy voting for parental absence in the House of Commons was brought in during the coronavirus pandemic.

There has also been calls for eligibility to be extended to other circumstances such as for long-term illness.

Conservative MP Karen Bradley, who chairs the committee, explained that “on balance” of the evidence received, it recommends that current rules on babies being brought into the Commons should remain in place.

“Following the committee’s earlier work on proxy voting, and the House agreeing with our recommendation to make proxy voting for parental leave a permanent feature, it was perhaps no surprise for us to find in our inquiry the overwhelming balance of evidence supported extending eligibility for proxy votes to members experiencing serious long-term illness,” she said.

“We now call on the Government to schedule a debate in the coming weeks to give the House a chance to debate whether proxy voting should be extended in this way, as a pilot and subject to a review.

“On the balance of evidence received, the Committee also recommends that current rules remain and members should not bring babies into the House of Commons Chamber or Westminster Hall proceedings.”

She continued: “Many of the issues raised in our inquiry relate to the intersection between members’ personal and professional circumstances.

“We join the Women and Equalities Committee’s recent calls for the House of Commons Commission to take stock of recommendations made in this space in recent years.

“The Procedure Committee stands ready to advise the House on any consequences for procedure and practice in the Commons.”