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UK upholds ban on babies in Parliament

LONDON (AFP) – MPs in Britain’s Parliament should not bring children into the chamber, a cross-party committee ruled yesterday, following a row over a Labour MP bringing her baby into the House of Commons.

The Procedure Committee report ruled that members planning to observe, initiate, speak or intervene in debates should not bring babies into the chamber, although chairs “will retain a degree of de facto discretion which should be exercised sparingly”.

“The firm expectation should remain that Members do not participate in proceedings while caring for a baby,” it added.

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle ordered the review after Labour MP Stella Creasy brought her three-month-old son Pip with her to debates last November.

Creasy said she was shocked when Commons authorities sent her an email highlighting the existing rules prohibiting bringing children to debates.

Her treatment prompted anger from MPs on all sides and promises of a review of the current rules, which officials admitted had been applied inconsistently.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who also has young children, expressed support for Creasy at the time. “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,” he told BBC television.

“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.”

But the committee report said it was a “long-standing practice” that “babies should not be present”.

Despite the formal ban, MPs previously brought babies to debates without reprimand. Former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was the first to do so in 2018.

Creasy said she was “not surprised” by the recommendation.

“This committee didn’t speak to a single person outside Parliament despite many of us encouraging them to do so, so I’m not surprised they don’t recognise who is put off Parliament by its antiquated rules and approach to women who have children and the need to modernise,” she said.