Does Parliament help MPs with young children enough?

The debate surrounding childcare at Parliament is discussed to see whether changes need to be made or not.

Amana Khan
15th December 2021
image credit: wikimedia commons
A stir was caused when Labour MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy took her 13 week-old son to a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday 23rd November. After attending the debate, Creasy received an email informing her that her actions were not in accordance with the rules on behaviour within Parliament. 

Responses to to email received by Creasy have been varied. Conservative MP for Blackpool South Scott Benton voiced his criticism via Twitter the following day, asking "What makes you (Creasy) so special?" since parents with a lower income pay for childcare and juggle their responsibilities. Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary for Justice Dominic Raab was more sympathetic, agreeing that change is needed but stating the exact balance was to be decided by House authorities. The reaction to this incident caused the speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to request the Commons Procedure Committee to review the rules. Hoyle commented how important it was for parents to be able to fully commit to their jobs and that “rules have to be seen context and they change with the times.” This gives of the perception that Parliament is changing to encourage parents to devote their time to their work, as well as their families.

Is this enough for parents, especially mothers? Are there more provisions that need to be put in place to ensure than parents can manage their time adequately? I believe that more needs to be done for MPs with young children. MPs are allowed six months maternity leave and a proxy vote, but there have been MPs who have claimed that it is hard to gain enough money for suitable maternity cover. It is also rarely possible for MPs to take a break from representing their constituents. Creasy wrote in her article for the Guardian concerning this whole affair how she had to speak to ministers whilst on morphine after giving birth to her second child; she felt she could not switch off her phone two weeks after giving birth due to the political climate at the time (3 murders and heavy flooding were the crises of the day). Some MPs need to be physically present to represent their constituents’ views, and when parents return back after maternity or paternity leave, they continue to work long hours, making it hard to balance being an MP and a parent. Similar issues have been discussed in other countries, although other nations have introduced more child-friendly measures. New Zealand's Parliament, for example, established a childcare centre in the 1990s for their staff. New Zealand also permitted infants to accompany their parents into the Chamber and adjoining lobbies for breast/bottle feeding.

My stance on this matter is that there needs to be more done to ensure that parents can devote the time needed for their jobs and family life. We must also ensure that women, who typically bear the burden of housework, are not ignored in this matter. Women tend to bear the burden of domesticity and it does seem as though work life is designed to benefit a man, thus it makes it hard for new mothers to devote their time to work life, whilst they have an extra ‘duty’ in the form of looking after their child. This point was made by Creasy, who said that “this was not a system that works for anyone who isn’t a man of a certain age from a certain background." Therefore, my argument here is that there needs to be more provisions made for MPs with children, whilst ensuring that these provisions also help mothers and are not just made from a male perspective.

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