Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Girls & Women

An MP Just Took a Baby Into a House of Commons Debate for the First Time


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN’s Global Goals call for action on achieving true gender equality around the world. Jo Swinson’s decision to take her baby into parliament with her is a great demonstration of the fact women are able to be both a mother and a leader at the same time. You can join us by taking action to help achieve the Global Goals here

For the first time, an MP has taken a baby into a House of Commons debate, and called the move a “step forward for modernising parliament.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson took her 11-week-old son Gabriel into a discussion on proxy voting in parliament on Thursday. 

She said it sends a message that “it really needs to be possible for parents to be able to combine their responsibilities for their children with their working lives, and all too often that is made too difficult.” 

Take action: Stand With Every Woman, Every Child: Ask World Leaders to End Preventable Deaths

“That won’t always mean taking your child to work, but in the case of very small babies, for people who are working at that stage then that can be just one of the ways in which workplaces can modernise and there could be flexibility in order to make it possible,” Swinson told the BBC

Swinson had spoken earlier on in the debate, and the convention is that MPs come back at the end of the debate to listen to the final speeches. 

In between, Swinson had left the chamber to feed Gabriel, who was born on June 29, and he had then fallen asleep on her in his baby carrier. 

Related Stories June 29, 2018 This MP Just Made History by Telling House of Commons She's on Her Period

“The options were: wake him up and hand him to somebody else for 20 minutes, or go in and sit down, do no harm, and he stayed asleep for most of it,” she told BBC Good Morning Scotland

The debate was about proxy voting — meaning MPs on parental leave could nominate another member to vote for them. It’s a campaign that Swinson has championed since issues that arose during her own maternity leave. 

In the current system, an MP on leave is “paired” with another from an opposing party. Their “pair” then doesn’t vote either and their opposing votes effectively cancel each other out. 

But when Swinson was on maternity leave her pair, Brandon Lewis of the Conservative party, still voted in a close vote on Brexit in July. 

Swinson called it “cheating” and “desperate stuff” at the time, while Lewis said it was an "honest mistake" and apologised.

She further told the BBC that it’s vital that parliament gets things right on parental leave issues, given that it sets the tone for the rest of the country. 

“When we’ve got 54,000 women a year losing their jobs because of pregnancy discrimination it is particularly important that we get these kind of things right because we do need to, not just in parliament but right across the country, modernise workplaces so that it is more possible for parents to balance their responsibilities,” she said.