An MP Just Took a Baby Into a House of Commons Debate for the First Time
It’s a “step forward for modernising parliament.”
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.”
“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.
“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.
Jo Swinson made history yesterday by bringing her baby to the Commons for the debate on proxy voting. It’s 2018. https://t.co/RWkcbi819V— Jess Brammar (@jessbrammar) September 14, 2018
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.
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.