Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Question to the Leader of the House on ‘Baby Leave’ for MPs

This morning, in Business Questions, I asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, to support my proposals for ‘Baby Leave’ for MPs.

You can find my speech below:

“I ask the Leader of the House to look at yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on the representation of women. It was led by a truly excellent speech from the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies), which elicited a wide consensus across the parties. There are more women in the House than ever before, and that is not just welcome; it is a democratic imperative. There are more babies being born to women MPs, which is a fact of life. Since 2010, 17 babies have been born to women Members of this House, and there is no maternity leave or paternity leave.

At the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill debate on Monday, the only way for my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) to record her vote was to bring her lovely new baby—just a few weeks old—to the House, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith) had to leave his baby, who is just a few hours old. Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking Mr Speaker for setting up a reference group to consider the matter and in supporting his work? We can square the circle to ensure that we can be good parents and excellent MPs and that constituents can be properly represented, but we need change. Mr Speaker, although you arrived in this House as a man and as a Tory, since you have been in the Chair you have really proven yourself to be nothing less than an honorary sister.”

The Leader of the House’s response:

“I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for her point. I absolutely share her passion for resolving such issues. There are many barriers to women entering Parliament and, in the centenary year of women’s suffrage, it is important that we do all we can to help resolve the matter. Many colleagues across the House, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, are also working hard on these issues. I am sure that “Mr Sister”—otherwise known as Mr Speaker—will be keen to make some progress.”

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