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US News MPs to be allowed to breastfeed in Commons chamber

06:01  31 january  2020
06:01  31 january  2020 Source:   news.sky.com

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Breastfeeding is currently banned on the green benches, despite a report in 2016 calling for it to be considered as part of a review of parliamentary rules. Asked at a Westminster lunch whether he would allow feeding to take place in the Commons chamber and committee rooms, he replied: “My

Baroness Boothroyd ruled that breastfeeding was not allowed in the Commons chamber in 2000 when she was speaker. But Sir Lindsay said he The new Commons Speaker said during a speech at a Press Gallery lunch in Parliament that ' MPs haven't always been the best employers of their staff'

a woman holding a baby: Breastfeeding is to be permitted in the House of Commons chamber. File pic © Getty Breastfeeding is to be permitted in the House of Commons chamber. File pic

Decades of parliamentary tradition are to be swept away after the new Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle lifted a ban on women MPs breastfeeding in the chamber.

"I'm of the view there isn't a policy," said Sir Lindsay, responding to questions from parliamentary journalists at Westminster. "My view is, it is up to the woman."

"I think it would be wrong for me as a man to dictate on that policy. If it happens, it happens. I wouldn't be upset by it, let's put it that way."

His landmark ruling overturns an edict issued in 2000 by the first woman Speaker of the Commons, Betty Boothroyd, which was upheld by her successors Michael Martin and John Bercow.

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She also argues that MPs should be allowed to breastfeed in the House of Commons chamber . Former Speaker John Bercow carried out a review in 2017 to make the Commons more family friendly, but no specific policy was brought in on whether breastfeeding should be permitted.

Breastfeeding in parliament is a controversial issue in many countries, and lawmakers have been criticised for taking their babies to sessions. Last year a group of MPs in the UK called for a ban on new mothers breastfeeding their babies in the House of Commons chamber to be overturned.

Lindsay Hoyle wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Sir Lindsay Hoyle's decision reverses decades of refusals © N/A Sir Lindsay Hoyle's decision reverses decades of refusals Sir Lindsay's move follows a campaign, led by women MPs, for scrapping the rule and also implements a recommendation by the Commons' powerful administration committee.

The first woman to breastfeed in the Commons chamber was Labour's Helene Hayman, then the youngest MP, back in the late 1970s. She was later Lord Speaker from 2006-2011.

Harriet Harman, now the self-styled "Mother of the House" and a leading campaigner for women's rights in Parliament, breastfed her child shortly after becoming an MP in a by-election in 1982.

But in 2000 Speaker Boothroyd ruled: "I do not believe that the feeding of babies in either the Chamber or Committee is conducive to the efficient conduct of public business.

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Breastfeeding is not allowed in the House of Commons chamber and committees, though it is allowed in other areas of the Palace of Westminster. The current Speaker set up a committee of MPs to review the report and its recommendations. In March 2017, the group endorsed “ allowing children

BREASTFEEDING could soon be allowed in the chamber of the House of Commons during debates to set an example to the rest of society. It comes 16 years after the then Speaker of the House Betty Boothroyd ruled that because MPs are banned from eating and drinking in the Chamber , the same

"Nor do I think that the necessary calm environment in which to feed babies can be provided in such circumstances."

Helene Hayman standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Helene Hayman, pictured in 1970, was the first woman to breastfeed in the Commons chamber © Getty Helene Hayman, pictured in 1970, was the first woman to breastfeed in the Commons chamber Her successor, Mr Martin, suggested women should use a feeding room near where committee meetings took place.

More recently, the administration committee of MPs recommended allowing breastfeeding "wherever it is appropriate in the Palace of Westminster".

And a report commissioned by Mr Bercow in 2016 recommended that mothers should be able to bring babies into the chamber and voting lobbies.

Since then a number of women MPs, including former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Ellie Reeves and Conservative Kemi Badenoch, have brought their babies into the chamber during Commons votes and for the swearing in after last month's election.

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Breastfeeding was officially banned in the Commons chamber in 2000 by then Speaker Betty Boothroyd, who said MPs were prohibited But the Childs report urged MPs to look again at the rules. It said that as a minimum, babies should be allowed into the Commons chamber with their parents.

Female MPs call for breastfeeding to be allowed in House of Commons . In 2008, the Rudd government introduced changes that would allow breastfeeding MPs to vote via proxy during divisions. Senators have been allowed to breastfeed in the chamber since 2003.

Jo Swinson wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Former MP and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson brought her baby into the chamber © N/A Former MP and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson brought her baby into the chamber

During his Q&A with political reporters, Sir Lindsay was also quizzed on the bullying allegations against Mr Bercow and whether his predecessor should receive a peerage, which is so far being withheld by Boris Johnson.

He said that in his nine years as Mr Bercow's deputy he was "personally" not bullied by him. "Personally I can honestly say I didn't witness it," he added. "But I do speak to people who may or may not have been subjected."

John Bercow wearing a suit and tie: John Bercow's proposed peerage has not been sanctioned by Boris Johnson © Reuters John Bercow's proposed peerage has not been sanctioned by Boris Johnson

On whether Mr Bercow should receive a peerage, Sir Lindsay said he should be nominated but then vetted.

"When somebody's name goes forward to the Lords, people are checked and issues are reviewed about whether they are a fit person," he said. "Part of that vetting will be looking into people's conduct."

And on a so-called "bullying culture" in Westminster, the Speaker said: "MPs haven't always been the best employers of their staff.

"I think people reflected on the way the chamber carried out, the way we were speaking to each other, the threats, the intimidation, it was not a nice place."

But he claimed: "The bullying culture is over, we are not going to tolerate it. And I'm certainly not going to tolerate people who abuse security staff who are carrying out their duties to make us safe."

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