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Jo Swinson and her baby, Gabriel, make Commons history

September 14, 2018 10:00 AM

Jo Swinson and baby in the Commons

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson MP became the first MP to take her baby into a Commons debate and said she hopes it will signal a step forward in modernising parliament. It was during a discussion about proxy voting.

Earlier in the summer Ms Swinson was furious when Tory chairman Brandon Lewis, with whom she was paired while on maternity leave, voted in a crunch Brexit debate in July. She said it would not be difficult to introduce a proxy voting system instead, which would allow someone else to vote on behalf of an MP who is on maternity or paternity leave

Ms Swinson did not have 11-week-old Gabriel with her when she spoke in the debate but had to leave the chamber to go and feed him. He then fell asleep in a baby carrier. By convention, she was expected to return to the chamber to listen to the closing speeches in the debate and she thought the options were either wake him up and hand him to somebody else for 20 minutes or take him into the chamber.

She said; "I think it's a step forward for modernising parliament and for sending 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."

Jo Swinson added: "We should take those opportunities to just make it a little bit more possible because we are talking about Parliament that sets the rules for the rest of the country and also therefore can set the tone.

"When we've got 54,000 women a year losing their jobs because of pregnancy discrimination it is particularly important that we get this 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."