Labour’s Stella Creasy ‘forced to choose between being an MP and a mum’
Labour’s Stella Creasy has spoken of her “battle” with parliamentary officials over maternity leave for MPs.
The former shadow minister claimed she is being forced to “choose between being an MP and a mum”, as she revealed her pregnancy.
The Walthamstow MP claimed the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), the body that regulates MPs’ pay and expenses, says it “does not ‘recognise’ that MPs go on maternity leave”.
In an article for the Guardian, Ms Creasy wrote: “Humiliatingly, it is making me beg for extra staff funding – or give up any chance of spending time with my child to make sure my constituents don’t miss out.”
“My experience is not unique,” she added.
“Other MPs who have had children since IPSA was created have told me of the same rejection of their requests for help on the basis that MPs ‘do not take maternity leave’.”
She also claimed some MPs have spent time with their newborn child while “hoping residents don’t notice their absence” or have “ended up taking their children with them to meetings so they can feed them, with constituents acting as proxy babysitters”.
Ms Creasy continued: “No community should miss out on representation because its MP is pregnant – nor should my opponents be able to argue there’s a cost to my constituents because I may succeed in my quest to conceive.
“For all the talk of being family friendly, Westminster is still struggling to offer deeds instead of words.”
Ms Creasy described being “heartbroken by all the years that I have struggled with fertility” as she wrote about carrying on her duties as an MP after having suffered miscarriages in the past.
“During my first miscarriage, aching and bleeding, I joined a protest for the extradition of a man who had raped and murdered a constituent,” she said.
“The day after I found out that another baby’s heartbeat had stopped, I led a public meeting on gang crime.”
She posted on Twitter that she is “going public with the battle” with the parliamentary body in order to “make sure there is maternity cover for MPs so that in the autumn Walthamstow is not left without representation”.
There are currently no formal maternity or paternity arrangements in parliament, with informal leave arranged at party level.
However, earlier this year, MPs who are new parents were given permission to vote by proxy.
It followed a row in which Labour MP Tulip Siddiq felt forced to postpone a Caesarean section in order to take part in a crucial Brexit vote.
Ms Creasy claimed this showed that “Westminster can – when it wants – make it possible to combine parenthood with legislating”, but she also described how Ms Siddiq “had to return to doing casework” three days after her birth.
“As a pregnant woman this recent experience is another bitter reminder that it’s still often men – this time the IPSA executives – who will make the choices that determine if that battle will be won,” Ms Creasy said.
There are currently three male IPSA board members and one female board member, while the body’s chief executive is male and its chair female.
IPSA does not comment on the arrangements of individual MPs.
MPs are paid their £79,468 salary in full from the day they are elected to the day they leave office, regardless of whether they take time off for maternity or paternity leave.
IPSA can also makes provisions for MPs or their staff taking maternity leave by allowing that MP’s office to hire extra people, for example by taking on an extra caseworker.
A source suggested a lot of the issues over MP’s maternity arrangements were about long-standing parliamentary procedures.
“IPSA is only nine years old, the procedures have been around a longer time,” they said.
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