Anger as Speaker fails to lift breastfeed ban

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Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been criticised by women Labour MPs for failing to abolish a ban on breastfeeding in Parliament.

The Commons administration committee has recommended that breastfeeding be allowed at Westminster, including in the chamber.

But Mr Martin has infuriated some women MPs by failing to rule on the issue, despite the intervention of women ministers who believe the ban, imposed by his predecessor, Betty Boothroyd, should be lifted.

A number of prominent women MPs, including the Public Health minister, Yvette Cooper, have asked him to change the rule. Ms Cooper, who has two children, wrote to him in a personal capacity asking him to allow women to choose whether to breastfeed.

One prominent Labour MP said: "He has had this issue on his desk for months. We haven't seen any progress and we want to know why. We are beginning to doubt whether he really cares about the rights of women in Parliament or whether it was just a ploy to get elected." Labour women overwhelmingly backed Mr Martin to become Speaker because they believed he supported a pro-female agenda.

Some fear he will fudge the issue and ban breastfeeding in the chamber while allowing it in less public places.