Mothers will shun the House without extra help, warn MPs

Julie Kirkbride's decision to resign has set off warnings that women MPs with young children may find it increasingly difficult to juggle their professional and family lives.

Before she stepped down, she put up a spirited defence of her actions, claiming that the decisions for which she was most heavily criticised – such as having an extension to her home in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, built at public expense so that her brother could live in it rent free – were driven by the need to care for her eight-year-old son, Angus.

Her performance reminded Westminster observers of Cherie Blair's defence of her decision to accept help from an Australian con man to buy two flats in Bristol, one of which was to have been a home for her student son.

Maria Miller, Tory MP for Basingstoke, and the mother of three young children, said yesterday that the fall out from the expenses row might put mothers off a political career. She said that she had decided to stop claiming the Additional Costs Allowance altogether, because she does not want to have details of her home life put up for public scrutiny. "What I'd like to be judged on is not how I run my family life. I want to be judged on what I do as an MP," she told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme.

She added: "If you want to open up Parliament to get a broader cross section of people taking part; it cannot be right when we are in a situation where MPs who don't have spouses or partners to subsidise their living accommodation will be put off coming to Parliament."

She added that when the system of MPs allowances and expenses is overhauled "the stresses and strains of family life need to be at the heart of the solutions they put forward".

Claire Ward, Labour MP for Watford, was heavily criticised early in the expenses row for claiming for a second home when her constituency is within commuting distance of London. She defended the decision because her job as a whip compels her to keep long hours, and she has two small children.

She said: "On nights when the Commons sits until late, I try to return to my Westminster flat to see the children at lunchtime or bedtime before returning to work. If they were permanently in Watford, that would not be possible." At weekends, she takes the children with her to Watford so that she can do constituency work.

Natascha Engel, Labour MP for Derbyshire North East, has three children aged five, four and one. Writing for The Independent today, she said: "I have taken babies to surgeries and toddlers to public meetings. They live in two places. On Friday evenings they fall asleep in London and wake up Saturday morning in Derbyshire. On Sunday nights it's the other way round. We have two sets of everything. Two sets of toys, clothes, bottles, plastic plates and beds and now Ben 10 watches. I can't, don't and wouldn't claim for these items, and it is a heavy cost."

Jessica Morden, Labour MP for Newport East, who has a two-year-old daughter and a seven-month-old son, said: "It is difficult for an MP with young children, though no more difficult than it is for a lot of other families."

A few hours before she announced her resignation, Ms Kirkbride said: "Every working mother knows how difficult it is to get childcare that completely fits around what they need, in particular out of hours childcare. So it seemed to me ideal that my brother was able to look after Angus."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive - Hair & Beauty - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supplies the ultim...

Recruitment Genius: Design, Marketing and Media Manager

£27000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence