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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones