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?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific