Female MPs may be allowed to breastfeed in House of Commons, says new speaker

Sir Lindsay Hoyle says he would not be ‘upset’ if a baby was fed on the green benches

Sir Lindsay Hoyle: My office is open to all

MPs could be allowed to breastfeed in the chamber of the House of Commons after the new speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said he would have no objection.

Breastfeeding is currently banned on the green benches, despite a report in 2016 calling for it to be considered as part of a review of parliamentary rules.

Sir Lindsay, who was elected speaker in November, said he did not want to “dictate” policy on the issue, but would not be bothered if it happened.

Asked at a Westminster lunch whether he would allow feeding to take place in the Commons chamber and committee rooms, he replied: “My view is, it is up to the woman.

“I think it would be wrong for me as a man to dictate on that policy.

“If it happens, it happens. I wouldn’t be upset by it.”

Former speaker Betty Boothroyd ruled in 2000 that breastfeeding could not take place in the chamber of the Commons or committee rooms, after Swindon MP Julia Drown requested clarification on whether she could feed during lengthy sittings of the standing committee of which she was a member.

Baroness Boothroyd told the MP that neither breastfeeding nor bottle-feeding was permitted, explaining: “I do not believe that the feeding of babies in either the chamber or committee is conducive to the efficient conduct of public business.

“Nor do I think that the necessary calm environment in which to feed babies can be provided in such circumstances.”

Her successor Michael Martin later suggested a compromise option of providing a feeding room near to where committee sessions take place.

But female MPs did not drop the issue, and a series of motions were tabled demanding relaxation of the rules, while the Commons Administration Committee recommended allowing breastfeeding “wherever it is appropriate in the Palace of Westminster”.

Betty Boothroyd ruled babies could not be fed in the Commons chamber

A report commissioned by Sir Lindsay’s predecessor John Bercow recommended in 2016 that mothers should be allowed to bring babies into the chamber and voting lobbies.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was the first woman to take advantage of the modernising move, bringing her son Gabriel into the Commons as she attended a debate on proxy votes for MPs on maternity leave.

The 11-week-old slept in a sling being worn by his mother throughout his brief history-making appearance.

A House of Commons spokesperson said: "We recognise that suitable facilities are vitally important for breastfeeding mothers, which is why the House of Commons provides a number of private spaces across the estate. There is currently no formal policy around breastfeeding in the chamber. However any requests from members would be considered with sensitivity."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in