I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Prime Minister believes that it is quite wrong for Ministers to have to resign in order to leave work after giving birth to care for a newborn child. The Bill before the House today will make an important and long-overdue change to the existing law. It will enable all Ministers for the first time to take paid maternity leave from their job for an extended period. Thanks to changes made in the ministerial code by the Prime Minister in 2019, there are now codified arrangements by which Parliamentary Under-Secretaries and Ministers of State can take maternity leave. Their roles will be covered by a redistribution of their responsibilities among remaining Ministers. Secretaries of State or other holders of individual offices such as Law Officers or the Lord Chancellor, owing to their constitutional role and the sheer volume and complexity of their workloads, have not been able to make use of this provision.
There has been a similar failing in the situation for Opposition office holders, where the statutory limit on the number of salaries that can be paid means that there is not the flexibility for them to take leave and for their cover to be paid. The Bill provides that it is possible for Members in those posts to take extended leave. It would apply to post holders of the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Whips in both Houses, and up to two assistant Whips in the Commons.
I am very grateful to Her Majesty’s Opposition for their constructive engagement in the preparation of the Bill and welcome their support for this landmark measure.