Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:58 pm on 11th February 2021.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 1:58 pm, 11th February 2021

I warmly welcome the Bill, which was a recommendation by the all-party group on women in Parliament under the then chairmanship of Mary Macleod. I send my right hon. and learned Friend Suella Braverman all the very best wishes for her pregnancy. There can be few who would think it fair for a Minister to feel that there was no alternative but to resign from their job because they are pregnant. This Bill means that Ministers will not be forced into that position, which is welcome.

However, being forced to leave a job for being pregnant is exactly what happens to thousands of pregnant women who we represent. In righting this wrong for Government Ministers, will the Paymaster General also undertake to right it for women throughout our country? Codifying the protection of a pregnant woman’s job is exactly what thousands of women need now. The people we represent want to know that Ministers are being treated no differently from them. Routinely identifying pregnant women for redundancy is too familiar a problem. Under this Government, record numbers of women are in work, and they are an essential part of our economy. We cannot ignore the fact that for thousands, current legislation provides protection only in theory but not in practice.

The Government’s plans to extend tribunal time will not solve that problem. It is a situation that has become more acute, as we have already heard in the debate, over the last 12 months, so will the Paymaster General please add her support for the change that I am calling for in my ten-minute rule Bill? When it comes to modernisation, there is a tendency to take small steps. We do not just pass laws in this place; we influence people, so, please, any proposals for parental support need to be brought forward swiftly. Perhaps she can indicate when in her summing up.

As the Government get their house in order, so must the House of Commons. Bringing in baby leave was a positive step, but it was a small step made in isolation of the broader issues that parents face in this place. There is no clear process in this House for how we agree changes in the way we operate. “Erskine May” says nothing on pregnancy or support for parents, and there is no clear structure in place for us to make a collective decision that cannot be blocked by a small minority, and then that decision has to be acted on. If we are to encourage more people from different backgrounds to want to stand for election, as an institution, we have to change the way we do business. If we do not take action, others might do it for us, undermining our unique position as office holders, not employees. I fully support the Bill, but it demonstrates how much more there is to do.