Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 11th February 2021.

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Photo of Shaun Bailey Shaun Bailey Conservative, West Bromwich West 2:16 pm, 11th February 2021

Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to start by echoing your congratulations to Feryal Clark and to my right hon. and learned Friend Suella Braverman on the impending birth of their children.

This debate is so timely, and it covers so many important issues. That fact is that people take notice of what we do in this place. We should be leading—we should be a leader—and I am afraid that, at times, we are not. No one should have to resign from their job—a job that they have worked hard for over many years to obtain—simply because they have had a child. I glad that this legislation will finally stop a scenario where women are effectively excluded from taking a role in Government for fear of having a child.

I was saddened to hear from Patrick Grady that we are losing a lot of good politicians in Scotland, due to them having to make these exact decisions. It makes our politics less. It means that we lose that quality and that insight. We lose those experiences that are so vital in debate, that help us to understand those perspectives when we add them to our discourse and that ultimately make our politics better.

As my hon. Friend Mr Holden said, we still have a lot of work to do, and I do not think anyone would deny that. We need to ensure that we use this opportunity to close the gender gap. As Rachel Reeves pointed out, this place is still skewed towards having too many male Members. We have to ensure that we take practical steps to at least enable a fair roll of the dice, so that people can get involved in politics.

This is not abstract. For communities like mine in the Black Country—in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton—what we are talking about today is not disconnected. If we want to ensure that people can aspire to achieve, take an active role in our politics and see people such as themselves involved in our public life, we need to ensure that having a family does not prevent them from getting involved in politics at all levels. The Bill goes some way towards doing that, but as Jim Shannon said, we must not forget about local government. One of the benefits of the Bill is that it has triggered wider discussion, and I hope that we will talk more widely about how we can extend this across all our politics and all levels of government.

As we talk about levelling up—something from this Government that I have been very proud to champion—we have to ensure that we do not exclude people based on their gender. At present, it would seem that in some ways that is happening. We need to ensure that we have a system that enables everyone to engage in our public life and our politics. As many right hon. and hon. Members have pointed out, we also need to end the stigma—the idea that it is somehow wrong for someone in public office to have a family, that we are not human beings and that we do not act as normal people do. This legislation goes some way towards doing that.

I very much welcome the comments of the Paymaster General, my right hon. Friend Penny Mordaunt, but I ask her to remember this: men have an equally important role to play. As we continue this debate and as the Bill opens up those lines of discussion, we have to ensure that men can play an equally important role in the upbringing of their children, because we know that the role of a father, as well as a mother, is so important. As someone who did not have a father growing up, I can assure my right hon. Friend that it is vital that we enable children to have that full family. I fully support the Bill and commend my right hon. Friend.