Clause 1 - Payment of maternity allowance: Ministerial office

Part of Ministerial and other Maternal Allowances Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 11th February 2021.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price Conservative, Thurrock 3:15 pm, 11th February 2021

I shall not detain the Committee unduly, given that I made many of my points on Second Reading. However, I would like to highlight how Tonia Antoniazzi illustrated beautifully how all our maternity rights legislation refers to “women” or “she” and reflects the female sex, which again makes the Bill something of a vagary.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for her references to my amendments and for engaging constructively to try to work through to a solution, notwithstanding the constraints of the legislation with which she is working. My amendments would replace the word “person”, which is causing so much anxiety to women outside this place, with a word that reflects the position in employment law—in this case, “minister”. That would be consistent with the rest of the Bill, because for the Opposition positions the Bill refers to office holders. I am really grateful to my right hon. Friend for seeing whether that might be a solution. It is not ideal—I would much prefer to see “woman” placed in the Bill—but needs must, and we must pass the legislation so that we can send the Attorney General, my right hon. and learned Friend Suella Braverman, Godspeed on her way to enjoy her pregnancy and her childbirth.

I am not minded to press the amendment if it is not a suitable way to deal with this issue. It was tabled in a constructive spirit, to try to take the heat out of something causing distress to women. However, we must ensure that this is not repeated in future legislation regarding maternity rights. If there were an opportunity to vote on replacing the word “person” with “woman”, I would be in full support of it.