Clause 1 - Payment of maternity allowance: Ministerial office

Part of Ministerial and other Maternal Allowances Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 11th February 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 4:00 pm, 11th February 2021

Absolutely; I agree. Continuing on my experience of maternity leave, I had to get my mother to help so that we could afford the childcare, but my husband was a police superintendent at the time of the birth of our son, and his two weeks’ paternity leave operationally did not really happen because there were a number of things going on. It just did not work for us as a family, and he certainly did not get the quality time he deserved.

I empathise with the comments made by Cherilyn Mackrory about the role of fathers. I simply would not be able to serve in this House if it were not for my husband taking the lead at home, although I have warned the children that I am checking Satchel One for progress on online learning on a regular basis.

The global drinks manufacturer that I worked for prior to my election introduced a parental leave policy in early 2019, which means that, regardless of whether it is maternity, paternity or adoption leave, employees are entitled to parental leave equating to six months’ full pay. I agree with Patrick Grady that this has been transformative, not just for mothers but for fathers too. The biggest impact, I would argue, has been on men. For instance, the director of the global learning unit that I was part of, a man, took his full parental leave allowance, and that sent a very important message. It meant that many men on the supply and manufacturing side of the business in more operational roles felt empowered to be able to take that same leave. That is incredibly important.

Many other organisations and businesses have been moving in the same direction, so it is disappointing that the Bill excludes any parent who has not given birth. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself became a parent again in the past year. Much has already been said about the fact that Members of Parliament cannot take parental leave because we are appointed. Although we as mothers could take leave by employing a locum—the hon. Member for Walthamstow spoke at length about this—that option is not available to male MPs. I listened intently to the contribution by Mr Holden on the importance of fathers. By correcting the unfairness in terms of maternity leave for Cabinet Ministers, we are not only leaving other holes in legislation but potentially creating a perceived advantage for those in ministerial positions over the general public. I agree with the comments of Jim Shannon on councillors, the Welsh Parliament—the Senedd—and the Scottish Parliament. A number of MSPs, despite the fact that they are travelling to Edinburgh and Holyrood as opposed to Westminster, are deciding, come the Scottish elections in May, not to stand again, and have publicly said that the pressures of having children and being a parent have played a part in their decision.