Clause 1 - Payment of maternity allowance: Ministerial office

Part of Ministerial and other Maternal Allowances Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 11th February 2021.

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Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 4:15 pm, 11th February 2021

I do agree. That would not only sell ourselves short but sell short the work done by our staff in our constituencies. Owing to the pandemic, it has been difficult for parliamentarians who came into this House in December 2019 to know what case workloads might normally look like, but I have experienced a very high level over the past year, and my staff have played a key role in relation to that. We need to be there to support our constituents. Constituents have said that they have had a better understanding of the role of MPs and what they can do as a result.

I do not want it to be thought that I do not agree with Cabinet Ministers being entitled to full pay and maternity leave. I absolutely support that; it is entirely right and in keeping with best practice, but it also potentially speaks to huge unfairness, on which other Members have touched. Secretaries of State will receive about £1,300 a week if they receive full maternity pay for six months, but millions of people around the country are eligible only for statutory pay, which after the first six weeks is just £151 a week—close to a 1,000% difference.

On Second Reading, Ms Harman spoke eloquently about the deficiencies in maternity pay and allowances. It does seem odd to me for the Government to say, “This is the standard we are going to give to a Cabinet Minister,” and on the other hand say, “The statutory minimum is the standard by which you should treat your employees.” That seems a case of “Do as I say and not as I do.” The organisation that I worked for previously is now giving six months of parental leave, regardless of whether that is maternity, paternity or adoption leave. That is a big organisation.