The ban on breastfeeding in the House of Commons could be lifted, after a Labour MP shared a photograph of her own breastfeeding experience.
It’s fair to say that Brexit has clouded most of our minds this week. Over three years after the 2016 referendum, the United Kingdom left the European Union on Friday 31 January. The online reaction to Brexit proves it really is an issue that has divided a generation. And, as Labour MP Emily Thornberry recently told Stylist, Brexit is far from being over – there’s still so much to do.
One of the most frustrating things about Brexit is the fact that it has taken the government’s attention away from other huge issues that urgently need addressing in the UK right now. Jess Phillips has previously spoken out about how the domestic abuse bill has been ignored. And it’s hard to believe that the prime minister is serious about tackling austerity when so much is being spent on our departure from the EU.
But there was a bit of positive news for women this week, and it celebrates a woman’s right to breasfeed in public or at work. You just might not have heard about it because, well… Brexit.
The House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has said he is very much in favour of lifting a ban on female MPs breastfeeding in the chamber.
Asked at a Westminster lunch on Thursday (30 January) if he would allow feeding to take place in the Commons chamber and committee rooms, he replied: “My view is, it is up to the woman.
“I think it would be wrong for me as a man to dictate on that policy. If it happens, it happens. I wouldn’t be upset by it.”
The promising news came after Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones shared a photograph on social media, showing her breastfeeding her baby.
She captioned it: “I joined the @APPGIFI today. It’s also Sullivan’s 10-month birthday which means 10 months of breastfeeding. Only 0.5% of women in the UK breastfeed up to a year (lowest rate in the world) I want to add to that stat and use my voice to support all those who need it.”
Asked if she would be breastfeeding her baby in the chamber, she replied: “Never say never, if the time arises. I won’t do it for the sake of doing it or for it to be a gimmick [but] I’m in the chamber for hours on end and it’s good to have the option to do it.”
Labour MP Harriet Harman was one of the first MPs to breastfeed her child in the Commons in the 80s. But in 2000, former Speaker Betty Boothroyd ruled breastfeeding could not take place in the chamber. This has led to female MPs campaigning for the rule to be overturned, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infant Feeding & Inequalities.
If lifting this ban is given the green light (and it looks very likely), it will help break the taboo around breastfeeding in public that still exists in 2020.