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Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Commons breastfeed ban under fire
Betty Boothroyd
Betty Boothroyd: "Breastfeeding inappropriate"
Ministers are to ask House of Commons speaker Betty Boothroyd to reconsider her ban on women MPs breastfeeding their children during Committee meetings.

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Employment said the equal opportunities Minister, Margaret Hodge, and the Minister for Women, Tessa Jowell would be writing to the Speaker to state their case.

They will draw attention to the case of the Swindon South MP, Julia Drown, who has a five-month-old son and would like to be able to feed him during long committee hearings.

Mrs Hodge said: "There are now lots of women with babies and it shouldn't be an issue. We have got to modernise, we want more mums in.


Labour MP Julia Drown
Julia Drown raised the issue with the Speaker
Despite a continuing campaign to make Parliament more family friendly, female MPs were told earlier this month that breastfeeding in committee rooms would not be "appropriate".

Mrs Hodge added: "Nobody believes that we should have a screaming child in the middle of the debate. Mothers will act as sensibly as anyone else and will make sure that breastfeeding does not interfere with business in the House."

Ms Drown was told in a letter that: "Bringing refreshment into the room and the presence in the non-public area of the room of persons other than members of the committee and specified officers and officials are prohibited.

"Application of either rule should be taken to include babies and the feeding of babies," Ms Boothroyd decided.

The letter said that the speaker also felt that breastfeeding was not appropriate in the public gallery.

At least two other Labour MPs have given birth since coming to power including public health minister Yvette Cooper and Gloucester MP Tess Kingham.

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See also:

07 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Commons breastfeeding ban widened
04 Apr 99 | Health
British zeal for breastfeeding
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