Heavily pregnant MP allegedly told she was 'bringing down whole of womankind' by taking snack break
A heavily pregnant MP was reprimanded and allegedly told not to “play the pregnancy card” after breaking House of Commons rules by leaving a debate to eat.
Tulip Siddiq was reportedly told by Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing that she had “made women look bad” by failing to follow strict conventions dictating when debates can be left. The MP had been in the Chamber over two hours.
Mrs Laing is even said to have claimed Ms Siddiq was “bringing down the whole of womankind”. The incident outraged other members who witnessed it. One told the Standard: “She was really laying into her. It was intense.”
The exchange took place after Wednesday’s debate on Universal Credit welfare reforms.
Ms Siddiq, who is seven months pregnant, arrived in the Chamber at 12.30pm before giving a speech at 2.30pm, Hansard records show. She went out to get food at about 2.45pm.
After she left, Mrs Laing said from the Speaker’s Chair: “If one makes a speech in the Chamber, it is courteous and required by the rules of the House that one stays in the Chamber certainly for the following speech and usually for at least two speeches thereafter. The people who have not done so today know who they are.”
When Ms Siddiq returned some 45 minutes later, Mrs Laing called her over. One witness said: “Tulip apologised, she didn’t mention being pregnant, but Madame Deputy Speaker was annoyed and said, ‘Don’t play the pregnancy card with me’.”
Hampstead and Kilburn Labour MP Ms Siddiq, elected earlier this year, was seen to apologise again but was told she should not have left. The Deputy Speaker was then believed to have said: “You’ve made women look bad,” before adding: “People will think that women can’t follow the conventions of the House because they’re pregnant.”
Conservative MP Mrs Laing, who campaigned for the deputy speakership by backing family-friendly hours in the Commons, was then said to have told Ms Siddiq: “You’re bringing down the whole of womankind.” Tory MPs are among those who encouraged Ms Siddiq to complain to Speaker John Bercow.
A Commons spokesman said that if an MP needs to leave a debate before convention allows, they can apply “privately to the chair to leave the Chamber... the chair is able to grant a brief leave of absence at his or her discretion”. The spokesman would not comment on “the content of private conversations held in the Chamber”. Mrs Laing did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.
Ms Siddiq confirmed the incident to the Standard but had not decided whether to make a complaint. She said: “I think it shows the conventions of the House are outdated for anyone, let alone for pregnant women or people with health issues. In certain cases people should be given leeway to leave without having to go through an administrative process. Elsewhere in society that would just be common sense.”