Commons People: Why don’t we allow breastfeeding here? We’re used to screaming It was only five years ago that the first nursery in Westminster was built
The Conservative MP Michael Fabricant last year went incognito for ‘The Independent’ to chronicle the highs and lows of his life as a candidate fighting the general election. Now, victorious, he returns in his own name with a candid fortnightly take of what life is like on the green benches and what really goes on in the tea rooms of Westminster
Monday morning arrives and we all receive an email from the Speaker. Its subject line: "Protocol in the Chamber". Both newbies and oldies, and not just men it seems, have been behaving badly.
One heavily pregnant MP left the Chamber immediately after her speech – which is not the done thing at all. You should wait until at least two other MPs have spoken before leaving. After all, they might comment on what you have just said. But she was hungry and, presumably, so was her unborn child. It seems such things matter little when it comes to Parliamentary protocol.
Mind you, it was only five years ago that the Commons authorities finally decided to shut one of the estate’s many bars to create a nursery for children of those MPs who have to juggle childcare and their obligations in the House. Who knows if we’ll ever see the day when mothers will be allowed to breastfeed in the chamber. Certainly no one could object on grounds of screaming.
Other MPs appear to have committed the offence of walking between the Speaker and whichever MP happens to be speaking in the Chamber at the time. You should never break the sightline. I say to the Speaker in a point of order that it’s not just the new MPs who are breaking the rules. Older ones do too, including an elderly former miner who constantly walks in regardless of whomever might be speaking. The Speaker pretends not to know which particular Beast I am referring to.
On matters of protocol, Tuesday was a historic day in the Commons. For the first time specific clauses of a piece of legislation were certified as being relevant only to England and other clauses just to England and Wales. What this meant was that only MPs representing English seats or English and Welsh seats could vote on these clauses as they do not affect other nations of the United Kingdom.
I’m in favour of the change: it’s hard to explain to my voters why MPs in Scotland should be allowed to have a say on things which don’t have any effect on their constituents. Needless to say that’s not how the Scottish Nationalists saw it. There was much shouting and charges of it being an "outrage". But when it came to it, there were no votes. I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping that the Serjeant-at-Arms would have to expel wild Scots from the voting lobbies, but it was not to be.
Talking of nationalism I made sure I was in the chamber on Wednesday to see Labour MP Toby Perkins propose that there should be an English-only national anthem for sporting events.
So should it be "Jerusalem" (that would be my choice), "There’ll always be an England", or what? Despite amusing opposition from Jacob Rees-Mogg, the motion was passed and, as I represent a seat in Middle England, I was proud to be one of the supporters of his Bill.
Michael Fabricant is the Member of Parliament for Lichfield in Staffordshire