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House of Commons to become ‘menopause friendly’ employer

House of Commons to become ‘menopause friendly’ employer

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

6 min read

In the latest issue of the magazine, we cover parliamentary news, from Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle backing ‘menopause friendly’ policies to a new restoration and renewal approach being agreed – and plenty more...

House of Commons to become ‘menopause friendly’ employer

The House of Commons is set to become a ‘menopause friendly’ employer after Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle signed up to a pledge committing to the introduction of new workplace policies.

Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP who brought forward the Menopause Bill last year and successfully fought to reduce the cost of hormone replacement therapy prescriptions, praised the changes.

Adjustments promised include flexible working, time off for related appointments, breathable uniforms, well-ventilated rooms, access to fans, training for managers and menopause awareness events.

Research commissioned by childcare service Koru Kids found that more than one million British women feel under pressure to quit their jobs due to menopause symptoms.

“I value my female colleagues and staff, and I do not want them avoiding promotion or leaving Parliament because of the symptoms they are experiencing,” Sir Lindsay said. 

“I also want to break the taboo – just as we did with mental health issues – and get everyone in our parliamentary village talking about the menopause and offering support for those going through it.”

The signing of the pledge in the Speaker’s House in Parliament on 13 June was attended by women’s health expert Professor Dame Lesley Regan and TV presenters Mariella Frostrup, Penny Lancaster, Liz Earle and Lisa Snowdon.

The Speaker also plans to encourage all MPs to sign the Wellbeing of Women Menopause Workplace Pledge to cover staff in their parliamentary and constituency offices.

Water system disinfected after bacteria found in Portcullis House

The water system in Portcullis House has undergone disinfection after low levels of legionella bacteria were detected through monitoring and sampling.

All outlets were closed while disinfection took place on 11 June. The showers and fifth floor tea point in Portcullis House were also temporarily shut down following the discovery; they will be restored to normal use if bacteria counts improve.

A House of Commons spokesperson said: “As part of our routine proactive monitoring, our maintenance team have identified low levels of legionella bacteria in some isolated areas in Portcullis House. 

“As a precautionary measure in line with best practice, we have temporarily closed the showers and a tea point affected while we undertake a disinfection of the water system in line with normal protocols. All other water sources in the building continue to be safe to use as normal.”

New approach for restoration and renewal of Parliament

A new approach to how the programme of restoring and renewing the Palace of Westminster should be governed and delivered has been approved by the members of the Commons and Lords Commissions.

The plan promises to prioritise the start of safety-critical works as soon as possible, ensure maximum value for money and establish a governance structure that is “receptive to Parliament’s requirements as a working legislature”. 

It has been agreed that the programme of works should initially focus on fire safety and protection, replacement of mechanical, electrical, drainage, plumbing, data and communications systems, asbestos management and conservation of the building fabric.

Minimising the time and extent to which parliamentarians and staff will be asked to move out of the Palace will be given particular attention, with various options being guided by the R&R Delivery Authority and subject to agreement from the two commissions.

MPs and peers will also be asked to consider the recommendation that the R&R Sponsor Body should be replaced by an R&R Programme Board combining parliamentary representation with independent expertise. 

The necessary legislative changes, which must be approved by both the House of Commons and the Lords, are expected to be initiated in the autumn.

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Parliament hosts Princess Royal in tribute to Falklands veterans

The Princess Royal was welcomed to Parliament and hosted by House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle for a special ceremony on 7 June to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Falkland Islands conflict.

Organised by MPs James Gray and Derek Twigg, chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups for the Armed Forces and the Falkland Islands, the Beating Retreat event was also attended by Boris Johnson.

Sir Lindsay said the occasion, involving a pageant in New Palace Yard and a Speaker’s House reception, was a “magnificent tribute to the veterans, their families and those who perished in the campaign to liberate this important British Overseas Territory”.

Parties prepare for Wakefield and Tiverton by-elections

Campaigning by candidates and party activists is underway ahead of two key by-elections, in Wakefield and in Tiverton and Honiton, both being held on 23 June.

With one of the two Tory MPs who resigned now behind bars, and amid the cost of living crisis and scandal over parties in Downing Street, opposition hopes of winning the seats are high. 

The by-election in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was caused by the resignation of Imran Ahmad Khan following his conviction in April for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008. He was jailed for 18 months on 23 May.

Ahmad Khan was elected as an MP at the 2019 general election with a majority of 3,358. He won as a Conservative candidate, becoming the first to do so in the so-called “red wall” seat for 87 years.

Labour has picked Simon Lightwood, an NHS worker, as its candidate. The decision came at the end of a controversial selection process that sparked fury among party members unhappy that local applicants – including the deputy leader of the council – were excluded from the shortlist.

The Conservatives have chosen Nadeem Ahmed, a Wakefield councillor since 2006, to contest the seat. 

A total of 15 candidates will be on the ballot paper, including the Liberal Democrats’ Jamie Needle, a parish councillor who came fourth in 2019.

In Tiverton and Honiton, where another Conservative resignation has brought about a by-election, the Lib Dems are tipped to be the main challengers to the Tories.

The constituency’s MP Neil Parish quit Parliament after admitting that he twice watched pornography in the Commons Chamber. He described his conduct as a “moment of madness”.

The Devon seat has been Tory-held since its creation in 1997 and the area has not been represented by any other party in almost 100 years. 

But MPs suspect it could go the same way as North Shropshire, which had been a safe Conservative seat until the Lib Dems won it in December.

To succeed, Liberal Democrat candidate Richard Foord would have to overturn a hefty Tory majority of 24,239.

The former army major would also need to leapfrog Labour, which is again being represented by businesswoman Liz Pole, who placed second in the 2019 Tiverton contest.

The Conservatives have selected Helen Hurford, deputy mayor of Honiton and a former head teacher, as their candidate from an all-female shortlist.

Commons Speaker’s aide awarded MBE

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has praised his “go-getting” diary secretary Jo-Anne Crowder after she received an MBE for more than 30 years of service to the House of Commons.

Crowder, a former Miss Sheppey who organises the Speaker’s diary by day and serves as an Associate Serjeant at Arms by night, was awarded the honour by Prince William at Buckingham Palace.

The staffer, who wrestled the ceremonial mace from an MP in 2018, said: “It’s all been a bit of a dream really: I received my 30 years’ service award during the pandemic, was awarded the MBE – and turned 50. I can’t wait to see what next year might bring!”

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