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IPSA clashes with Stella Creasy MP over maternity cover

Labour's Stella Creasy carries her baby daughter as she celebrates winning in the 2019 general election in Walthamstow, December 13, 2019 | Alamy

2 min read

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) been criticised for rejecting Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy’s request for a locum to cover her maternity leave.

While IPSA said it would provide pro-rata funding equivalent to £60,000 per annum for MPs on parental leave to hire an additional senior member of staff to support constituency duties, it will not repeat the “locum MP” scheme piloted for Creasy during her first period of maternity leave in 2019 to 2020. This means serious issues would still have to be escalated to the MP on leave.

Under the pilot locum scheme, Creasy hired Walthamstow local Kizzy Gardiner, a former charity fundraiser, to undertake her constituency duties, meet with ministers and do media appearances. Gardiner was not able to vote or speak in the Commons Chamber, and was paid £50,000 per annum pro-rata.

Creasy told The House: “In this situation, both the salary and the status matter… [people have to] have confidence [that the cover] is senior and responsible enough that they don’t say, ‘Yeah, but I want to see the MP’. I’m not looking for somebody to come and speak in Parliament, I’ve always said to IPSA I could do that on my keep in touch days, which are a completely normal part of maternity cover in the real world. What I want is somebody to cover 90 per cent of what MPs do, which is outside the chamber.”

Creasy, who is now 31 weeks pregnant and hospitalised with gestational diabetes, believes IPSA’s response would be illegal in other employment scenarios and is concerned about the message it sends publicly. In February, she raised the issue with Cabinet Office minister, Penny Mordaunt, during the debate on the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill. Mordaunt told the chamber that the government would bring forward plans before the summer recess, yet none have been forthcoming. Creasy is now consulting with lawyers on legal action. 

In a statement, IPSA said: “The UK does not recognise the term ‘locum MP’ as no unelected person can undertake all of the duties of an MP. It is up to Parliament to decide if the law should be changed.”

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