Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 20 February 2014


These days Parliament is trying to be family friendly (long way to go) so we are having a half term break and I have been down in Devon all week. It is a good time to catch up with paperwork. I have also been doing some baby minding. I took our 3 year old granddaughter to Endsleigh Garden Centre on my own on Monday for an hour and had to lie down in a darkened room for the rest of the day when I got back. There is no doubt that being a parent is both the hardest and most important job in the world.

Which brings me back to non-family friendly Westminster. We have had a spate of announcements from women MPs recently announcing their intention to stand down, some of them after just one Parliament. Why?

When I was first elected it was not uncommon to sit through the night and midnight seemed like an early night. Now we finish at 10.30 pm on Mondays and 7.30 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 6pm on Thursdays. Most of us are in our offices by 8 am. We used to sit virtually every Friday, but now more often than not we do not. Naturally Fridays and Saturdays remain very busy constituency days with most of us rattling off about eight meetings a weekend plus surgeries. So it is long hours and hard work, but so are many jobs.

There are reasons why it is particularly tough for woman MPs. No matter how modern a family may be – the burden of childcare falls primarily upon mum. This brings extra challenges for the working MP mum. There is a crèche at Westminster but even if we finish at 7.30pm it is plenty late enough for a little one to be taken home to bed etc.

The second difference is that we do our work in two places and both are equally important. Either the children are in London during the week with the MP and then hauled down to the constituency every weekend. Alternatively, the family stay in the constituency and mum or dad works away four days a week. Not ideal with a young family, especially as the weekends are so busy.

So the nature of the job is unusually demanding on young mums even more than dads. This is not special pleading, just trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Anyone got any answers? 

posted by Gary @ 16:30