Conservative MP Simon Burns dismissed on Tuesday a suggestion to make parliament more family-friendly by allowing MPs to breastfeed in the Commons, arguing that tabloids might "ridicule" MPs.
"There is an appropriate time and place in which breastfeeding should take place," Burns said, "and I'm giving a word of caution."
"We have to be careful that in pushing for a more realistic approach, we don't give the tabloid press the opportunity to ridicule us," he added.
The Conservative MP added that he agreed with a previous Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, who said she would allow breastfeeding in the Commons when she saw a Tesco checkout assistant breastfeeding.
Shadow minister Melanie Onn quipped back: "You cannot scan items and breastfeed at the same time."
Previously Onn had criticised parliament for not matching up parliamentary recess – when MPs are not sitting – with the October half term.
The debate was led by outspoken Labour MP Jess Phillips, who said parliament should "be a beacon, a proper 21st-century family-friendly workplace" and that it should be "setting the way" for other employers.
Speaking in Westminster Hall, Phillips said parliament needed to be more representative of society, and that it needed to become more family-friendly to encourage women to consider becoming MPs.
In addition to suggesting that women should be allowed to breastfeed in the Commons and in committee rooms, she said parliament should introduce "family days" that would be used to discuss family-related business. It would also give MPs the chance to bring their children to work, Phillips said.
Currently less than a third of MPs are women.
Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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