Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision to introduce leave, pay and allowance arrangements for parents of children born to surrogate mothers equal to those available to parents whose children are born to them; and for connected purposes.
Almost three months ago, I had nearly finished a long Saturday morning advice surgery—we all do them—when in came two sharp, slightly sassy young women, Jane Kassim and Amy Bellamy, who are cousins. Jane is a teaching assistant in a local Rotherham primary school and Amy works part time in a betting shop. She was seven months pregnant and was certainly showing. When Jane first heard about Amy’s being pregnant it was the news that she and her husband had longed to hear, because she had been told at the age of 15 that she could never bear children and Amy had offered to be an IVF surrogate mother to their baby—or twins, as it turned out.
Like any mother, Jane had begun to make preparations for the birth. She had asked her employer for maternity leave and was stunned a few weeks later when she found out that she had no legal right to maternity leave and no legal right to maternity pay. She had confidently expected to take up to 52 weeks leave. She had expected to get 39 weeks maternity pay, just as any mother giving birth to her own child or adopting a child is able to do. But unlike other mothers, because she is having her baby through a surrogate mother she is entitled to only 13 weeks parental leave, unpaid, and then entitled to it only when she and her husband have a parental order in place formally transferring the legal responsibility and legal rights from Amy to them. That means that mothers like Jane are faced with a choice of going back to work very quickly or giving up their jobs entirely.
Today is the day when I hope the House will take the first step to closing this legal loophole. I am grateful for the support that I have had from colleagues right across the House. I am grateful for their backing and for the presence of many of them in the Chamber. I am grateful also to the Minister with responsibility for employment relations for agreeing to meet us as a cross-party group to press the case further.
I was asked on the radio this morning why mothers who have their babies through surrogates do not have the same rights as other mothers automatically have. I found that hard to answer, but I think the answer lies partly in the fact that surrogacy is largely made possible by IVF, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 was a piece of legislation based principally on the concern about the risk of coercion and commercialisation of pregnancy. This means that the right to and the legal control of any child remain with the mother giving birth, unless and until they are formally ceded and legally transferred to the commissioning mother. The surrogate mother and her husband can exercise an absolute veto over this happening.
Furthermore, as the leading lawyer in this field says, the conditions for a parental order do not place the child’s welfare first, and ultimately children born through surrogacy do not have the same protection as other children for the time to bond with their parents in the early months of life. That is from Natalie Gamble, a leading legal expert in the field, who has probably conducted more cases and seen through more parental orders than any other lawyer in the country.
Surrogate births may still be relatively uncommon in this country. Probably about 100 babies are born in this way each year, but the number is growing as society changes and science advances. Surely there must be a good case for Britain, like some states in the US, to have a system of pre-birth orders. But the first and most important step is to secure basic maternity rights so that mothers like Jane, who have their children born through surrogates, have the same rights as other mothers who give birth themselves or who adopt children. That is the purpose of my Bill.
It is wrong that thousands of mothers who have their own babies or who adopt have a legal right to 39 weeks maternity pay and a right to up to 52 weeks maternity leave, while others have a right only to 13 weeks parental leave, unpaid. It is wrong that such parents cannot put their names on their children’s birth certificates or make decisions about medical treatment for their children until they have a formal parental order in place. It is wrong that such a legal step can be blocked completely by the surrogate mother or her husband and wrong that it might take months to get the order in place if a magistrates court is busy. Above all, it is wrong that mothers such as Jane Kassim are denied the same basic right to the time they need with their newborn babies that other mothers have.
In Jane’s case, her employer was ready to give her leave early, although still unpaid, so that she could be at the hospital with Amy for the birth of her twins, Isla and Ivy, and stay there to look after the babies until they were all allowed to come home. I am told that the going rate for a surrogacy these days is about £20,000, but Amy tells me that all she received was a pair of maternity trousers and a couple of big tops. She simply wanted Jane to have the same joy as a mother that she had had with her own son, Archie. She said, “It’s just what you do for family. It wasn’t an option not to do it.” Together they make a powerful case for legal change. This is their campaign. I hope that the House will back them today and back the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
That John Healey, Mr Clive Betts, Katy Clark, Chris Heaton-Harris, Julie Hilling, Simon Hughes, Margot James, Mrs Eleanor Laing, Mr Denis MacShane, Fiona Mactaggart, Valerie Vaz and Mr Mike Weir present the Bill.
John Healey accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 April, and to be printed (Bill 328).
Legal Aid, sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (Programme) (No. 3)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the following provisions shall apply to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Orders of 29 June 2011 (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (Programme)) and 31 October 2011 (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (Programme) (No. 2)):
Consideration of Lords Amendments
1. Proceedings on consideration of Lords amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 10.00 pm at today’s sitting.
2. The proceedings shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.
3. The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.
Time for conclusion of proceedings
Nos. 1, 3 to 5 and 24.
Nos. 2, 189 to 194, 196, 217 to 220, 243, 168, 169, 240, 170 to 172, 177 to 181 and 206 to 216.
Nos. 31 and 32, 6 to 23, 25 to 30, 33 to 167, 173 to 176, 182 to 188, 195, 197 to 205, 221 to 239, 241, 242 and 244 to 326.
4. Any further Message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question being put.
5. The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—( Stephen Crabb.)