Why the government is changing the law to avoid a minister resigning

Legislation to be tabled will allow attorney general to take maternity leave

Attorney General Suella Braverman leaves 10 Downing Street.
Suella Braverman outside 10 Downing Street
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The government is set to take drastic action to tackle an “outdated” rule that would force the country’s pregnant attorney general to resign from her cabinet position in order to go on maternity leave.

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg will table a bill today to permit Suella Braverman, who is due to give birth within the next few weeks, to take six months’ leave on full pay.

Under the “antiquated” and “bonkers” current rules, “while there are provisions in place for junior ministers to take maternity leave, unbelievably there is currently no mechanism to let female secretaries of state and law officers take a temporary absence after they give birth”, says Politico London Playbook’s Alex Wickham.

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But with the arrangements proposed in the new bill, Braverman would effectively hold another office while a temporary replacement takes on the tasks of the attorney general.

Wickham reports that Boris Johnson “is expected to tell colleagues this is an outdated rule that has long needed fixing” and that he wants female ministers to get the maternity pay enjoyed by civil servants.

The issue hit the headlines back in 2019, when a then-pregnant Labour MP Stella Creasy said women were “forced to choose between being an MP and being a mum”.

Creasy told the BBC that Ipsa - the body that regulates MPs’ pay - made it “impossible” to fulfil her responsibilities to her constituents once her baby was born because it does not automatically provide paid cover for MPs on parental leave.

Months earlier, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq had postponed the date of her caesarean section by two days in order to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal in 2019.

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.