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Labour candidate for Norwich calls for reforms to help women in parliament

PUBLISHED: 09:19 30 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:19 30 August 2014

Jess Asato, Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich North.

Jess Asato, Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich North.

©2012Geoff Wilson

A Labour candidate who is expecting her first child has spoken of the guilt placed on career women and politicians who decide to have a family.

Jessica Asato, who is standing for Norwich North, echoed calls in a new report “Counting Women In”, which wants MPs to get a maternity or paternity guarantee.

Parliamentarians are not currently entitled to statutory maternity cover, nor any grant or allowance which would enable them to employ additional administrative support, because they are self-employed.

Speaking about the issue on the BBC, Ms Asato, who is expecting her first child in December, said: “I think anyone who stands for parliament knows that it is a tall order to take on.

“Standing as a representative is, I think, one of the most honourable things you can do for your country. However, I don’t think it should be an unusual decision to decide to start a family and decide to run for parliament.

“Surely one of the big issues we have, and so many of the public say it, is that MPs are just not normal...so, surely it would make parliament more representative if they came from all walks of life, and that includes women who decided to embark on a family with young children.”

Questioned about former foreign office minister Mark Simmonds’ comments that he did not have enough time to see his family, Ms Asato said: “Look, I think there is guilt placed on all women who decide to have a family and who also want to have a career or do something to represent their community. That is part and parcel of our society and the way in which they place guilt on women’s choices.”

The Counting Women In report said the UK Parliament had fallen from 59th for female representation prior to the 2010 general election to 65th in the world ranking of parliaments.

She said: “More and more research shows that gender balanced groups in business make better decisions, so surely it follows that the biggest decision making body of all – parliament – should be striving for equal representation of women?

Sarah Redshaw, managing editor of BabyCentre.co.uk, which has a base in Norwich, said: “It is important for career women to feel they have an option to have both a job and a family. Although returning to their career can may make some mums feel guilty, it’s about finding a solution that works for the family and happy parents equal happy children.”

Do you think enough is done in parliament to help women who want to have children? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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