Local Government Bill
Baroness Hamwee (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, we on these Benches have difficulty with this amendment. My noble friend Lord Russell dealt with it at a previous stage and I will not follow him in referring to the Irishman's pig. At some point, I will ask him what that was all about. However, I follow him in his comments. Our preferred approach is not to look at the prescriptive allocation of particular days of the week. I would be far happier to see what is clearly an important issue addressed in the round.
This matter does not only concern weekdays and weekends. There are hours during the week when many parents operate in an almost child-free or childless zone. They hardly see their children during the week. The issue is much broader than just weekends.
Although local authorities should set a good example, I am unpersuaded that it would be appropriate to impose this arrangement on a sector that is actually a pretty good employer. Earlier in this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, mentioned local authorities being against the proposal. Certainly, as others—especially the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham—have said, there should be a huge investigation into the implications.
I cannot resist mentioning an article about the French school system that I saw in the Independent two or three days ago. Many French schools still require attendance on Saturday mornings, and many children prefer that, because the alternative is spending time with their parents going to the supermarket. I am sorry that we cannot support the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne.