I am grateful to the Minister for that lengthy answer. Against the background of the recent Low Pay Unit report, which showed extensive and occasionally illegal part-time employment of children under the age of 16, will the Minister consider reviewing, and possibly extending, the power of local education authorities so that they may intervene in circumstances where it is clear that such employment is damaging the education of the individual child?
I am aware of the allegations in the recent Low Pay Unit report "Working Children" about the illegal employment of children. Clear responsibilities are already laid on parents, employers and local education authorities. I understand that most local authorities now follow the lines of a circular issued in 1976, and we have no further plans.
Is not the recent activity in some schools of children under 16, picketing and threatening to strike, indicative of an attempt to copy those in paid employment, such as teachers, who are supposed to be teaching those children?
I am not entirely sure whether my hon. Friend's question follows from the answer I have just given. None the less, the point can validly be made that if teachers wish to set an example they must carefully consider the action that they propose to take, both in and out of school.
Does the Minister accept that many children no longer get full benefit from their education because of family poverty and that some children take extemely badly paid part-time jobs, either at early or very late hours, which do not allow them to get the full benefit from their education? Will he press the local authorities to enforce the legislation so that youngsters cannot be exploited in this way?
It is always of concern to us if laws to protect the welfare of children are not properly enforced. Employers have a duty to obey the law, and parents have the primary responsibility for the welfare of their children. Therefore, it is not just the local education authorities who have a responsibility in this matter.