Family-friendly Employment

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 8:27 pm on 9th July 1996.

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Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 8:27 pm, 9th July 1996

Not only have I received such letters, but I have seen detailed reports of surveys carried out among the work force to that effect. I do not know whether it appeared in the hon. Gentleman's local newspaper, but a recent survey showed the problems of stress that affect many people, their family life and, more importantly for the hon. Gentleman, the productivity and competitiveness of the organisation for whom they work. If the hon. Gentleman has not seen such surveys, he would do well to look at them, because they show the importance of introducing policies to provide protection and security for people in employment.

Another slightly odd aspect of the contributions that we heard from Conservative Members is that they did not seem to recognise the changing nature of society but simply gave lots of statistics. The nature of society has changed significantly in terms of working patterns and the role of men and women. It is therefore vital that social and employment policies are changed to reflect that. Appropriate employment policies must continue to support the family in those changing circumstances.

I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have no intention of giving a detailed analysis of many of the Government's policies that have harmed family life. If I did so, I would discuss the effects of unemployment on the family, the current housing crisis, the implementation of the Government's care in the community policy, and the work of the Child Support Agency. All those policies, or in some cases lack of policies, have damaged family life. Instead, I shall touch on just one or two issues, some of which have already been mentioned, which I consider important.

It was disappointing to hear the comments of the hon. Member for South Dorset and the Minister on nursery education. They said that those who oppose the nursery voucher scheme are keen to deny the opportunity of nursery education to four-year-olds. They could not be wider of the mark. Our objection to the scheme is that it is cumbersome and bureaucratic and will not deliver the increased expansion of high quality early-years education that is needed.