New Clause 2 — Childcare

Part of Welfare Reform Bill (Programme) (No. 2) – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 13th June 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 4:15 pm, 13th June 2011

My hon. Friend makes an important point and is absolutely right. People are worried about what the Government’s proposed changes will do to the child care market as a whole. It could make some providers uneconomical. If a large number of people currently using child care for more than 16 hours a week are forced, as a result of these changes, to give up their jobs and to withdraw from their child care places, it would put a huge dampener on, and cloud over, the whole child care market in the way she is right to fear. We feel strongly about this matter—the Government simply have not come up with a policy—so I will seek, if I can, to divide the House on new clause 2.

The Government’s failure to produce a policy on child care before the Bill leaves the House is a particularly abject failure. Ministers have not been able to turn their claims into policies. However, although child care might be the most spectacular and significant hole in the Government’s policy, it certainly is not the only one. In this group of amendments, therefore, we have tabled two further new clauses to fill the policy holes on passported benefits, such as free school meals and free prescriptions.

At the moment, people on out-of-work benefits are passported to those additional benefits, but the out-of-work benefits will be abolished, so who will be entitled to free school meals in future? Again, that is not an obscure, but a basic question and the Government have again failed to give us an answer.