According to the recent Family and Childcare Trust survey, the cost of child care in England has started to fall in real times for the first time in 12 years, whereas in Scotland, the cost of nurseries has gone up by 8% and in Wales, which is run by Labour, the cost of nurseries has gone up by 13%. That is because the Government are reducing red tape and enabling good providers to expand.
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has got his figures wrong. In fact, Sure Start provides fewer than 4% of places. In London, which he represents, 45% of early-years places are in school nurseries. I suggest that he joins the Mayor of London’s programme, which he is running with me, to encourage school nurseries to open for longer hours. What the hon. Gentleman says about children’s centres is absolute nonsense. We have increased the investment in those as well.
Unfortunately, the expansion of free places has resulted in the headmaster of Carterhatch children’s centre in Enfield asking fee-paying parents to take their children out of the centre to make way for those who are on the new scheme. What advice does the Minister have for the headmaster, who has chosen to discriminate against working parents, and for the parents who are fighting to keep their children at the centre?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. We are working with London providers and local authorities to get them to expand the number of places. We have made it easier for private sector providers to expand without planning red tape, and we have made it easier for good and outstanding providers to expand without red tape. We also want to see school nurseries and children’s centres open from 8 am to 6 pm to provide flexible child care.
We welcome the fact that finally families will receive some much needed help in meeting their child care costs. However, does the Minister accept that by the time the tax-free scheme comes into effect in 2015, the support that families have already lost plus the increases in costs over this Parliament will mean that the vast majority of families will still be worse off? Can she also tell the House what assessment she has made of the impact on price inflation, given the chronic shortage of places?
I do not think that the hon. Lady heard my first point, which was that prices are falling in real terms in England for the first time since the Family and Childcare Trust study began. Under Labour, they went up by 50%. On Thursday, I visited the excellent Medlock primary school in her constituency, which offers places to two, three and four-year-olds. Staff told me of their plans to open from 8 until 6 to provide parents with more care. That is happening across the country—
I hear what the hon. Lady says. At present, most nurseries in Manchester are open from 9 to 3. If they opened from 8 to 6, that would be more than 60% extra.