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Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment) 9:34 am, 13th March 2020

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

On 9 January, I was lucky enough to be drawn No. 1 in the ballot—the first private Member’s Bill of this parliamentary Session. I will admit that at first I was not aware of the significance of that, until the avalanche of emails started to arrive, as did the meeting requests, the demands from the press and, of course, a mighty big lobby for very worthy causes. It gives me a real opportunity as a Labour MP to change the law—something of a rarity in recent years. Although the date of the Second Reading of the Bill is Friday the 13th, which may be unlucky for some, I am hoping that for thousands of hard-pressed families up and down our country, this day will be a milestone on the way to helping those in our schools and our constituencies.

My Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill gives MPs from across the Chamber the chance to step up and do the right thing for our constituents. It is a genuine opportunity to put words into action, to change the law and to make school uniforms more affordable for families struggling with often very high and prohibitive costs. Today is an opportunity to help children such as Emily who, rather than facing the indignity of her classmates knowing that her family did not have the money to replace lost PE uniform, asked her mum to write a sick note saying that she was injured. Today, Members across the House have the opportunity to help children such as Callum, who was put in detention because his parents did not have the cash to replace his blazer, which no longer fitted him because of a growth spurt.

As is often the case with yah-boo politics and spin in the media, the intentions of legislation can get lost in the narrative. I assure Members that the Bill is not anti-school uniform. The Bill is not a gateway to some slippery slope that paves the way to the abolition of school uniforms—far from it. As a teenager who went to a school in the ’80s that did not have a uniform, I can vouch from experience that that was not a good thing. It highlighted the haves and the have-nots and the fashions of the day.