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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 thank the hon. Member for that question. I cannot quite believe this, but I am actually going to agree with him. As a remainer, yes, I really think that people should take control of this issue; and, yes, this is an opportunity which, of course, the manufacturers and retailers have lobbied for over a number of years. However, although I agree wholeheartedly that that should be an opportunity, it is beyond the scope of this Bill.

The requirement by some schools for a branded logo on everything needs to be curtailed, to allow parents the choice of where to buy more items of their uniforms from a wide range of competitive retailers, including from supermarkets and low-cost retailers. I am not against schools having their own identity, far from it, but why not limit the number of branded items to a maximum of two, or have a badge that can be sewn on to a generic shirt or blazer? This Bill is about being fair while being smart, and making a real difference to families who are struggling.

The past three Governments have publicly stated that they intend to legislate on this matter—most recently in 2019, prior to the general election, when the Secretary of State responded positively to the Sunday People campaign—but legislation has been noticeable by its absence in the most recent Queen’s Speech, and in every other one since 2015. After a number of meetings over the past few weeks, I have gained an encouraging amount of cross-party support, including from the Minister and his team, and I sincerely thank them for that.

In conclusion, this Bill is constructed in such a way that it will allow for a swift, effective passage through Parliament, and it has Government support. I look forward to reassurance from the Minister on how parents and schools will be engaged on the content of the guidance as part of this process. Most importantly, today, parliamentarians can help many families in their own constituencies and beyond by getting this done. They should do the right thing by making sure that school uniforms are affordable for all.