I welcome the Bill. Mike Amesbury and I met two or three weeks ago in a television studio where we were on a programme together. Much like my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake , the hon. Gentleman is such a nice man that I think he could persuade me of most things, but he was certainly an articulate advocate for this very important issue when we discussed it in the green room at the television studio, and he has been so again today. I am very proud to come here today, as I said I would, and support him and the Bill.
I will not repeat all the reasons why uniform is a good thing. We have heard lots of reasons so far. I am stood here today because a constituent came to me and said, “James, we have an issue. My daughter, who is unemployed through no fault of her own, has two children at high school in your seat. She is facing a cost of over £300 in respect of the clothing and sporting equipment for her children to go to school.” It was not a case of affordability or an issue for debate: my constituent’s daughter simply did not have the money to provide the uniform that the school in my constituency required her children to have to go to school in the first place. I made inquiries with the school. It is a good school, but it did not have any procedures in place to assist with the costs. I went to my local authority, which also did not have any procedures in place to assist with the cost. It seemed to me that that was a completely unacceptable situation. It is not a question of one person or 5,000. The interests of the one are just as important as the interests of the 5,000 who are affected by something.
The Bill is welcome. I think at its heart is a very simple message. It would give a clear signal to school governing bodies that uniforms must be affordable: how on earth can anyone argue with that? Local authorities are not private businesses, they are state organisations, and they need to provide the best means by which our children can thrive and succeed. Discrimination should not happen as a result of what they have to wear, their background or their parents’ income. am a chair of governors at a nursery school, so we do not have some of the problems we have heard about today, but it is in extremely deprived area of my seat. We have a wide catchment area, but many parents at my school could not afford the prices that are being charged for uniforms, and I do not want them to be penalised for that.
This is a simple but excellent Bill that will help and assist in a positive way. But there are other things we should take away from this debate. We should not simply stop here, and as MPs we should work with our local authorities and encourage our schools. Some schools in my area are fantastic and help their pupils through various payment plans and other ways of affording uniform, but we should try to work with our local authorities to ensure that all of them have some financial support in place for constituents, like mine, who are not in a position to send their children to school because they cannot afford the uniform.