We recognise that parents of babies receiving neonatal care need extra support during some of the most difficult days of their lives. We are committed to introducing neonatal leave and pay to meet this need as soon as parliamentary time allows.
We are all disappointed that there is no employment Bill, but there is cross-party agreement in the House on neonatal leave and pay. Leaving to one side the more controversial aspects of the employment Bill, what would stop the Government supporting a stand-alone Bill to enact policies on neonatal leave and pay?
We absolutely welcome and recognise the interest in this issue, especially from the hon. Gentleman, who has personal experience of the subject and has raised it a number of times in the House. I remain committed to the legislation. We can work on it in different ways. I believe that we have a meeting scheduled, and I am looking forward to discussing how we can deliver these policies in good time.
I was pleased to meet Ministers and the Prime Minister recently to talk about the importance of delivering the vital Government commitment to bring in neonatal leave and pay by the 2023 target that they set in their Budget two years ago. Work continues on finding a timeslot in which to take the measures through Parliament. Meanwhile, it is vital that Ministers in the Department continue to work on the required background measures, such as the guidance for businesses and for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, so that they are ready for introduction as soon as possible when we get parliamentary time. Can the Minister update me on the work that he has been doing to ensure that we are ready?
I thank my hon. Friend for the impassioned work that he does on this issue—again, following his personal experience. He is right: we are not just standing still while waiting for parliamentary time. We are taking action to prepare for implementation once the legislation is there, including by having conversations with third sector stakeholders and business representatives. Officials have also spoken to HMRC about developing a system to implement the measures when we have the legislation.
The Minister says “when parliamentary time allows”, but the Government could have provided time by putting an employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech. On neonatal pay, flexible working and an enforcement body to protect workers’ rights, this Government promise a lot but deliver very little. Ministers have promised an employment Bill over 20 times, yet it still appears nowhere in the legislative programme. Is not the only job that this Government are interested in protecting the Prime Minister’s?
Absolutely not. What we are interested in is jobs right across the UK—quality, highly productive, high-skilled, high-wage jobs. We will introduce all the employment measures to which we are committed in good time, when parliamentary time allows.