Work and Families Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 25th April 2006.

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Photo of The Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester Bishop 5:45 pm, 25th April 2006

My Lords, I am grateful for what has been said by the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Howe, and I support both of them. I am still really taking aboard the reluctance of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, to do so. I support the provision from these Benches.

I regret that I was not here for earlier stages, but I am here as a successor to my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, who took part in earlier stages of the Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has expressed gratitude to the range of organisations which have offered briefing. In that light I should express an interest as a member of the Mothers' Union, which is among those organisations. It is—as are the Churches, other Members of this House, and indeed the Bill—committed to working very closely on the welfare of children and families, so sustaining marriage and other marriage-like relationships, on the question of work/life balance as regards the welfare of children and young people, and on the welfare of adults involved in their care and of adults themselves.

Allowing flexible working in circumstances of real need for parents and carers up to the age of 18 is just as important as the noble Baronesses, Lady Howe and Lady Walmsley, have said it is. Any of us with experience of the pressures on our married children who are both working and engaged in childcare and child responsibility know that it is just as difficult as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, described to make the right arrangements. That difficulty does not stop there. I do not have family experience of this; I have a lot of other experience of it. That difficulty does not stop at the age of five or six.

I will not go into the debate that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham went into in Grand Committee of just what all that means. But the difficulties are very real. Granted the Government have admirable intentions, on which the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has rightly congratulated them, but the logic is that this amendment should be accepted and carried.

I have read the material in Grand Committee about pressures on small businesses, and I understand that, but there are ways of assisting them. The Government put out an astounding amount of information assisting on a lot of things. I do not see why they should not do so on this set of matters and assist small businesses employing only a few people to understand the issues, and to understand that overcoming these difficulties in the end, as so many businesses have experienced, is good for businesses and good for relationships.

The last thing I want to say is that, as again the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, noted, there is a particular need to be alert to the needs of those representatives of families who may be less well paid, less able to negotiate, less well educated and perhaps most at threat in today's society, which puts high pressure on marriages and other relationships. I shall not go on longer but, for all those reasons, I think this is an important amendment, as are Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 for the same reasons, and I support it.