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Clause 2

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families) 4:45 pm, 5th February 2008

I am sorry to detain the Committee. I know that we have spent a long time on the amendments, but I am still slightly concerned about a number of points relating to the Minister’s response.

First, on amendment No. 6 relating to young parents, the Minister appeared to say that he could contemplate young parents being obliged to go back into education, training or employment 18 weeks after the birth of the child. I encourage him to stop me if I get anything wrong. That seems extraordinarily soon, particularly when contrasted with current expectations for parents to go out into the labour market, education, training or anything else. Until recently—I believe it is still the case—we have allowed parents, or lone parents, to stay at home without a work obligation until their youngest child has reached the age of 16. Even now, parties are talking about reducing that time limit significantly, but to nothing like to the expectation that a parent will return to an education, training or work setting so soon after the birth of their child.

The hon. Member for Upminster made an excellent point. She talked about the importance of parents educating their children, accessing libraries and so forth. It is a point that could more powerfully be made on our side of the argument rather than the Minster’s because it highlights that parents have an important responsibility not only to themselves and their futures but also to the children they bring into the world.