It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone, particularly since by allowing me to leave the debate early you have shown your appreciation for my family’s importance to me.
I thank Fiona Bruce for her considered and comprehensive speech. I agree with much of what she said. In preparing for the debate, I read the strengthening families manifesto and was surprised to find myself agreeing with much of that as well. I would like to highlight a couple of points in it.
The manifesto discusses forces life. I have lived through forces life; as some hon. Members may know, my husband was an officer in the Royal Navy for 17 years, and for much of that time we struggled through forces life as a family. I appreciate the fact that forces life is mentioned in the manifesto, although I take issue with one comment:
“Life in the Forces holds advantages for families”.
I struggle to find any advantages for families, to be perfectly honest—it was a very difficult time in our lives. However, it is important that the manifesto recognises the additional pressures and challenges imposed not just by separation but by the difficulties of living away from home. I hope that the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Act 2018, which has just been passed, will allow service personnel to consider flexible working in some roles, which may improve the experience for families in service life.
I was also pleased to see the importance that the manifesto places on fathers. It is crucial that the positive involvement of fathers is recognised and supported in society. Fathers should be able to participate fully in their children’s lives from day one. Earlier this year, the Scottish Government published a review of maternity and neonatal services in Scotland, which sets out a future vision of maternity services in which fathers, partners and other family members are encouraged and supported to become part of all aspects of newborn care. It is important that we acknowledge fathers, who often feel excluded from the experience, even if they are present at the birth.