HC Deb 01 March 1989 vol 148 c270
11. Mrs. Fyfe

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with outside bodies and their representatives since June 1987 on child care provision in the public and private sectors.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Scottish Office officials have undertaken extensive consultations with external interests on a wide range of issues relating to the provision of services for children, including child care law and measures to protect children from abuse.

Mrs. Fyfe

Has the Minister any plans to ask the Scottish Office to pay an agency to conduct a telephone survey of Scots women in their homes to ask them whether they have ever had any experience of child care provision in the public sector, or is he frightened of the answer that those women might give him?

Mr. Forsyth

No, we have no such plans. The provision of services for children under five is a matter for local authorities. If the hon. Lady is criticising the conduct of Labour-controlled local authorities in Scotland, I suggest that she takes that up with them.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Did the Minister take the opportunity while visiting Hungary to study its child care provision? Did he note that Hungrary provides significant child care services for children aged up to three, that it allows mothers to stay at home with substantial child care allowances and that it provides five months' maternity leave for women who want to return to work? Does he know that 78 per cent. of three to five-year-old children in that country attend kindergarten and that 80 per cent. of the creches are state-run? What does he intend to do to help the women of Scotland to be provided with that sort of service?

Mr. Forsyth

I took the opportunity while I was in Hungary to discuss developments in education there. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Hungarians expressed considerable admiration for the emphasis that we place on increasing competition in our education system, and that their plans include greater emphasis on provision by the private sector and on competition.

The hon. Gentleman may know the Hungarian statistics, but he does not seem to be aware of those in Scotland, where 80 per cent. of children under five are given some sort of pre-school provision.