HC Deb 15 March 1994 vol 239 c735
8. Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will take steps to improve the employment rights to time off for maternity and paternity leave.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

All women will soon have a new right to 14 weeks maternity leave.

Mr. Hinchliffe

As someone who was refused paternity leave from this place, may I press the Minister to take the issue seriously and to pull his finger out? When the Government profess to believe in the International Year of the Family, why are they so mean minded about parental leave? Why are we light years behind most other European countries on this matter?

Mr. Forsyth

I am not sure who refused the hon. Gentleman his paternity leave. If it was his Whips, I suggest that they adopt a rather more enlightened policy in line with the Labour party research document that was published in 1990.

Mrs. Gillan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although our maternity provisions are excellent in the United Kingdom, it is still quite ridiculous that mothers who are cleared to adopt babies cannot get the same maternity provisions as natural birth mothers? I am referring to my constituent Dr. Estelle McAndrew who is cleared to adopt a baby, but cannot get the same provision as she would if she were giving birth to a child.

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend raised this matter in the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill Committee. As she will know, only a small proportion of adoptions—I believe under 9 per cent.—involve children under the age of one year. Without getting into the technicalities, there are clear differences between adopting a child and giving birth and the period immediately before and after that, which is why we thought it appropriate to make provisions for statutory leave.