HC Deb 17 June 1997 vol 296 cc112-3
30. Mrs. Clwyd

To ask the right hon. Member representing the House of Commons Commission if she will make a statement on child care arrangements for Members and staff in the House. [2315]

Mrs. Ann Taylor

On this occasion—although it will not be the normal practice at subsequent Question Times—I am answering for the House of Commons Commission.

A scheme exists for staff employed by the Commission. Participants receive child care vouchers. The scheme caters for children under five and vouchers may be exchanged for a range of child care facilities. No arrangements are made by the House for the children of Members.

Mrs. Clwyd

I am grateful for that answer, but question what my right hon. Friend said about child care vouchers. Welcome though they are, they have been at the same level for several years—£6 a day—and I believe that that ought to be increased.

More than 5,000 people work in the Houses of Parliament. Is it not time that child care facilities were provided? In any comparable organisation, they would be. It has taken us 13 years to get a unisex hairdresser in the House; surely it is not going to take as long as that to secure very necessary child care facilities.

Mrs. Taylor

We should all be aware of the need for good child care facilities for all parents. Many people would say that child care facilities in the House might not be the best option for a number of people who work in the Palace. The matter has been considered by Committees of the House in the past, and it may be considered by them in the future.

31. Mr. Barnes

To ask the President of the Council what representations she has received regarding the provision of a creche and child care allowances for hon. Members and their staff; and if she will make a statement. [2316]

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I have received two letters, one signed by several Members, about the possibility of establishing a creche. During the last Parliament, the Administration Committee considered the need for a scheme for Members, and concluded at that stage that there was little demand for it. Clearly the Committee could consider the matter again, although I think it right to remind my hon. Friend that, as each Member has his or her individual working pattern and family arrangements, it is difficult to see one simple solution to the problem.

Mr. Barnes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that things have changed in the House? Hon. Members seem to be getting younger and younger—that even applies to party leaders. Because of that, there is presumably more interest in creche and nursery facilities, as well as that felt by the 5,000 people mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd). Today, a parliamentary child care group was established by trade unionists and others in the House. May I press my right hon. Friend to say that the surveys that have been conducted in the past should now be extended to take account of the entirely new circumstances, and to establish the demand that exists so that it can be met?

Mrs. Taylor

It is highly possible that the Committees, once they are established, will want to reconsider the situation in view of the opinions of the House as it is now constituted. I agree with my hon. Friend that there are more younger Members and that there may be more interest in creche facilities. I should point out, however, that many Members who are not London based would not be interested in using a creche for their children.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

If arrangements are made in due course for creche and other facilities in the House, will the right hon. Lady ensure that the costs do not fall upon the taxpayer but entirely upon those who use such facilities?

Mrs. Taylor

The cost of such facilities, were they to be provided within the House, would be a significant factor. As for our responsibilities as the Commission, the child care vouchers that are provided to staff are paid for by the House. I have no plans to introduce subsidies to hon. Members for child care facilities.

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