HC Deb 08 June 2000 vol 351 c420
13. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

If he will make a statement on provision for children aged under five years in the private, voluntary, independent and maintained sectors. [123346]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Ms Margaret Hodge)

All four-year-olds now have access to free nursery education, and for the first time in Britain, because of a Labour Government, we are specifically funding the expansion of free places for three-year-olds. By March 2002, we shall have funded 190,000 free nursery places and two out of three of our young three-year-olds will have access to a free place.

Fiona Mactaggart

The House will want to know how many extra places for three and four-year-olds have been created in the past two years. May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the diversity of provision, which stands in stark contrast to the Conservatives failed nursery voucher system?

Ms Hodge

I know that my hon. Friend takes a great interest in the issue and I congratulate her on that. We have a fantastic record on expanding places and ensuring diversity. Eight out of 10 of the new places that we have created for three-year-olds are in the private and voluntary sector. For the first time since funding has been provided for nursery education, there has been an increase in the number of places available for four-year-olds in the private and voluntary sector—a sector that the previous Government did their best to destroy.