HC Deb 21 March 2000 vol 346 cc850-1
45. Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, if the Commission will bring forward plans to establish an on—site nursery in the Palace of Westminster. [114056]

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (on behalf of the House of Commons Commission)

I commend the hon. Gentleman for the tenacity with which he is pursuing this important matter. The House of Commons Commission takes its responsibilities as an employer very seriously. However, given the constraints on space and cash, we remain of the view that the fairest way of dealing with staff child care needs is by means of the existing and highly popular staff voucher scheme. I regret that I have nothing further to add to my written answer of 14 December—that we have no plans to establish an on-site nursery.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the hon. Gentleman take back to his Committee the feeling of many people in the House and outside that we should at the very least set an example by providing on-site child care facilities in this building, and that the voucher system discriminates against parents with responsibility for young children because it comes out of the office cost allowance budget, which then militates against other staff? Of the 3,500 staff surveyed in 1998, more than 75 per cent. supported some kind of child care facility. If we can find space for bars, gyms and many other things, I am sure that we can find space for on-site child care facilities. Will he and his Committee kindly reconsider?

Mr. Kirkwood

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. To establish an on-site creche would cost in the region of £600,000. The current voucher system costs £100,000. We think that that is a better balance in terms of protecting the taxpayers' interest. That £600,000 would have to come out of the taxpayers' money, which would be difficult to justify. Certainly, that was the recommendation of the Administration Committee when it conducted its latest research in 1998.