HC Deb 13 January 2004 vol 416 c670
36. Vera Baird (Redcar) (Lab)

To ask the Leader of the House what plans he has to assess the need for child care facilities for hon. Members if the House were to revert to its former sitting hours. [147111]

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Phil Woolas)

My right hon. Friend has no such plans. He is aware, however, that many Members with young children find the new sitting hours beneficial, especially in the evenings.

Vera Baird

Is my hon. Friend aware that half of all politically active women of all parties who were interviewed by the Equal Opportunities Commission cited the late sitting hours and the lack of child care as the main deterrents to standing for Parliament? Would not any change back to late night working without the introduction of child care strike a double-blow against the greater participation of women in the House?

Mr. Woolas

Clearly there is that danger, and if press reports are to be believed, several Members, including Ministers, would, if the decision were reversed, have problems because of their own personal circumstances. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made a statement last week at business questions about the way forward on this matter. We know that strong views are held throughout the House, irrespective of party-political affiliation, and the Modernisation Committee will examine how best to move matters forward.