HC Deb 17 June 1997 vol 296 cc131-2W
26. Mr. Desmond Browne

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to phase out the use of nursery vouchers. [2355]

Mr. Wilson

We are doing away with vouchers as soon as possible. Our first concern has been to protect parents who are relying on funding at quality centres for the coming school year, and whose arrangements need to be in place by the time schools close for the summer, the week after next. For their sake, having looked carefully at all the options, I issued vouchers on a once-only basis last week, as a basis for grant payments over the 1997–98 school session. No further voucher issues will be made. And I have simplified procedures radically—for example, getting rid of the need for nearly 1,000,000 signatures on vouchers by pre-school staff.

We are now moving on to put in place by August 1998 a new funding system, characterised by partnership and planning, which will provide a quality pre-school place by the winter after next for every child in the pre-school year in Scotland. I shall launch a major consultation on proposals in the autumn. In the meantime I intend during the summer to announce a number of interim measures to support expansion and quality improvement in the pre-school sector.