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money that they have in their pockets. Under the Conservative Government, the take-home pay of a couple on average earnings, with two children, has increased by 40 per cent. The corresponding figure for the period of the last Labour Government was only 0.6 per cent. Thus, under our policies there has been a substantial increase in one of the most central resources available to any family--the amount of money they have to spend. Family credit has been a successful innovation, and is the best way to help both people in work and those who are not to take up employment and better themselves in that way. I was amazed that Labour opposed the Third Reading of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill last night, because they did not oppose its Second Reading.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda) : We did not oppose its Third Reading.

Mr. Thurnham : There certainly seemed to be an enormous number of votes last night, with constant opposition by Labour Members that kept us here until half-past 2 in the morning. Labour Members certainly opposed large slices of that Bill, if not its Third Reading. They certainly did not give the impression that they supported it. When we considered the Criminal Justice Act 1991, Labour did not support the proposal for parents to appear with their children in court. That shows a lack of understanding by the Opposition of the need for parental responsibility.

I was pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on Tuesday to discuss the need for more effective parenting. I hope that a consequence of my right hon. Friend's becoming the Minister with responsibility for the family will be a White Paper entitled "Effective Parenting", presenting a new strategy to direct the future pattern of child development. Only by placing real responsibility back into parenting will we succeed in solving problems at source and achieving lasting improvements. Family intervention and support services, residential facilities and the general gamut of expenses that accompany troubled and troublesome children and their families are expensive and can be seen as a bottomless economic pit. Parenting is a job and, like any other vocational skill, it can be taught in theory and by practice. We should no longer allow young adults to drift into the task of parenting with minimal training and support, only to express surprise and outrage later when such ill-prepared people fail at it. Ensuring that parents carry first-line responsibility for their children should be seen in the spirit of preventive medicine, and that concept must be fully explored.

Available strategies range from the educational to the punitive. Parenting courses should be widely available, and an increase in nursery school provision should be accompanied by an insistence on much greater parental involvement in a child's total schooling. Parents should be brought to task for their child's misdemeanours. In the final analysis, punitive measures can be taken against parents of children who constantly commit misdemeanours. I do not see why courts cannot sentence parents to a parenting course if they are clearly seen to have failed. Instead of merely imposing fines, the money should be spent on educating parents in the basics of bringing up children.

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Utilising the energy and resources of those concerned would not be expensive but cost-effective in the long term. All preventive medicine requires some investment. In the case of children who never had a fair start in life, the consequences of a lack of investment may prove too dire to contemplate. All society must play its part, but, in particular, leading agencies, media, educational institutions and existing support agencies could be brought together to produce a strategy for the future aimed at effective parenting.

Those issues have been well explored at meetings of the all-party parliamentary group for children. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne (Mrs. Golding), vice-chairman with me of that group, is in her place. On 3 February, the group was addressed by Professor John Pearce of Nottingham and Mike Roberts, Welsh regional manager of the Children's Society, and others, who made clear the need for greater co- ordination between different agency local services. Mike Roberts said that the Children's Society would like an interdepartmental agency, to ensure an integrated approach at national and local level. I did not hear that point made strongly by the Opposition, whose debate this is. I am surprised that they have not made clear how they would like services better integrated locally. In my constituency, it is plain that much more needs to be done.

I welcome the new all-party parliamentary group on parenting, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) on the part that he played in bringing that about. Its formation emphasises the need for greater attention to the subject. I pressed my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the need for more co-ordinated action in that area last year, because when one looks at the routes that children can take, it is clear that if they go into special schools for emotionally and behaviourally disturbed children, it can be just a quirk of fate which path they go down, whether the education route--placement within an establishment for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties--or the social services route, for example, children who are placed via care orders into a community home system. There should not be such a random element to it. There is also the danger of budget sweeping whereby education authorities leave the problem to social services, and vice versa. That cannot produce an effective continuum of provision and certainly cannot be seen as cost effective. There is a great need for much better cohesion and co-ordination of services at a local level. I feel that the appointment of my right hon. Friend as the Minister with responsibility for the family provides the opportunity for us to have that more co-ordinated approach to these matters.

When knocking on doors in Bolton during the 11 years that I have been in the constituency, the top issue has always been law and order. When one gets down to it, juvenile delinquency is nearly always the principal cause of local concern. How we bring up our children is seen to be the most important issue on the doorstep, but does not always seem to be so when one is addressing bureaucrats in the town hall, or even--dare I say so-- different Government Departments here in London.

There is a need to co-ordinate those services much better so that the most important task that we face--how we bring our children up--is addressed much more fully, both here and locally. That is why I welcome the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime

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Minister. I am quite sure that, when the House divides shortly, there will be no question but that we will support his amendment, and that we shall vote against the claptrap and rubbish contained in the Opposition's amendment, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) said, harks back to the failed policies of previous years.

We should look forward now to the opportunities that are in front of us, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State here to give us the co- ordination that, perhaps, has not been fully evident before. I look forward to the presentation of a White Paper entitled "Effective Parenting", which will spell it out for us to follow through.

9.23 pm

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam) : The conclusion from the debate is that we have indeed become a selfish society. The lesson that we have learnt today is that, when we are talking about the family, we should look at it from the point of view of the child. It seems to be that, for far too long, adults have been saying, "I do not want to get married", as though they had the right to make that decision when there is a child at stake. What about the child's rights ? Does not that child have a right to a stable home and two committed parents, who, in my view, can remain tied with that bond only if they are married ? I fear that the children are buffeted around. We have been told for years by trendy liberals that children are not affected by marriage breakdown--as though they are trying to excuse themselves from a difficulty. Child psychiatrists now acknowledge that the opposite is the case.

The scale of marriage breakdowns and their effect on children is worth bearing in mind. Every year, 150,000 children are the victims of marriage breakdown. They feel that they have been abandoned, whether it is right or wrong. Certainly, if the father goes, the child's security goes. I find that, whatever level of society one is looking at--it does not matter what income group--those children feel that no one parent is responsible to them, particularly if their parents then remarry and start other families. Therefore, we understand why those children become disturbed, fail to prosper in school, fail to maintain the same pace with their studies and, in some cases, turn to crime--perhaps as a way of drawing attention to themselves. One sadness is that, at a very early age, they start their own sexual relationships with the opposite sex and start the vicious cycle all over again by producing another infant. I agree with the suggestion that has already been made that we should place far more emphasis on teaching parental responsibility. That should be taught right through school.

I am very disturbed about the quality of sex education in schools. Far too often, it is moral-free and value-free and teaches children the mechanics of sex but not about moral responsibility to the infant that could follow. It is disturbing that the Family Planning Association, a much-respected organisation, issued workbooks of the type that I have here. They barely mention marriage and, if they do, it is almost dismissively. That will not do. If we want stability for our children, we have to provide a framework in which they can understand that, if one has a relationship, one must prepare for parenthood properly and that being capable of a physical relationship does not mean that one has to have a child when ill prepared for it. Furthermore, our children need a proper spiritual and

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religious education. It is worrying that so many local education authorities are still not complying with the requirement to produce a new model syllabus for religious studies. They are still failing the Education Reform Act 1988 which states that religious education should, in the main, be Christian. Sadly, children are having foisted on them a cultural mish-mash which is secular rather than spiritual. I am sorry that the Archbishop of Canterbury is spending too much time behaving like an unelected politician instead of paying attention to the spiritual growth of our young people.

We should also be paying attention to our children's role models. Although I greatly admire the vast majority of teachers and would follow them any day, there are still too many of them who do not provide the right role models. They turn up at school scruffily dressed in jeans, T-shirts and trainers.

Mr. Rogers : The hon. Lady is absolutely right. It has apparently been proved this week that videos can have a great deal of influence on children and that role models are important. However, does she not think that her remarks are rather sweeping ? I hesitate to mention them, but does she think that the royal family provide a proper role model for family life ? What about politicians ?

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the restrictions on what we can say in the Chamber.

Lady Olga Maitland : I agree with the hon. Gentleman about video nasties and I congratulate the Government on having the imagination and energy to want to ban them from our homes when children are around.

It is time to put children first and to adapt our concerns to their interests. It is time for adults--men and women--to stop being self- indulgent at the expense of real commitment. I congratulate the Government for setting up the Child Support Agency to remind fathers that they, too, have a responsibility to their children. A child is for life, not just for the one night that a man spent with a woman. It is appropriate that we should be discussing the family and I am only sorry that the Opposition failed to tell us what they believe to be a proper family policy. Why did they not mention the fact that such a policy should be child centred ?

9.29 pm

Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme) : I am pleased that the quality of the debate has been so high, and I thank especially my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Wicks), for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon), for Preston (Mrs. Wise), for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) and for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) for their thoughtful contributions.

Unfortunately, the shallow response of the Secretary of State merely underlined the truth of our motion, which highlights the Government's failure to produce policies that will give real, lasting support and encouragement to families. Nothing that the right hon. Lady said gives me hope that the Government intend to give full support to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which talks of the necessary protection and assistance for the family, and of giving special safeguards and care to the child. That will be a bitter disappointment to many of us.

Back home, although people rarely talk to me about foreign affairs or politics in general, they always talk to me

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about their families--their worries and concerns, as well as their hopes and aspirations. For them, to have a happy and secure family is one of the most important things in life. That means many things--good health, a happy home, youngsters doing well, and the security to cope with whatever life can bring.

Some people can cope well, and that is a blessing. However, because of 15 years of Tory government, many--an increasing number, unfortunately--are under considerable stress and strain, and need help and support to see them through. Many people are on very low wages, and others are impoverished because they fall just outside entitlement for income support.

People living on inadequate pensions have a hard time of it, faced as they are with worrying water rates and increased fuel bills. Others suffer because of bad housing conditions. Overcrowding has always made a happy family life extremely difficult ; it certainly makes study almost impossible for children. People in those conditions desperately ask to move, but that is made difficult by the long council house waiting lists, the increases in housing association rents and the prohibitive deposits and rents required in the private sector.

Whatever the difficulties may be, those people want to be good parents, but they find that the job of being a good parent in this day and age is not easy. Rightly, people blame the Government for many of the difficulties they face. They know at first hand the truth of our motion. By making things harder for them, the Government are undermining family life.

Our people want security, but under the Conservative Government they get instead the uncertainty of short-term contracts and part-time low-paid jobs --or even worse, unemployment. Both high unemployment and uncertainty about jobs have done great social damage. Why do Ministers appear not to understand the anxiety that unemployment brings, or its impact on family life ?

Worry about future security brings enormous stress, causing problems both inside and outside the home. When families have geared themselves to two incomes it is difficult to cope when one partner loses a job. There is not only worry about money--although heaven knows, that is bad enough. Imagine the devastation caused by a mortgage repossession. Moreover, a job gives people--especially men--their status. However untrue it may be, men believe that they cannot be respected if they are not the breadwinners.

It is not only the unemployed who suffer from the failure to provide jobs. Unemployment is one of the causes of the higher taxes that will hit families so hard in the coming years. When I listen to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I understand why people switch off from politics. He smiles and tells people that the enormous additional burdens which he has imposed on them are overstated. Overstated ? It is not possible to exaggerate the worry and the anxiety that so many people experience about what they have to cut from their family budgets. His reaction, like the rest of this miserable Tory Government, is to blame someone else.

Let us consider the Government's record. They preach greed and decry community responsibility, and then wonder why parents, schools and youth groups find it difficult to teach youngsters to have respect for and

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responsibility to each other. The Government refuse to let councils build and put the blame for the housing shortage on single parents. They create homelessness and dire poverty among the young and make life even more difficult for those people by refusing them any entitlement to benefits.

They wreck the national health service and expect carers to pick up the pieces. They undermine the work of teachers, producing chaos in our education system, and say that parents should intervene more in the classroom. They fail to provide our youngsters with work, status or hope, and having done nothing to reduce the underlying cause of crime, they float the idea of punishing the parents for the crimes of the children.

What I cannot understand is why the Government fail to understand that children and young people learn as they live. Given our present conditions, we are bound to be cursed by some who are doomed to be violent and maladjusted. Given Ministers' attitudes, against all common-sense advice, we are lucky that there are not more such people. The Government make a mess of the funding of the social security system and introduce the Child Support Agency in a way which brings so much suffering and hardship.

The Government's response to the break-up of families is so typical of their whole approach to life--to wield a big stick indiscriminately, to cause misery and not to alleviate the problems. A true family support agency would be concerned with the funding of such services as Relate-- marriage guidance--which offers help and support to families. It would ensure that, in the case of a breakdown, the rights and welfare of all children, mothers, fathers and grandparents would be respected, and it would ensure that serious consideration was given to problems of violence in the home.

The Government have a lot to answer for. Their problem is that they are so remote and so isolated from the real world. They should listen carefully to the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), who, in arguing for a comprehensive family policy, not only shows great compassion but adopts a practical approach. She is close to the many voluntary agencies which do such a marvellous job in the country. The Government would do well to listen to them as carefully as she does.

My hon. Friend explained how the United Nations has highlighted this year as the International Year of the Family and set out its themes : families and work, families, poverty and resources and families and relationships. I echo her demands that the Government do better and meet the targets.

We are fortunate in Britain in already having such organisations as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which is dedicated to combating the neglect and maltreatment of children. In that pursuit, it has the total support of the public, who are horrified at the growing evidence of suffering among children because of violence, sexual abuse and criminal neglect--the desertion of children and leaving them home alone. The public long for an end to glue sniffing, juvenile drunkenness, drug addiction, truancy, and children running away from home and roaming the streets. Indeed, all such behaviour leads to juvenile crime, violence and vandalism. The tragic misery that stems from bullying in schools has been highlighted in recent months. We need to do much more to prevent it. The NSPCC has proposed that there is someone in each school--not a teacher- -to whom

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young people can talk about their problems. Will the Minister give her support to that constructive idea, which I understand has already been taken up by some schools ? Will she tell us how she will put the public's minds at rest on those other important issues ?

In developing policies, I hope that the Government will take advantage of the important initiative that was taken recently by the all-party parliamentary group for children, of which I am the vice-chairman. A grant given generously by the Gulbenkian Foundation to enable the National Children's Bureau to service the all-party group made it possible to discover what a wide range of organisations thought were the most important issues affecting children that should be brought to the attention of Parliament. That has proved a most valuable exercise.

It is essential that the Minister should, as we have done, study most carefully the replies of the 160 associations and organisations which responded. Among them, she will find constructive proposals on a wide range of subjects, including childhood care and education, special needs, families and neighbourhoods, children from overseas, poverty, unemployment, young offenders, mental health, disability aids, care proceedings, residential care, foster care, adoption, child abuse and criminal proceedings.

The Government cannot afford to ignore, as they appear to have done, the vast practical experience that those organisations can give. The application of a bit of common sense in the spending of our money could help to solve many of our problems.

I have talked much about children. Before I conclude, I shall mention that families need fathers. It is distressing to hear from time to time from men who have great love for their children but who find it difficult through no fault of their own to get access to them. It should not be possible for a woman to spite a former partner by making access difficult. Families need fathers, and we need to strengthen the Children Act 1989 to protect their rights. At the same time, we should acknowledge the importance of grandparents and strengthen their rights of access.

In the short time available, I have been able to touch on only a small number of issues. Labour's message is clear : Parliament must ensure that families are able to prosper and to live secure and contented lives. We must give our people adequate shelter, warmth and protection from harm. We believe that our senior citizens should live out their lives in tranquillity, and that our children are entitled to better care. It is our responsibility to give them hope for the future. We should not fail them.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will appreciate that one of your main tasks is to protect the lives of hon. Members in the exercise of their duties. As I speak, the health, safety and life of one hon. Member is in jeopardy ; I am referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd).

This morning, I went down to the Tower colliery with my hon. Friend. She went into the drift mine. I understand that she is now surrounded by eight managers and people from the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers, who have shepherded her into a cold zone. She is being denied food, water and clothing. The miners have been told that if they supply her with food, clothing or water, they will face disciplinary action and dismissal. That is putting my hon. Friend's health and

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life at risk. [Interruption.] I hear some mumbling. I am astonished that there should be mumbling on an issue of such gravity.

My point of order is that, before a Government Department and a publicly owned industry conspire to injure or kill a Member of the House, the Minister should come to the House and call off the people who are creating that extraordinary havoc before some great damage is done, in which case tomorrow we will not get abusive and silly comments from Tory Members who are speaking in complete ignorance of the facts.

Madam Speaker : My responsibility is for Members of Parliament who are engaged in their duties. I am not aware of the situation which the hon. Gentleman describes, and of course I must take his word on what he says in the House. I will have inquiries made right away.

Mrs. Wise : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker : Order. I have dealt with the matter to the best of my ability. I had not heard of the situation before, and all I can do is give an undertaking to the House that I will have a look at the matter as soon as I can.

Mrs. Wise : Briefly, I understand the point that you make regarding hon. Members being engaged in their duties. My point is that my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley is engaged in her duties. The threatened pit is in her constituency, and she is attempting to represent her constituents.

Madam Speaker : That point is not in dispute. I have just said that I am concerned about hon. Members who are engaged in parliamentary duties. I have given an undertaking. I have not heard about the matter before, and I will have it examined as soon as I am able to leave the Chair.

9.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Miss Ann Widdecombe) rose

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker : I seem to have another point of order.

Mrs. Mahon : This is a slightly different point of order from those raised by my hon. Friends. This afternoon, during questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I asked a question of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I said at that time that my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley had gone down into the drift to meet miners and to discuss the serious position in which the Coal Board has put them.

I urged the Chief Secretary to contact his colleagues and see whether something could be done about the situation. Since then, the situation has got serious, and I am concerned for the welfare

Madam Speaker : Order. I was in the Chair this afternoon, and I clearly heard the question that the hon. Lady put to the Chief Secretary and the answer which he gave. It is a point of order for me. I dealt with the points which have been raised this evening, and I will carry out the undertaking which I have given the House.

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Miss Widdecombe : In the short time which the Opposition have kindly left me, I shall not be able to address every issue which was raised in the debate.

I will say that one of the things which I found most offensive was the difference in attitude on the part of the Opposition towards people who get written up in The Guardian because they are in difficult circumstances, and hon. Members on my side of House who pointed to the difficult circumstances in which they grew up. I was disgusted by the sneering attitude which was displayed towards my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) when he described the conditions in which he grew up.

When the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) mentioned conditions in her constituency--under, I may point out, a Labour council which is responsible for housing conditions in her constituency--a great moral issue seemed suddenly to have arisen. That attitude shows that there is no real concern on the Opposition Benches, and that point of view was reinforced by the numbers of Opposition Members who have been present during the debate.

I turn first to the speech made by the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) on the subject of a coherent policy. All I can say is that, although she demanded a coherent policy several times in her speech, she evinced not one single policy--coherent or otherwise--or said what the Labour party would do. She did evince strong confusion about what her own Front-Bench colleagues think.

She did not appear to be aware, for example, that the shadow Secretary of State for Social Security has said that there was a case to examine child benefit, and to examine whether its continuation was justified. She did not know that and she continued to commit the Labour Government-- [Hon. Members :-- "Government ?"]--the Labour party--to child benefit. Nor did she appear to be aware that the shadow Chancellor had said that, although the Labour party was committed to nursery education, it could be made available only "as growth allowed". She said that nursery education would be made available--no conditions, no qualifications--to every child whose parents wanted it.

If that is her understanding of her party's point of view, it is not surprising that Opposition Members are confused, that they have no coherent policy, and that they have to hide behind what they perceive as the inadequacies in our policies. They are not inadequacies.

For example, the Opposition said that pensioners' savings will no longer enable them to buy places in residential homes. They kindly neglected to mention that, in the 1970s under their Government, pensioners' savings were so wiped out by inflation that they could hardly buy a meal, let alone a place in a residential home. They completely missed out the role played by community care in supplying a support network for elderly people to enable them to stay in their homes, looked after by their families if that is what they and the elderly people choose.

In Opposition Members' speeches tonight there was an amazing lack of emphasis on a caring role in respect of the elderly, as opposed to children.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Like that in Lilley's speech.

Miss Widdecombe : I am grateful for the prompting. The hon. Member for Eccles referred to the speech by my

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right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security at the Conservative party conference, and said that he had scapegoated lone parents. She asked whether he did not realise that many lone parents find themselves in such a position against their will and deserve support. I shall quote from my right hon. Friend's speech : "Many find themselves lone parents against their will and they deserve our support."

The hon. Member for Eccles then made a terrific play of the economic situation, and how families would be taxed more. I find that a crying impudence from a party that went into the last election promising to make every family in the land poorer as a result of its tax policies.

The hon. Member for Eccles said that the Conservative party had betrayed families because of the results of unemployment. She omitted to point out that the Labour party threatens families with a loss of up to 2 million breadwinners because of its minimum wage policy. She poured scorn on and belittled part-time work. She does not appear to understand that such work, in which we take the lead in Europe, enables families to combine work and care at home in the way they choose. She shows scant respect for women who want to work in the home, and ignored them in her speech.

How can the hon. Member for Eccles come here and talk about support for the family when the Opposition consistently opposed the right to buy and the spread of home ownership ? Families need decent homes, and we have enabled families to buy decent homes. The Opposition believe that the only homes that families deserve are those which have the state as landlord.

The hon. Member mentioned education policies for the family, yet she comes from a party that denied choice to those who cannot afford to buy education and opposed grant-maintained schools and the very important right of families who have no professional background and limited means of making their own assessment to receive information about how well their child's school is serving that child. Labour Members have opposed the right of families to know how well the child is doing. They have no policy for a child from a deprived family to have its progress monitored regularly and to enable the parents to learn the results.

The hon. Member talked about family responsibilities, yet her party opposed the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, which requires parents to be responsible for their children's criminal acts. Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin) rose

Miss Widdecombe : No. If the hon. Gentleman wanted me to give way, the House should not have been detained by bogus points of order from the Labour party.

Labour Members talk about protecting the breadwinner when they support strikes, when they support secondary picketing and when they support disruption of breadwinning.

Mr. Grocott rose

Madam Speaker : Order. The hon. Lady is speaking.

Miss Widdecombe : May I also say, just in case

Mr. Grocott rose

Madam Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman must not pursue this. The hon. Lady has made it clear that she is not giving way at the moment. Is that right ?

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Miss Widdecombe : Yes : thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I am not giving way at all.

Apart from the posturings and the blatherings of the Labour party, we were treated tonight to an amazing speech by the spokeswoman of the Liberal Democrats, the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mrs. Maddock). It is worth pointing out, since she is so concerned with middle-income families and how badly they are affected by crime, that she too abstained from voting on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill last night.

It is worth pointing out too, since she was so concerned about education, that her party also does not believe in choice of schools, that it opposes opting out, and that it also opposed the right to buy. Her party also threatens breadwinners through its complete adherence to the social chapter, come what may.

The Labour party offers families the state : the state as educator, the state as landlord and the state as dictator in family and personal affairs. It offers the state up front. The Liberal Democrats offer the state by stealth. Neither party offers a policy for the family.

It is the Conservatives who have consistently shown themselves to be the party of the family and the Government for the family. It is the Conservative Government who have presided over a situation in which average earnings for a typical family, with one earner and two children, have gone up 40 per cent. since 1979. It is worth reflecting that, between 1974 and 1979, they went up not by 40 per cent. but by hardly 3 per cent.

It is this party which has made sure that those who want to own their own homes can do so, and now, with a reduction in mortgage rates and record low interest rates, we find that the average family with a typical mortgage is 30 per cent. better off after tax and mortgage payments. [Interruption.] Shall I say it again in case Opposition Members did not hear it ? The average family is better off after mortgage and tax by 30 per cent. That is what the party of the family has brought about.

It is we who have introduced carers' benefits. It is we who have introduced flexible work patterns. It is we who have promoted part-time work. It is we who introduced independent taxation for women. It is we who have promoted policies which have led to low inflation and greater stability of expectation. It is we who have protected the poorest families. It was we who introduced the first comprehensive in-work benefit in the form of family credit. It is we who support the right of families to choose their own schools. It is we who, at the same time, say that families should be respected and that we should respect individuals' choices and not dictate from the state. It is we who say also that families must be responsible for their own actions, and that means the actions of younger, dependent members.

It is we who introduced the comprehensive Children Act 1989. It is we who introduced the Child Support Act 1991. Whatever abuse we have received about that tonight, the essence of the Child Support Act is simple--that children are for life. If hon. Members scorn that message, they scorn the fundamental ambitions and fundamental views of every family.

The Labour party's policies on the family, and indeed the Liberal Democrats', are straightforward : to take us back to the dark ages. [Interruption.] The Labour party is

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the dark ages, and I know that it will stay in the dark of opposition, not only for the past 15 years, but for the next 15 years, and every family in the land will be grateful.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question :

The House divided : Ayes 225, Noes 290.

Division No. 211] [10.00


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Mrs Irene

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashton, Joe

Austin-Walker, John

Barnes, Harry

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Bayley, Hugh

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Roger

Betts, Clive

Boateng, Paul

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)

Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Cann, Jamie

Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clapham, Michael

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clelland, David

Connarty, Michael

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Corston, Ms Jean

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davidson, Ian

Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Denham, John

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Donohoe, Brian H.

Dowd, Jim

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth

Eagle, Ms Angela

Enright, Derek

Etherington, Bill

Fatchett, Derek

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foster, Don (Bath)

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

Garrett, John

George, Bruce

Gerrard, Neil

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Godsiff, Roger

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Graham, Thomas

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Gunnell, John

Hain, Peter

Hanson, David

Harman, Ms Harriet

Harvey, Nick

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Henderson, Doug

Heppell, John

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

Hinchliffe, David

Hoey, Kate

Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Hoon, Geoffrey

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hutton, John

Ingram, Adam

Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)

Jamieson, David

Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mo n)

Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)

Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)

Jowell, Tessa

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Keen, Alan

Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)

Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)

Khabra, Piara S.

Kilfoyle, Peter

Kirkwood, Archy

Lestor, Joan (Eccles)

Lewis, Terry

Livingstone, Ken

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

McAllion, John

McAvoy, Thomas

McCartney, Ian

Macdonald, Calum

McFall, John

McKelvey, William

Mackinlay, Andrew

McLeish, Henry

McMaster, Gordon

McNamara, Kevin

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

Maddock, Mrs Diana

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