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20 Oct 2006 : Column 1197

Recently, the Ontario Human Rights Commission sponsored INFACT Canada to promote the rights of children to breastfeed. The message promoted is,

The Bill would recognise and protect that right, as well as the right of the child to be bottle-fed milk.

The Bill is also compliant with a number of international obligations, including article 25 of the 1948 universal declaration of human rights, article 11 of the 1966 international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, the convention on the rights of the child and the international code of conduct on the human right to adequate food.

In respect of the costs of implementing the law that the Bill would establish, I am helped by having sight of the financial memorandum that the Scottish Parliament produced when Elaine Smith was piloting her Bill through. The main costs in respect of clauses 1 to 3 would relate to extra burdens on the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. However, I anticipate that they would be modest and would not require the recruitment of additional staff. Those organisations that might be at risk of prosecution, such as shops and restaurants, should be expected to alter their practices to ensure that they are compliant with the standards that the law would uphold. Consequently, the number of prosecutions might reasonably be expected to be low.

We should do all that we can to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public places and encourage social acceptance of that important and natural practice. Some 186 Members appear to agree, as they signed early-day motion 1046. I ask the Government, and the Members who are currently in the Chamber, also to support the Bill, and I commend it to the House.

2.24 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) on introducing a Bill on a subject that is doubtless of great importance to many people. However, I must take issue with him on its purpose, which he claims is to encourage breastfeeding—a sentiment with which we all no doubt agree. Indeed, in the past three years my wife, Debbie, has successfully breast-fed our two children, and I would certainly commend breastfeeding to any mother. But what I do not see in this Bill is the encouragement to breastfeed.

The hon. Gentleman seemed unable to say how many more women would breastfeed as a result of the Bill’s introduction, which showed that this has got nothing to do with encouraging breastfeeding. According to the National Childbirth Trust, 50 per cent. of all women who breastfeed their baby have never even tried to breastfeed in a public place, so the ability or otherwise to breastfeed in a particular shop clearly is not a deterrent to breastfeeding. This has nothing to do with encouraging more breastfeeding. It is more to do—

Mr. Dismore: I can only assume that the hon. Gentleman has not read clause 4.


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Philip Davies: I am making a general point about the Bill, which I believe will not encourage more people to breastfeed. It is perfectly clear that they do not need this Bill in order to breastfeed. The Bill is about the nanny state and forcing businesses to do things on their own premises, whether or not they wish to do so.

The argument that such legislation exists in lots of other countries is not one that I have ever been particularly impressed with. There are lots of things that happen in many other countries that the hon. Member for Stafford would not like to see happen here. Many countries have capital punishment in their judicial system, which he doubtless would not support, so the question whether other countries adopt such an approach to breastfeeding is neither relevant nor irrelevant. This is more to do with the culture that exists in many parts of this House, and particularly among Labour Members. Where there is a problem, they look for two particular ingredients in tackling it, the first of which is that they are seen to be doing something. It is the great tendency of any politician that, if a particular issue arises, they must be seen to be doing something about it. The second ingredient is that their proposal does not offend anybody, and this Bill is a prime example of that culture.

Mr. Kidney: The hon. Gentleman quoted with approval earlier a statistic from the National Childbirth Trust. Does that mean that he supports its aims, and does he appreciate that it supports this Bill? He talks about Labour Members, but would he be interested to know that such an approach is supported not only by the NCT but by UNICEF, the Breastfeeding Network, La Leche League Great Britain, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association and more than 30 other organisations?

Philip Davies: As I made clear earlier, I support encouraging people to breastfeed; what I do not support is forcing people to do things on their own premises that they do not want to do. Businesses should decide for themselves whether this is appropriate, based on feedback from their customers. They are more than capable of making these decisions for themselves; they do not need the nanny state telling them what they must and must not be doing on their own premises.

I support encouraging breastfeeding but I do not believe that this Bill will do so; in fact, it will make no difference whatsoever. It has simply fallen into the old-fashioned trap that Labour Members fall into of unnecessarily sticking their noses in and being seen to be doing something that does not offend anybody, in order to gain some cheap popular support. The Bill will make absolutely no difference whatsoever to the number of women breastfeeding in this country; it will be just yet another of the many triumphs of the nanny state that we have seen from this Government.

2.29 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Caroline Flint): First, given the opportunity to choose between infant formula and breast milk, breast milk is definitely best, and we are doing as much as we can to encourage people to start breastfeeding, and to continue. This Government have introduced better
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maternity pay and better maternity leave, which shows that when we talk about supporting families, we then act, in contrast with the spoutings of the Opposition.

We are examining the situation in Scotland. As my hon. Friend knows, we introduced new questions to the five-yearly infant feeding survey of 20,000 women, asking them what impact intimidation or lack of confidence has on not breastfeeding in public. Since the Scottish legislation was introduced, not one prosecution has taken place.

It being half-past Two o’clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed Monday 23 October.


20 Oct 2006 : Column 1200

Remaining Private Members’ Bills

st. george’s day bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 27 October.

criminal law (amendment) (protection of property) bill

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [2 December], That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 27 October.

PROTECTION OF PRIVATE GARDENS (HOUSING development) bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 27 October.

LIGHTER EVENINGS (EXPERIMENT) bill [ lords]

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Monday 23 October.

BREAST CANCER BILL

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [20 January], That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 27 October.

HUMBER BRIDGE BILL

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 17 November.

dynamic demand appliances bill [ lords]

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 27 October.

constitutional reform (prerogative powers and civil service etc.) bill [ lords]

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 27 October.


20 Oct 2006 : Column 1201

CROWN EMPLOYMENT (NATIONALITY) bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 27 October.

PHARMACEUTICAL LABELLING (WARNING OF COGNITIVE FUNCTION IMPAIRMENT) bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 27 October.


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Housing (Hammersmith and Fulham)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Steve McCabe.]

2.35 pm

Mr. Andrew Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to raise a serious matter than has arisen since the local elections in May, when political control of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham changed from Labour to Conservative: unacceptable political interference in the planning process when applications for affordable housing in Hammersmith and Fulham are being determined, to the detriment of those in housing need in the borough, but specifically in the part of the borough that falls within my constituency, Shepherd’s Bush. I wish to illustrate that by referring to one major scheme in Shepherd’s Bush, the Prestolite Electric scheme in Larden road. First, however, I wish to put the matter briefly in context, and to explain why I feel that it should be drawn to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister.

There is agreement on the need for more affordable housing, certainly between the Government, the Greater London authority and pressure groups such as Shelter. The evidence is contained in the Barker report, in a recent report from the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, and in other documents. I exempt from that consensus the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. I also concede that there is disagreement on the amount of additional affordable housing needed. There is much lobbying in relation to the comprehensive spending review that is taking place, but those who are arguing about absolute numbers are in danger of losing sight of the other issues that concern those who, like me, are interested in affordable housing. Those issues are the quality and environmental standards of housing—raised by the Mayor recently—tenure, with which I shall deal today, and what “affordable” really means: affordable to whom?

“Affordable housing” could be registered social landlord rented, shared ownership, key worker, or other types of intermediate housing. Although the GLA London plan suggests a 70:30 split in favour of rented housing, the practice in recent years has been the opposite. The reasons given are high land values, greedy developers and inept council planning departments. Those claims may all be true in whole or in part, but insufficient attention has been paid to a more obvious reason: the deliberate political policy of Tory and Liberal Democrat councils of minimising house building per se, affordable housing as a percentage of new starts, and rented housing as a percentage of affordable housing.

If I had time, I could give almost innumerable examples, anecdotal and statistical. Given the time that I have, I shall give only one or two. Within the last few weeks, Westminster council has been offering people £100,000 to leave the borough—and this is the borough that gave us Shirley Porter. The number of 14-unit housing schemes, which are often the result of an agreement between an authority and a developer, has increased by 60 per cent. in the last four years—14
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being the key number, as it is one below the number that requires the inclusion of an element of affordable housing.

Radio Five Live broadcast an interesting programme last Sunday called, “Through the Roof”, which exposed discrepancies in the allocation of key-worker housing. It missed a trick, however. In ascribing the problem to the housing association, the Housing Corporation and the Government, who had let the units, it missed the fact that, as I confirmed when I spoke to the chief executive of the Housing Corporation, the “scam”—the allocation of units to people who did not deserve key-worker housing—involved not the units funded by the housing association through social housing grant, but a separate side deal between the London borough of Wandsworth and the developer. Houses were being sold at 90 per cent. of cost price: in other words, there was virtually no reduction.

If one looks at the recent statistics on who is building affordable homes, the allocations show the intent for the current period, 2006 to 2008. I will give a few examples based on general needs rented units. The figure in Hackney is 737; in Tower Hamlets, 714; in Haringey, 463; in Greenwich, 683; and in Hammersmith and Fulham, 448. All those councils were under Labour control at the time of the applications. The figure in Redbridge is 47; in Westminster, 93; in Bromley, 18; in Richmond, 79; in Kingston, 71; in Hillingdon, 18; and in Wandsworth, 80. All those councils are under Conservative control.

Of course, boroughs have different capacities to build depending on their size. If one looks at how far they have achieved their ambitions in that context, Hammersmith and Fulham, which was under Labour control, has achieved 99.3 per cent., while of the Conservative councils, Hounslow has achieved 97.8 per cent., Redbridge has achieved 3.8 per cent., Bromley has achieved 3.5 per cent., Kingston has achieved 9.8 per cent., Hillingdon has achieved 2.8 per cent, Wandsworth has achieved 8.8 per cent., and Westminster has achieved 8.4 per cent.

One can look at achievement in terms of the percentage of housing built in a local authority that is affordable. I shall give some figures from the two years up to 2005. Hammersmith and Fulham, which was a Labour-controlled borough at the time, achieved 70 per cent.—the highest in London. Wandsworth, a neighbouring Tory borough with a similar housing profile, achieved 7 per cent., while Westminster achieved 11 per cent. and Islington achieved 13 per cent.


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