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House of Lords

Wednesday, 15th July 1998.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Oxford.

Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to ensure that the National Museum authorities in Wales resite and rebuild the Industrial and Maritime Museum as soon as possible.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the decision on the re-siting of the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum is a matter for the council of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales. The museum has already issued a consultation document on this subject and will be deciding its future policy in the light of responses to that document.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, does the Minister agree that this is a national issue in Wales and that the money realised by the sale of this site should be ring-fenced for the future re-establishment of the Industrial and Maritime Museum? Would he not agree that many of the treasures at Cardiff--for example, the Gregynog Impressionist collection in the national museum and the Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre in Cardiff--were all products of the industrial and maritime legacy of the 19th century and early 20th century in Wales? That is where the money came from and therefore is it not most important for Wales that this part of the museum is re-established as soon as possible?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has said. The difficulty was that, in all the circumstances, there was no room for expansion on the site formerly occupied by the Industrial and Maritime Museum and the magnificent collection was not capable of being properly displayed. Undoubtedly, the National Museums and Galleries of Wales are national treasures. The Impressionist collection is one of the best in the world and the museum at St. Fagans is, in my comparative travels, undoubtedly the best in the world. The £7.5 million raised will not be dissipated for other purposes. The replies to the consultative document are due in by the end of September and we have every confidence that the museum will be re-established on an appropriate site, not necessarily in Cardiff.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, will the Government give every encouragement to the national museum to exhibit the magnificent artefacts at its storage premises at Nantgarw, which is planned for later this year? Furthermore, will the Government give every

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encouragement to the museum to find a more permanent home for these wonderful reminders of our industrial and maritime past?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, yes, the site at Nantgarw has been purchased. As the noble Lord implies, it is important that in the interim it is not used as a storage facility and there will be public access under appropriate circumstances. As regards a future establishment, the Government are entirely supportive of the desire to re-establish the museum on a worthy site. Various tenders have been made, including Swansea, Carmarthen, Newport, Merthyr Tydfil, Pontypool, Blaenafon, Caernarfon and Pwllheli, but no decision has yet been made.

Parenting: Government Help

2.40 p.m.

Lord Northbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to support inexperienced mothers with the care and parenting of their young children.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, the Government are undertaking a wide range of interdepartmental programmes to try to help young mothers and their children with the problems they face. The overarching ministerial group on the family, led by the Home Secretary, will soon publish its proposals. The Department of Health and the Department for Education and Employment have recently given a £1 million grant to create 30 so-called Home Start schemes which will support work with parents in some of our most deprived communities. In addition, in yesterday's Statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a programme to bring together services for children under three and their parents, including nursery and childcare provision, family healthcare, and counselling services for parents.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for citing the impressive list of actions which the Government are taking. Is she aware that many people and organisations concerned with the problems of young children caught up in the cycle of multiple deprivation will greatly welcome the Government's initiative in supporting Home Start? Does she agree that the spectacle of two government departments of state co-operating and even sharing the costs of such a project is most encouraging? Can she give me a reason to hope that we can see more of that?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, with his authoritative background in this area, for his congratulations. The programme which my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced yesterday will be funded and organised interdepartmentally because, as

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I described in my short summary of the provisions, it will include areas of policy which fall not only to the Department of Health but also to other departments such as the Department for Education and Employment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the best ways to help vulnerable mothers with the upbringing of small children has, over the years, proved to be the involvement of those mothers with their children in the pre-school playgroup movement? Can she tell the House what I believe must be a relevant figure--if she cannot tell me now, perhaps she will write to me--namely, how many pre-school playgroups have closed since the Government ended the voucher system?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct. I cannot give her that figure but I shall write to her. My understanding is that many of the provisions in, for example, the Home Start scheme to which the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, referred, involve parents with the supervision and organisation of their children in group activities. That will be one of the provisions and ideas behind what will be called the Sure Start programme in which the involvement of parents, rather than simply professionals acting from outside, is regarded as of great importance.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the Minister ask her colleagues to make sure that clear and up-to-date guidance is available to housing managers in the public sector indicating that they should not place in the same neighbourhood and close together large numbers of one-parent families alongside bad rent payers and families with other problems, because that seems a proven recipe for disaster?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that observation. I believe that that point is probably well understood although, in practice, it may be difficult always to implement. One problem is that isolated single mothers find it difficult to join in activities such as those at playgroups, to which the noble Baroness referred, or the Home Start schemes which depend on there being a community of people with similar interests and problems. However, I accept that areas of multiple deprivation, through whatever cause, are not a very good environment for young children.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-president of the Home Start Silver Jubilee Appeal. Is the noble Baroness aware that the extraordinary example of voluntary work which Home Start represents is being copied in a number of countries including the Netherlands, Israel and elsewhere?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks which illustrate the point that I was trying to make in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy. That organisation is based very much on voluntary effort. Indeed, the

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voluntary effort of the parents involved is extremely significant in organising those groups. That means that, in some ways, the scheme replicates the best aspects of the playgroup movement.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, as the Minister is aware, the front line in the work of supporting inexperienced parents and teaching parenting skills is being borne by voluntary organisations. I am sure that the noble Baroness knows that most of those, not just Home Start, have been living from hand to mouth in recent years. Will the noble Baroness state what steps are being taken to inform that whole range of organisations about more resources being available and how they may apply for grants?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I do, indeed, appreciate the role of the voluntary organisations in that important area. At present all I can say is that the new children's fund, which will be established as a result of the provisions announced yesterday by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer which the Minister for Public Health has developed slightly today, will give clear indications about how an extension of those schemes may be best provided. I am sure that that will involve the voluntary organisations and supporting them in their work.

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