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Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I have listened carefully to what the Minister said. Obviously, one would agree that the Government should fall in line, follow accounting practice that is recommended by the accounting world and be transparent. The powers should be available to allow that to happen.

I should like some clarity from the Minister, although my point is not so much about the revenue side of accounting. We had a long debate in Grand Committee—we will probably come back to the issue later—about where private finance initiatives sit in the transparency of accounting. PFIs involve both capital and revenue and the issue of where they stand in relation to capital borrowings seems rather fudged. Obviously, PFIs have revenue consequences too. As there is not quite clarity on the matter, perhaps the Minister will give his view on where PFIs sit in relation to the amendment that he has just moved.

Lord Rooker: I will certainly not give my view on that. As I think I said in Committee, Part 1 of the Bill is really for the people whose eyes glaze over when they discuss local government finance—for them, local government finance is the most exciting thing and it gives them a tingle on the back of their neck. It does not do that for me, although I accept that it is incredibly important—we are dealing with billions of pounds of expenditure.

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I regret that I will not go down the PFI route. I do not have a specific answer. If there is some global announcement, I promise that I will write to the noble Lord to clarify the matter.

One wonders why the term "enactment" is used. I keep defending the parliamentary draftsmen, who are an excellent body of good women and men. The term includes

    "any enactment contained in . . . this Act . . . [or] any Act passed after . . . this Act".

It also includes any previous Act, so why mention it in the first place? It includes past Acts, this Act and future Acts. The answer to the question posed by the noble Baroness is "yes", as the measure would not work if that was not the case.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 19:

    After Clause 119, insert the following new clause—

"EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS OF LOCAL AUTHORITY EMPLOYEES (1) No employee whose employer is a local authority or local authority company shall be required to work on both a Saturday and the immediately following Sunday if that person has the care and control of a school-age child.

    (2) On whichever day the employee is not required to work under subsection (1), he shall not be required to work at any time during that day.

    (3) For the purposes of subsection (1), any adult with whom a school-age child customarily lives as part of his or her family has the care and control of that school-age child and where more than one adult qualifies under this test each of them has the care and control.

    (4) In this section—

"employee" and "employer"—
(a) in relation to England and Wales, and Scotland, have the same meaning as in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (c. 18), and
(b) in relation to Northern Ireland have the same meaning as in the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996;
"local authority" means a local authority in any part of the United Kingdom, including the Common Council of the City of London but excluding a parish or community council;
"local authority company" means a company through which is exercised a power conferred under section 95;
"school-age child" means a person who has attained the age of five but has not attained the age of eighteen."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 19 is relatively modest, but I think that the principle underlying it is important. It seeks to give the legal right to employees of local government to spend at least one whole non-school day per week with their child or children. I shall explain later why I think that it is particularly relevant that local authorities should take this view.

As I said in Grand Committee, it is in the nation's best interest to provide children with the opportunity to spend time with their parents. I am sure that most noble Lords would agree with that. Much research shows that time spent with a parent or indeed with a long-term, committed carer is crucial to a child's normal, healthy development. For boys of school age,

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time with a father or a surrogate father is particularly important—time doing normal family things together, such as going to the shops, having a meal, kicking a ball around, flying a kite in the park or just watching television.

Without the amendment, some employees might and do, in term time, see their children only in the evening, when the children are tired or struggling with homework, and in that dreadful half-hour in the morning before the children rush off to school. During term time, which is most of the year, Saturday and Sunday are the only times when children can spend the whole day with their parents.

The amendment is not about religious observance; it is about children seeing their parents. Children need their parents. Time in childhood is not refundable. A recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, Happy Families? Atypical Work and Its Influence on Family Life shows that about 10 per cent of all parents with children under 14 regularly work on both Saturdays and Sundays. It also shows that between 70 and 80 per cent of those people say that they have no choice in the matter.

Local authorities employ about 10 per cent of the total workforce, if we exclude education, and they should set an example to all employers in helping employees who are parents to give the nation's children the time and support that they need to develop into the good citizens of tomorrow.

Both in Grand Committee and in another place, there has been strong support from all sides of the House for the amendment's objectives. Those local authorities that have been consulted have indicated that they can see no insuperable difficulty in applying the provision. Sadly, in spite of the support from all sides of the House and in spite of the Government's declared policy of support for children and parents, the Ministers' response to the proposal, in both Houses, has so far been entirely unhelpful. The objections that were raised in Committee do not in my opinion stand up to scrutiny.

First, it was held that many local government employees may be required to work on both days of the weekend by the very nature of their employment. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, gave the examples of the emergency services, gritting roads in adverse weather conditions, and security. Emergency and stand-by services would not be affected by the amendment; if they were they could easily be excluded from it. As for other kinds of local authority employment, residential care has been cited. I have some experience of residential care and see no reason why suitable rostering cannot ensure that the amendment's objectives are achieved without any adverse effect on the care given.

The second argument used by the Minister was that any such provisions would have to apply to the whole workforce in an employment Bill as there would be no particular case for singling out local authorities. The case for singling out local authorities is perfectly clear. As public bodies, they have a special responsibility to set an example. Many local authorities and government

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departments are already doing that. We must give credit where credit is due. The purpose of the amendment is simply to secure that those who are not already doing that are made seriously to consider their responsibilities.

Thirdly, the Minister suggested that the Employment Act 2002 included a whole raft of rights specifically for parents, launched on 6th April 2003. He therefore argued that the amendment was unnecessary. I carefully re-read the Minister's speech and the Act. It seems to me that the raft of rights that he describes applies only to children under six or disabled children. I should be grateful if he could confirm that I am right about that. If so, those rights will affect only children between five and six years old. I could find no reference in the Act to weekend working for parents with children of school age, which is the subject of the amendment. Can the Minister give a reference to the Act he mentioned in Committee?

Finally, the method of argument used by the Government in both Houses has been to list a number of family-friendly policies and employment practices that have been adopted by local authorities. It is an impressive list and the Government and local authorities deserve to be congratulated on it. But nothing in the list deals with the issue addressed by the amendment. Existing authority policies do not offer an answer to the problem addressed by the amendment.

I have read the Government's survey of a work/life balance in local authorities published in 2001. At no point does it mention the subject of the amendment—the right of local government employees to spend at least one non-school day per week with their children. I suggest to the House that that is an important right that should be given, first, to local authority employees, and then, progressively, to all other employees who have children of that age. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I must record my absolute support for everything the noble Lord said.

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