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On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendments Nos. 222 and 223:

(a) to place the waste for collection in receptacles of a kind and number specified,(b) to place it in receptacles identified by such means as may be specified, or

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(c) to do both.”.”“(aa) which contains—(i) an order under paragraph 2(3), 7(2) or 16(2) of Schedule 2AA to this Act, or(ii) an order under paragraph 6(1) of that Schedule to which paragraph 17(3) of that Schedule applies, or”.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 61 [Waste reduction provisions: piloting]:

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 223A:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment seeks to take out of the Bill the provision that there can be a maximum of only five pilots for the waste management provisions. This matter has raised eyebrows among everyone who has been involved in the discussions on this in Committee, in the House of Commons and outside Parliament. No one quite understands why the Government have come up with the figure of five. It has been suggested that it is because finance for only five has been made available in the Defra budget. We know that the finance is £4,500 over three years, unless it has changed from what the Minister told us in Committee. Surely, however, even that depends on the scale and size of the pilots; there could be 10 little pilots or five big ones. A pilot is defined as a waste collection authority taking part in the scheme. It has also been suggested, cynically, that only five local authorities may want to do it and that the Government cannot find any more. We will find out later when the Government make formal requests to the local authorities to put themselves forward.

In Committee, we had long discussions about the nature of the pilots and the importance of having as many of the options and sub-options that the Government are putting forward piloted. We want genuine comparisons, so there must be a sack-based scheme, a volume-based scheme and a weight-based scheme, et cetera. The Government and Parliament would then have a proper basis on which to make decisions, which, as the Minister said, would be evidence-based.

In addition to the different types of schemes, there are different types of areas. I shall not go through the long list of about a dozen that I rolled off in Committee. You do not have to think for long to realise that there are a large number of different collection authorities in different areas, and that the areas can differ in terms of the nature of housing, the local society, the local community and so on. The more that people discuss this, the more it seems to be understood that five collection authorities will make it very difficult.

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I want to call in evidence an excellent report published since the Committee stage by the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee, entitled, Refuse Collection: Waste Reduction Pilots, Sixth Report of Session 2007-08. Cynics might think that I agree with a great deal in it, and I do. It is clear that when these provisions go to the House of Commons there will be some very interesting and vigorous debates.

Paragraph 7 of the report states:

That says what I was trying to say, but rather better.

Paragraph 11 states:

That is the House of Commons committee being cynical.

Paragraph 14 states:

The Government may speed that up a little with their amendment on the rollout provisions.

Finally, paragraph 27 states:

That is pretty strong stuff, and is a bit stronger than I would say. I was quite surprised when I read it. Clearly, there will be some interesting discussions in the House of Commons. If that is what an all-party group of Members of Parliament is saying, surely the Government should be thinking seriously about whether they have got this figure of only five wrong. I would suggest that they have. I beg to move.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I can only add from this Dispatch Box my confusion as to why the number of pilots has been capped and capped at only five. Given the enormous scope of this Bill, we are looking at issues that some people have said will require cutbacks similar to those in Britain during the Second World War. Why is the entire waste section limited to five schemes? Does the Minister think that five schemes are sufficient to test adequately all available alternatives?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, why do you want to know? It is five. Why do you want to know where that number came from? I have nothing else to say. The full intellectual might of the Cabinet—of the Government—has arrived

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at a decision of five. If the House of Commons, where the elected people’s representatives are, want another figure, it can change it: but the number is five.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, why do I want to know? We want to know why all the legislation that comes to this House is as it is. We assume that there is a sensible, rational reason behind it. In order to pass legislation, we should know what that reason is. The Minister referred to the “full intellectual might” of pretty well everyone in the country—I thought that he was going to list the chancellor of Oxford University and goodness knows who else.

People say that irony has gone out of fashion. I congratulate the Minister on his irony, which is better than mine. I think that his will come forward in Hansard better than mine normally does. If this Bill had not originated in this House, I think that we would have wanted to divide the House on this. It is silly and illogical, but it is so silly and illogical that the House of Commons perhaps will be able to do something with it. If someone of the Minister’s calibre—he is rightly thought to be one of the best Ministers in this House—

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, if he can come up with this answer, the Government have to think again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion, I suggest that Report stage begins again not before 8.30 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Parents: Quality Time

7.27 pm

asked Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to help parents of school-age children, especially those on low incomes, to spend quality time with their children at weekends.

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I am very grateful to have secured this debate, and I thank all those who have come to take part in it. The purpose of this Question is to explore how best to enable parents of school-age children to spend quality time with their children at weekends, and to make the case for extending the right to request flexible working to parents of all children up to the age of 18, so that they are able to do this.

The concept of Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, as the normal working week has long ceased to be the norm for a lot of working people. Around eight out of 10 working fathers and more than half of working mothers work some unsocial hours. Yet the structure of the school week remains exactly the same, so that many parents are now at work when their children are at home.

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The impact of unsocial working on the time parents have with their children is exacerbated when the parents also have to work at weekends. Three out of four working families experience some weekend work and in more than half of these—about 2.4 million families—at least one parent is working regularly at weekends. For lone parents, the impact of weekend work can be even more significant.

The Government’s strategy for children, Every Child Matters, recognised that parents, carers and families are the most important influence on outcomes for children and young people. However we define good parenting, it involves spending quality time with the child and not in work. The patient, long-term creative process of making another human being, which continues into young adulthood, is one of the most important tasks of a parent—whether mother or father.

Research by the National Centre for Social Research found that working-couple mothers, working atypical hours during weekdays, spend less time reading, playing with and teaching their children. It also found evidence that children whose parents work evenings and weekends spend less time on homework and more time on social life and entertainment. That was true both of children aged eight to 10 and 14 to18 year-olds. As noble Lords will be aware, the nurturing of children does not get easier as a child gets older. Children of secondary school age will benefit particularly from parental support through the often difficult transition to secondary school in years seven and eight, and subsequently through the often turbulent teenage years, particularly at examination and other crisis points. The availability of flexible work options would help parents to provide that key support by being with their children when they are most needed. This points to the strong desirability of extending the right to request flexible working to parents of children up to the age of 18.

The longitudinal Edinburgh study of youth transitions and crime found that the higher the level of parental supervision, involvement in their child’s life and parental trust, the lesser the chance of delinquency. However 72 per cent of parents feel that they do not have enough time to get involved in their children’s education because of work commitments, childcare difficulties and lack of time in general. Many couples currently use “shift parenting” as a way of managing their time to avoid childcare costs and to get round inflexible work schedules. If this regime is maintained over a prolonged period, both family time and a couple’s relationship itself can suffer severely. Nearly half of parents say that work has stopped them being home to put their children to bed, and more than half said that it affected their ability to help with homework, or take children to after-school activities.

Let us think about who is most likely to be working unsocial hours. Workers contracted to work unsocial hours tend to be the lower skilled and lower paid. The families most likely to suffer from the effects of unsocial working are those that are already at a social disadvantage. Low-income workers are most vulnerable to requests to work at weekends and the least likely to be able to resist the request.

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The Government have to be congratulated on the progress they have made in making flexible working a reality for many families. In 2003 they introduced the right to request flexible working for parents of children under six and all children with disabilities, and then in 2006 they included carers of disabled adults. The good news is that while this has benefited families, businesses and employers that have allowed flexible working have also reported benefits. They have benefited from improved productivity, reduced sickness and absenteeism, and improved retention rates. The Work-Life Balance Employer Survey revealed that 92 per cent of employers believe that people work best when they can balance their work and other aspects of their lives. We must remember that the right to request is not a right to have flexible working. Legislation provides businesses with eight reasons why they may legitimately turn down a request to work flexibly. However, providing a legislative right to request means that employers and employees have a formal route to discuss the issue. They can have a formal basis for the conversation.

In summary, I believe there to be five reasons why the Government and policy-makers should act on all this evidence and extend to all parents of children under 18 the right to request flexible working. The first reason is the need to adapt public policy further in step with changing patterns of work. A major part of government policy in combating poverty is to maximise the number of people in work. However, it is also increasingly emphasising the responsibility of parents. Flexible working is the essential link that would help to make these two policies compatible.

Secondly, the Department for Children, Schools and Families continues to promote the important role that parents play in all aspects of a child’s life, and substantial public funds are now targeted at parenting education. In light of this, it makes sense to extend the right to request flexible working to all parents of school-age children so that they are able to play their part in their children’s education. The third reason is that parents working long, unsocial hours threaten family stability. Family breakdown is potentially damaging to couples and especially their children. Society also bears an increased demand for housing and welfare benefits when families fragment and break up.

The fourth reason why the Government should be concerned is that the combination of relational poverty and material poverty is socially unjust. Most parents working unsocial hours and weekends do not do so out of choice, but because they feel they have no alternative. We need to give all parents real choices about how they manage their work-life balance. The fifth reason is that there are potentially significant gains to be made in savings in public expenditure by reducing anti-social behaviour and other symptoms of social breakdown.

Those five reasons all point in one direction: that the case for extending the right to request flexible working to all parents of children up to 18 is overwhelmingly strong. This in turn will enable parents of school-age children to spend quality time with their children at times when they are not at school, particularly at weekends. I very much look forward to listening to the contributions of other noble Lords and to the Minister in his summing up.

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7.36 pm

Lord Elton: My Lords, I apologise to the House and to the right reverend Prelate for missing the first few sentences of his introduction. I plead the fact that I arrived here at the stroke of half-past seven, which I understood was the earliest time we could get going.

I had hoped to make a speech out of the points that the right reverend Prelate omitted to make. Unfortunately he has left me very little material with which to work. However, I endorse the general drift and some aspects of what he said from my own slightly different point of view.

There are two aspects that I can bring to your Lordships that need emphasising. The first is the criminological one: the vast majority of crime is committed by young people. Almost all of them are under 25, but a very large number is under 18. The years between six and 18 are typically the years in which children become criminals. The Government need no persuading of the importance of parental involvement in education, for instance, in raising standards of educational attainment.

The other aspect, which links with the first, is from a long time ago, before present legislation that your Lordships have been invited by the right reverend Prelate to consider, was introduced. I was teaching in a comprehensive school with 1,500 pupils, all of whom were boys, incidentally, which means that it was not truly comprehensive at all. It was a rather violent place; the man who mended the windows was always four more windows behind the summer holiday repairs than he had been the previous year. I had a knife drawn on me once. The feature that I want to draw to your Lordships’ attention is parents’ evening.

The school was banded and the top third had a lot of academic ability. The correlation was that I was lucky to get home by 11 pm. It took me three-quarters of an hour to get home and a quarter of an hour to clear up after the parents had gone. I seem to remember that the evening started about half-past five. For the middle band of the school, I could be home comfortably to have a meal at half-past seven. The bottom band took only three-quarters of an hour. That correlation between parental interest and academic performance was stark and it has remained in my mind ever since. Therefore any change to legislation or regulation we can make to give parents who wish to have the opportunity to involve themselves in their children’s education is very much to be argued for.

The formative years between six and 18 are when such involvement is most acutely in demand if it is to ward off criminal behaviour and tendencies. One does not like talking about children and criminality in the same breath, but children are often launched on that course as the result of academic failure. It is the frustration of failing to express oneself and be appreciated in class, the failure to be able to deploy a child’s interest and communicability—possibly because of undetected dyslexia but also for other reasons—that most frequently vents itself initially in anti-social behaviour. That leads to exclusion so that the child is on the streets with nothing to do and nobody to look

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after it. Very soon that child coalesces with others, is probably permanently excluded and is then well on the road to a criminal career.

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