20 Nov 2013 : Column GC403

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC403

Grand Committee

Wednesday, 20 November 2013.

Children and Families Bill

Committee (12th Day)

3.45 pm

Relevant documents: 7th, 9th and 11th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 3rd Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale): My Lords, this is the resumed Grand Committee on the Children and Families Bill. If there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, the Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells ring and resume after 10 minutes. The Lord Chairman’s watch is the final arbiter. I understand that the Committee is currently debating Amendment 263, which has already been moved.

Debate on Amendment 263 resumed.

Baroness Young of Old Scone (Non-Afl): My Lords, I hope I am not the only person who is going to speak at this point. I would find it really awesome to be the only one who caused this rather rare event of an amendment being carried over between two sessions of business.

I support Amendments 264, 265 and 266 on standardised packaging. I do not want to make too many of the points that have already been made—at breakneck speed, may I say; it showed that we can speed up if we put our minds to it—but will bring in a few others. There really is quite a consensus stacking up that there is a pressing case for standardised packaging.

The World Health Organisation says that standardised packaging would produce,

“the maximum reduction in the marketing effect of tobacco packaging”.

Australia has adopted it, as everybody knows, and the early evidence is that the standardised packs there are making smoking less appealing and have not caused any problems for retailers, which was one of the predictions. Scotland and Ireland have committed to it in principle, and I have it on very good authority that the Health Minister in Wales is convinced of the evidence. New Zealand, Canada, France, Norway and India are all considering this way forward.

We have huge support here from the medical colleges, including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, from the BMA, and from charities such as my own charity, Diabetes UK—I declare an interest as chief executive—as well as Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation. They all believe that there is an increasing body of hard evidence. Of course, the public support standardised packs, with 64% polling in favour.

Standardised packs are really important because packaging is the last advertising route left to manufacturers and tobacco companies are spending a huge amount

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC404

on pack design, and they do not do that for no reason. They recognise the truism that kids and young people are attached to brands. If you have ever tried to persuade your child to buy a pair of supermarket trainers you will know exactly how attached to brands they are.

When I was a kid and all my friends were starting to smoke, there was a league table of cachet. I am really old so Navy Cut was considered a bit more gentlemanly than Wills Woodbines. Embassy and Regal were the great working man’s fags and of course Silk Cut was for the ladies. Then the 1980s came and people took up Camels or Gauloises or, the height of cool, Lucky Strike. I was terribly tempted, I must say, by Balkan Sobranie, which were wonderfully coloured little cigarettes with gold filters. I had a friend, Brian, who smoked them and I used to sit there with one unlit, toying with this beautiful, chic sophistication while he puffed away. Alas, he died at 51 of lung cancer.

Helena Rubinstein used to say:

“In the factory we make cosmetics but in the store we sell hope”.

But of course we are not talking about selling hope; we are talking about selling addiction, cancer, heart disease, poor quality of life and early death for our children and young people.

Noble Lords have already shown that more than 200,000 kids aged between 11 and 15 start smoking each year. We really should take the step. Why do the Government continue to delay? I am sure the Minister will tell us. If they are waiting for the emerging impact of the Australian policy, they should not. The conclusive evidence could take two or three more years with another 500,000 kids addicted to a killer habit. We know that HMRC believes that there is no evidence that standardised packaging would increase the illicit trade that is one of the concerns, so there is no case for waiting for the Australian evidence. Why does the Minister believe there is a case for further delay? Will he please simply give in and get the Government to support Amendments 264, 265 and 266? I particularly commend Amendments 265 and 266, which strengthen the amendment further.

Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords, the noble Earl and I have been discussing the regulation of tobacco products since 2008. At that time he was often sceptical about the efficacy of our proposals for the retail marketing of tobacco products. I particularly welcome these amendments because it is important that we keep this issue alive. Since 2010, my noble friend Lord Hunt and I, as well as others, have asked a series of questions about the enactment of the legislation concerning the display of tobacco products. I congratulate the noble Earl on making that happen successfully. It has been a success: it is now normal to walk into your corner shop and not see tobacco products side by side with comics and chocolates, which used to normalise tobacco for our young people.

It is important to be clear in what we are talking about. There are all the statistics in the world that people can talk about in terms of cancer, addiction and all those other things. However, we are talking about whether we are prepared to allow the over-powerful

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC405

and wealthy tobacco companies to gain their next market for the profits they need to make from tobacco products. That is what this amendment is about. They can exist only if they continue to recruit young people to tobacco addiction so that they have their next generation of smokers, and that is what this is about. It is about reducing the number of young people who, by becoming addicted to tobacco and tobacco products, provide tobacco companies with their next generation of smokers. We know how hard it is to stop smoking once you have started, and I speak as an ex-smoker.

I hope that, over the years when the noble Earl has distinguished himself as the Minister in his job at the Department of Health, he has had access to all the information and research, and now has at his disposal all the facts about tobacco addiction and all the terrible diseases that this brings to everybody, so that he will be convinced that we need to take this forward. I hope he will tell the Committee either that the Government will support these amendments, or that they are not necessary because the Government intend to take plain packaging forward as quickly as possible.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, my noble friend just referred to how difficult it is to break the habit once you have formed it. I was a smoker in my youth. I progressed to a pipe, and on one occasion I was in some gathering with fellow young people when the bowl of my pipe dropped off into a pint of beer. I realised that this was a message from God and that one or other had to stop. I had little difficulty in choosing beer with which to continue. We all have these experiences. I am sure I am not alone in remembering with some guilt that, having joined the smoking culture—certainly the presentation of tobacco and cigarettes was an important part of the wooing of a person into the habit—I used to take tremendous pride in choosing the right cigarettes for my father on his birthday or at Christmas. That was very important, because he was a smoker and I was able to present him with a well wrapped packet of what he would like. Later in life, he suffered a severe stroke which left him speechless for the rest of his life, and I have always had an element of guilt about the fact that I no doubt contributed to that development in his health.

I do not understand why we prevaricate on these issues, as we are talking about a killer. Let us get this absolutely straight: it is a killer. We have no hesitation in saying that we must have rules about seat belts in cars because children get killed in accidents. We have special rules about children in cars because of how vulnerable they are. Why, if we take this seriously for seat belts and the rest, do we not take it equally seriously for tobacco?

My final point is that, as a society, we are agonising over the difficulties faced by our health service as it tries to grapple with the pressures on it. By enabling and encouraging young people to become part of the smoking community—by allowing them to drift into it or, indeed, by encouraging the deterioration in their health because of our failure to take rigorous action—we are deliberately adding to the problems of the health service. It seems to me that this is not only wrong but irresponsible. On the one hand to be grieving and

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC406

agonising about the problems of the health service and the shortage of funds, and on the other hand to be aggravating it by our failure to act where we could act, seems to me irrational behaviour.

I commend noble Lords who have tabled these amendments, which certainly deserve support. I believe we shall be looked at very critically indeed in history for having prevaricated and pussyfooted for so long on such a crucial issue.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I was going to make rather a longer speech the other night, but when I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, present Amendment 263, most of the points in my speech were covered. However, I add my voice in support of what she said and of the other amendments before us today.

When I was 15, I remember being called home from school, as my father had had a very severe heart attack. He smoked between 40 and 60 cigarettes a day. I was there when the doctor told him, “You know what has caused this: it is your smoking”. I avoided smoking as a result—it brought the message home to me. When I used to travel in the car with him, invariably the little side window on the driver’s side would be slightly open, and most of the smoke would come back to me. We have legislation that protects people who have to work in vehicles from exposure to smoke—my goodness, we should be protecting children in a similar situation.

People say, “What next? You’ll be saying that people cannot smoke in their own homes”. The difference is that, in their own homes, children can go to another room—up to their bedroom or wherever—but when they are travelling in a car they cannot do anything like that. I very much hope that the Committee, and in due course, on Report, the House, will take on board an amendment along the lines of that moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. There is certainly widespread support on the Cross Benches for these amendments. If the Government do not move something themselves, I suspect the House will move on their behalf and that this will go forward into legislation.

Lord Palmer (CB): My Lords, I fear that I may well be a lone voice in not supporting this amendment, even though I think smoking is a revolting habit and that everything must be done to encourage young people to refrain from it. There has been a lot of research into this, and a far more effective way to reduce youth smoking would be to ban the proxy purchasing of all tobacco products for under-18s, as is the case currently for alcohol.

I declare an interest as chairman of the Lords and Commons Cigar and Pipe Smokers’ Club and am, for my sins, a shareholder in BAT.

It must not be forgotten, particularly following the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, how much revenue is raised by the sale of legal tobacco products and, more importantly, how much income the Treasury is deprived of through illicit imports. I have a nasty feeling that if this amendment is agreed to, or voted on on Report, it will only compound that terrible figure.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC407

4 pm

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I will speak very briefly. Over the years I have been attracted by most vices, but never to smoking, so in the circumstances it is easy to speak against it. I will add that it is not just a domestic issue. The noble Lord says that he has an interest in BAT. What astonishes me is the way in which the growing awareness in this country of the dangers of smoking seems to be so slowly taken up in the developing world. We have a moral need, not only in relation to our own children but to the developing world, to make clear the dangers of smoking. It really is a global issue. It behoves particularly the wealthier countries—not least if the interests of big business are engaged, as undoubtedly they are, or those of the Exchequer—to give a proper lead. I think these amendments do just that.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I want to speak briefly because the health arguments have mainly been made. I want to make two rather different points. I support both of these amendments. I have a long-standing reputation for campaigning in this area. I find it interesting that the industry has suggested, from time to time, that packaging makes no difference. If it makes no difference, why is it so important? Let us get on and take it off the shelves. We have all the evidence to show that children are attracted to packaging and we all know our own instincts. I have never smoked, but both my parents died from smoking related diseases. My mother was addicted and said that I should stop anyone else I could from smoking.

My other point is on the smoking in cars amendment. Having said that the medical arguments are substantially made, which the Minister knows whatever the position he has to take on this, there is also a clear safety issue about smoking with children in cars. Anyone who has driven with two arguing children strapped in the back of their car—because children argue in the backs of cars, and if yours do not, then they are remarkable—will know how distracting it is and how you have to absolutely keep your concentration up. So I have always found it strange that we do not stop people being distracted by fiddling into a bag or a pocket for a packet of cigarettes, finding something to light up with and taking their eye off the road—we have all seen it—while they light a cigarette. They then have a cigarette in one hand while they are driving their children in their cars. This is an added reason for ensuring that people cannot smoke with children in cars. You might say that where there are two people one of them may smoke, but there is the medical reason and this additional safety reason. I have no idea whether there are any statistics on accidents because people have been smoking in cars, but when you think of the legislation we have to stop people using mobiles, which in some ways are much more automatic, I cannot understand why we do not have similar legislation to protect children, not only for the medical issues in relation to their health but also for sheer practical safety reasons.

Lord Storey (LD): I will speak to Amendments 263 and 264. If you said to some parents that you were going to put their son or daughter or both in a tin box,

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC408

cut some holes in the box, then fill it with smoke, put it on wheels and drive it around all the time, they would think you were absolutely mad. The tin box is almost like a coffin because you are killing children. You are literally killing children.

My parents were heavy smokers; they smoked 40 Senior Service every day. In fact, they smoked so much that our living room ceiling turned yellow once a year and had to be repainted. I always remember that when my father drove me through the Mersey Tunnel he would say, “We’ll have to put the window up because you can die from carbon monoxide poisoning, you know”, yet—perhaps this is why I get chest infections regularly—he was putting our family in that sort of situation. Of course, he did not know about the effects.

All of us look back at things in our lives that we are really proud of. The thing that I am most proud of in politics was that we introduced Smokefree Liverpool. Thanks to support from noble Lords of all groupings, we were able to influence, in a small part, government thinking. You often get people saying, “Oh, it’s the nanny state. We don’t want a nanny state. We don’t want people telling us what to do. If we ban smoking in cars, the next thing will be that we ban it in the house as well”. Well, nannies are there to protect and look after children, and a nanny state should be there to look after and protect children.

Children are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoking as they breathe more rapidly and inhale more pollutants than adults. ASH has shown that parental smoking is a causal factor of asthma in children, and that the prevalence of asthma increases when the number of smokers in a car or in the home increases. Children exposed to second-hand smoking also have an increased risk of lower respiratory infections, bronchitis, middle ear disease, bacterial meningitis and sudden infant death syndrome. There is also a very social issue, one that is directly related to making our society fairer. Evidence has shown that children living in the poorest households have the greatest levels of exposure to smoking and that passive smoking has been shown to affect children’s mental development and school absenteeism. That clearly undermines our efforts to increase social mobility. Experts have suggested that banning smoking in cars while driving with children is an important step in limiting the effect of second-hand smoking.

For those more interested in the economic side, the numbers are staggering. The health disorders caused by smoke-generated disorders cost the NHS about £23.3 million a year. In particular, £4 million is spent on asthma drugs for children up to the age of 16. The future treatment costs for smokers who take up smoking as a consequence of smoking by a parent could be as high as £5.7 million each year. Parents need to consider that, in choosing to smoke, they will find it difficult to explain to the children why they in turn should not smoke. The NHS has shown that children who grow up with a parent or family member who smokes are three times as likely to start smoking themselves. As we can see, the issue has implications for public health and our society in general, and ignoring it would mean ignoring the poll in 2009 which found that a majority of adults in England were in favour of banning smoking

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC409

in cars, with 74% opposed to smoking in cars with children. The message is clear: if we really care about our children and want to improve their health and social mobility, this is a step that we can take.

I can look back, as no doubt all of us can, at moments in our social policies where there has been resistance from some quarters, whether it be from government or a powerful lobby, but the will of people has always come out. Noble Lords may remember the row about seatbelts: “Ooh, you can’t have the nanny state making people wear seatbelts”. In the end we had the courage to fight for that, and we cut the number of deaths in traffic accidents considerably. There was even a fuss about making people riding motorbikes wear crash helmets; there was a feeling that, “We shouldn’t do that. The nanny state is interfering by telling people that they must wear a helmet”. It is quite right that they should wear helmets. More recently, we have had the issue of smoking in public places. As a Government, we have a duty and a responsibility to do this.

Governments of all political persuasions have to think very carefully and be led by evidence, not by emotion or lobbying. I understand that the issue of plain packaging for tobacco products is something that the Government were committed to but they wanted to see quite clearly that the policy that was agreed, particularly in Australia, brought results. It is now clear that that policy is having an impact, and I hope that the Government, having initially said, “Let us wait and see”, might now say, “Come on, this is an opportunity to move forward”. I look forward to the Minister responding to the pressure from your Lordships here.

On children in cars, I would prefer that we agree the amendment in its entirety, but if we cannot do that, we could think about taking the first step by having public information, as we used to do. We could provide adverts and publicity material so that parents could see what needs to be done. But if we really want to be progressive and move forward, we should support these amendments.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD): My Lords, I rise extremely briefly because I had my go on Monday. I want to add just one point to what my noble friend Lord Storey has said. Some people are saying, “Let’s start with an awareness-raising campaign. Let’s see what we can do there. We don’t need to go straight to legislation”. I do not agree with that. The most effective example that I can cite was the introduction of legislation for the wearing of seatbelts. Awareness-raising had been tried, but it achieved only 25% compliance rates, but soon after the legislation was introduced, alongside the awareness-raising effort—you need both; it is not one or the other—91% of adults started to wear seatbelts. As my noble friend said, it is clear that it has saved lives. I think that very few people in this country, and certainly the polls show it, now think that that is an infringement of civil liberties.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, I should perhaps declare an interest as chairman of an NHS foundation trust, as a consultant trainer to Cumberlege

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC410

Connections and as president of GS1. I welcome this debate. I am delighted to see Amendments 263 and 264, and I have put my name, alongside that of my noble friend Lady Hughes, to Amendments 265 and 266, which are essentially amendments to Amendment 264.

As my noble friend Lady Hughes said on Monday, ever since the advertising ban came in, cigarette packaging has been the way in which tobacco companies have sought to market their products. That is why they spend millions on developing their packaging by testing its attractiveness to potential new customers, and that is why standardised packaging is such an important issue. Amendments 265 and 266 build on the excellent Amendment 264. Essentially, we seek to strengthen that amendment by requiring the Secretary of State to make regulations rather than by simply giving him the discretion to do so. It is important that Ministers are left in no doubt that they need to introduce standardised packaging, which is why I hope that those noble Lords who have proposed Amendment 264 and spoken so eloquently to it will accept our amendments to strengthen the provision. What has happened over the past two years or so would suggest that it is better not to give Ministers discretion in this area.

When the noble Earl comes to wind up, it would be helpful if he could explain the Government’s change of view on this matter. He will know that the former health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said:

“The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging”.

It was widely reported in March this year that legislation to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes would be included in the Queen’s Speech. In April, the then public health Minister, Anna Soubry, said that, having seen the evidence, she had been personally persuaded of the case for standardised plain packaging for cigarettes, but in July we heard the announcement that this was going to be postponed because we would wait and see what happened in Australia.

Will the Minister explain to us why the Government changed their mind and does he agree that the systematic review of all the evidence on standardised packaging commissioned by his department and published alongside the Government’s original consultation showed clearly the strong evidence that standardised packaging would help to reduce smoking rates by reducing the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products and increasing the noticeability and effectiveness of health warnings and messages? Will he also acknowledge that two internal Philip Morris International corporate affairs documents from February and March 2012 showed that the top lobbying message for the world’s largest tobacco company was to use the strapline, “Wait and see what happens in Australia”? Why have the Government fallen for that attempt? Why on earth should we wait to see what happens in Australia? Cricket aside, I have great fondness for Australia and Australians, but why on earth are we waiting to see what happens there?

We have always been a world leader in this area with actions such as introducing smoking bans in pubs and enclosed spaces, ending tobacco companies’ sports sponsorship and billboard advertising, raising the legal age for purchasing cigarettes and the introduction of graphic warnings on cigarette packs. We have been

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC411

a leader and our actions have had an impact. We have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of young smokers. Why on earth do we not want to continue in that vein? The Government will be in no doubt about the strength of feeling in your Lordships’ House and I have no doubt whatever that it wishes to see action taken on this issue. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to give us some comfort that the Government recognise that we should get on with tackling this issue.

4.15 pm

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB): My Lords, we have heard time and time again both here and in the other place of the clear benefits that plain packaging on cigarette packs would bring to children’s future prospects. Indeed, we have already had clear evidence from other countries of the benefits of taking this measure, as we have just heard, and I need not repeat it. We have also been told of the serious and life-limiting impact that passive smoking in cars can have on young people’s lives. Children often do not know the true risks of passive smoking in vehicles until they have already been exposed to it and certainly cannot be expected to make informed decisions about smoking, particularly not those from the most vulnerable backgrounds. For many the very real risks are not understood until, crucially, they are already addicted.

The knowledge that more than 200,000 children in the UK started to smoke in 2011 should alone be quite enough to urge us to take this preventive action. Awareness campaigns and sharing information are crucial measures, and will continue to be so, but we can see that they are clearly not enough. Surely, we have a responsibility to protect children from something which we already know is devastating. Therefore, I strongly support this group of amendments.

Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con): My Lords, I, too, support these amendments, and my name is attached to Amendment 264. I should declare that I have a history as regards smoking as I used to be a chain smoker but gave it up when I was six. About 15 years ago in your Lordships’ House I introduced an amendment to ban smoking in public places. I put it on the back of a criminal justice Bill, which is a convenient way of moving things. I was amazed that the House was full right up to midnight when my amendment was discussed. I fondly imagined that everyone had come to listen to my wisdom, but little did I know that the House had filled with smoking barons waiting to pounce. However, I got my own back on them because at the end of the debate I thanked everyone for their contributions and, instead of saying, “I beg leave to withdraw my amendment”, for some reason or other I said, “Amendment not moved”. They all looked very puzzled because we had just spent hours discussing it. However, the noble Baroness on the Woolsack quickly said, “Amendment not moved”, passed on and they lost the opportunity to vote. They were furious and I was very pleased. As a professor of surgery, of course, I fully back any move to reduce the amount of smoking and I am convinced that these amendments would do that.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC412

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, this has been an instructive debate and let me say immediately that I have listened carefully to all the contributions, both today and on Monday. Perhaps I may start by addressing Amendment 263. I should say at the outset that I have enormous sympathy with the aim of this amendment, which is to protect children’s health from the harm that can be caused by second-hand smoke, and I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Massey, and the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, along with my noble friend Lady Tyler for bringing this important issue to our attention.

We all agree that we do not want to see children exposed to second-hand smoke anywhere. The evidence of the harm caused by second-hand smoke is clear, but many children continue to be exposed to it, both in the family car and in the home. The question posed by this debate is whether legislation is the most proportionate and viable means of addressing the problem. We need to consider that question carefully and I must say that, while supporting the spirit of the amendment—which I certainly do—the Government are not convinced that creating new criminal offences is the right approach.

Of course, in some people’s minds there are civil liberties considerations, which might include what is often perceived as state intrusion into people’s private space. That is a complex area worthy of a debate on its own, but of course I acknowledge that any arguments on that score need to be balanced against the need to protect children. Since 2007, evidence shows that smoke-free legislation has been effective in reducing exposure to second-hand smoke in virtually all enclosed work and public spaces, public transport and work vehicles. Compliance with the law is high and we now benefit from clean air at work, in pubs and restaurants, and on public transport. However, it does not automatically follow from that that it is right to extend the scope of legislation to cover private cars.

There are many practical issues to be considered, particularly around effective enforcement, which is not something that we have heard much about during the course of the debate. Smoke-free legislation in England is enforced by local authority environmental health officers. They do not hold powers to stop vehicles or to detain people in vehicles that are already stationary. Consequently, it would be very difficult for them to take effective enforcement action without the assistance of the police. Since this is a public health issue rather than one of road safety, I expect that such an additional duty on top of their many other responsibilities would be a cause for concern for the police. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has identified other practical difficulties around enforcement. These include accurately identifying which vehicles are required to be smoke-free. For example, small children may not easily be visible from outside the vehicle. Further difficulties include obtaining evidence of smoking, identifying the driver and passengers, and proving the age of the child.

I hope that the Committee agrees that there would be real practical difficulties in effectively enforcing such an offence. If we cannot credibly enforce the law, then the credibility of the law itself is called into

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC413

question. That is why the Government firmly believe that, rather than focus on what would be a complicated and resource-intensive enforcement process, we should continue the non-legislative approach that the evidence shows is working; namely, encouraging positive and lasting behaviour change among adults who place children’s health at risk. My noble friend Lord Storey urged us to do this. Our comprehensive tobacco control plan states:

“Rather than extending smokefree legislation, we want people to recognise the risks of secondhand smoke and decide voluntarily to make their homes and family cars smokefree”.

That is why Public Health England, building on last year’s success, ran another hard-hitting marketing campaign in June and July this year. The campaign aimed to encourage smokers to stop and think before smoking in front of children, whether in the home or in the car. It also encouraged smokers to order an NHS smokefree kit with tips on making the home and car entirely smoke-free spaces, together with support to help quit smoking altogether.

This year’s campaign is currently being evaluated, but emerging findings are encouraging. They show that the campaign has been successful in raising awareness and in changing attitudes and behaviour, with almost three-quarters of those surveyed agreeing that smoking out of an open door or window was not enough to protect children from second-hand smoke. Of those surveyed, 37% reported that they had taken action to reduce their children’s exposure to second-hand smoke, compared with 29% in 2012. In addition, 73% agreed that the adverts made them realise that smoking out of an open window was not enough to protect children, and there were nearly 85,000 orders for smokefree kits. That is an increase of 48% on the 2012 campaign.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester rightly suggested that this is a global issue. I agree. We are, however, considered to be a leader in tobacco control internationally. The World Health Organisation has assessed us to be number one in Europe in this area, and through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control we share this good practice as much as we can.

The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, suggested that the Government ought to introduce an offence of proxy purchasing. I know that shopkeepers and others are interested in making it an offence to buy tobacco for young people under the age of 18. I am sympathetic to that concern, but even were such an offence to be introduced, it would not stop family and friends sharing cigarettes with children. Therefore, we get back to the argument about behaviour change, which I think is more relevant here.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, made an interesting point about this being considered as a road safety issue. I agree that any activity such as smoking—getting out a cigarette, lighting it, disposing of hot ash or stubbing the cigarette out—is likely to distract the driver, particularly if carried out in a moment that is critical for road safety. However, there are a host of things drivers do that have the potential to be equally distracting, be it eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, consulting directions or whatever it may be. First and

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC414

foremost, it is the driver’s responsibility to drive safely at all times. Section 41D of the Road Traffic Act 1988 already provides a perfectly adequate offence if a driver fails to maintain proper control of a vehicle while driving. While a specific offence has been created for driving while using a hand-held mobile phone, the Government do not believe that there is any need to introduce a new and separate offence of smoking while driving.

I welcome the debate on this important issue and I can assure noble Lords that we shall consider carefully the findings of this year’s marketing campaign and decide what further action may be needed. I can assure the Committee that the Government will continue to work to protect children from second-hand smoke in family cars and in the home. We are not complacent but we remain to be convinced that legislation is the most effective and proportionate way of achieving this.

4.30 pm

I turn to the other amendments that we have been debating. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friends Lady Tyler and Lord McColl have tabled Amendment 264, which aims to introduce standardised packaging. I say immediately that I am very sympathetic to their aim of protecting children and reducing the harm from smoking. However, as noble Lords know, the Government have decided to wait before making a decision on standardised tobacco packaging, and I shall come to that point in a second.

The provisions for standardised packaging set out in Amendment 264 relate to those individuals under the age of 18. Importantly, the amendment would not regulate all packs, meaning that it would still be possible for retailers to sell branded packs if they did not also sell products aimed at, or which might be attractive to, under-18s. Preventing young people starting to smoke is of course very important, but we should not forget the need to support adults in quitting. There are over 8 million adult smokers in England alone, and we would also want them to benefit. Therefore, should the Government decide to introduce standardised packaging, we would want the freedom to draw up provisions that focused on the packaging itself rather than on the type of shops where the packs were sold.

Those concerns are magnified by Amendment 265 and 266, which make this an obligation on the Secretary of State rather than a permissive power. Again, I understand the desire on the part of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hughes and Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, to introduce measures to standardise tobacco packaging but, with great respect, I do not think this is the way to go about it.

I give the Grand Committee an absolute assurance that that policy is still very much under active consideration; we have not ruled out its introduction. However, we are taking the time to consider the possible impact in detail and to learn from the experience in other countries. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked me to expand on the reasons for that. In broad terms, introducing standardised packaging may sound like a simple measure and it is one where the principle

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC415

may sound attractive. However, there are complexities that we are discovering in the detail that it would be important to get right.

Noble Lords have helpfully set out the evidence on standardised packaging. We are of course looking carefully at that evidence base, and I am not able to add anything to the points that have been made in the debate today regarding that evidence. However, as noble Lords may be aware, the Department of Health commissioned a systematic review of the evidence that was published alongside the 2012 consultation document. The academics who carried out that review have recently published an updated report covering the additional studies published since then, and we are considering those alongside other available information as we go forward.

I know that the noble Lords who tabled Amendment 264 want to explore the technical aspects of the amendment as drafted. Ministers are often advised not to go into the technicalities but I thought it might be helpful in this instance if I did so, so I shall share some of the Government’s thoughts. As drafted, the amendment would make it an offence to sell tobacco products that did not meet the specified provisions and were sold by businesses that also sold products that might also attract or be aimed at under-18s. In practice, this would impose sanctions solely on retailers and suppliers rather than on the manufacturers. It could be argued that it allowed branded packs to be sold in adult environments, such as nightclubs and betting shops, so children would still be exposed to the effects of branding, particularly at home. This is a good example of the complexity involved in drafting such provisions. It is the sort of issue that the Government would need to look at in detail if we were to introduce such measures.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: My understanding of this is that, because the Government would not come forward with a more general provision, this amendment has been hitched on to the Bill in desperation because it seemed to be a sensible place to try to get it into. The convolutions that the Minister is rightly pointing out would be solved at a stroke if there were to be a ban on differentiated packaging across the board and standardised packaging were introduced for all cigarettes.

Earl Howe: That indeed is my understanding. Noble Lords have taken the opportunity of this Bill to raise the dangers of smoking, particularly of passive smoking for children, and I have no issue with that. I merely point out that there are problems with the amendment as drafted. I am not saying that it would not be possible to draft another amendment which noble Lords might care to consider between now and Report. Being able to enforce these provisions as drafted is also a significant aspect. For example, it may be hard to judge whether a product could reasonably be expected to attract children, as the amendment would require, or to determine what might be aimed at or would attract 18 year-olds but not, let us say, 17 year-olds or 13 year-olds.

I am grateful to noble Lords for raising this important issue and for keeping this debate at the front of our minds. It is a debate that we need to continue. As I

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC416

have said, the Government have yet to make a decision on this policy, but if we were to bring in such a measure, we would not want it to be circumscribed in the way that is proposed. We would not want to set up a situation in which both branded and standardised packs could be sold legally depending on where they were sold and what other products were sold alongside them. I therefore urge noble Lords not to press their amendments and respectfully suggest that they consider other avenues for bringing this matter before the House on Report.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I always admire the noble Earl’s eloquence when defending the indefensible and he has done that par excellence today, but is not the reality that this is an opportunity for the Committee and the House to express a view in principle on the issue? It would then be up to the Government. As the noble Earl knows, when that happens, the Government simply come back with an amendment at Third Reading to deal with the technical issues. Surely the issue here is whether the House goes forward to a vote in principle, which I hope it might be able to do.

Earl Howe: Well, my Lords, if I could repay the compliment to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, he has very eloquently presented the case for the Government to go away and think further about this, which indeed we will do. I come back to what I said at the beginning of this debate: the message from this Committee has been delivered loudly and clearly. I am grateful to noble Lords for that. I say again that the Government’s mind is not closed on this issue.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: As one of those who are not quite so eloquent but are equally committed to the cause, I think that the Government would be in a far better position if we had some timescale. We now know when Report stage is likely. I am much attracted to what the Minister said. I would much prefer that we had a universal position that protected adults as well as children because of, as he said, the influence that adults have on children. Many more noble Lords might, like me, be influenced if they knew that something was likely to happen. The anxiety is that, unless we press this, nothing will happen.

Earl Howe: The noble Baroness underestimates her own eloquence here. I thank her for that and I shall reflect carefully on what she has said.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, it falls to me to respond. I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I am grateful that nobody has spoken against the amendment that would prevent people smoking in cars when children were there. The evidence is overwhelming. This must fall squarely within this Bill; it is about protecting children from harm. If I may draw on the analogy of a tin box used by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that would be classified without doubt as child abuse. It would fall to the police to prosecute in such a case—indeed, with other traffic offences, it falls to the police.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC417

I was intrigued to hear that the Minister places so much faith in the public education campaign and cites cost of enforcement as a problem. How much has the public education campaign cost in total, including its evaluation, and what are the cost estimates for the police?

In Wales there has been a public education campaign since 2012 to try to stop people smoking in cars when children are present, and it is currently being evaluated. I live there and I can tell noble Lords that it is not working. In supermarket car parks you see children being offloaded into the back of the car, the shopping offloaded into the boot and a cigarette offloaded out of a packet into the driver’s mouth before they set off. I would dearly love to tap on the car windows of those people and say, “You can’t do that” because they are endangering the children in the vehicle. I also refute the notion that it would be very difficult to identify who is smoking when there are children in the car. The Government are committed to children’s health and well-being and have shown that commitment in many different ways—for example, through sporting initiatives—yet they allow a practice to continue which permanently damages children’s lungs and physical development and leads to premature death in some cases. Indeed, the instances involving asthma sufferers cannot be ignored.

I remind the Minister that the legislation on smoking in public places has brought about huge behavioural change and been extremely successful. I have been repeatedly thanked for that legislation by smokers and non-smokers, as must have happened to other noble Lords who campaigned prior to that legislation going through. That legislation has made it easier for them to attempt to stop smoking or to cut down. I can honestly say that nobody has been angry with me about the legislation having gone through, although some anger was shown when it was being discussed.

I was intrigued by the Minister’s comment about the complexity of Amendment 264 vis-à-vis producing standardised packaging. He may not wish to comment on the detail of it, although I am happy to give way if he does. However, I hope that he will meet me and other Peers who are interested in this issue to explain what problems may arise in this area. I am grateful to him for his critique of the amendment and see exactly what he means. We certainly need to take it away, redraft it and bring it back on Report. We do not want to make it harder for retailers who sell other things to children, such as comics, by differentiating and having some kind of two-tier system.

As regards the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, in relation to illicit products, Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, found that the illicit market reduced from 20% to 9% between 2000 and 2012-13. The 9% figure applied also to 2010-11, although it dipped to 7% in one year. Margaret Hodge commented that the tobacco manufacturers are complicit in this illicit trade by,

“supplying more of their products to European countries than the legitimate market in those countries could possibly require. The tobacco then finds its way back into the UK market without

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC418

tax being paid. The supply of some brands of hand-rolling tobacco to some countries in 2011 exceeded legitimate demand by 240%”.

I understand that oversupply to Ukraine has been identified, which fuels a £2 billion black market that has reached across the EU, and that in 2011 Japan Tobacco International was investigated and is now under official investigation by the European anti-fraud office. So I am afraid that it is not a nice story. I am not certain that the argument about revenue saved can possibly be stacked up against the cost of lives shortened, health damaged, children left orphaned and all the other things that we know go on. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment but we will be coming back to it at the next stage of the Bill.

Amendment 263 withdrawn.

Amendments 264 to 266A not moved.

Amendment 266AZZZA had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Schedule 6: Repeal of requirement to appoint Children’s Rights Director: transfer schemes

Amendment 266AZZA not moved.

Schedule 6 agreed.

4.45 pm

Clause 89: Shared parental leave

Amendment 266AZA

Moved by Lord Stevenson of Balmacara

266AZA: Clause 89, page 59, line 10, at end insert—

“(7) Entitlements provided by regulations made under this section may be transferred to another family member or other related party in the following exceptional circumstances—

(a) where a mother is incapacitated;

(b) where a medical practitioner prescribes that the mother is unable to look after the child; or

(c) where the mother dies in childbirth.”

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, we have moved on to Part 6 which has been greatly anticipated on my side of the House and, I am sure, with equal enthusiasm and excitement by my noble friend the Minister. We have a substantial number of amendments to get through and I know there is pressure on all sides to try to complete this within the time. We will do what we can to achieve that but there are still some very important issues that we want to pick up and I make no excuse if we spend some time debating them. Having said that, I reassure the Minister that, by and large, the Opposition are very pleased to see many of the measures that are proposed in these parts of the Bill. We have comments for discussion and we will do our obvious constitutional duty to scrutinise those things that are there, but we are not making major objections to them. We seek to refine, occasionally to add and perhaps to probe the Government a bit more on some of the reasons why things do not appear as we would like them to. I am also grateful to the Minister for allowing us a chance to talk to him and the Bill team which was very useful.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC419

Amendment 266AZA would ensure that there is flexibility in the legislation for exceptional circumstances. The purpose is to ensure that if children need to be looked after in exceptional circumstances, the parental leave enabled by the substantive clauses can be allocated to someone else such as a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle or even the father if he would not ordinarily qualify.

It does not take much to imagine how devastating exceptional circumstances could be. It may be that the mother becomes incapacitated, very ill or even dies in childbirth, or that there is some other complication such as a late-pregnancy stillbirth—something that my mother suffered—that will require urgent and immediate assistance but also longer-term assistance over the period covered by the shared parental leave. At present they would be able to take only a limited amount of time—almost certainly unpaid time off for dependants—if indeed it were granted by their employer.

Similarly, there may be circumstances in couple families where the mother is unwell but the father does not qualify for shared leave to care for the new baby. The Bill should make provision for exceptional circumstances when shared parental leave and pay could be transferred in such difficult and, as I have said, exceptional circumstances. Surely we ought to be doing everything that we can to support families in these circumstances.

We had a previous meeting with the Minister in which we had a brief discussion on this point, and I have read the response of his honourable friend in the other place. I understand that he may feel that the amendment could distract from the main thrust of the Bill and that his initial position may be that the Government do not expect parties who are not parents or partners to share parental leave. I also fully understand, to anticipate other amendments due to come up shortly, that the Government do not want to weaken the engagement of fathers in raising their children. We accept that there is strong evidence that the early engagement of fathers in caring for their children leads to positive outcomes for children. However, the amendment is really about exceptional circumstances, already outlined, in which other statutory provisions may just not work or, if they did work, would not be sufficient, as in the case of a late stillborn child, where of course by definition shared leave cannot be invoked.

If the Government cannot accept this amendment—although I hope that they will—perhaps the Minister will acknowledge that they might consider using the provision under the new sections in the Bill to make regulations for these sorts of extenuating circumstances. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie) (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, for bringing this matter to the attention of the Committee, and for his broad support for the shared parental leave provisions.

The noble Lord’s Amendment 266AZA proposes that in certain prescribed circumstances, other family members or related parties should become entitled to

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC420

shared parental leave. The circumstances that he has outlined include where a mother is incapacitated, where a medical practitioner prescribes that the mother is unable to care for her child, and where the mother dies in childbirth.

Nobody would wish for any family to have to deal with these difficult and sometimes tragic situations. Unfortunately, many families have no choice. The challenge of looking after a very young child in these situations may be overwhelming. Often relatives or family friends step in to help those concerned, and it is important that we recognise the extremely important contribution that these individuals make, often in particularly challenging circumstances.

However, it is essential to remember what the introduction of a new system of shared parental leave and pay is aiming to achieve. This policy aims to facilitate shared parenting. This means encouraging greater paternal involvement. Many fathers want to be more involved in the upbringing of their children, and there is clear evidence that this brings real benefits not only to the parents but to children and young people themselves.

In the circumstances that have been raised during this debate, shared parenting—in a very literal sense—is not possible. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, would enable the sharing of leave with another family member or related party when the mother is unable to care for her child, either through incapacity, illness or death.

The way in which shared parental leave may be taken in circumstances where the mother dies will be set out in regulations. For the benefit of the Committee, I will outline how the Government envisage that this will work. If the mother dies before the parents have opted in to the new system—for example, if she dies during childbirth—an eligible father or partner will become entitled to the full balance of shared parental leave and pay. If the parents have already opted in to the new system, any outstanding leave and pay for which the mother was eligible will become available to the father or partner, if he is eligible.

The Government do not intend to make equivalent provisions where the mother is incapacitated or where a medical practitioner prescribes that a mother is unable to look after her child. This is because the mother may need to remain on maternity leave, or may make a recovery and wish to use the balance of her shared parental leave in the way in which she had originally envisaged. It may not always be possible to determine how permanent a change in situation is.

The Government recognise the extremely valuable contribution that relatives and friends make to support families at a difficult time. However, we do not believe that these individuals should become entitled to shared parental leave and pay. It is essential that we send the right message to fathers that their role as a parent is as important and valued as that of the mother.

I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Committee and I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC421

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: I thank the Minister for his reply, which was not unexpected. I return to my original point: this is really a question of humanity and trying to recognise extreme circumstances. I asked the Minister to consider whether some of the aspirations in this amendment could be met within the general flexibility that is provided elsewhere in the Bill, but he declined to say that he would. Of course, it still exists so one can still hope that that message will be recalled when and if these issues come up. To be perfectly frank, there are circumstances in which fathers who have not had the statutory 26 weeks’ employment at the requisite rates within a single employer simply cannot get eligibility for the sort of leave that would come up under these exceptional circumstances. Sadly, these people will miss out, so there is a gap. We shall reflect on what has been said and read carefully what has been opined to the Committee and may come back to it, but in the interim I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 266AZA withdrawn.

Amendment 266AA

Moved by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

266AA: Clause 89, page 60, leave out lines 9 and 10 and insert—

“(8) Regulations under section 75E may provide for the taking of leave under section 75E in a single period, or in non-consecutive periods, or in periods shorter than the period which constitutes, for the employee, a week’s leave.”

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, Amendment 266AA would introduce regulations to enable shared parental leave to be taken on a part-time basis, if desired, rather than in blocks of at least a week. I am grateful to Working Families for its assistance with this amendment, which has the support of a long list of organisations, and to the noble Viscount for meeting me and Adrienne Burgess of the Fatherhood Institute recently.

The amendment attempts to hold the Government to their original proposal in the Modern Workplaces consultation: that parents would be able to take the new form of leave in,

“smaller chunks or on a part-time basis”,

if their employer agreed. This was warmly welcomed by both family organisations and employers, yet the Bill reverts to a minimum period of a week at a time. There are many arguments in favour of part-time leave, which is a feature of many parental leave schemes elsewhere in Europe. It would help low-income parents who may not be able to afford full-week periods of leave for any length of time. The TUC points out this week that inadequate financial support for new parents impacts disproportionately on low-income families. Indeed, more flexible leave that could be used to complement part-time work was proposed in a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on tackling in-work poverty published just last week.

It would allow for a smooth transition back to work, which could make it easier to settle children into childcare. It could encourage fathers, who might be reluctant to take a full-time block of leave, to take parental leave. In doing so, it could help usher in the

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC422

change of culture of redefining early parenting as a joint responsibility that the Government keep talking about and that many of us want to see. I shall expand on this when I move Amendment 266B. It could provide parents with flexibility and could make it easier for employers. It is worth noting that, in a recent survey by the Family and Childcare Trust, flexible working was parents’ top priority for improving the quality of family life. This is just one aspect of flexible working, but it is an important one.

The Government have said that they are sympathetic to the idea but are concerned at the administrative complexity involved. They have suggested an extension of keeping-in-touch days as an alternative solution. While such an extension is welcome, it is not a substitute for part-time leave. Parents do not have to be paid for attending keeping-in-touch days, which are designed for a different purpose.

If the Government are genuinely open to the idea of part-time leave, surely it would make sense to make provision for it to be introduced at a later date by secondary legislation, once it has found a way through the administrative hurdles. I therefore hope that the Minister will be willing to take this away and give it further consideration. I cannot believe that where there is a political will there is no legislative and administrative way. If the Minister is not prepared to consider taking such regulation-making powers, I can only assume that there is no political will to inject this important element of flexibility into the parental leave scheme, despite the fact that flexibility lies at the heart of the scheme’s policy objectives as set out in the impact statement. I beg to move.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield: My Lords, to explain why I am sympathetic to this amendment, while I am supportive of what the Government are seeking to do through shared parental leave, which is absolutely right, the amendment raises two particularly important points. One is the position of parents on low incomes who will find it difficult to afford long periods of leave, particularly if they are working at less than the minimum wage. We know that the number of people working at, or even below, the minimum wage is significant.

Secondly, the amendment would allow that smooth transition back into work which may help children settle into childcare. From the work that I have done in other contexts around childcare, it is clear that it helps some children to be eased into childcare on a part-time basis, rather than going for a whole week’s worth. For those two reasons, I am particularly sympathetic and attracted to the amendment, although I cannot pretend to have been involved in all the detailed thinking around it.

5 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: I support my noble friend Lady Lister in her amendment and have added my name to it. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, for her contribution to this debate. This matter seems central to the thrust of this section of the Bill and it seems odd that the logic set out in the original consultation paper and impact assessment has not been brought to a proper resolution within the Bill.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC423

Two issues are clearly at play here. It seems perverse not to permit people who may have a complicated and difficult transition between full-time caring and going to work to do that in chunks of less than a week. Although this has been explained to me by two notable experts, I still do not quite get why it is so difficult to calculate pay in terms of less than a week. I understand the complications of doing it on a shared-parenting basis, because there are two sets of employers and two sets of payments to be looked at and, obviously, the Government are the third person in the room. Even so, when I was last involved in serious payroll work, we had pretty good figures for what it cost to operate in terms of an hour, a day or a week. That came up particularly in relation to strike action. I am sure that the noble Viscount will have been in similar situations, although I am sure that workers in his businesses were never on strike against him. However, when workers go on strike and you have to deduct pay for it, you have to work out exactly what it is, otherwise you get into trouble. In the systems that I was operating, we had a clear view of what the cost was at that level. If you can calculate what it costs per hour to employ somebody, you can presumably also make the system flexible enough to allow them to work in less-than-week blocks, which is one of the proposals in the amendment. On part-time leave, all the points have been made and I support them.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, the Government understand the intention behind the amendment and I am glad of the opportunity to have this short debate on the issue today. Before I respond to this specific amendment, I should like to take a moment to set out the rationale behind the introduction of shared parental leave and the importance of these changes for families. Bearing in mind the tenor of the comments made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, about brevity, I shall attempt to be brief.

The restrictions in the current maternity and paternity system are outdated and do not reflect the way in which modern families want to raise their children. They compel mothers to take the bulk of the time off and give fathers no choice but to stay at work in the early stages of their child’s life. This approach maintains the outdated perception that a mother’s place is in the home and a father’s place is at work. It is known to damage women’s career prospects, because employers expect young women to take large amounts of time out of the workplace to raise children. It can also mean that mothers feel unsupported in caring for a child, and fathers do not feel involved in their child’s upbringing.

It is right that mothers are able to take all the leave that they need to recover from birth and to bond with their new baby. However, they should be able to return to work without sacrificing the rest of their leave. This should be available to the family to use in whatever way they choose. For some families, this will mean that the father takes on the majority of the caring responsibilities very shortly after birth. For others, it will mean mixing periods of work with periods of leave to share childcare. This Bill will make this possible for the first time. The introduction of shared parental leave and pay aims to give families flexibility in how

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC424

they share childcare when they have a baby. The current arrangements are rigid and inflexible, enabling only one parent to take leave at a time and allowing parents only to “take it in turns” to care for their child.

The changes introduced by the Bill will enable parents to take leave in blocks as small as one week and will remove the restriction on parents taking leave together. The Modern Workplacesconsultation, which the Government published in May 2011, set out the Government’s ambition for leave to be taken in blocks of less than a week to allow parents to take leave on a part-time basis. Unfortunately, in this instance, this worthy ambition has not been possible. I will explain why.

The UK has one of the most flexible labour markets in the world. UK employment legislation gives employers and employees freedom to agree individual contracts between themselves, without restricting them to set working hours or working patterns. Shared parental leave is flexible. It will allow parents to choose how to share it between themselves and to take leave as an individual right, in discussion with their employer. This variation in working arrangements creates a difficulty when trying to allow shared parental leave and pay to be taken in part-week blocks.

Here, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, over the mathematical calculations. One parent may have a standard working week of 37 hours a week, or 7.2 hours per day, and their partner may work 16 hours per week working two eight-hour days. Calculating the ratio of the weekly entitlement to shared parental pay that should be paid when an individual takes one day off would be complex for an employer. However, this is magnified when a parent decides to transfer their remaining part-week entitlement to their partner for them to use. It would be even harder for small businesses, without access to an HR resource, to administer. The Government are mindful that shared parental leave and pay will be an innovative system. To add into the new system the facility to take leave and pay in periods of less than a week risks creating significant additional costs and burdens for employers.

The Government instead propose to allow shared parental leave to be taken on a part-time basis, using a principle that is already well used and understood by employers. Under existing maternity leave provisions, mothers are able to return to work for 10 individual working days without ending their maternity leave or losing their entitlement to maternity pay for that week. These are called keep-in-touch, or KIT, days. The Government propose to give parents on shared parental leave additional keep-in-touch-style days to allow part-time working on shared parental leave without affecting entitlement to statutory shared parental pay. It is intended that these days will have a different name in the context of shared parental leave, which I hope addresses one of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, because the intention for shared parental leave would be different from the intention for maternity leave. The name would reflect the fact that these days can be used to achieve a part-time working pattern or a staggered return from shared parental leave.

The Government are aware that some interested parties, such as the TUC, are concerned that there is no requirement on an employer to pay an employee

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC425

more than their statutory payment when they are taking a keep-in-touch day. The Government will provide guidance to employers on how to use these provisions and will strongly encourage employers to pay an employee their full contractual rate if they work on a keep–in-touch day.

The Government believe that it is important to maintain the flexibility in keep-in-touch days to allow parents to return to the workplace for short visits. The Government do not wish to discourage these sorts of visits by forcing an employer to pay an employee’s contractual rate. However, where an employee is undertaking work, it is appropriate that that employee is paid accordingly. Keep-in-touch days are entirely discretionary for both an employee and employer to use. An employer cannot insist that an employee uses a keep-in-touch day and an employee cannot insist that their employer allows them to work part-time by using a keep-in-touch day.

As I have mentioned, shared parental leave and pay is an innovative system and will need time to bed down. It is right that proposals for leave and pay to be taken in periods of less than a week should be considered alongside any review of the shared parental leave system. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked why we do not take powers in the Bill to allow shared parental leave to be taken on a part-time basis, to be set out, in effect, in regulation. The Government are sympathetic to this proposal but without a clear policy to enable the shared parental leave to be taken part-time, regulations cannot be designed at this time. My department has explored this fully and will continue to consider it as part of the review of shared parental leave.

I hope that reassures the noble Baroness that the Government share her ambition and I ask her to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, and my noble friend Lord Stevenson for their support for this amendment. The noble Baroness’s own experience is extremely important in terms of easing children back into childcare.

I will say more about this when I speak to my next amendment but I very much share the Government’s philosophy, as set out by the Minister, on shared parental leave. That is why I am so disappointed that they are not willing to go that little bit further.

I can see that there are administrative difficulties; I am not convinced that they cannot be sorted out. I am slightly encouraged by what the Minister said about changing the name of the keep-in-touch days and sending out guidance to employers about payment. I do not know whether the Minister has any figures now—perhaps he could let me know—on what proportion of such days are paid at present. It would be quite helpful to know that, perhaps before Report, in case we want to come back to this matter.

No one is asking for these regulations to be drafted now. Quite often a Bill will go through and regulations are not drafted for some time afterwards. Would it not be easier to put them in the Bill now? Even if nothing is done until the review takes place, at least they are

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC426

there without having to legislate again, if by that time it becomes clear that part-time leave is really necessary for the shared parental leave provisions to fulfil the goals that we share with the Government. I hope that the Minister might be willing to think again about that. We are not asking for those regulations to be laid now, simply that the framework is there to enable flexibility in the future. On that basis, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 266AA withdrawn.

Amendment 266AAA

Moved by Lord Touhig

266AAA: Clause 89, page 66, line 38, at end insert—

“( ) Where, during an employee’s shared parental leave, it is not reasonably practicable by reason of redundancy for the employer to continue to employ him or her under an existing contract of employment, the employee is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy that arises during the shared parental leave period.

( ) The shared parental leave period means the period from the date of notification of intention to take shared parental leave, ending at 52 weeks from the birth of the employee’s baby.

( ) Where there is a suitable alternative vacancy with the employer or his successor or an associated employer, it must be offered before the end of the existing contract of employment and takes effect immediately on the ending of the previous contract.

( ) The new contract of employment must be both suitable work for the employee and appropriate for him or her to do in the circumstances and its provisions as to the capacity and place in which he or she is to be employed, and as to the other terms and conditions of employment are not substantially less favourable than if he or she had continued to be employed under the previous contract.”

Lord Touhig (Lab): My Lords, the purpose of my Amendment 266AAA is to replicate vital existing protections afforded to women on maternity leave within the new system of shared parental leave. It provides protection to parents for the entire period during which they are entitled to take shared parental leave, rather than simply the period when they are actually away on leave. The amendment replicates the approach taken by Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999. This states that in the case of a redundancy, women on maternity leave must be offered any appropriate alternative vacancy. Such protections have been crucial in giving women the confidence to take the statutory maternity leave to which they are entitled, thus overcoming the fear that in so doing they may be adversely affecting their job or career prospects.

It is important that the new system of shared parental leave allows parents to feel a similar level of confidence when taking leave. The intention of the new system is that parents can take leave in short, discontinuous blocks. Consequently, for this to happen, protection must not be limited to those periods when a parent is actually on leave, as this would discourage parents from using the new system of shared parental leave in the way in which the Government hope and intend that it should operate.

The importance of designing appropriate protections for parents taking leave under the new system has already been acknowledged by Ministers in the other place. This amendment not only creates the necessary

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC427

protections to ensure that parents have the confidence to use the new system of shared leave as intended but creates a system of protections that is easy for both employee and employer to understand. The clarity and scope of the protection offered by this amendment will give parents the confidence they need to fully utilise this new scheme of shared parental leave. I beg to move.

5.15 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, Amendments 266AB, 266AC and 266C in this group stand in my name. Taken together, these would ensure that existing protections in relation to redundancy and leave are not lost by requiring rather than permitting regulations regarding redundancy during shared parental leave to be made and to include provision requiring an employer to offer alternative employment.

Amendment 266C would enable a parent who has taken a period of leave of 26 weeks or less to return to the same job, and not just a job within the same employer. My noble friend Lord Touhig has set out the general case for where these amendments would take us. I would like to pick up a particular aspect of that which is the growing concern about discrimination. Maternity rights and employment regulations that enable parents to balance work and family responsibilities have been key drivers in giving women greater access to work and, importantly, an independent income. Over the past few decades, thanks in no small part to changes to workplace protections, women have entered and stayed in the labour market in unprecedented numbers. However, there is still far to go. Our workplaces have not adapted to meet the needs of this changing and gender-diverse workforce. Women pay a penalty in the workplace as a result of spending time away from the labour market to have and care for children, and this time away often negatively affects future career prospects and earnings. This “motherhood penalty” helps hold the glass ceiling intact and reproduces gender stereotypes about women as the “caring sex” that fuel occupational segregation, to which the Minister referred in a previous debate. People often talk about jobs being characterised as men’s or women’s work. For too many women, this still culminates in pregnancy discrimination more generally in the workplace.

One of the cumulative impacts of the effects of the “motherhood penalty” is that it ultimately leads to a lack of women in positions of power at the top of all quarters of political, public and professional life. We surely all feel that that is out of date. Even before the recession began, it was estimated by the Equal Opportunities Commission that up to 30,000 women lost their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination each year. There has been no similar research into the incidence of pregnancy discrimination following the economic downturn, but all the indications are that it has increased significantly. In times of austerity, when employers cannot afford to take any perceived risk to making profit and growing business, discrimination against women in the workplace is likely to rise as women, particularly of child bearing age, appear to be the riskier and less affordable choice for employers.

Working Families, which has been helping us with research in this area, has evidence that many women are subject to discrimination while pregnant or on

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC428

maternity leave. Its helpline report provides evidence of a hardening of attitudes among employers and more blatant discrimination taking place. This includes women being sidelined or left out when promotions are being considered, demoted on return from maternity leave, and in some cases women suffer harassment and pregnant workers are sacked. These are unacceptable practices and these amendments would help to remedy them.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I am glad that these amendments give us the opportunity to debate the detail of how shared parental leave will work in practice for families. Shared parental leave will offer families new choice and flexibility about how they manage their childcare arrangements in the first months of a child’s life. It is true that this opportunity will be used by parents only if they feel confident that they will continue to be treated fairly in the workplace when they return.

Current maternity and additional paternity leave provisions provide protections to parents against dismissal; additional support when parents are absent from the workplace during a redundancy process; and the right to return to work into the same job, or in certain cases if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job that is suitable for them and of equal standing. These protections are important to parents and will directly influence the decisions they make in whether to take maternity or paternity leave. Mothers on maternity leave and fathers taking additional paternity leave currently have protection from detriment while taking leave. Parents taking leave also have the right to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy in a redundancy situation, where there is one available. This alternative must be suitable and appropriate for the individual.

The Government recognise that it is important to provide employees with protection from discrimination and detriment when they are absent from the workplace for parental reasons. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for raising this. I believe that we think alike on this important issue. Furthermore the Government believe that pregnancy discrimination and discrimination against parents taking leave to care for their children is unacceptable in any form. This is why the Government have recently announced new research into the attitudes of employers on pregnancy and maternity leave as well as the prevalence and causes of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. This research will be jointly funded by the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, the Government Equalities Office and my department, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

I would like to reassure the Committee that the Government intend to make regulations to provide appropriate protections for employees in the case of shared parental leave. The Government recognise that it is important to provide protections for parents who are absent from the workplace on parental leave and are currently considering the most appropriate way to protect parents taking shared parental leave from being disadvantaged in a redundancy situation. The Government intend to publish draft regulations in the coming months on all key elements of the shared parental leave policy. This will include the details of the protections

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC429

while on shared parental leave. The Government’s approach will recognise the difficulties that parents may face when taking shared parental leave. Any protections will be proportionate to support parents in an effective way, enabling them to take leave with confidence that they will not be disadvantaged. This will be balanced with the needs of employers to be able to manage their employees effectively.

I turn now to the right to return to the same job. Mothers returning from a period of ordinary maternity leave have the right to return to the same job. This protection is also applied to fathers taking additional paternity leave. Where mothers return to work after a period of additional maternity leave they have the right to return to the same job, or where this is not reasonably practicable, the right to return to a similar job which is suitable and appropriate, the point that the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, made earlier. The Government consulted on how to apply these important protections to parents taking shared parental leave in an appropriate manner. Shared parental leave will create different challenges for employers. An employee will be able to take short, discontinuous absences from the workplace under shared parental leave and this means that employers will have more opportunity to engage an employee in any reorganisation at work while they are in the office.

The Government are currently carefully considering the responses to the consultation on the administration of shared parental leave. This includes how to apply the right to return to the same job to parents taking shared parental leave. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Touhig, for bringing this important matter to the attention of the Committee, but I hope they are reassured that the Government intend to provide protections for parents taking shared parental leave, and the commitment that the details of this will be set out in regulations in the coming months. In the mean time, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Touhig: My Lords, in what seems an age ago now, I was once the Labour Party parliamentary candidate in Richmond upon Thames and I was invited to address a conference of Labour women. I saw the hackles go up when I said that, as a country, we were wasting a fortune educating women because when they complete their education we put every barrier in their way to stop them getting a job and having a family which, as a man, I take for granted. We still have a long way to go to make sure there is fairness and equality for women in the workplace. I am encouraged by what the Minister says about how we might see the hopes of the amendments tabled by myself and my noble friend Lord Stevenson realised in regulations. All I can say to him when he draws up his regulations is to think of the Welsh “chwarae teg”—fair play. That is all we are asking for. I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 266AAA withdrawn.

Amendments 266AB and 266AC not moved.

Clause 89 agreed.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC430

Amendment 266B

Moved by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

266B: After Clause 89, insert the following new Clause—

“Rights to father quota of leave

(1) In Part 8 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, after section 80E insert—

“80EA Entitlement to father quota

(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations entitling an employee who satisfies specified conditions as to the relationship with a child or expected child or with the child’s mother to be absent from work on leave under this subsection for the purpose of caring for the child.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) shall provide that such leave shall be taken before the end of a period of 56 weeks beginning with the date of the child’s birth.

(3) Provision under subsection (1) shall secure that where an employee is entitled to leave under this section in respect of a child he is entitled to at least four weeks’ leave.”

(2) In the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, after section 171ZT insert—

“171ZTA Entitlement to father quota

(1) Regulations shall provide that where an employee is entitled to a father quota of leave under section 75E of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the employee is to be entitled to payments known as “father quota pay”.

(2) Father quota pay under subsection (1) shall be at the earnings related weekly rate of 90 per cent of the employee’s average earnings for the first six weeks in respect of which it is payable, followed by a fixed weekly rate thereafter which shall not be less than the weekly rate of the full time national minimum wage in respect of the remaining portion of the father quota pay period.””

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, Amendments 266B and 266CA concern the father’s entitlement to and use of parental leave. Amendment 266B paves the way, again by means of secondary legislation, for a father quota. Such a quota would provide a father with an independent right to at least four weeks’ parental leave at 90% of his earnings for up to six weeks.

This is a probing amendment designed to air the issues, so I do not propose that we go into the precise wording. I am grateful to the Fatherhood Institute and Working Families for their support on the amendment, which also has the support of a long list of other organisations, and to the noble Viscount for engaging so constructively both in writing and in person. Lastly, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, for adding her name to the amendment, but she apologises that she cannot be here today for family reasons.

In my academic work on women’s citizenship in the broad sense of the term, I have concluded that women will achieve genuine equality in the public sphere of the labour market and the polis only when men play a greater role in the private domestic sphere of the home. To take one example, unequal sharing of caring work between the sexes has been identified as the largest single driver of the gender pay gap. Shifting what is called in academic jargon the “gender division of labour” is therefore critical to gender equality. As my noble friend Lord Touhig has just pointed out, we still have a long way to go.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC431

From the perspective of children, the Minister acknowledged in his letter to me the important role that fathers have to play in childcare and the beneficial impact of their involvement in the early stages of their child’s life. Indeed, he has reiterated the point today. There is no disagreement between us on the end goal of enabling and encouraging fathers to be more closely involved in the care of their children, be that from the perspective of gender equality or the best interests of the child—or, as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report that I mentioned argued, tackling in-work poverty among families with children.

The cross-national evidence suggests that a key policy lever to achieve this goal is to preserve a period of adequately paid parental leave for fathers on a “use it or lose it” basis. A European Commission document on the role of men in gender equality states that,

“the ‘nordic’ model of parental leave (‘father quota’) has been adapted and implemented with growing success”,

and recommends its adoption across the Union. Even Germany, which hung on to a male breadwinner model longer than many other European countries, has gone down this path and, like a number of other countries, has added a bonus to the overall length of paid leave if the father takes a specified period. The UK is in danger of becoming a European laggard when it comes to a forward-looking parental leave policy.

The coalition Government’s Modern Workplaces consultation placed great emphasis on the value of shared parenting and proposed just such a scheme as a means of encouraging fathers to play a more active role in their children’s upbringing. It observed that,

“international evidence suggests that fathers’ usage of parental leave is higher under schemes that offer them targeted or reserved leave as opposed to just making shared leave available to the father”.

In Iceland and Norway, fathers using parental leave increased from tiny proportions to 80% and 90% respectively following the introduction of reserved leave. Iceland is particularly interesting because it provides for three months each for the mother and the father and three months to be shared between them as they wish, and it has just been agreed unanimously to move to a five-plus-five-plus-two model because it has been so successful. The average number of days of leave taken by fathers more than doubled between 2001 and 2008 as a result. According to the World Economic Forum, Iceland now ranks first in the world for gender equality.

More generally, the latest issue of the International Review of Leave Policies and Related Research conducted by the International Network on Leave Policies and Research concludes that it is striking that fathers’ use of leave responds to policy changes. There is also evidence to suggest that the more the father is involved when the child is very young, the more involved he is likely to be as the child grows older, to the benefit of fathers, mothers and children. Of course, as the Fatherhood Institute concedes, it is not possible to prove a causal relationship, but it suggests that the association is strong and consistent.

5.30 pm

I saw the Modern Workplaces consultation as a breakthrough, one which I and many others welcomed, but the Government got cold feet and subsequently

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC432

came forward with a scheme that does nothing to provide fathers with an independent right. Instead, their access to parental leave will be dependent on the mother. When the same amendment was proposed in the Commons, the Minister responded that much as she would “dearly love to accept” it,

“economic circumstances do not make that possible”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, Children and Families Bill Committee, 23/4/13; col. 730.]

Yet they were the same economic circumstances as when the consultation was published and, supposedly, economic circumstances are now improving. Nevertheless, we are told that this is not the time to place additional burdens on businesses. I fear that businesses will always say that for one reason or another it is not the time. The Fatherhood Institute points out:

“No parenting leave regime has ever been introduced with the overwhelming support of the business community”.

Opposition is always substantial, even though a strong business case can be made. Opposition has not stopped braver Governments from doing the right thing by families.

When I met the Minister, he said that the Government want to take this step by step and he pointed to the power in the Bill to use secondary legislation at a later date to extend paternity leave and pay if the Government believe that this is needed to stimulate the culture change of shared parenting. This is welcome as far as it goes, but maternity leave is not parental leave. At present, it has to be taken within the first eight weeks following the birth. The current government assumption appears to be that, if extended, it would still have to be taken at that time, because it is seen as leave primarily to support the mother rather than to care for the child. This is unlikely to have the desired culture change effect, since it is when fathers are left in sole charge of an infant for extended periods that they are most likely to make a substantial contribution to infant care or childcare once they have returned to work.

I ask the Minister for two assurances. The first is that, before Report, he will seriously consider including a similar power in secondary legislation to allow for the introduction of a period of independent parental leave reserved for fathers. This is about getting the architecture right, even if the Government are not yet ready to build. Secondly, should that not be possible, will the Minister give a commitment to do all that he can to ensure that, if paternity leave is extended, it can be taken at any point during the shared parental leave period and not just tacked on to the existing paternity leave? Will he accept that there is no firm legal barrier to doing so? In addition, could he tell noble Lords what plans the Government have to encourage fathers to take shared parental leave and to achieve the kind of culture change that we all want to see? Indeed, will he give a further assurance that he will consult on these plans and study the lessons to be learnt from the nordic experience?

Finally, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, has also expressed its disappointment that the Bill does not go further towards implementation of the obligation in Article 18.1 of the UNCRC to use,

“best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child”.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC433

We therefore recommend that,

“the Government keep the take-up of parental leave by fathers under annual review”.

Amendment 266CA provides for this. In his letter to me, the Minister explained that,

“we expect take-up levels of shared parental leave to be quite low, and to increase as our culture changes. 2018 is the earliest possible point that we can conduct meaningful research into the take-up of shared parental leave and pay”.

I take the point, but 2018 is five years away and three years on from implementation. The impact assessment stated that the review would take place in 2017 and suggested that the basis of that review might be statutory, yet no review has been written into the legislation. Other amendments will expand on this point. Moreover, I do not share the Minister’s confidence that, as it stands, the legislation will help to achieve this culture change that we both want to see. It would be helpful to monitor progress annually from the word go and to place any review on a statutory basis. I beg to move.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield: My Lords, I am sympathetic to the thinking behind the amendment. The idea of a “father quota”—an independent right for fathers to at least four weeks of leave—could be important if we are to achieve our aim, which the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, set out clearly and which is all about changing the culture.

There are two aspects of the culture that need to be changed. One is the expectation within the workplace, on the part of both employees and employers, about who is going to take parental leave. The burden is so much on the mother at the moment that the new legislation, which I strongly support, could make a reality of encouraging fathers to take parental leave and be much more involved in the early days and weeks of looking after newborn babies and children in their first year.

The second culture change that we are looking for is a different way for couples to decide how they are going to juggle bringing up their children and their work responsibilities—something that many people struggle with. We all know that it is not easy. What the Government are proposing is very helpful, but I want to see something that is going to provide that additional incentive to fathers to take this up. I really like the phrase “use it or lose it” because it says clearly what we are trying to do here.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, went through the evidence comprehensively, so I certainly do not intend to repeat that. When I reviewed the evidence, I was particularly struck by the impact that this had had in the nordic countries. It really seemed to be the thing that made the difference and started to tip the balance to get that culture change. If we really are trying to encourage fathers to take up leave—I think all of us here want to do that, judging by what has been said so far today—we need to take some heed of the international evidence of what works.

Baroness Meacher (CB): My Lords, I will speak very briefly, having not participated in this Bill because of other commitments, in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. As others have said, we are pressing here for a change of culture. We are looking for fathers to

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC434

play a much more active role in the upbringing of their children. Clearly, as my noble friend Lady Lister has rightly said, if fathers are involved right at the beginning, they bond with the baby and will then be much more involved throughout the child’s early life. This has to be good. In my view, we are seeing that change of culture: more and more fathers are bonding with children in the early stages and being much more involved throughout the child’s life.

I want to put on record the link between this and what I regard as the Government’s very helpful inclusion in this Bill of a recognition of the equal importance of both parents to a child if the tragedy of divorce strikes. If you involve fathers very closely at the beginning of a child’s life, they bond, they become involved and they care for that child, but they are cut out after a divorce—which happens, as we know, all too often in this country year after year. This is actually very cruel. Maybe it was okay in the old days for men to remain outside the family, unattached, but if we are all working towards greater equality of mothers and fathers in terms of their involvement in the family—and therefore greater equality for women in the workplace—we have to follow through, as I believe the Government are trying to do, to the post-divorce situation, should that tragedy arrive. Having been through it myself, I know exactly how that feels for everybody. I strongly support the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, but it is very important to see these two parts of the Bill joined up.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, this is a very interesting area, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Lister for bringing her expertise to bear on it and for analysing the case so well. It is curious that we are stuck on the horns of a dilemma here. We all agree that we are trying to bring in a new system which rightly promotes joint responsibility for children, in terms of the various histories that we have heard about already, and the future we wish to carve out in our country in which parents jointly take greater responsibility.

The underlying strain in that point, which has been brought up by the two recent conclusions from the noble Baronesses, Lady Tyler and Lady Meacher, is that we are coming from a position where fathers have not actively played a part, although there are notable exceptions and some of those might be present today. However, the generality which is revealed by the research is that fathers, despite what has been available to them up to now, have not taken advantage of it and, to misquote an earlier comment, they have “lost it”, in the sense that they have not taken what is available.

We have a reasonable expectation that the new arrangements will be a step in the right direction. However, will they be enough? That is the question. In particular, I was struck by the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, about divorce situations, which we regret but which are a natural part of all this. Without the bonding early on or even quite late on in the growth of the child, the loss of the relationship between fathers, mothers and children in a divorce is tragic and will have a lifelong impact.

There is a big picture here; there is a lot of activity and change. This is a new system and the Government are rightly defensive of it, but the Achilles heel in their

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC435

approach is the statement in the impact assessment that the take-up of the proposed new shared parental leave by fathers is expected to be very low—this has been mentioned already—at between 2% and 8% of those eligible, or between 5,700 and 22,800 fathers, representing less than 3% of all maternities a year. Is that really all that our expectations are for that? If it is, it is up to the Government to defend why that represents a satisfactory situation compared to the rhetoric that we have been listening to from the Minister, which tells of a glorious engagement of a much higher percentage where people would expect joint caring. It is not joint if only 2% or even 8% of those eligible are taking up what is available, and indeed are “losing it” if they do not.

It is indeed disappointing, as my noble friend Lady Lister has said, that the scheme of the parental leave model, which is good and which we support, seems to be suboptimal if it does not include anything new for fathers in their own right. It provides an enabling power for the Government to extend paternity pay by regulation, and there is already a power to extend paternity leave by regulation so it may be that the Minister can give us more hope that this will happen. However, the commitment does not seem to deliver the same outcome as the proposal in the amendment that we have just heard about. A father quota would mean that a father could take leave, as has been pointed out, on a much more flexible basis later on in the first year rather than in the early stages and perhaps even later, particularly when the mother is making the difficult transition back to work. The time would be at his choosing and the leave would not reduce the mother’s entitlement; those seem to be very important elements in this debate. I admit that I myself am not sure whether or not more is needed here but the case is certainly there to be answered, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister says.

The second amendment in this group, Amendment 266CA, suggests that we bear down with laser-like intensity on the facts and watch what happens: we would see how many fathers are taking this up, whether it is 2%, 8% or better. We would look at the relatively poor pay that has been provided for this, and try to work out what is going on here. That is also an important element of the new proposals, and it would be wrong to let it pass without signalling that we are concerned about it.

As the Official Opposition, we cannot yet support what has been proposed because it is a big spending commitment; I accept that, so we are not doing so. However, we suggest that more information, research, reporting, discussion, debate and academic work would give us a better handle on this for future times. If the powers are there in the Bill to do something about it, we would be satisfied with that.

5.45 pm

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I welcome this debate because it is important to ensure that the changes made by the Bill provide the right framework for modern families and workplaces. I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, on the tremendous work she has done in the field of gender equality, and I know that she speaks from a position of great experience

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC436

when debating these issues. As we are on the subject of gender equality, the noble Baroness raised the issue of the gender pay gap, quite rightly, through encouraging fathers’ involvement in home life. The Government agree that this is extremely important. That is why we are extending paternity pay powers in this Bill and will look to extend paternity leave and pay at a later date if we need to encourage fathers’ take-up, but I will be saying a little bit more about that later in my comments.

Greater paternal involvement brings enormous benefits to parents and children. Fathers who are engaged in caring for their children early on, as has been mentioned, are much more likely to remain involved as their child grows up. This involvement means that their children benefit from better peer relationships, lower criminality, fewer behavioural problems, higher self-esteem and higher educational attainment and occupational mobility. The Government are aware of the international evidence that demonstrates that fathers are more likely to take leave if it is reserved specifically for them and paid at a higher rate. The Government’s original ambition to extend leave reserved exclusively for fathers was set out in their Modern Workplaces consultation, which has already been pointed out. It consulted on the concept of a so-called “daddy month”, which would have reserved a portion of shared parental leave for fathers in a very similar way to the “father quota” leave entitlement proposed in this amendment.

Unfortunately at this time it is not possible to realise this ambition. The challenging economic circumstances have made such an extension simply unaffordable. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, will not be too surprised when I mirror what was stated in a response in the other place. Now is not the time to place additional burdens on businesses and the Exchequer and I realise that this immediate response will be disappointing to the noble Baroness.

The new system of shared parental leave will give families unprecedented choice about how to share the leave entitlement in the early stages of their child’s life. The Government hope that the flexibility and choice provided by the new system of shared parental leave will mean that fathers will take more time off to care for their children. The Government plan to review the decision on whether to extend paternity leave and pay by using information on the take-up of shared parental leave and pay from the series of surveys on maternity and paternity rights and work-life balance. If fathers are not taking up the new entitlement, the Government will look to extending paternity leave and pay to encourage more fathers to take leave.

The Government are taking powers in this Bill to allow for the extension of paternity pay which would enable the Government to extend paternity leave and pay at a later date through secondary legislation. I want to make that clear to the Committee. To maintain simplicity in the system, the Government consider it more appropriate to extend leave to fathers through an extension of paternity leave rather than introducing a new type of statutory leave which would be complicated to administer. Paternity leave is reserved exclusively for fathers and is already well established and understood by fathers and employers.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC437

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, mentioned an annual review. An annual review of this policy may not be possible or appropriate. The shared parental leave policy aims to encourage a long-term culture change in the UK to enable and encourage shared parenting in the early months after birth. Any assessment of the outcomes of the policy needs to understand how employee and employer attitudes, as well as behaviours, are changing. There needs to be flexibility in how this is monitored. The best source of information to understand employee attitudes is through surveys of employers and employees. This data take longer to collate to ensure that the survey includes individuals who have experienced shared parental leave. The Government believe that this is the most appropriate information to inform decisions about the effectiveness of the policy.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and other noble Lords in the Committee raised a very important issue about culture and the culture change that was necessary. I agree completely that culture change is what we need to see and the Government agree that it is essential. We will provide supporting guidance as soon as we can to help this change happen and to encourage employers and employees to embrace it. The extent to which the culture change we all seek has come about will be a critical part of the review of these reforms once they have had time to bed in.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, raised the issue of the father’s quota. If it would help, we will write to her with more details on that, in addition to the letter that I have written. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked why the level of take-up for fathers is estimated at between 2% and 8%. The impact assessment used figures from the maternity and paternity rights survey that I alluded to earlier in which fathers were asked whether they would like to take more time, if it was available. However, those are initial take-up estimates, and we hope that the culture change that I mentioned earlier will encourage a higher take-up in due course.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, who is not in her place today, are assured by the commitments that we have made. The Government will review the take-up of shared parental leave by fathers and consider extending paternity leave and pay in due course, to encourage fathers to take shared parental leave. Finally, I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, that if paternity leave and pay is extended at a later date, the period within which it can be taken will also be extended. However, I hope, in the mean time, that she will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Tyler and Lady Meacher, for their support for this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, made a very important point about the workplace culture. The experience of some of the Nordic countries is that changing the workplace culture is crucial in encouraging fathers to take leave. There is a link between the right to parental leave and changing the culture, and I hope that the department will reflect further on that.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC438

On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, it seems to me that if both parents were more involved in bringing up their children, it might keep them together. I am not sure whether there is any evidence to support that, but we know that conflicts about who does what in the home and so forth can contribute to breakdown. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Stevenson for going as far as he was able to in the context, as I know he is sympathetic. I think we are all sympathetic, including the Minister. It is frustrating because I feel like the Minister made my case, in a sense, very eloquently, but then drew back from it by refusing to take that extra step.

I think I heard the Minister correctly and that he has made the commitment I asked for, which was that if paternity leave is extended, it can be taken later. The Minister is nodding his head, and it is very helpful to have that on the record. We now know that if paternity leave is extended at a future date, it could be taken—I hope he is saying—at any point during the parental leave period. That will reassure organisations outside that have been campaigning on this.

Unless this is what he proposes to write to me about, the Minister did not respond to my question about what plans the Government have to encourage fathers to take shared parental leave and whether he would give a commitment to consult on such plans and study what has been happening. There is a wealth of expertise—not so much mine but within this network—about what is happening in other countries. Again, I think the Minister is nodding his head, so perhaps I could put into the record that he is prepared to consult with the network of experts about how to achieve this culture change, even if we cannot go the full way in terms of having “daddy leave” in the legislation. The Minister has been nodding and not shaking his head in response to everything I have said. Does he want to say anything more?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I will just confirm that, as part of the review, these issues will be looked at. It is extremely helpful to have the input and the views from the Nordic countries. I suspect that officials are already looking at that but it is helpful to be nudged in the right direction. We will certainly be looking at this in addition to the other aspects of the review.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I thank the Minister, but we do not want to wait for the review in 2017-18 before steps are taken to try to achieve this culture change. The culture change needs to be achieved alongside the introduction of shared parental leave. Again, I hope that a commitment will be made to thinking now about how to make that change, rather than waiting for a formal review. Unless the Minister has anything else he wants to add on this point, I will withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I rise only to say to the noble Baroness that I will be happy to continue these discussions with her. I stated earlier that I have not made a commitment to come back before 2018 and I would not want to do that today. Clearly, it is in everyone’s interests to make this work, and I have already said that we need more time than the noble Baroness has indicated in her remarks to ensure that

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC439

the review comes through. However, we are happy to commit to consulting expert organisations both at home and abroad on how to achieve the culture change, which is something that I alluded to earlier.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: I am grateful to the noble Viscount and for the constructive way in which he has engaged in this debate. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 266B withdrawn.

Amendments 266C and 266CA not moved.

Clause 90: Exclusion or curtailment of other statutory rights to leave

Amendment 266D

Moved by Lord Touhig

266D: Clause 90, page 68, line 24, at end insert—

“(za) in subsection (2) at the end there is inserted “for each child born as a result of the pregnancy in addition to the entitlement to allow the Secretary of State to regulate for additional maternity leave under section 73;”

Lord Touhig: My Lords, Amendments 266D and 266E deal with multiple births. Amendment 266D seeks to allow additional leave and Amendment 266E seeks to allow additional maternity pay, both in proportion to the number of births.

I believe that these amendments are necessary due to the intense additional pressures that parents of multiple births face over those of single births. As a grandfather of twins, I can certainly testify to the truth of that. Currently both groups receive the same entitlements to pay and leave. Maternal stays during birth admissions are 60% to 70% longer for multiple births than single births. Even prior to birth, expectant mothers of multiple births are six times more likely to be admitted into hospital and more than twice as likely to be admitted into intensive care as expectant mothers of single babies.

In addition, twins are 10 times more likely to be admitted to neonatal special care units; 44% of twins and 91% of triplets are born prematurely and spend time in neonatal care. On average, parents of multiple births spend a larger proportion of their maternity and paternity leave in neonatal units, and both mothers and children are more likely to face serious health complications. All this reduces the amount of time that parents have to bond with their children and settle into parental life. They have less time to do what parents of single children have to do, even though they have more children to do it with. It is an alarming fact that 20% of mothers of multiple births suffer from postnatal depression, double the proportion of mothers of single children.

Parents of multiple births do not merely face additional emotional and health issues but financial ones. They are far more likely to experience economic hardship in the first 18 months of their children’s lives than parents of a single child. A report published this year by the Twins and Multiple Births Association, titled Multiple Births Parents’ Experience of Maternity and Paternity Leave, revealed that 61% of respondents did not have enough maternity and paternity pay to cover the cost of their leave. In order to get by, 32% stated that they

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC440

put money on their credit card and they could not pay it off in full at the end of the month. More than half the respondents built up debt and a quarter built up debt of more than £2,000.

It is abundantly clear that parents of multiple births face very real additional challenges compared to their peers. Nevertheless, the current system treats both groups in the same manner. These amendments seek to introduce an element of responsiveness within the system to the very real difficulties faced by those who experience multiple births, in order to create a modern system of maternity leave.

I hope that the Minister will also consider taking prematurity into account in maternity leave legislation. It could be achieved by simply using “babies expected” rather than their actual due date when calculating maternity leave. I hope he will respond to that. I beg to move.

6 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, this is a long group, with a large number of amendments. It breaks into two parts. As I listened to my noble friend Lord Touhig’s very eloquent contribution on the question of multiple births, I wondered whether it might have been better to have a separate debate on each of them because the points he makes are very interesting and we do not want to lose them in consideration of other areas. I will plough on and hope that the Minister will deal with this group of amendments in two parts, even though I will be mixing them up in what I say.

The amendments in my name in this group remove the limit on fathers’ or secondary adoptive parents’ time off to attend antenatal appointments, which is currently restricted to two occasions of six and a half hours each. Amendments 267F and 267H introduce an alternative of “reasonable” time off for fathers or secondary adoptive parents. Amendment 267K proposes that additional time off should be provided for fathers or secondary adoptive parents where the pregnancy is of twins or multiple births, so in that sense it reaches out to the points that my noble friend Lord Touhig was making.

The introduction of time off for fathers and adoptive or surrogate parents to attend antenatal appointments is very welcome. However, the Bill not only limits the unpaid time off to just two appointments but prescribes the maximum amount of time that fathers can spend away from work to six and a half hours per appointment. The time limits should be determined by regulations—if at all—and should not be in the Bill.

I know it is a rule of thumb that Governments try to take Henry VIII powers whenever they can in legislation and Oppositions traditionally oppose them but I am afraid I am turning the cart round this time. I think the Government are being too detailed here. This area requires a sensitive regulatory approach; for example, the amount of time you need to go to an antenatal appointment largely reflects the complexity of the pregnancy and, indeed, whether it is a single or multiple pregnancy. If it is multiple, we know that that requires more scans. Having the time to do that is not just about the forthcoming child but is a chance for the other parent to be involved in looking after existing children.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC441

We have a complicated situation here. We think it would be more sensible to try to find a formulation—which we have tried to set out in the amendments but we quite accept might need to be refined—under which fathers and secondary adoptive parents are allowed reasonable time off rather than only two appointments. After all, it is the case already that pregnant women are entitled to reasonable and paid time off to attend antenatal appointments, so we are looking for a bit of symmetry in that.

When we were having our second child, we had a rather complicated pregnancy, which took a lot of time, not just in travel to and from hospital but in the hospital and waiting times. I have personal experience of this and I understand the complications. I was lucky in that I was in charge of my own time and I could take the time off, but I recognise that if I had been responsible to another employer it might well have been difficult to get the sort of time that I felt was important to spend with my partner. I have a personal interest in that but it is not the determinant of my thinking. There is a broader issue here that the regulations would be a better place to do that.

I know that there will be arguments about the cost of absence and that employers may feel that, if nothing is put down, employees will take “sickies” and try to take more time than is required, but pregnancy is a complicated time. We should accept that there may be some rough edges to what one might want to do here, but the Government should try not to overspecify something that, by its very nature, will be more complicated and more reflective of the needs of the individuals concerned. I hope that these points will be taken into account.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for raising these important issues. Like the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, I shall deal with the amendments in two parts.

I shall speak, first, about antenatal appointments and the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and my noble friend Lady Brinton. The Government wish to encourage the involvement of fathers and partners in pregnancy from the very earliest stages. Attendance at antenatal appointments forms a key part of this involvement. Research demonstrates that the greater the involvement of the father in the pregnancy, the more likely he is to remain an active father when the child is growing up.

Antenatal appointments are essential in all pregnancies to care for mother and baby. In cases where there are complications, they are particularly important. Complications during pregnancy may be associated with specific circumstances such as multiple pregnancies or existing health conditions.

Any pregnancy, however, can develop complications. This can happen at any stage and is always distressing for the parents involved. It is also likely to mean that the pregnant woman will need to attend additional antenatal appointments, often at short notice. Many fathers will wish to accompany their partners to these appointments to give practical and moral support. The Government wish to encourage them to do so.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC442

Fathers and partners currently have no statutory right to time off to accompany their partner to an antenatal appointment. The changes that the Government are making in this Bill will enable all fathers who are employees or agency workers to take time off to attend antenatal appointments on two occasions. Equivalent provisions are also being introduced for adopters and certain intended parents in surrogacy arrangements. This is a significant step forward. It is important to emphasise that this provision is intended to provide a minimum standard to enable all fathers to take some time off to attend antenatal appointments with their partner.

Sixty-seven per cent of fathers currently take time off to attend antenatal appointments. Some are able to come to an informal arrangement with their employer; others may, for example, take annual leave or attend the appointment in the morning and make up time later in the afternoon. It is the Government’s hope that this right will encourage more fathers to take time off in addition to the time allowed.

The right to time off is capped at six-and-a-half hours per appointment. The Government want the amount of time off to which an employee is entitled to be reasonable to attend an appointment in their home area. Six-and-a-half hours represents half of the maximum working day under the terms of the working time directive. It is important to have a cap in order to be clear about what the maximum entitlement is and to avoid an employer having to go through a bureaucratic process to determine what is reasonable in the circumstances of their employee.

The introduction of this entitlement should help to create a culture change that makes more commonplace fathers taking time off to attend antenatal appointments. In turn, this will mean that more employers accommodate provisions beyond the statutory minimum. The impact of these provisions will be reviewed alongside the package of reforms in this Bill that introduce shared parental leave.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I did not detect the softening that I was hoping for in that response. Is the Minister really saying that a 6.5-hour standard for attending appointments will be in the Bill? Where does that place people who live in the Highlands of Scotland or remote parts of Wales, whose hospital will be several hours’ journey there and back? It seems ridiculous to specify something which the Government must know could not possibly be the standard applied in certain areas of the country.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: Of course, the noble Lord makes a fair point but this is the minimum requirement that is laid out. We feel it is fair that this should be done on the case of the maximum entitlement. There is every hope, particularly for those employees who work in the Highlands, for example, that the employer will take a reasonable view and will allow more time off if necessary, but we feel that six and a half hours is pretty reasonable.

I turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig. These relate to additional maternity provision for mothers who have multiple births. The early months after the birth of a child are often a

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC443

joyful and exciting time, but I think everyone in this Committee would agree that they can also place great demands on parents. These demands are amplified when there is not just one new baby to care for, but two or more. Straightforward tasks such as feeding, changing nappies or leaving the house can pose enormous challenges. Multiple pregnancies often result in premature births, bringing additional health complications for the babies and stress for the parents.

Financial pressures on families with more than one baby increase as well. Having a baby is expensive, but when the costs double or triple it can be very daunting for the individuals involved. I can understand the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, to ensure that parents who have multiple children from the same pregnancy receive support at this challenging time. I applaud the fact that he produced some interesting statistics to support his comments. It is important, however, to bear in mind that the period of maternity leave to which women are entitled in Great Britain is one of the longest in the world. The purpose of this leave is to enable the mother to recover from birth and to bond with her new baby or, in the case of a multiple birth, her new babies. The amount of time off work that mothers take will vary depending on the needs and wishes of the individual.

The current maternity leave entitlement is 52 weeks per pregnancy, to which all employed women are entitled. The Government believe that this leave entitlement allows all women sufficient time to recover from all birth circumstances and care and bond with the baby or babies prior to returning to work. The vast majority of mothers choose to return to work before the end of the maternity leave period. Eligible mothers are also entitled to up to 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance. Statutory maternity pay is paid at 90% of earnings for the first six weeks of maternity leave, and at the lesser of 90% of salary or £136.78 per week for the subsequent 33 weeks. Maternity allowance is paid at the lesser of 90% of earnings or the flat rate of £136.78 for the full 39 weeks. As with statutory maternity leave, this entitlement is per pregnancy rather than per child born.

Multiple babies will mean additional expenditure for families. It is important to emphasise, however, that statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance are not intended to go towards the additional costs of new babies. They are intended to provide a measure of earnings replacement to enable the mother to be absent from the workplace on maternity leave. The financial needs of different families will vary. The level of a mother’s income while she is absent from the workplace may also depend on contractual pay enhancements that are available to many women for part or, in some cases, all of their maternity leave. The eligibility of an individual for these statutory payments is underpinned by their labour market attachment and their relationship with an individual employer. The Government do not therefore consider it appropriate to link the amount of pay available with regards to any statutory pay following birth or adoption to the number of children in a pregnancy or adoption arrangement. I hope that noble Lords are reassured by this explanation and ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC444

Lord Touhig: My Lords, we have had a series of very good debates this afternoon with a listening Minister, although I fear that he has stopped listening in this debate. I am encouraged by some of the things he has said but it is pretty clear that the Government will make no movement whatever on my two amendments. We may need to return to this issue on Report but, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 266D withdrawn.

Clause 90 agreed.

Amendment 266E not moved.

Clauses 91 and 92 agreed.

6.15 pm

Clause 93: Statutory rights to leave and pay of prospective adopters with whom looked after children are placed

Amendment 267

Moved by Baroness Massey of Darwen

267: Clause 93, leave out Clause 93 and insert the following new Clause—

“Statutory rights to leave and pay of prospective adopters with whom looked after children are placed, special guardians and family and friends carers

(1) In section 75A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ordinary adoption leave), after subsection (1) there is inserted—

“(1A) The conditions that may be prescribed under subsection (1) include conditions as to—

(a) being a local authority foster parent;

(b) being approved as a prospective adopter;

(c) being notified by a local authority in England that a child is to be, or is expected to be, placed with the employee under section 22C of the Children Act 1989;

(d) becoming a special guardian under section 14A of the Children Act 1989;

(e) becoming a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances.”

(2) In section 75B of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (additional adoption leave), after subsection (1) there is inserted—

“(1A) The conditions that may be prescribed under subsection (1) include conditions as to—

(a) becoming a special guardian under section 14A of the Children Act 1989;

(b) becoming a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances.”

(3) In section 80B of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (entitlement to ordinary paternity leave: adoption)—

(a) in subsection (5), after paragraph (a) there is inserted—

“(aa) make provision excluding the right to be absent on leave under this section in the case of an employee who, by virtue of provision under subsection (6A), has already exercised a right to be absent on leave under this section in connection with the same child;”;

(b) after subsection (6) there is inserted—

“(6A) Regulations under subsection (1) shall include provision for leave in respect of a child—

(a) placed, or expected to be placed, under section 22C of the Children Act 1989 by a local authority in England with a local authority foster parent who has been approved as a prospective adopter;

(b) for whom a special guardian has been appointed under section 14A of the Children Act 1989;

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC445

(c) placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances.

(6B) This section has effect in relation to regulations made by virtue of subsection (6A) as if—

(a) references to being placed for adoption were references to being placed under section 22C of the Children Act 1989 with a local authority foster parent who has been approved as a prospective adopter or to being placed with a special guardian under section 14A of the Children Act 1989 or to being placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances;

(b) references to placement for adoption were references to placement under section 22C or section 14A with such a person or to placement with a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances;

(c) paragraph (aa) of subsection (5) were omitted.”

(4) In section 171ZB of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (entitlement to ordinary statutory paternity pay: adoption), after subsection (7) there is inserted—

“(8) This section has effect in a case involving a child placed under section 22C of the Children Act 1989 by a local authority in England with a local authority foster parent who has been approved as a prospective adopter, or placed with a special guardian under section 14A of the Children Act 1989 or placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances, with the following modifications—

(a) the references in subsection (2) to a child being placed for adoption under the law of any part of the United Kingdom are to be treated as references to a child being placed under section 22C in that manner or to being placed with a special guardian under section 14A or to being placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances;

(b) the reference in subsection (3) to the week in which the adopter is notified of being matched with the child for the purposes of adoption is to be treated as a reference to the week in which the prospective adopter is notified that the child is to be, or is expected to be, placed with the prospective adopter under section 22C or the week the special guardian is expected to be appointed or the week the child is expected to be placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances;

(c) the reference in subsection (6) to placement for adoption is to be treated as a reference to placement under section 22C of section 14A or to placement with a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances;

(d) the definition in subsection (7) is to be treated as if it were a definition of “prospective adopter” or “special guardian” or “family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances”.

(9) Where, by virtue of subsection (8), a person becomes entitled to statutory paternity pay in connection with the placement of a child under section 22C or 14A of the Children Act 1989 or placement with a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances, the person may not become entitled to payments of statutory paternity pay in connection with the placement of the child for adoption.”

(5) In section 171ZE of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (rate and period of pay), after subsection (11) there is inserted—

“(12) Where statutory paternity pay is payable to a person by virtue of section 171ZB(8), this section has effect as if—

(a) the references in subsections (3)(b) and (10) to placement for adoption were references to placement under section 22C or 14A of the Children Act 1989 or placement with a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances;

(b) the references in subsection (10) to being placed for adoption were references to being placed under section 22C or 14A or to being placed with a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances.”

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC446

(6) In section 171ZL of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (entitlement to statutory adoption pay), after subsection (8) there is inserted—

“(9) This section has effect in a case involving a child who is, or is expected to be, placed under section 22C of the Children Act 1989 by a local authority in England with a local authority foster parent who has been approved as a prospective adopter, or placed with a special guardian under section 14A of the Children Act 1989 or placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances, with the following modifications—

(a) the references in subsections (2)(a) and (4A)(a) to a child being placed for adoption under the law of any part of the United Kingdom are to be treated as references to a child being placed under section 22C in that manner or to being placed with a special guardian under section 14A or to being placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances;

(b) the reference in subsection (3) to the week in which the person is notified that he has been matched with the child for the purposes of adoption is to be treated as a reference to the week in which the person is notified that the child is to be, or is expected to be, placed with him under section 22C or the week the special guardian is expected to be appointed or the week the child is expected to be placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances;

(c) the references in subsection (4B)(a) to adoption are to be treated as references to placement under section 22C or 14A or placement with a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances;

(d) the reference in subsection (5) to placement, or expected placement, for adoption is to be treated as a reference to placement, or expected placement, under section 22C or 14A or placement with a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances.

(10) Where, by virtue of subsection (9), a person becomes entitled to statutory adoption pay in respect of a child who is, or is expected to be, placed under section 22C or 14A of the Children Act 1989 or placement with a family and friends carer in prescribed circumstances, the person may not become entitled to payments of statutory adoption pay as a result of the child being, or being expected to be, placed for adoption.”

(7) In section 171ZN of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (rate and period of pay), after subsection (8) there is inserted—

“(9) Where statutory adoption pay is payable to a person by virtue of section 171ZL(9), this section has effect as if the reference in subsection (2E) to the week in which the person is notified that he has been matched with a child for the purposes of adoption were a reference to the week in which the person is notified that a child is to be, or is expected to be, placed with him under section 22C of the Children Act 1989 or the week the special guardian is expected to be appointed or the week the child is expected to be placed in a family and friends care arrangement in prescribed circumstances.

(8) In the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992—

(a) in section 171ZJ(1), at the appropriate place there is inserted—

““local authority” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989 (see section 105(1) of that Act);”;

““local authority foster parent” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989 (see section 22C(12) of that Act);”;

(b) in section 171ZS(1), at the appropriate place there is inserted—

““local authority” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989 (see section 105(1) of that Act);”;

““local authority foster parent” has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989 (see section 22C(12) of that Act);”.”

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, Amendment 267, in the names of myself and my noble friend Lady Drake, suggests changes to the statutory leave and pay

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC447

of prospective adopters with whom looked-after children are placed, special guardians and family and friends carers. Insertions are suggested to sections of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and sections of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992.

We had a lengthy discussion on support for family and friends carers in Committee on 26 October. I shall summarise a few points from that debate as a background to today’s considerations. An estimated 300,000 children are being raised by relatives and friends. Only an estimated 6% of children who are raised in family and friends care are looked after by the local authority and placed with approved foster carers. Children in kinship care do better in terms of attachment and achievement, but their carers are under severe strain—95% of family and friends carers say so. In the previous debate I called them heroes, and so they are. We are not really addressing the inequalities and unfairness that they face at the moment.

The Kinship Care Alliance attributes this strain to three major factors: kinship carers are not entitled to local authority financial or other support—financial support is discretionary; many kinship carers have to give up jobs to support the children and they have no right to specific services and benefits. Despite guidance to local authorities in 2011 which stated what support they should provide by September 2011, 30% of local authorities do not have a family and friends care policy. Financial costs include the immediate cost of a child coming to live with a carer, the costs of applying for a legal order to provide the child with security and permanence, loss of income and pension rights and, finally, the considerable costs of raising a child.

Children who live with family and friends care have experienced similar adversities to those in the care system or who are adopted, yet foster carers get a national minimum financial allowance and the Government are rightly improving adopters’ rights to a period of paid leave on a par with maternity leave. However, the 95% of family and friends carers who are raising children outside the care system are not entitled to anything in paid leave when they take on the care of children.

The Family Rights Group’s publication Understanding Family and Friends Care, reflecting the latest survey of family and friends carers in 2012, reported that only one in eight of the 327 respondents who answered the question about the effect that becoming a family and friends carer had had, said that they had continued to work as before, and one in nine that their partner had continued to work as before. Indeed, 38% had to give up their job to take on the care of the children—in London the figure was 46%. Overall, the picture which emerged was that carers were likely to have made sacrifices in the workplace in order to care for the kinship children. Very few just carried on working as before. Many decreased their working responsibilities and their income by reducing their hours or stopping work altogether—sometimes, I have to say, at the insistence of social workers.

Children who have been through trauma or tragedy, and who may have multiple needs, require time to settle in with their carers. The carers are often required to attend a number of meetings relating to the care and needs of the children, but the absence of any right

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC448

to paid leave means that we are forcing many family and friends carers to give up work in order to do right by these children. We are pushing them into a life of dependency on benefits and into severe poverty. Some are grandparent carers who are unable to get back into employment when their grandchildren are older. Some are younger sibling carers who have few qualifications and only a few years in employment when they take on their younger brothers and sisters, but later find it difficult to re-enter the labour market. Research has shown that three-quarters of family and friends carer households face severe financial hardship. I hope that the Government will be able to address these urgent issues, and I beg to move.

Baroness Drake (Lab): My Lords, I support Amendment 267, which would bring family and friends carers and special guardians in employment within scope for statutory entitlement to pay and leave when taking on the care of a child. The Bill extends the right that adoptive parents have to take ordinary and additional adoptive leave to approved adopters who have looked-after children placed with them. By contrast, the vast majority of family and friends carers who are raising children outside the looked-after system are not currently entitled to even a day of statutory paid leave when they take on the indefinite care of a child. Many have no entitlement beyond a few days’ unpaid emergency leave. That is a public policy that conveys that kinship carers have less value or make a lesser contribution than other carers of children, even though the children they care for often have complex needs. That cannot be right.

The amendment would extend the same employment rights to family and friends carers who have special guardianship orders, and to family and friends carers who take on the care of a child in certain defined circumstances. It would give the Secretary of State the authority to define those circumstances, and would extend the right to additional adoptive leave to family and friends carers and those with guardianship orders, again giving the Secretary of State the authority to define the prescribed circumstances.

There is a stark imbalance in the proposed employment leave entitlements for adoptive and prospective adoptive parents when compared to the lack of entitlements for kinship carers. That is unfair, irrational and inconsistent with the Government’s policy on the welfare and protection of children. It is unfair in that kinship carers voluntarily take on the responsibility, often in very difficult circumstances and at considerable cost to themselves, saving the taxpayer considerable amounts of money and achieving better outcomes for the child than if they had entered the care system. It is irrational in so far as the statutory rights to leave for parents, adopters or prospective adopters have been or are being improved, but no statutory rights are extended to the kinship carers of thousands of our most vulnerable children. It is inconsistent with current welfare policy in that the absence of a statutory right to leave, on taking care of the child, raises the barriers to carers’ continued workforce participation and increases the likelihood that they will become long-term unemployed and dependent on benefits. That undermines participation in the workforce as a route out of poverty for the children and the carer.

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC449

During the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill, the Government recognised that family and friends carers make a valuable contribution by caring for vulnerable children, and exempted those carers from work conditionality under the universal credit during the first 12 months of caring for a child. The Government have time-limited that exemption in the expectation that many carers should return to the labour market after a period of adjustment, so why not make provision for a statutory entitlement to leave and reduce the incidence of kinship carers leaving the labour force in the first place?

However, the problems that kinship carers face do not lie only in the requirements of the welfare system, they also suffer from the complete lack of recognition in employment law. The imbalance in their right is inconsistent with the protection of child welfare, in that kinship carers need to take leave to settle the children, who have often been through so much. This often comes after a long period of family crisis; the children can be traumatised and insecure, and they need to know that someone is there for them. That is precisely why social workers often want or require carers to take time out of work. There are also the practical requirements of making appointments with schools, solicitors and social workers, arranging legal orders and so on. Often, the children arrive unexpectedly in just the clothes they are wearing, but there is not even the most modest statutory provision allowing employed carers leave from their employment. Yet kinship care is the most common permanency option for children who cannot live with their birth parents. The same arguments apply to the extension of parental leave to kinship carers as were advanced for the introduction of adoption leave in the Employment Act 2002: the need for time for children to settle with and bond to carers and the advantages of enabling carers to remain in the labour market.

To scope the problem, an estimated 60,000 kinship carers have dropped out of the labour market to bring up children. The reasons for this include the needs of the child, but the fact that they are not entitled to time off increases the likelihood of their leaving the labour market, so contributing to the high proportion of kinship carers living in poverty. Family Rights Group research found that one-third were living on incomes below £350 a week. Grandparents Plus found that 73% of kinship carers were working before the children moved in, but that almost half of those who had been working left their jobs when the children arrived. Some 83% of those who gave up work say that they would have liked to have remained in work, while of those who gave up work just 13% are now back in work. Similarly, a Family Rights Group survey found that 38% of family and friends carers had left their job, lost their job or taken early retirement when they took on the care of the child.

The Bill presents the opportunity to extend parental leave entitlements to kinship carers who take on the indefinite care of a child, and to give them parity with prospective adopters. The majority of family and friends carers are not entitled to even one day of statutory paid leave. That cannot be fair. The arguments for

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC450

providing a right to leave are equally compelling, whether looked at from the perspective of the carer or of the child.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I have been reminded by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, that we have had this discussion in the past. It struck everyone at the time how completely unfair this whole system was. Now that the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, has spelt out so many comparisons, it is, frankly, almost embarrassing to think about the disadvantage that kinship carers suffer when they take on this responsibility and often—most likely, I would say—produce much better results for those children, giving them a likely prospect of a far more fulfilled life than if they had gone into different forms of care.

In supporting what has been said, I would say to the Minister that I would love to hear that this area was going to be looked at hard and, as far as possible, a range of comparable systems would be considered for kinship carers, those coming into care and those who are to be adopted. If he could give us that assurance, or indeed tell us that a lot of this is already in process, that would be very helpful in settling our minds until Report, if nothing else.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield: My Lords, I support the amendment. It has been set out so comprehensively and compellingly that I do not need to add very much. The case seems to be overwhelming that when people who are providing kinship care—often, as has been said, in the most desperate circumstances—agree to step in, often at great personal cost to themselves, it is only right that the state should recognise the hugely valuable contribution they are making.

These children are often in states of great distress and trauma, and for a member of the family to be able to step in and provide some degree of stability is really important. We all know the cost to the public purse of children in care who go, for example, into residential homes—it is huge. The savings that are made by a member of the family stepping forward in this way are considerable. We also know about the very poor outcomes for too many children in care when they emerge at the other end of the system. Kinship carers can make a huge contribution and it is absolutely right that society should acknowledge that. One very important way it could do so would be by extending these statutory employment rights to kinship carers.

6.30 pm

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I will speak briefly to make two points. First, as the noble Baroness indicated, this is both a short-term and long-term financial issue. The previous Government and the present one, I fear, have taken the same position, which is that paying kinship carers in the short term would be too expensive. However, as many noble Lords have pointed out, it has tremendous value and advantage in the longer term. I only wish that a Government could, if not introduce the whole package, at least take one step.

I remind noble Lords that the Select Committee on Adoption Legislation, which I was part of, pointed out that there was very little difference in outcomes—

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC451

indeed there might be better outcomes—for children who were in special guardianship orders compared to those who were adopted. However, we treat those two groups in a totally different way. That is irrational. If we could just make a start with special guardianship, where there is an order and it is quite clear that the care is going to continue, we would feel we were taking a step forward.

Overall, we spend very little these days. The news today is that we are almost unable to meet our commitments to protect children with child protection procedures and that social workers are under tremendous pressure. I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, glanced at me, because I am a social worker by background, when she said that social workers are actually insisting that people take the time off—of course they are, because, as the noble Baroness pointed out, they have a responsibility to make sure that these children are properly cared for. Most of those social workers would be delighted if they could recommend that they were paid for that. The old Section 1 of the 1963 Act, which used to help with this, has long gone, and there are very few provisions now to help these families get through even the initial difficult times, never mind the longer period of caring for a child who is not their own, with all the pressures that such a child brings.

Being the unlikely founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Grandparents and Extended Kin—which is another story—I am concerned for grandparents, because they have reached a point where they thought life was going to be easier and they were going to be financially secure. However, they then find themselves bringing up children in their family—as they would wish to rather than let anyone else take over the care of the children—and somehow the state does not see it in its purview to give help to these families. With the changes in the benefits system, these families are finding it more and more difficult to survive. Consequently, as noble Lords know, more children will come into care. These situations will break down as families can no longer manage or social services think that it is inappropriate for them to do so.

I am quite sure that these amendments will not be accepted, as they have not been accepted in the past. However, I wish that there could be some thought, and some work undertaken, to see whether there is a step change that can move forward, through the various groups, to make it easier, particularly when a family has a legal order and responsibility for the children concerned.

Viscount Younger of Leckie:My Lords, I welcome this debate on another important issue. As has been said, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, alluded to, the Government recognise the extremely valuable contribution made by family and friends in caring for children who cannot live with their parents. Noble Lords have spoken passionately about this issue today and I am struck by the depth and breadth of expertise on this matter in this Committee.

The noble Baroness, Lady Drake, raised the important issue of kinship carers dropping out of the labour market. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, is not in his place, but I hope that I can go a little way to restoring my reputation as a listening Minister by

20 Nov 2013 : Column GC452

saying that we agree that it is important that kinship carers can remain in the labour market. The evidence that we have about this issue is limited, but I hope that noble Lords will be reassured if I explain that we are actively researching this issue. I shall say more about that in a moment.

During the debate on support for family and friend carers, my noble friend Lady Northover described the financial support with which local authorities are encouraged to provide families to help them to cope with the strain that caring for an additional child may put on household budgets.

The type of care arrangement that kinship and friendship carers provide varies a great deal. Some families care for children who need support during a short-term crisis, such as a parental illness. Other individuals take on care of a child on a long-term basis. My noble friend Lady Tyler, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Massey and Lady Drake, highlighted some other examples, including some statistics provided by Grandparents Plus, parents’ rights groups and other groups.

Given the variety of arrangements that exist, the Government believe that it is right to assess the needs of each family at the local level. Local authorities are best placed to establish relationships with these families and appraise their financial needs on an individual basis. This enables them to provide targeted support to the right people at the right time.

Special guardianship orders provide a more formalised and legally secure foundation on which a child can build a permanent relationship with his or her carer. In many cases, the child may already be living with the family when they make an application for a special guardianship order. However, this will not be the case for all families and some may have to adapt quickly to significant changes in circumstances—a point that was made earlier.