I suggest, as did my noble friend Lady Jones, that the Bill is the wrong way round—“topsy-turvy”, I think she said. A Bill on childcare should look first at the best interests of the child. Childcare and early years provision should help disadvantaged children—and, of course, all children. This is the best interest of the child. We see in a report published last week, and referred to earlier, that there are serious challenges

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with regard to early literacy skills, particularly with boys. Fundamentally, and worryingly, early disadvantage can mean less chance of success later in life. I therefore want us to state in the Bill, loud and clear, that the welfare of the child is paramount and to go on from there. It is only by doing this that we will make real differences. I beg to move.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, Amendment 4 in this group would insert “high-quality” into Clause 1(1). Amendment 6, which we will come to later, similarly inserts those words into this subsection. It also asks the Secretary of State to produce a strategy for developing high-quality care within six months of the Bill coming into force and lays out that the strategy should include,

“a target for the number of graduates in the early years workforce”—

I am not sure whether it is a particularly helpful target so I will not discuss it—

“a target for the proportion of managers of early years settings who are graduates, and … a plan for increasing the number of nursery schools to a specified level”.

The reason I tabled this amendment is, in part, the same reason that I gave earlier: what happens at the very beginning of our lives affects our adulthood to a huge degree. This is something of which we are becoming more and more aware. The intimacy that we experience in childhood is very much what allows us to have intimacy as adults. If that experience of intimacy as a child causes fear and disquiet, then, as an adult, we may find it difficult to be intimate with others, which has a huge impact.

Quality is really important. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak to the Childcare Minister and to hear, for instance, that he is looking at sharing early years practitioners with schools, perhaps in reception. I hope that a strategy will look at these innovative ideas so that perhaps it would become normal for early years practitioners to move into primary school education and for primary school practitioners to move the other way. It would greatly enrich learning in primary schools; a really good understanding of child development—which can be developed in particular by working with and observing infants—could be really helpful for primary school teachers. Anna Freud said so to a group of teachers back in the 1930s or 1940s. As a teacher, your job—or an important part of it—is to understand child development, recognise when the child has strayed from the normal course of child development and know how to bring that child back on to their proper developmental course.

That notion is important. We might also look at a strategy of co-training—something that I know has been discussed in the past—whereby early years professionals train with health visitors, mental health nurses, social workers and family support workers to strengthen their understanding of, and develop a respect for, what others do so that they can work more effectively. It is a multi-agency way of getting the best outcomes for children.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, alluded to concerns about the number of graduates leading early years provision and the evidence that we are unlikely to get the outcomes that we want if graduates—I think they have to be the right kind of graduates—are not leading

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settings. I had some acquaintance with the manager of a Montessori school in London. She was an Oxbridge graduate and we had many interesting conversations about her work. I was struck by how very thoughtful she is. Clearly her children must benefit from the degree and depth of thought that she gives to her work.

I have mentioned previously one element that is really important in a nursery setting and that is the “key person”—a designated early years practitioner who is responsible for each child. In a sense, the key person is the guardian of secure attachment while the child is placed in a nursery. However, there are two difficulties with that. First, it can be quite distressing for the key person from an emotional point of view because they become quite attached to the child and the child becomes attached to them. If they move on or there is a break in the care, the child will be upset, as will the key person. So, from an emotional point of view, there is pressure on them not to really engage with and care for the child. Secondly, some parents will be jealous that their infant is forming such a close relationship with someone in the early years setting. These things have to be thought through very carefully so that the child does not grow up in a sterile, unemotional environment but in a rich, warm environment. That is why I have tabled my amendment, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 20 in my name. However, before doing so, I want briefly to lend my support to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. I feel that it is a very important amendment as it provides a necessary rebalancing in the Bill between the needs of the child—we heard the statement about putting the child at the heart of the Bill—and those of working parents. Both are important but we have to think very hard about how those two interests and sets of needs can be best balanced.

The amendment to Clause 1 in my name would require regulations to set out the quality standards that childcare providers must adhere to in order to deliver the 30 hours of free childcare. Essentially it is about the quality of the childcare to be provided and it is a probing amendment.

While it is encouraging that the quality of childcare is gradually improving—we heard about this at Second Reading—there are still insufficient numbers of high-quality free entitlement places for three and four year-olds and disadvantaged two year-olds, resulting still in too many children attending poor-quality settings or being unable to access provision that meets their individual needs. Some 15% of disadvantaged two year-olds are attending settings that have not been judged good or outstanding by Ofsted. We know that this position is particularly stark both for children with special educational needs and disabilities—we will come later to amendments that focus on that group of children—and for disadvantaged children. I thought that the Affordable Childcare Select Committee report—I declare an interest as a member—was particularly strong in pointing out that childcare provision in deprived areas is less likely to be good or outstanding than that in affluent areas, compounding the disadvantage that already exists.

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We know that current quality standards for early education and childcare are set out in statutory guidance for local authorities. However—this is my key point—it seems to me imperative that the expansion of free childcare to 30 hours does not in any way undermine recent progress in improving the quality of the free entitlement. The early years foundation stage and a robust Ofsted inspection process have both been central to improvements in outcomes for young children in recent years. While the Government acknowledge in statutory guidance that high-quality provision has the greatest impact on children’s development—that is very welcome, particularly for the most disadvantaged children—they have not restricted the delivery of the free entitlement solely to good and outstanding providers due to a shortage of high-quality places.

It is unclear to me—hence this probing amendment—whether the Government plan to use regulations underpinning the Secretary of State’s new duty to prescribe the quality standards that childcare providers must meet in order to be able to deliver the 30 hours of free childcare. I always like to look on the bright side, so it seems to me that the Bill presents an opportunity to secure quality standards for the additional 15 hours of free childcare and, at the same time, to strengthen existing quality standards for the free entitlement for three and four year-olds.

Very much in that spirit, perhaps I may ask the Minister some questions. First, will regulations be used to place quality requirements on providers of the additional 15 hours of free childcare? Secondly, can the Minister provide assurances that all childcare settings providing the additional 15 hours will be required to be judged good or outstanding in their most recent Ofsted inspection to deliver the early years foundation stage and to have all staff holding or working towards a level 3 qualification? Thirdly, will the Government consider using the introduction of the additional 15 hours of childcare to raise the quality of the current free entitlement? Finally, can the Minister provide any assurance that the Government will develop, publish and implement—I am sure that many people in this House would be happy to help on this—a strategy for expanding on and improving the quality of the early years workforce, building further on the recommendation in Professor Nutbrown’s report and, in particular, on the recommendation that there should be graduate leadership in all settings, including, most importantly, those in disadvantaged areas?

Lord True: I wish to speak to an amendment that I have in this group. I follow entirely the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, about the need for things being child-centred. My noble friend was kind enough to embarrass my wife by saying that she was Montessorian of the Year, so I am obviously particularly attached to the Montessori system, which is quintessentially child-centred.

I will not repeat the remarks that I made at Second Reading but I think that, as the Select Committee said, there is a little bit of a risk of a conflict at the heart of the Bill. It is presented by my noble friend as an Education Minister but much of the rationale is that it is an employment measure. Indeed, the Minister for Employment is creating a task force that is intended

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to enhance the take-home pay of a two-earner household doing whatever the regulations—when we see them—will define as work. We do not know quite what that is, but we know that it is work done outside the home or work done inside the home, other than anything to do with caring for the children, as far as I can see. At the same time, we are moving from 15 to 30 hours and bringing in something that was never there before—a barrier against women who stay at home and provide that affective affinity which is so vital. Heaven knows, my mother was never a graduate—she did her bit in the war—but I do not like to think there was anyone better than her at providing childcare. I hope that we can find a way in going forward with this policy to explore whether that barrier is necessary. It will be costly in terms of administration for local authorities, and potentially to providers, and potentially socially costly in what it says about the role and enormous social, and therefore economic, contribution made by mothers who stay at home.

I fear that increasingly, given the comments I have received since the remarks I made at Second Reading. I have had a number of emails from groups and individuals about what I said at Second Reading about not venturing to put in second place the role of the mother who stays at home and cares for a child. That has certainly struck a chord. We must have care as we tread forward. If we really do believe in a big society, is that a big society that we wish to build? I unashamedly think that that is a marvellous phrase of the Prime Minister’s, and I strongly support the principle.

6 pm

Regarding the nursery education provision, surely it must include children in families were one partner does not work but instead devotes her time—or his time, in some cases—to childcare. That role is absolutely fundamental and I worry, not about an iron curtain but about the net curtain that is slightly coming down. Is that for reasons of cost? We do not know because we have not yet explored all the business of costs. If cost is the reason, there is a question of choice. The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, slightly hinted at that when she said that we should perhaps explore this issue as things go on. It may be that, if there is limited extra cost, we should skew that extra spending, as we discussed at Second Reading, towards areas of disadvantage, those in most need, those with special needs and so on. It is simply a question.

My amendment is framed far too widely and can easily be swatted down by my noble friend. It is intended only to provoke a debate on how this Bill contributes or does not contribute to addressing the relationship between one set of carers and another.

A new report has just been released by the social policy charity CARE, The Taxation of Families — International Comparisons 2013. It says that the tax burden placed on one-earner married couples in the United Kingdom with two children and an OECD average wage is about one-third higher than the OECD average. I have not had time to analyse and explore that, but if it is true, in this context, what we arguably would not need is a new provision that further assists two-earner families while ignoring one-earner families.

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This is a manifesto commitment and we will support it, but can we in some way extend inclusion? The importance of affective relationships between stay-at-home parents and their children links to what my noble friend said entirely correctly at Second Reading: the formation of attachments at an early age is crucial, so we must support them.

Even the Guardian—not my normal reading, my Lords—had a comment piece last week by Alice O’Keefe entitled, “Stay-at-home mums are heroes. The left should stand up for them more”. I agree with that, actually—take note, editor of the Guardian. Alice O’Keefe said that,

“mothers – and fathers – who prioritise staying at home and caring for their families are a valuable and grossly undervalued asset to society. Rather than focusing solely on pushing women out to work”—

and this is a woman writing in the Guardian

“we should be making space for them and their partners to enjoy a stable and happy family life”.

I agree with that and hope that this Bill does not close the door a little on those people in the generous provisions that we all want to make.

My amendment is really designed to remind people outside this House—this House does not need any reminder—and perhaps in another place to reflect, as this policy discussion goes forward, not only on the balance between education and employment, between enhancing income and enhancing love, learning, socialisation and the formation of character, but on the balance between one-earner families and two.

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be looking at this area overall and bringing policies forward in his Budget to address what seems to be a potential gap in this measure—we do not know. If so, it is one further reason why it is good to have a delay so that as the Bill progresses, we can look at the overall fiscal, social and educational climate in which we advance childcare, as well as the narrow measure before us.

I add just one final thought before ending wearying your Lordships: please let us not overregulate. I wholly endorse everything that was said about quality. But by making more and more graduates in nursing, have we guaranteed that everyone in our hospitals is cared for? There are some things that are instinctive. By making every teacher in every maintained school have qualified teacher status, have we guaranteed axiomatically that all teaching that goes on in our schools is good? As we aspire to quality, I ask that we do not rush to regulation uniformity, which may not answer some of the deeper questions about how we deliver true quality in providing child-centred care for the future.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I will be, as I usually am, brief. I am not going to make the speech that I was going to make as I think that it has already been made by other noble Lords I just want to make some points that I think have not been made and, if possible, take up one or two points with the noble Lord, Lord True.

I primarily want to support the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, in ensuring that, whatever we decide in this Bill, the child’s needs are paramount. Having

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heard him on previous occasions, I am quite sure that the Minister will agree that the child’s needs must be paramount. The problem is how to implement that. Listening to some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord True, I felt that there was a conflict between the suggestion that there should be universal provision for every child and the need to meet the needs of children who have more deprivation or disability than the general population. I am quite sure, even on my poor economics maths, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not have the funding for universal provision. I therefore hope that, when we get to some kind of pilots, we do not just look at the employment issues.

I know that this is a manifesto commitment and absolutely understand how it has to be met by the Government. However, I think that there is a risk of making things worse for some groups of children. If some families who are earning good funds—I think that the noble Lord, Lord True, was right on this—take up the 30 hours and are already paying for half of it, that means that there will be less finance available for those young people and children, two year-olds and upwards, who are not yet getting proper provision. Knowing some of the parents in those groups as I do, I appreciate that they do not always even know how to access that provision. I know that the Government are keen to improve information so that they can access it.

Those are the points that I wanted to make in seeking the Minister’s assurance that, despite the manifesto commitment that this is about employment and getting more women into work, the child’s needs will be paramount. I agree that quality is not always about qualifications. Having interviewed many staff down the years, I know that some of the best qualified have probably been some of the least caring. Then again, some of the most caring have not had the skills to actually implement the caring. It is about having an understanding of the two. I think that we could get more for less with a more strategic approach across the whole. I hope that the Minister will, in some of the reviews that are being undertaken, take that overview of it all. The way in which funding is given and the range of different funding—for example through tax credits and universal credit—is such a jigsaw for families. Just to rationalise that would make a difference both to access for families and to finances generally.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, I want to focus briefly on one word in the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lady Massey—the word “paramount”. It will make a huge difference as to how choices are made when it comes to implementing this Bill. There will be hard choices of a financial nature about commitments to manifestos and about the kind of care provided. As a principle, it may read like motherhood and apple pie, but it is not. “Paramount” is saying where the final commitment will be. For example, is it the case that paramount considerations will lead to children in deprived areas or children with special needs being favoured if there is a shortage of money? The word “paramount” begins to put an edge on this and that is why I support this amendment.

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Baroness Pinnock: My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, has said. As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, the focus of this Bill must be on the quality of provision for the child. I made that point on Second Reading. It is most important that we keep our focus on the quality of the provision for the children whom the Government are going to spend money on by providing additional hours of childcare.

The one word that I noticed was missing from the Bill was the word “quality”. When you are dealing with the very youngest members of our society, you would think that any additional provision made for them would have the word “quality” attached to it. When I read the Bill, it struck me that the focus or driving force behind it was not the needs of the child but the needs of the parent. That is why I passionately support these amendments. We need to shift the focus back on to what is done for the child. It would be wonderful if we could rename this Childcare Bill, which has all the connotations of care rather than anything else, the “Early Years Care and Education Bill”. Within the additional 15 hours for which the Government are paying we want to see not just aspects of care, but aspects of early years education as well. That would bring with it the qualities proposed by both the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and my noble friend Lady Tyler. I hope the Minister will take those two points on board.

6.15 pm

Lord Touhig (Lab): My Lords, the Minister and I have something in common: we are both in celebration mode. I believe that it is his wife’s birthday. Unfortunately, business in this House prevents him from being with her this evening but I am sure that we would all want to send her many happy returns. For my part, I have to leave before the Committee finishes its business tonight. My youngest daughter is getting married in the morning and I have to catch a train to Wales this evening.

I turn to Amendment 2. My noble friend Lady Massey posed a key question when she spoke on Second Reading on 16 June. She asked:

“Who is the Bill for?”.—[Official Report, 16/06/15; col. 1115.]

The more I see and try to understand this measure, the more I begin to wonder that myself. The noble Baroness said that any Bill with “child” in the title must reflect—as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child—that the rights of the child are paramount. I share her view. Good childcare should be child focused and offer learning and developmental opportunities. Otherwise, what is the point of it?

I share the fear expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock—a blunt-speaking Yorkshirewoman if ever there was one. On Second Reading, she said that the Bill’s focus was on providing means to encourage women into work. While that might be laudable, the primary focus must be on its impact on children’s lives and not just on the future of the labour market. If, in the end, all we get from this Bill is a very costly system of babysitting and nothing else, we will have failed every family who wants the opportunity of meaningful, progressive and fully rounded childcare in which the child’s development can be the central objective.

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Amendment 2 gives us an opportunity to persuade the Government to refocus the Bill and put the child at the heart of this measure. It places a specific duty on the Secretary of State to promote childcare and underpins that by requiring the Secretary of State to,

“promote the progressive development of persons and institutions which provide childcare”.

Those objectives go hand in hand. The first without the second would be worthless.

That brings me to a key point highlighted in the report of the Select Committee on Affordable Childcare, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood. Paragraph 25 stated that the committee and its witnesses were concerned,

“about the lack of coherence in the Government’s stated objectives for childcare policy”.

Witnesses appearing before the committee had flagged up the trade-offs necessary to achieve the separate policy strands. These were highlighted as,

“improving child outcomes, narrowing the attainment gap, and facilitating parental employment”.

The committee concluded, after listening to witnesses, that there was no evidence,

“to suggest that the need for such trade-offs was … acknowledged by Government”.

It formally asked the Government to clarify,

“how competing aims between the policy strands are prioritised, and what mechanisms are in place between Government departments to address the necessary trade-offs”.

Could the matter have been resolved and perhaps a different paragraph 25 put in the report? If the then Exchequer Secretary and now Employment Minister, Priti Patel, had turned up to give evidence it might have been. However, like some latter-day Louis XIV, she wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and said:

“I have concluded that it would not be appropriate for me to attend”.

I do not know the lady—I know nothing ill of her and I am sure she is a very good person. However, it is becoming typical of the attitude of this Government to refuse to submit Ministers to the scrutiny of Parliament. If we cannot hold the Executive to account, who will? That is why we come here every day. Ministers and the Government must understand the need to co-operate with the House, with noble Lords, and not to resist our legitimate scrutiny role. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, spoke for all when he wrote back to the Minister expressing his disappointment that the Minister refused to attend. He went on to say that what is best for child development may not be best for enabling parents, and especially mothers, to maintain their attachment to the labour market.

I have been greatly encouraged by the response that the Minister gave at the start of this debate. He is clearly wanting and willing to engage with the House and with noble Lords on all sides to make this a better Bill. I invite him to assuage the fears expressed by my noble friend Lady Massey and other noble Lords and state without equivocation that this Bill is about childcare—a childcare service that is centred and focused on the child. The benefit of helping parents into work is a bonus, but it should not be the main objective of the Bill.

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Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 4, 7, 15, 20 and 33 regarding the quality of childcare and early years education. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, my noble friend Lord True and the noble Baronesses, Lady Tyler and Lady Pinnock, for tabling these amendments and for leading the debate on this important issue. I also thank other noble Lords for their contributions.

First, I will reassure all noble Lords that children are at the heart of our thinking in this area and that they will always be at the forefront of what we are trying to do. The Government are committed to driving up the quality across early years provision for all children and ensuring that the current early education entitlement is of the highest quality. The current entitlement ensures that all three and four year-olds can access 15 hours a week of quality early education free of charge to prepare them for school and improve their life chances. It also ensures that children are kept safe and well and that their individual needs are met. The purpose of this Bill is to build on the popular current package and to help families further by reducing the costs of childcare and supporting parents to work.

A number of noble Lords rightly focused on the needs of deprived families, but we all know that work is a key route out of poverty, which is why that is a focus of these measures. We are clear that the extended entitlement is intended to help families by reducing the cost of childcare and supporting them to work. We want to make sure that this is delivered in ways that meet the needs of working families and their children. We think that it is important that the extended entitlement is flexible for parents to access and can be delivered by a range of providers. But again—this point was made by many noble Lords—what is of equal importance is the quality of childcare and the impact that it has on child development. It is absolutely imperative that childcare is delivered in a safe, secure and welcoming way that contributes to a child’s welfare and development. Of course, a large number of parents already use significantly more than the 15 hours of formal childcare that are provided. All a child’s time spent in such registered early years settings is looked at by Ofsted.

I turn first to Amendments 2, 4 and 20. The quality and welfare standards of all early years childcare, and this Government’s expectation of providers to deliver it, is already set out in regulations under the existing Childcare Act, and, crucially, through the requirements of Ofsted’s regulatory and inspection regime. Ofsted has announced a new, improved common inspection framework to come into effect from September this year, which will bring more consistency to inspection approaches across education and registered early years settings assessed under the early years foundation stage statutory framework. There will be an increased focus on children’s outcomes and the quality of teaching and learning, and on whether appropriate continuous professional development to improve staff practice is in place. Once again, I stress that children’s welfare and safety remain paramount and are key elements of the inspection regime.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, asked about the strategy for workforce improvement. We are committed to ensuring that we provide a clear and overarching framework of regulatory accountability and high-quality standards for childcare providers, alongside raising the bar on the calibre of staff via more demanding qualifications and qualification entry requirements. Within this framework, childcare businesses are incentivised and supported to self-improve. We think that this is the right approach for a largely private market and respect the fact that professional practitioners and owners of settings are best placed to recruit and retain a workforce that delivers the childcare that the Government, but, most importantly, parents, want.

The Government therefore are continuing to support the development of the sector by providing £50 million of funding through the early years pupil premium to support providers to raise the quality of provision for disadvantaged children, including supporting workforce development, £5 million to teaching schools to work with local providers and £5.3 million to voluntary and community sector organisations this year, many of which will focus on the upskilling of the workforce by offering training and development.

The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, also asked about quality being reflected in the regulations. This was a key theme that ran through many noble Lords’ contributions. As we have said, we are talking to parents about their requirements for taking up the new entitlement, including quality. These views will be reflected in the regulations that we will consult on in 2016.

I turn to Amendments 7 and 15. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for raising this issue. I think that we can agree on the importance of attachment in early childhood and its implications for long-term social and emotional development. International and UK studies have shown that the foundations for virtually every aspect of human development are laid in early childhood. What happens to a child from the womb to the age of five has lifelong effects on many aspects of health and well-being from obesity, heart disease and mental health to educational achievement and economic status.

The environment for a child in their early years is fundamental to their development and for secure emotional attachment. We know that infants become securely attached to adults who are consistently sensitive, loving and predictable in social interactions with them. With the security of knowing that their primary care giver is emotionally available, children grow in confidence and explore the surrounding world, including the learning opportunities of nursery and school. The Government are committed to supporting the promotion of developing secure attachments between young children and their parents. As well as increasing the number of health visitors, we have raised the standards of qualifications, including the introduction of early years teachers and early years educators and we want to ensure that practitioners have a strong understanding of child development issues such as attachment.

The early years foundation stage sets the standards that all early years providers registered on the early years register must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe.

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The statutory framework also recognises that good parenting and high-quality early learning together provide the foundation that children need to make the most of their talents and abilities as they grow up, and, of course, continuity of care is very important. I reassure noble Lords that Ofsted inspectors will take into account the need for the well-established key person system mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, among others. It will help ensure that children form secure attachments and promote their independence and well-being. While I recognise the intentions behind the amendments I have discussed so far, I hope that we have sufficiently reassured noble Lords that they will agree to withdraw them.

I turn to the amendment spoken to by my noble friend Lord True, who raised the position of parents who choose to stay at home. I assure him that the Government recognise that it is a matter of choice for parents to decide whether they want to work or not, and that we have already implemented additional support for such parents, such as shared parental leave. The new marriage allowance will allow people who are married or in a civil partnership to reduce their partner’s tax by up to £212 a year. I understand his concern that for many parents the choice to stay at home, offering their own quality of care and love to their children, will be the right one to make. He will also be aware that those families are, indeed, entitled to the first 15 hours for three and four year-olds and to the 15 hours for two year-olds from disadvantaged homes. All in all, that adds up to a substantial package.

The principle that the additional entitlement is for working parents is, however, an important one, which I have already mentioned. It offers greater choice to parents who wish to work additional hours and for those who may wish to return to work, and it supports the Government’s goals of supporting hard-working families, reducing the cost of living and ensuring that fiscal goals can be met. However, it does not stop anyone choosing to stay at home and access the other support that I have outlined. I hope that the noble Lord is reassured by that and will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

In conclusion, the Government are committed to ensuring that childcare places are of high quality, as these have lasting benefits for children. The safety and welfare of children remain paramount. Children are at the heart of what we are seeking to do. I hope that noble Lords have been reassured by my responses and I ask them not to press their amendments.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, this has proved to be a very important and stimulating discussion on these amendments. I thank noble Lords for their support for the notion of high-quality, child-focused childcare, and the Minister for her response. However, I would be reassured if the words “paramount”, “important” or whatever appeared before the notion of children, because my problem is that I do not see the importance of the child being paramount on the face of the Bill, and I would like it to be there.

However, as I say, this has been a very interesting and important debate. Developmental stages have come up time and time again—that is, children’s personal,

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social and academic development—and high-quality childcare, from whichever source it comes, that responds to the child’s needs. I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, who talked about a strategic approach, recognising that children are different. Many noble Lords spoke about this. Children have varied needs. As many noble Lords said, this may, indeed, require hard choices.

I mentioned earlier the report highlighting that some boys not only have poor literacy but are miles behind at a very early age. We need to focus on children who require special help; their needs are paramount. If the welfare of the child is at the forefront, as the noble Baroness has just said, I think that needs to be spelled out in the Bill, preferably at the beginning. That would reassure me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

6.30 pm

The Earl of Listowel: I apologise for being slow to my feet this evening. Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, may I make a few comments on what the Minister has said, since we are in Committee? I am very grateful to the Minister for her careful reply and for her reference to the importance of the key person in the nursery. I am also grateful for everything I have heard about the improving educational qualifications of staff and the encouraging inspection reports from Ofsted.

What troubles me, and I think may trouble other noble Lords, is the concern that this is a very low-paid workforce of mainly very young women. I recently visited a nursery near here and met a couple of young women who had just started working there. I learned of their history: they were abused themselves as children. I do not know how good their experience was of recovering from that. However, childcare staff are often young women who are poorly educated and may well have had poor emotional experiences themselves growing up.

With respect to levels of maternity in young people in care or leaving care, I believe that research was carried out 10 or 15 years ago which highlighted that about a quarter of girls were getting pregnant before leaving care, and a further quarter shortly afterwards. Young women who have had a poor experience of childhood are often attracted to the idea of having a baby, and perhaps to working with young children, because they seek love—the love that they never had—and they hope that through having a baby or caring for a child they will receive that love. Sadly, what they learn is that the child needs to be loved by them, and that responsibility quickly becomes too much for them. Perhaps that is part of the reason why so many children who grow up in care go on to have children who are taken away from them and placed into care again.

I am going to make it my job to visit a few more early years nurseries before Report to reassure myself that the improvements that the Minister described are taking place. Given the realities of the workforce, I find it surprising that we are moving forward in the way that the Minister describes. However, it may be that this is such a vocational line of work that there are young women attracted to it who have great capacity

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for it. That might be one reason why we are seeing such an improvement, despite the low pay and low status of the work.

I do not expect a response from the Minister, but I wanted to flag that up as a concern.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Clause 1: Duty to secure 30 hours free childcare available for working parents

Amendment 3

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

3: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, leave out “The Secretary of State” and insert “Every English local authority”

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, at Second Reading several questions were asked of the Minister as to why it was necessary to have a system of dual responsibility for delivering the free childcare allocations, with the proposed duties seemingly being shared between the Secretary of State and local authorities. However, I do not believe that we received a satisfactory answer at the time; I have scoured the policy statement and there does not seem to be an explanation in that document either.

Under the terms of the Childcare Act 2006, the duty for delivering the existing 15 free hours of childcare currently resides with local authorities. It seems that overall, despite the pressures they are operating under, they have done a good job. In the previous debate, the Minister cited a delivery figure of 95% take-up of free entitlement, which, given the geographical and financial variations that they are operating under, seems pretty impressive.

As I understand the proposals, it is not envisaged that this duty will be repealed. Indeed, in response to a question at Second Reading from the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, about the local authorities’ role, the Minister said that,

“as my noble friend rightly says, local authorities play a very important role. We fully intend and need them to continue to do so”.—[

Official Report

, 16/6/15; col. 1130.]

So we are now faced with a potentially farcical situation in which local authorities will be responsible for delivering the first 15 hours and the Secretary of State will be responsible for the next 15 hours, even though the local provider is likely to be one and the same organisation. This arrangement will simply blur the lines of responsibility. It will confuse parents and providers alike and will provoke a blame game when things go wrong. I do not think that anyone understands the logic of this; I hope that the noble Lord will shed some light on the matter.

In the mean time, our amendment provides a simplified, streamlined structure in which the duties of local authorities are extended to cover the full 30-hour package. I hope that all noble Lords will see the sense in our proposal. I beg to move.

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Baroness Pinnock (LD): I shall speak to Amendment 31 in my name. Before I do so, I declare my interest—since it is pertinent to local authorities—both as a councillor and as a newly elected vice-president of the Local Government Association. I concur entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, about the confusion in implementing free childcare provision if local authorities are responsible for the first 15 hours and the Secretary of State is responsible for the next 15 hours.

However, our amendment focuses on a different aspect. We are asking for a new clause to be inserted into this Bill, to enable local authorities to be a provider of last resort. We do so for a number of important reasons. When I visited the Minister this morning, I noticed a big sign on his door that included the phrase “closing the gaps”. We all know, from our own research and from references already cited by many noble Lords this afternoon, that early years are extremely important in ensuring that children start school on a level playing field. We as a society must do our best to ensure that children who come from less advantaged homes have that gap closed before they start their formal education.

We are concerned that where children are less advantaged, either in homes where they are vulnerable or in areas where there is considerable deprivation, it is much less likely for vibrant private sector provision to be established, particularly when there will be 30 hours of free childcare. We already know, from evidence provided at Second Reading, that many private providers rely on additional funding, outside those free hours, in order to make their businesses financially viable. We need to give special focus to those areas of the country and those families that many Members of the House are already most concerned about, to ensure that children in those areas and families have the same opportunities and access as children from more advantaged areas. In those places where there are no viable providers from either the private or the voluntary sector, the local authority should be given the opportunity to close that gap to enable children to take advantage of the 30 hours that would be on offer. One of the reasons for doing this is because, sadly, many Sure Start children’s centres are either closing their doors or decreasing the number of hours that they are open for children from these very families. In many cases the buildings are there and could be used by local authorities by commissioning from the voluntary or private sector, but certainly provision should be made for children from less advantaged backgrounds.

As we have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, local authorities already have a duty of sufficiency. Enabling local authorities to bridge that gap would give them the opportunity to ensure that there is a sufficiency of places for all children in our country to take advantage of the additional 15 hours of free childcare—or “early years care and education” as I am going to start calling it. As we heard in the debate on the previous group of amendments, that is probably the most important thing we can do: to focus on children who come from less advantaged areas and vulnerable families and give them the right start in life. Let us really do what it says on the Minister’s door and do our best to close that gap.

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Lord Nash: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 3 and 31, regarding the model of delivery for the additional entitlement. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, for raising this important issue and bringing their considerable experience to the debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, for his congratulations to my wife on her birthday and reciprocate by congratulating him on his daughter’s impending marriage. I initially thought that Thursday was a rather odd day to get married, but then I remembered from personal experience that, given the Welsh legendary reputation for hospitality, a Welsh wedding can easily start on a Thursday and run right through to the Sunday night. The noble Lord will certainly have the weather for it.

There are many views about the best way to deliver childcare for working parents, including those in the excellent report from the affordability committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. We believe that we should take stock of all such views before setting out the delivery model for the additional 15 hours. That is only right and proper in a consultation process.

With respect to Amendment 3, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, no doubt have in mind existing legislation under the Childcare Act 2006 that places a statutory duty on local authorities to secure early education free of charge for eligible children. The amount currently prescribed under that duty is, of course, 15 hours a week for 38 weeks, although this can be stretched over more weeks per year when parents wish and providers offer the option to do so.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, delivery of the current entitlement has been phenomenally successful. Statistics published last week show that more children than ever before are taking up their entitlement. Around 1.3 million three and four year-olds now access the entitlement—some 96% of all children of those ages. Furthermore, around 157,000 two year-olds have been reported as taking up a free place—some 58% of those eligible. This is excellent progress for a programme focused on those least likely to participate in formal childcare. I put on record my gratitude to all those in local authorities and elsewhere who have worked to ensure the early success of the programme.

The Government are currently looking at the lessons that can be drawn from the existing delivery model for the free early education entitlement and considering the simplest and most efficient way to deliver the additional 15 hours of free childcare to working families, many of whom will already be paying for additional hours or provision outside the free entitlement. The extended entitlement must be delivered in a way that is flexible for parents and providers, and funded through an efficient mechanism that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, said, reaches those who are disadvantaged in particular. Doubling the free entitlement is, however, a significant change for the system and it would be remiss of us not to pause at this early stage in the process and ask stakeholders, including local authorities and noble Lords, whether they have views about alternative approaches to delivery that could work, and that could deliver the quality, flexibility and efficiency that we want to see.

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6.45 pm

However, I would like to reassure the noble Baronesses and noble Lord that the Bill gives the Secretary of State powers to deliver the new entitlement through local authorities. The Government think that it is right for the primary legislation to put the duty to secure the extra 15 hours on the Secretary of State in the first instance, to demonstrate to parents the importance we attach to providing free childcare provision and to give them confidence that the Government will deliver on their manifesto commitment. We intend to build on the existing entitlement that local authorities provide, but will take account of the views of parents and providers to ensure that the additional 15 hours is provided in as effective a way as possible.

Between now and September we will consider carefully the simplest and most efficient way to deliver the additional 15 hours of free childcare, including understanding the view of parents on how this new entitlement should be delivered. This process will be led by the Minister for Childcare and Education and the Government’s task force on childcare. I am sure that the learned views of this House will provide important contributions to those considerations.

In Amendment 31, the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, has proposed that local authorities should be able to provide childcare themselves when no other provider is willing to do so, or when they consider it appropriate. This is analogous to existing provisions under the Childcare Act 2006, which we do not intend to amend. The noble Baroness is concerned about whether there will be sufficient capacity to cope with the new entitlement in all areas. The provider market is large and diverse and we are confident that it will respond effectively to any increase in demand that the new entitlement will require, although in many circumstances the new entitlement will replace provision that parents are already paying for. The market has responded very effectively to changes before, including the increase in the number of hours for three and four year-olds and the introduction of the entitlement for some two year-olds in the previous Parliament. But, as with other amendments in this group, it is right that we consider carefully the delivery options and the implications for all concerned.

I hope that I have reassured the noble Baronesses and noble Lord about any concerns that they had and that they are able not to press their amendments.

Baroness Andrews: Can I ask the noble Lord something that is slightly puzzling me? I understand that, under Section 6 of the 2006 Act, local authorities are required to provide sufficient childcare as far as is reasonably practical, but I also understand from research that has been done that many local authorities are not undertaking childcare sufficiency audits, which obviously means that they will not provide sufficient childcare. Given the new responsibility given to the Secretary of State, is that the sort of thing that he will be able to require local authorities to do?

Lord Nash: I will have to write to the noble Baroness with a more detailed answer, but that is certainly something that we will take away and examine in detail.

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Lord True: My Lords, as a local authority leader I am obviously grateful for the way that my noble friend responded. I understand precisely what he said about flexibility. At the moment, local authorities have to deliver the universal entitlement, the conditional entitlement and the targeted benefit for two year-olds. This will be another, different category of support. He is quite right to say that that needs to be thought through. I am not going to alarm the House as I once alarmed Whitehall by pronouncing the dread word “voucher”, but there are all sorts of ways that these things can be looked at.

I am worried that as a House our gift to Lady Nash is detaining my noble friend Lord Nash here at great length, but the only thing I would say, given this opportunity, is that local authorities will not find this easy. I agree with the permissive approach that my noble friend has endorsed and I am grateful for that, but just to inform the House, I asked my officials what it would potentially cost to extend provision to 30 hours across our existing maintained sector. Because of the constraints on building and taking a reasonable view that the regulations will not be less demanding than existing ones, capital investment would be more than £6 million for our maintained schools. That was in a local authority with a low proportion of maintained to private and voluntary provision.

While I understand the aspiration of the noble Baroness to enable local authorities to come forward, I think the Government and the House need to understand that the resource constraints on local authorities in filling such a gap would be considerable.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: I thank noble Lords —we have had a good short debate. I understand the point of the noble Lord, Lord True, that, although we can recognise the success of local authorities’ involvement until now, this would be a new challenge for them. Of course, if you follow the logic of that through—I think the noble Lord was making a bid for some extra money when he talked about the capital costs—there is no guarantee that the Secretary of State or local authorities will have the extra money to fund some of that capital build that we all know would be necessary.

I have listened very carefully to what the Minister said, but I have to say that he was not very persuasive on this matter. He said that they are consulting. I understand, and we agree with the need to consult, but if that is the case, how come this is very specifically in the Bill when everything else could or could not be part of regulations?

My key concern is that the Minister did not address the complexity of running a parallel system. The noble Lord did not respond to the question of whether local authorities would still be responsible for the first 15 hours. As I said in my opening remarks, it appeared that they would be responsible for the first 15 hours, so making somebody else responsible for the next 15 hours does not seem to make sense at any level.

I shall withdraw the amendment, but I think this is something that needs a great deal more thinking through before we get to Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

1 July 2015 : Column 2116

Amendment 3 withdrawn.

Amendment 4 not moved.

Amendment 5

Moved by The Earl of Listowel

5: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, after “working” insert “or homeless”

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 5, and to Amendments 8 and 9.

I want to include homeless families. I want them to have the offer of 30 hours’ high-quality childcare each week. More than 90,000 children in England are living in temporary accommodation, and more than 2,000 families in England are living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. These are the worst figures in seven years.

I do not know who is to blame for the current situation, but we seem somehow not to have produced enough housing. As a landlord, I know how challenging it is to be a landlord. I feel how badly we, as a nation, have all let these wonderful families down by not providing adequate housing for them. I think there can be some ambivalence about social housing. I have heard a couple of colleagues say, and I understand their concern, “If you offer social housing, then young women will have babies in order to get on the housing list, and we will be creating a culture of dependency”. My response to that is “Perhaps some might”. There is the other perverse situation in which women may bring up children on their own because, in order to get a home, the father has to live separately. On the continent, they seem to be more humane, and they do produce sufficient housing. In Italy, Germany and France the rate of teenage pregnancies is lower than ours. They do not have as much family breakdown as we do. So, experience elsewhere suggests that that ambivalence about providing adequate housing for our people is not necessary. People—families—need decent homes if they are to thrive and do well and secure employment. That is the context of the amendment.

Many years ago, I went with a health visitor to a number of households in Redbridge, in east London. One had damp running down the walls, another had a flooded basement that the landlord would do nothing about. In one, bizarrely, the lavatory was somehow part of the shower arrangement. The mother slept with her child in her bed. The provision was overcrowded and of poor quality.

I have also spoken on a number of occasions with mothers in temporary accommodation. Barnardo’s used to run a project called Families in Temporary Accommodation, managed by John Reacroft. I was fortunate to speak to those mothers about their experience. What I gathered from them is the isolation they have experienced: they might well be placed many miles away from their community, their family, their friends, and they might have to make a number of bus journeys to get where they need to go. Of course, there was also the uncertainty in their lives resulting from living in temporary accommodation.

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I therefore encourage the Government to accept this part of the amendment, so that such children can get respite from an unstable and chaotic situation at home, and can have the stability of a hopefully high-quality nursery placement. I ask the Minister to consider asking the Education Secretary if there might be some ministerial discussion about the issue of homeless families, and what the Department for Education thinks needs to be done in this area.

The next subsection of the amendment is concerned with families with children at risk of significant harm. Visiting a nursery some time ago and being told that one of the mothers was a heroin addict helped me to think a little about this issue. Many of these parents will be addicted to either drugs or alcohol, so the benefits for them of having access to 30 hours’ free child care would actually be for the siblings of those three year-olds. Often, it is the siblings in an alcoholic or drug-addicted family who look after the younger children, so the elder children can get a break from having to worry about and care for the younger children. If the parent is taking part in a drug or alcohol programme, that allows them to immerse themselves in that programme, to build new relationships—their old relationships would probably lead them towards a drink or a drug—and to take a full part in the therapy offered, develop new activities and move on.

The family drug and alcohol court, which the last Government were so good at supporting strongly, is helping many families across the country to get off drugs and alcohol. Children who are at risk are, thanks to this work, able to remain with their parents. It has about a 50% success rate. A judge follows a family throughout a year and ensures that the parents give up their addiction and they can keep their children. I encourage the Minister to consider offering this opportunity to families with children at risk.

I turn to my proposal for literacy and numeracy courses. Perhaps it is a bit hard to define what those courses should be, but the research is very clear. I pay tribute to the work of many years by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and the Workers’ Educational Association, and to the recent report that my noble friend Lady Howarth of Breckland chaired for NIACE, which shows the benefits of family learning. It is so important to educational outcomes that parents be given the opportunity to learn, as well. When they start placing their children in education, they begin to want to learn, too. I am afraid that one can find, especially with very underprivileged families, that when parents are not given that nutrition and nourishment they may get resentful of their children, who are. I remember hearing of one mother—no, I will not go into the details of a rather painful story. However, it is very good to nourish both parents and children.

7 pm

I am taking too long but, moving on to foster care, research has shown that not enough foster carers make use of early years provision. This is something their children could benefit from, so I hope this offer would encourage foster carers to make greater use of early years provision. Perhaps we could save some

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time here: will foster carers get the 30-hour entitlement? Are they classed as working people? I will hear later what the Minister has to say on that.

Research has shown that many of the young children coming into care—the under-fives—have mental health issues which are not properly identified. There is the opportunity of being in a high-quality early years setting, where those missed mental health issues may be identified. It is so important for foster carers to have all the possible incentives to continue in what they do—for instance, in 24/7 social work support and their really good support for clinical psychologists. This should be seen as another service that should be offered to our foster carers because we want to retain them and to attract the best. We want to recruit more foster carers, although I am afraid that the Minister and I were a little responsible for putting a stress on local authorities with the “staying put” amendment. Allowing young people to remain with their foster carers to the age of 21 rather reduces the supply of foster carers to young children. We could help support the recruitment of foster carers by bringing this provision in.

I am taking far too long but I am coming to the last of my subsections. It is on care leavers, who have often been abused as children. Many care leavers have a positive experience of care and move on to do very well in their lives, but may have had abuse before entering care. Many of them have unfortunately experienced many discontinuities in care. The report from the Centre for Social Justice of about two months ago highlighted that many left care feeling isolated and went on to have unhappy lives. I have already mentioned that many young women in care, and leaving care, will become pregnant and choose to have their babies. That is problematic when so many of them go on to have their children removed, so it would be really helpful to offer this provision to care leavers, in order to give those children and mothers the extra support they might need. With that, I beg to move.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, I want to propose Amendment 11 on the definition of a working parent, which adds our suggested categories to the list proposed by other noble Lords. In his response to the Second Reading debate, the Minister said that “working”—and by this we assumed that he meant “working parent”—

“will be defined as the equivalent of eight hours per week, will include self-employed work, and that lone parents will be able to access the entitlement”.

He added that,

“more detailed criteria will be subject to consultation in due course”.—[

Official Report

, 16/6/15; col. 1128.]

As we have discussed, we have not yet seen the more detailed criteria that will be the subject of that consultation, so on this basis we are helping the noble Lord along in this process by making some more helpful suggestions.

We discussed the report of the Delegated Powers Committee earlier. I thought it made a telling comment, because the Government had stated that their intention in the Bill was to send,

“a clear message to parents and providers about the Government’s commitment”.—[

Official Report

, 16/6/15; col. 1130.]

1 July 2015 : Column 2119

In its response, the committee said that it did not feel that the purpose of an Act was to send a message. I do not think we are sending much of a message to parents anyway if they do not know what the qualification criteria will be for this free childcare. Our objective behind Amendment 11, which by its very nature is a probing amendment, is to make the eligibility as simple but also as widespread as possible. Through this amendment, we want childcare to be available, free of charge, for qualifying children for a period equivalent to 30 hours in each of 38 weeks in any year for parents who: are not in work but are receiving job training; are,

“the main carer for a family member”;

or are on zero-hours contracts. More than that, we want by this amendment to ensure that “working parents” includes parents who have had their contracts,

“unexpectedly ended through no fault of their own”.

This is a point well made by the Child Poverty Action Group, which argues that generous rules should be established for parents who place their children in childcare when in work but subsequently lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

The Government have so far reached a definition of working parents without conducting any consultation on or assessment of how many children would miss out on the Bill’s provisions. At Second Reading, the Minister stated that a working parent is a parent who works a minimum of eight hours per week. Then in the policy statement issued later, he added an important detail refining the definition of a working parent as one who works a minimum of eight hours per week earning the national minimum wage. That leaves even more questions to be answered. For example, what happens in the case of parents earning below the national minimum wage? Although that is illegal, as we know, employers in disadvantaged areas often practise this. The Government have been given plenty of evidence of this illegal practice for some years now and have done very little about it. If the aim of this policy is to get parents back into work, surely it should be extended to parents on jobseeker’s allowance who are receiving training to get back into work. Alternatively, parents may be engaging in regular voluntary work as a means to build experience and their CV while seeking paid employment. Has the Minister any thoughts on how these categories of parents can be supported with childcare?

Parents on zero-hours contracts do not have a set number of hours to work a week. There are some women and some men whose shifts are cancelled at short notice—that day, and there is no work and no pay. These parents would not meet the eight hours per week criteria. Will they be penalised by this measure? Would they become criminalised if they had already filled in a form expecting to work eight hours per week but, due to circumstances beyond their control, were unable to do so? We also have a growing number of carers, with more and more people giving up their jobs or cutting back on hours to care for a family member. Have the Government accounted for the care sector in the delivery of the additional hours of free childcare?

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These questions and many more are being left unanswered, so I hope that the Minister can confirm that he is taking on board the many examples we are all giving this evening, and come back with some further examples which embrace many of these wider definitions that we have been spelling out.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I shall speak briefly to Amendment 25. I support the amendments in this group, which look at what constitutes a working parent. Here, I would maintain that grandparents can fulfil that definition of a working parent if they are looking after a child or children, and they should get the same childcare opportunities as working parents. I will explain why in a moment. Grandparents are bringing up children because the parents of the child may be dead, in prison or addicted to alcohol or drugs. For grandparents, the welfare of the child is so paramount that many put their own lives on hold. They need and deserve support.

The issue of grandparent, or general kinship, care has been discussed in relation to many Bills over the past 10 years at least. I became aware of the issues facing kinship carers, particularly grandparents, when I chaired the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse. I met many grandparents who were suffering hardship. It is estimated that 300,000 children are being raised by relatives and friends—and I mean raised full-time. They are doing a job: they are looking after and bringing up someone else’s child or children. An estimated 60,000 kinship carers have dropped out of the labour market to bring up children. Many have decreased their working hours or their income. One reason is the high cost of childcare. Other kinship carers, usually grandparents, have retired from work. They and their grandchildren would benefit from extra free childcare. I know what they are already entitled to, but if they are not working the new provisions in the Bill will not apply. Many kinship carers are under severe strain and could be helped, as could the children they are bringing up, by more hours of childcare.

I met a grandparent a couple of years ago who used to work but gave up when her daughter died of a drug overdose. She took over responsibility for three children, aged between one and four, left with her one midnight. She was exhausted and needed more space for herself, and the children needed more stimulation than she could give. She was not helped by the bureaucracy of her local authority, from which she had little help or support. In a recent survey, 95% of kinship carers said that they had experienced at least one unmet need for support. Kinship carers have few rights, few specific services and a complex and confusing system to negotiate. The woman I just spoke about said, “I ought to be reading to my grandson but I have to spend my time filling in forms”. According to a survey by Family Lives, most feel that parenting is more challenging than it was a generation ago.

I am talking about committed carers, devoted to their grandchildren or relatives, who have taken over in a family crisis. They save the taxpayer about £750 million a year. Surely, these carers should be given support. Being able to access free extra childcare would make a huge difference to their lives and the lives of the children in their care.

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Baroness Pinnock: At Second Reading, I raised considerable concerns about the lack of a definition of working parents. I welcome the contributions so far, which have tried to expand the definition of working parents that the Minister gave at Second Reading, which is now written in the policy statement he provided at the end of last week. If the Government’s aim is to enable more people to go out to work by providing additional free childcare, I think we need a wider definition than that the Minister provided.

I am particularly concerned about people who go into education and training. They, too, ought to qualify for the additional 15 hours’ free childcare. We know two things. One is that many young parents have missed out, somewhere along their route through life, on accessing further education or training, either by choice or not. We also know that skill levels in this country are not as high as we would like them to be. One of the best ways back into the workforce is by gaining extra skills or qualifications through further or higher education. The Government ought to be enabling and encouraging this to happen by including parents in education or training in their definition of working parents. I urge the Minister to consider that addition seriously.

7.15 pm

More broadly, I suggest that another entry point for a parent who has been out of the workforce caring for children is through an apprenticeship. The Government rightly encouraged apprenticeships—I am proud to say that my party promoted this strongly during our period in government—as a way of gaining skills and getting back into the workforce in secure jobs. It seems beyond debate that a parent in an apprenticeship ought to be part of the definition of a working parent in the Bill. We know from the figures for apprenticeships that many apprentices are parents in their late 20s going back into the workforce. Including them in the definition of a working parent would enable many more parents to get skills and training via apprenticeships.

It would be unfortunate if we were to exclude people who are on so-called zero-hours contracts and unable to say that they can work eight hours a week. These parents are often on low incomes, because the jobs on offer on such contracts are often poorly paid. They are the very people who would benefit from additional access to free childcare. They are working; they will not be able to substantiate the hours that they work, but they ought to be included because it gives them a route back into the workforce. The Minister has already described this as important because of the additional income it brings to the family.

I strongly support what the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has said about carers. She talked in particular about grandparents raising children. I would extend that to parents who are caring, for example, for elderly parents who need particular care. They are, in many ways, working; they are just not paid for it. I hope that including them in the definition will enable them to do it without penalising their children. That is my fourth category.

The fifth category I should like to see added to the definition of working parents is those who do voluntary work. If someone has left school at the earliest possible

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moment with limited qualifications and has never gone into work but has had a family, one route back into gaining skills and learning what it is like to go to work is via voluntary work. There are many bodies around this country that encourage people, particularly those in less advantaged areas, to work in local charity shops or luncheon clubs to help them get a feel for what it means to go out to work. Again, we can encourage that if we include it within the definition of a working parent. That would focus our care on those most disadvantaged families in the most deprived areas and would show the degree of care and compassion that I hope we can achieve through the Bill and its implementation. I hope the Minister will seriously consider those aspects and broaden the definition to include some of the things that we have raised this evening.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I have a very straightforward and simple question for the Minister. When I first read the Bill, I was struck by the phrase “working parents”. Do the Government really mean working parents or do they mean those with parental responsibility? One of the things the Minister will know about family construction in this country is that nuclear families, with two parents and two children, are at a minimum. I spent my life in the children’s court system looking at extraordinarily complex types of families. People with parental responsibility might be kin such as grandparents, aunts or other relatives, or they might not be directly related but have been given some sort of kinship care prior to adoption. There is a whole range there and I hope that the Bill, at some point, will make it clear that this is about those with parental responsibility. That would end the debate about a whole range of the issues that have just been raised.

Lord True: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very interesting point. I will intervene on a slightly different tack. I have tried to present myself as friendly and caring so far, and I hope I am, but we have of course just heard a debate which has lasted half an hour with a range of different aspirations. Some are very worthy, including those on behalf of the homeless, grandparents and people with wider parental responsibilities, and some relate to whether different types of things are work or not. I have not counted how many categories have been suggested by your Lordships, but there are probably 10 and maybe 12, each of which has to be assessed and policed by somebody. I do not want to try my noble friend again, but this problem of defining the frontier and policing the entitlement arises from what I called earlier the net curtain between the so-called working and the so-called non-working—although there are wider issues in relation to broader parental responsibility.

At the moment we have a beautifully simple system: someone comes with a child of three or four; the providers simply tell the local authorities the numbers; a return is made; and money is given to the providers and paid over. Each one of these aspirations requires a different sort of assessment, probably by a different part of the public sector. It may even touch people who do not touch the public sector—there are sad cases of people who are deeply involved in caring but

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very hard to reach. I venture to say to the Committee that trying to get everything into one bottle will be extremely difficult. If the Minister wishes to keep the net curtain as he goes forward, there may be wisdom in trying to find different types of authority with the entitlement to do the assessment rather than putting it through.

I would prefer to keep it simple. Universal benefits are much simpler, although a means test can be applied if it is wanted. But I recoil with some fear, not particularly from the point of view of the local authority but from thinking about public administration, the ethical doubts and challenges, the frontiers that have to be defended, the rows and the unintended injustices that will occur from having too complex a system where it is hard to define the frontiers between working and non-working in a way that is perceived as “fair” and therefore sustainable. I believe that this debate illustrates the point I have been trying to make about public policy: good intentions, unless we are very careful in framing the regulations, will lead us into some very difficult places—and I hope that they never become dark ones.

Lord Nash: My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 5, 8, 9, 11, 25, 26 and 33. This group covers a range of amendments on eligibility. I appreciate the intentions of noble Lords in laying these amendments and seeking further clarity on the definition of “working parent”. Perhaps I can clear up one point immediately, on whether a parent is someone with parental responsibility. This is defined in the Bill, in Clause 1(12)(a), which states that a,

“‘parent’, in relation to a child, includes any individual who … has parental responsibility for the child”.

The Government’s intention with this new entitlement is to support hard-working parents with the cost of childcare and to enable them, where they want, to return to work or work more. As I announced at Second Reading, parents working eight hours per week, including those who are self-employed, will be entitled to this additional provision.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is well known for championing the case for support of the most disadvantaged, and he is absolutely right to do so. The Government provide a wide range of support to all families, especially the most disadvantaged. All families are of course entitled to 15 free hours of early education for three and four year-olds. Recognising that some children were missing out on the benefits of early education, we extended this to the most disadvantaged two year-olds. In particular, I know that the noble Earl will have welcomed that this includes looked-after children. We have been encouraging local authorities to ensure that many of these children can benefit from the support that is available.

The noble Earl raised the important issue of homeless families. I empathise of course with the practical challenges that such families face. Housing authorities and children’s services work together locally to ensure that the needs of children in homeless families are met. The Housing Act 1996 places a duty on authorities to co-operate with social services where children may be homeless intentionally or threatened with homelessness intentionally. However, I will be very happy to meet with the noble

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Earl on this matter. The Government are committed to supporting vulnerable groups such as care leavers. Our statutory guidance makes clear that local authorities, through the pathway planning process, must assess the needs and ambitions of their young people and set out how they will support them.

Amendment 9, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, would include parents,

“on courses to improve their literacy or numeracy”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Tyler, have, in separate amendments, also proposed that parents engaged in education or training or undertaking voluntary work or work experience for a minimum of eight hours per week should also qualify. As I have explained, the intention of this additional entitlement is to support working parents. If parents work at least eight hours per week, they will qualify regardless of whether they are engaged in education, training, voluntary work or additional work experience.

It may help the Committee if I explain the support that parents who are studying may already receive, in addition to the existing free entitlement. Parents who are under the age of 20 and are studying a publicly funded course are eligible for the Care to Learn scheme. This can provide vital financial support for childcare costs of up to £175 per child per week. For parents over the age of 20, discretionary learner support and childcare grants may also be available, depending on the nature of the education and training that parents participate in.

Where a child is deemed to be at risk of suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, the local authority has clear duties to investigate and to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. This might include the provision of access to childcare provided by the local authority as part of a wider support plan.

Where a child is looked after, the local authority must make arrangements for their care, which might include support for childcare. The local authority must provide a fostering allowance which covers the full cost of caring for the child. For this reason, foster carers are not eligible for additional support through tax-free childcare or child tax credits for children who have been placed with them. We of course value the important role that foster carers undertake in looking after some of our most vulnerable children. However, whether foster care is considered work under the eligibility criteria for this additional childcare support is more complicated. I would welcome a further conversation outside the Chamber with the noble Earl on this issue.

I now turn to Amendment 25. The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, has rightly recognised the important role that grandparents play in the lives of children. In particular, some willingly and unselfishly accept the role as main carer for their grandchildren at a time in their lives that they should be able to dedicate to themselves after bringing up their own children. When grandparents have parental responsibility and meet the requirements that they are working, I hope the noble Baroness will be delighted to hear that they, too, will be eligible to benefit from the new entitlement. This will allow them to maintain their work or increase

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their hours so that they can support their grandchildren, safe in the knowledge that they will be well looked after.

7.30 pm

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Tyler, raised the question of those on flexible and zero-hours contracts. Those contracts can help parents effectively balance work and family commitments, and are an important contribution to a flourishing labour market. Noble Lords will wish to be aware that under the tax-free childcare programme, eligibility will be assessed over an entitlement period of three months, allowing for variations in income week by week. I should like to reassure noble Lords that it is not our intention that parents on flexible contracts, or those on zero-hours contracts who meet the criteria, or those who lose their job unexpectedly, should be disadvantaged compared to those with regular working patterns, and we will therefore consider the technical detail of how this should operate and provide further information once we have done so.

The noble Baronesses have proposed that parents who are apprentices should be included within the entitlement. Apprenticeships benefit employers and apprentices themselves and are essential to helping our economy to prosper. Apprenticeships are paid full-time jobs of at least 30 hours with training, and therefore will quality for the additional childcare support.

The Government place considerable value on the important role that volunteers provide in our communities and in many parts of the social fabric of society. Where volunteers otherwise meet the eligibility criteria, they will be able to access the new entitlement.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Tyler, raised the important issue of carers. Under tax-free childcare, carers receiving carer’s allowance will be entitled to support where they are part of a couple and one parent is working.

In proposing their amendments, the noble Baronesses and noble Lords mentioned many important groups. The Government’s overall package of support already provides for their needs in the ways I have described. The main objective of the new free entitlement, which the Government intend to take into account when considering eligibility, is to support parents into employment. We also want to ensure that the rules are as clear and easy to understand as possible. On this basis, it is the Government’s intention to broadly align eligibility for the additional entitlement with that of tax-free childcare. It is, however, important that we consider each group carefully to ensure that the Government’s core objective for the policy is met and that the interactions between the other benefits that they may be receiving are well thought through. As a result, we intend to consider further, taking into account all your Lordships’ helpful contributions, and will return to the House on Report. I therefore hope that, for all the reasons that I have outlined, noble Baronesses and noble Lords are persuaded not to press their amendments.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: Can I ask a very simple question? The Minister did not specifically refer to the very telling comments from the noble Lord, Lord True, that, if you have too complicated a system with all the bureaucratic checking that needs to take place, it is a burden on the public bodies that have to do it—but also there is a cost involved. Is the funding review or one of the other reviews that is taking place going to look at whether having a universal system would not be a whole lot simpler than some of the tiers that we are now trying to put into place? I am not expecting an answer now, but it would be useful to know at least that these factors are being considered again.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: I apologise, because I know that everyone wants to get to supper, but I have a clarification point. In the Childcare Act 2006, which is quoted in the Bill, it says that,

‘“parent’ means a parent of a young child, and includes any individual who … has parental responsibility for a young child, or … has care of a young child”.

Did I understand the Minister to say that grandparents would still have to be working grandparents or that they would qualify because they would have parental responsibility or care for a child? Many of them are not working because they are too old or they have retired. Could he clarify that for me?

Lord Nash: They would have to be working.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his careful reply and his kind offer of a meeting to discuss homeless families and the status of foster carers. I note particularly what the noble Lord, Lord True, said about the complications of making such amendments possible. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 5 withdrawn.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.35 pm.


Question for Short Debate

7.35 pm

Asked by Lord Cormack

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to tackle litter in both urban and rural areas.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, I am very glad to have this opportunity to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to tackle litter in urban and rural areas. I express my thanks at the outset to all those noble Lords who have put their names down to speak in this debate, and look forward to hearing their contributions. I am particularly glad that my noble friend Lord Marlesford, who has made this very much his own subject in the past, is taking part, and that my

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noble friend Lord Gardiner, who has done so much to advance the cause of the countryside over so many years, is to respond.

Those of you who know me will know that I am not a natural for Glastonbury—at least not for the festival. I was having a conversation about this extraordinary extravaganza, and somebody said to me, “The people who go there are the sort of people who care about the planet”. When I saw the photographs on Monday or Tuesday morning of the enormous piles of rubble and rubbish left behind by the revellers, I could not help but reflect that we judge people by what they leave behind. It was symbolic of a problem that is very real in our towns and countries. When I go to the early service at Lincoln Cathedral on a Sunday morning, which I do whenever I am there, it is a very rare Sunday morning when I do not observe rubbish between our home in Minster Yard and the cathedral. That is not because Minster Yard is badly kept—it is most scrupulously kept—but because revellers on a Saturday evening have seen fit to deposit all manner of detritus in a particularly lovely and holy place.

Again, one thinks of so many of our country lanes defaced, the verges absolutely obliterated in some cases by all manner of nasty things. Before I moved to Lincoln, I was for 40 years, as some of your Lordships know, a Member of Parliament in south Staffordshire. I lived for some 35 years in and near the lovely village of Enville. It was rare to drive around the country lanes without seeing discarded sofas, refrigerators and mattresses that had been fly-tipped by people, frequently over a weekend, and which cost a great deal of money to remove. This detritus is a product of carelessness but, much more than that, of selfishness—and, sometimes, of malevolence.

I was very glad when the Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee produced a hard-hitting report just before the end of the last Parliament—so close to the end of it that the Government have not yet got around to replying to it. I am sure that they will; maybe my noble friend will be able to tell us when. It really was a sobering report to read, referring to England—because it was specifically concerned with England—as a “litter-ridden country”. About a month later, that very attractive and important magazine, Country Life, which has delighted people for well over a century, began its campaign against litter. It described the United Kingdom as,

“one of the filthiest countries in Europe”.

The first article was illustrated by a graphic picture of Loch Long in Scotland, showing the shore of the loch completely dominated by discarded rubbish and rubble.

Some 30 million tonnes of rubbish are gathered up from our towns and cities every year, enough to fill Wembley Stadium four times over. We have to remember, too, the nature of much of the rubbish in our streets. A cigarette butt, I am told, takes 12 years to break down completely; a plastic bag takes 20. Another graphic statistic appeared in a Country Life article, which said that it is reckoned that there are,

“46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean”.

That is a terrible statistic, particularly when you think of the implications for wildlife. So many sea birds die

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as a result of ingesting bits of plastic. It really is a commentary on the carelessness of our age—carelessness in the worst possible sense: that people do not care.

It is not that there are no powers on the statute book to deal with these issues; indeed, there are a number. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs produced, again in March this year, a splendid account of what the responsibilities of councils and other public bodies are in clearing up litter and rubbish. It is an impressive document. It has been reprinted in an excellent brief that the Library has produced for noble Lords who may be taking part in this debate and others who are interested but cannot be here, of whom I know there are a good number. It illustrates that most of the powers are there but they are just not being properly enforced. So few on-the-spot fines are administered to those who discard their rubbish in the streets, very often from car windows. It is possible for people to be fined £2,500. I appreciate that that sanction cannot easily be applied to a careless child—I will say a little more about that in a moment. But we should enforce such things, and the department itself should hold councils to account for what they do.

We should also be considering anti-social behaviour orders—ASBOs—for those who deface our towns, cities and countryside in this way. We should be considering the confiscation of vehicles that have been found guilty of being used for fly-tipping. We should consider a takeaway-food tax for those who sell takeaway food and do not deal properly with what happens afterwards—there are exceptions, such as McDonald’s, which has a proud record of playing a part in tidying up the environment. There are other measures that can be taken. The call of the Commons in its Select Committee report for a national clean-up day ought to commend itself to the Government.

I have often talked in your Lordships’ House about the importance of citizenship and community service for our young people. I would like all of them, when they leave school, to have done some community service and to be given a citizenship certificate, which underlines not only their rights but their responsibilities; and one responsibility that we have to inculcate into the young is care for the environment. I should very much like to see the Government place a real emphasis on this issue; this would mean my noble friend talking to our noble friend Lord Nash and others. If there is to be a moral and a message from this brief debate, it ought to be: “Don’t fling it, bin it”. We need to inculcate this attitude into people of all ages, but particularly into the young, who can often be the best disciplinary influence on careless parents.

I am glad to have had this brief opportunity to introduce this subject of great importance, and I very much look forward to your Lordships’ contributions.

The Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, I remind noble Lords that there is a five-minute limit on speeches in this debate. If the timer says five, you are on your sixth minute, so you are going on too long.

7.45 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. He is a decent, civilised man who cares desperately about the qualitative

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dimensions of life in Britain. He is right to have drawn attention to the scale of the challenge. Litter is not limited to the countryside; it is there in cities as well.

I live in one of those beautiful valleys of England. Just like the noble Lord, if I stroll up the lane that goes past our house, I pull rubbish out of the hedge. I can return home with a black sack full of rubbish. It is appalling. One thing that strikes me is that so often people say, “Something should be done about it”, rather than start by saying, “Could we do something about it?”. I find it very interesting that people give immense attention to the care and beauty of their own gardens, but if they step out of their gardens and into the lane beside their homes, they do not even think of picking up unsightly bottles or waste that has been thrown away.

Of course, we all have a responsibility. It is not a matter of political doctrine. In any kind of society that challenge would arise. In our little London flat, we have a basement entrance, and we are constantly picking up the rubbish that has been casually thrown into our basement by passers-by. Do not let us think that there is a social division about this. So-called yuppies, upwardly mobile people, are just as likely to do it as anybody else. There is an issue here, I believe, about style. There is almost a style in discarding your rubbish. If you are in a car and the window is open, you flick your cigarette. If you are crossing the road and you are having a last puff, it is almost ballet to watch the last few puffs and then throw the cigarette away. There are things like that. But I am so glad that the noble Lord emphasised the responsibility of food and drink producers and suppliers, because they should take very carefully the example of those who have a responsible approach and not, by their means of packaging or whatever, aid and abet this process.

Sometimes, of course, it is carelessness. Down this lane that I have described, we have the coast-to-coast cycle trail. Sometimes there are people there enjoying the beauty of our valley, not realising, as they think, “This is just a small bit of rubbish we’re discarding here”, what that accumulates into being—and, indeed, that it endangers the beauty of the valley.

The points that the noble Lord raised are very important, but we have to look behind it all. The issue has become more challenging because we live in a society in which consumerism has eclipsed citizenship and people are almost thinking of the countryside as something beautiful that is just a consumer good, not as something that is part of their responsibility as a citizen. With great respect to the noble Lord, I do not think that it is just about teaching about responsibility to the countryside. It is a matter of emphasising the whole concept of citizenship and what it involves.

We live in an age of profound acquisitive individualism, selfishness and greed. If we are going to get that right and get the issue of litter right, we have to have other values. I have never had a doctrinaire stand against the market, but the market is simply not enough in these spheres. We have to have other absolutes which must be there in our approach to society, education and government. It is essential. Without them, we are lost. This issue is desperately urgent, but it is a symptom of far deeper issues and challenges in society.

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7.51 pm

The Countess of Mar (CB): My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for bringing this very important subject to our attention this evening. I recognise that the noble Lord’s question is about litter and that there are distinct definitions for litter, fly-tipping and detritus in the code of practice issued under Section 89(7) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. I hope that the Minister will be tolerant when I digress occasionally from litter to fly-tipping, for both are obnoxious. I will also concentrate on rural rather than urban areas, for it is these with which I am most familiar.

I am frankly appalled that, as a nation, we seem to have become inured to the sight of vast amounts of paper, cardboard, plastic, bits of clothing, cans and bottles of all descriptions that litter the sides and central reservations of our major roads and motorways. Equally, lay-bys and railway embankments are the repository for old sofas, mattresses and bags of litter. Some of these are the responsibility of the Secretary of State, although I am not sure whether this relates to transport or Defra—perhaps the Minister will clear that up—and others are the responsibility of local authorities. Fortunately, these eyesores are not so obvious at this time of the year when Mother Nature does her best to hide them under verdant spring and summer growth, but the autumn and winter reveal all. As a frequent traveller on both road and rail, I sometimes feel ashamed to be British. What visitors to this otherwise beautiful country must think of us, I dread to think.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, pointed out, there are plenty of legal provisions to fine litterbugs—but first catch the offender. Fly-tipping is usually carried out at night and it is difficult to detect the offenders. According to the ENCAMS—Keep Britain Tidy—survey, it costs an average of £800 to clear up each incident on private land. Defra estimates that it costs private landowners £150 million a year. Out of 852,000 reported incidents of fly-tipping reported last year, there were only 2,000 convictions. How do you catch and give an on-the-spot fine to someone hurling litter from a car travelling at 70 miles per hour on a motorway, or even stop a lorry with an insecure load dispersing litter over a considerable distance? There are too few policemen to impose the law, and too few citizens who can be bothered to report perpetrators, though I note that two individuals were fined £4,500 between them in Bedfordshire last Monday as a result of reports from members of the public. In this instance fines, or the threat of a fine, clearly did not work.

How can we change littering behaviour? First, we need to clear up the worst areas, as is outlined in part 1 of the code of practice. We must stop hiding behind dubious health and safety rules as an excuse for doing nothing. If an area is clean and tidy, the tendency to drop litter must be reduced. When I was young, we used to be confronted by signs that ordered: “Take your litter home”. I recall anti-littering campaigns in schools. As the floor of my car sometimes demonstrates, the lessons that I learned when young have never been forgotten.

I wonder just how many know about Keep Britain Tidy and what it does. If it is to be effective, its profile needs to be raised. I agree that there have been periodic reminders—Mrs Thatcher, as she then was, was seen

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picking up rubbish in a London park—but there needs to be a concerted campaign to highlight some of the awful damage caused to wildlife and farm animals that might ingest or get trapped in litter dumped on roadsides or in fields; to highlight the cost to local authorities and individual landowners of clearing up behind dirty, lazy people; and to prick the consciences of those who deliberately defile our countryside with their rubbish. For example, could use be made of the overhead signs on motorways to remind people that litterbugs are offenders as well as offensive? There are working parties of young volunteers who clear our beaches. Could not the same be done for other areas where littering is bad, so long as there are sufficient safety measures and supervision? If the volunteers are local, they will take a pride in their patch and want to keep it as nearly pristine as they can.

There needs to be a culture change so that, like the Japanese, Scandinavians, Germans, Austrians and Singaporeans, we learn to appreciate our environment. While the Government can provide some incentives, I wonder whether the Minister agrees that it is up to every one of us to play our part. Will the Government look at what happens in these other countries with a view to adopting some of their successful practices?

7.55 pm

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, my noble friend has done very well to secure this debate because the subject needs debate and action. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Litter is quite unnecessary and is therefore inexcusable, but the Government are much to blame. I shall give an example. Whitehall knows little and cares less. Ministers were pathetic during the coalition Government. I hope that with a Tory Government we will get something better done.

I shall tell the House a little anecdote which illustrates the difficulties of dealing with Whitehall on such matters. From 1995, I campaigned for an electronic record of all firearms similar to the long-established vehicle licensing system at Swansea. The Home Office said it was unnecessary and too expensive. In February 1997, with all-party support, I got an amendment to the Firearms (Amendment) Bill for that purpose. The Home Office opposed it, but the late Emily Blatch, who many of us loved and who was the Minister, rang me to say it was a good idea and she would accept it. It became part of the Act which came into force in October 1997. The Home Office was having none of it. It set out to sabotage it using the usual “Yes Minister” techniques. I persisted over many years with the support of a series of Home Office Ministers in this House. Those on that roll of honour include Lord Williams of Mostyn, the noble Lords, Lord Rooker, Lord McNally and Lord Bassam, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, and my noble friend Lady Anelay. Eventually the Home Office gave way after 10 years. The complete system that I wanted, linked to the police national computer, went live on 22 September 2007. It works extremely well—I check with the police from time to time to make sure it still does.

Now we have another “Yes Minister” game about littering from vehicles. I introduced a Private Member’s Bill to stop up a loophole which means that in general

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it is impossible to fine people for throwing litter out of a vehicle, which is a criminal offence, unless you can prove who is responsible. My Bill, which made the keeper of the vehicle responsible so that it was much easier to enforce, had its Second Reading in July 2013, with great support on all sides of the House, but the Government, in the shape of the Home Office and Defra, opposed it.

I then introduced an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2014. The Civil Service opposition was maintained. However, I got backing from the Home Secretary, my right honourable friend Theresa May and the then Defra Secretary my right honourable friend Owen Paterson. On 20 January 2014 my noble friend Lord Taylor accepted it, and the power to make the regulations for the purpose was inserted in the Bill at Third Reading on 27 January 2014. The Bill received Royal Assent in March last year. Since then the “Yes Minister” game has started again. Defra officials have told CPRE, which has been hugely helpful to me in this matter, that they are still not convinced that what is in the Act is needed and they propose further research.

I had a letter dated 14 November 2014 signed by Dan Rogerson—then a junior Lib Dem Minister at Defra but an election casualty in May—explaining that they had, “unfortunately not been able to let the contract ... for the scoping study in July 2014”, but were “taking steps to retender the scoping study in the next few weeks”. Since then absolutely nothing has happened—radio silence.

I hope that my noble friend will have a word very soon with my honourable friend Rory Stewart, who is now the Minister responsible, and tell him that I am not a quitter. I shall continue to press this, if necessary throughout the Parliament, until what Parliament has decided is enacted. I am not going to accept this Civil Service obstruction to the will of Parliament and to the needs of the countryside on litter.

8 pm

Lord Rea (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for putting this Question about a topic which has long been on the agenda and will not go away any time soon unless they listen to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, who might get some action going.

The problem has got worse since the use of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials multiplied due to industrialisation and commercialisation throughout the world. I have seen idyllic tropical beaches spoilt by mounds of plastic bric-a-brac thousands of miles away from its place of origin. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean is a giant garbage patch where many thousand tonnes of plastic rubbish revolve in a slow whirlpool or gyre, causing great harm to marine life. This rubbish mostly originates from the land, blown from landfill sites or thoughtless dumping. I have been saddened to see many rural roadside hedges and verges in the UK heavily contaminated with plastic bags and other non-degradable rubbish. Removing it is labour intensive and expensive for local councils. Local volunteer groups do a valiant job but only scratch the surface of the problem.

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I want to concentrate on a specific form of litter—cigarette stubs. We all know how ubiquitous they are. Despite the level of smoking dropping significantly in the last decade or two, nearly 6,400 tonnes of waste are still caused annually by smoking. This mainly consists of cigarette filter butts which take 10 to 15 years to biodegrade. Some 1,400 tonnes are discarded on streets and footpaths and must be picked up and disposed of by local government street-cleaning services. On the whole they do this unpleasant job efficiently; they deserve our thanks. Some councils, while clearing up the cigarette rubbish, use strategies to discourage smoking, including deterrents and incentives. In the City of London, for instance, if a street environment officer sees you dropping a cigarette butt, you will be issued with a fixed penalty notice and now with a “Quit Here” card with details of your local stop smoking service. If the smoker then follows this up and succeeds in quitting, they are given a £20 Boots voucher. Wandsworth was planning to pilot a similar scheme last year, together with pocket ashtrays promoting local stop smoking services.

These schemes have not yet been evaluated but they are surely a step towards eliminating the problem at source. There are other similar schemes around the country which the Minister may be able to tell us about, but no central government funding is earmarked for this, so councils will now find it difficult to fund any anti-smoking messages which could be displayed on bins for cigarette end disposal in busy shopping streets, for instance. This was not done in Middlewich, where 32 butt bins were mounted on walls around the town last February. The sting in the tail is that the £5,000 cost of installing these was borne by Japan Tobacco International, which used the publicity as part of a corporate responsibility deal. Naturally, there were no anti-smoking messages on those bins. This form of activity by the tobacco industry is against the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Its guidelines make it clear that government endorsement of tobacco industry corporate responsibility activity, which could include activity relating to litter, can be used to create a more credible profile for the industry and its policy positions.

I hope the Minister can say that the Government will strongly discourage this form of funding for local authorities and instead step in with assistance in mounting these health messages. In effect, funding from the tobacco industry is a form of Faustian pact, considering the lethal nature of its products.

8.05 pm

Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB): My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on stimulating this debate. I cannot remember how many times I have said to my wife over the past 12 months, as we have been driving through the English countryside, that I must promote a debate in the House on litter. I am clearly too slow off the mark and delighted that the noble Lord got there before me. I also express my thanks for the very helpful briefing pack on this topic.

I continue to be appalled at the volume of litter on the side of highways in rural areas, on city bypasses and on the streets of our towns, and at the increase in fly-tipping and its impact on the farming community

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and the resources of local authorities to deal with this unacceptable situation. I became even more alarmed when I read the very helpful briefing notes provided for this debate. The statistics are stark indeed. Fly-tipping is increasing by about 20% annually and the cost of clearance by local authorities is obviously increasing by an equivalent amount. To make matters worse, prosecutions are falling by 9% annually so the problem is increasing at an alarming rate and prosecutions decreasing at an alarming rate. This can only lead to a crisis situation.

When we have overseas friends staying with our family, I find myself embarrassed at having to apologise for the litter on our roadsides. Some friends of ours moved from South Africa to live permanently in Britain a few years ago, and I asked them about their first impressions of our country. Their response was that they were really surprised at the amount of litter. How dreadful is that?

The opening words of the CLG Select Committee report are very impactful:

“England is a litter-ridden country compared to most of Europe”.

Our deep concern about this issue in this House this evening is shared by others. The president of CPRE warned earlier this year that the countryside is sinking in litter. He is quoted in a Guardian article as saying:

“Without urgent action, the generation that follows us will find the beauty of England submerged in garbage ‘too thick-strewn to be swept up’, just as Philip Larkin prophesied”.

I could not have put it better myself.

We cannot stand by and allow this situation to continue to get worse and worse. I applaud the efforts of Keep Britain Tidy and of the amazing groups of volunteers who are making a real difference. There are 671 registered voluntary groups —and I suspect many more which are not registered—that care about the appearance of our countryside, towns and cities and take precious time out to clean up the mess others leave behind. I was hugely impressed with the example given in the report of a five and a half-mile section of the A46 where five workers took 17 days to collect six tonnes of litter. We cannot quite match that density in Northumberland, but our farm boundary abuts a mile of highway and I personally collect at least five large bin bags of rubbish every year from the roadsides of that mile; five large bags per mile in rural Northumberland, and every single piece of rubbish thrown out of a vehicle window. The statistic that shocked me the most in the report was that 25% of people admitted that they drop litter. I cannot believe that 25% of people have admitted to doing this. Now, I know we should not stretch statistics too far but if we discount children, around 15 million people in Britain admit to dropping litter. This is a national disgrace.

What is the solution? There are three possible actions. First, we need another high-profile campaign, building on the Country Life campaign referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, to raise awareness of the issue and to help persuade the 15 million people I referred to earlier to stop dropping litter and throwing it out of their vehicles. Secondly, this needs to be supported by much higher penalties. It is a joke that the maximum fine allowed in courts is £2,500 but the average penalty

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is just £140, and the “on-the-spot fine”, the fixed penalty notice, is only £75 on average. These are not serious deterrents. They take this seriously in Singapore, where the first offence carries a fine of 1,000 Singapore dollars, which is about £480. I am not suggesting we adopt Singaporean laws, but the deterrent works. We need to get serious about penalties for littering and fly-tipping and double if not treble the penalties. Finally, we need to encourage volunteering. We need 10 times more voluntary groups to support those who give so willingly of their time to clean up England.

A co-ordinated response on all these fronts is going to be required if we are to restore the beauty of our country and especially our countryside, so that we can be proud of its appearance once again. I hope the Minister is taking note.

8.11 pm

Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury (Con): My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in a debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Cormack, because a cause espoused by my noble friend is a cause espoused with passion. The problem of litter, refuse and fly-tipping, as any local councillor knows, often arouses more passion than the European Union or anything else; it is a matter of real concern to many people. At the very beginning of my speech I pay tribute to what I regard as the unsung heroes: the street cleaners. I live in London, and without them this place would be engulfed in a mountain of rubbish. As many noble Lords have said, many thousands of people—including myself and, I imagine, everyone speaking in this debate—spend part of their time in their locality or street picking up rubbish, going through the countryside with a black bag and filling it up. Therefore a lot of people in this country do a great deal to try to repair the horrors caused by litter.

I will focus mainly on towns and cities. My first point is to ask, why does this matter? It matters because it affects the environment in which we live. When you see food, cans and rubbish it affects the whole mood and nature of people’s lives, and they lose pride in their neighbourhoods. It matters for health reasons. The amount of food that is dropped—chicken, hamburgers and sandwiches—attracts rats, urban foxes and pigeons, so there is a health hazard as well. We know that litter attracts litter. If you leave litter anywhere, people automatically think that that is a rubbish dump and will just put more there.

How have we got to this state? If we look at some of the reasons why, we might find some of the solutions. Firstly, there is the stigma of dropping litter, which noble Lords and the noble Countess mentioned, looking back at the past. We were told as children that to drop even a sweet wrapper was the wrong thing to do, but that stigma has gone. I ask myself, how can we begin to educate people in a new way? One of the most interesting things about schools is that when children at a very young age are taught about the evils of smoking or about what is happening to our environment, they go home and tell their parents not to smoke and to worry about climate change. Therefore we have to ask how we can use schools to educate children. I wonder about some of the ideas that are happening in

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some places; schools might adopt a local street and go round collecting the litter, and a local company could sponsor that activity, promoting it on litter bins or in other ways so that the school and the company gain credit for that. That would be one way in which children could actively engage in litter collection.

There is a lack of ownership. As noble Lords have said, people think that it is somebody else’s problem. One thing we could also do is perhaps to follow an example from Germany and begin to emphasise to retail and food outlets that they have a responsibility to look after their premises. Many single traders do that already—they take real pride—but a lot more could happen. I hope that the Minister will at least give me hope that he might consider that possibility.

I will end with a very strong plea—this debate has given me the chance to do that. I live in London, and many of us travel on the Underground. A huge amount of food is left on the Tube. McDonald’s may be doing many things in its retail outlets, but not a day passes when you go on to a Tube train and immediately you can smell that someone is eating a McDonald’s. They will have a grease-soaked bag, placed on seats on which people will be sitting, and there will be sandwiches, food dripping with mayonnaise—which gets all over the place. Presumably, at the end of the line, the terrific workers on the Underground have to clear it; not just the newspapers, which are left at the end of every rush hour, morning and night, but also the food, coffee, and all the rest. I end with a very strong plea for London Underground to look at this very carefully.

8.16 pm

Baroness Maddock (LD): My Lords, I will make two comments in the gap. I declare that I am a vice-chancellor of the Local Government Association. I know that local councils take this very seriously. In fact, 73% of residents are satisfied with the way their councils deal with litter. However, they need to be even better at it. My experience as a councillor and a trainer of councillors over the years has shown that voters judge their council on the state of the streets. If the streets are messy and unkempt, they think that that is how the council is run. Therefore that is definitely in councils’ interests. I can recommend what Sutton council did. When it started off one of its campaign—they have been elected as Lib Dems year after year—they displayed a big mountain of litter, which was what they had collected in a day, and told the voters that it had cost £4 million to collect.

8.17 pm

Lord Whitty (Lab): My Lords, like other noble Lords I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who set the scene very well. The noble Countess, Lady Mar, and the noble Lord, Lord Curry, said that one of the difficulties here is how foreigners see us. The committee which produced the report to which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, referred, heard from an American expert in this area. I will read a few of his words. He said that Britain was,

“like a trash can … You have to go deep into eastern Europe to find it so bad. I have never seen anything like this in Japan or France. It’s obviously a cultural problem … It’s bad for the spirit to walk through filth … Why should everyone live in a teenager’s bedroom?”.

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I will not even read the next, rather colourful, American turn of phrase.

There is something wrong with our priorities and in the way we behave, whether that is on the Tube, in city centres, back streets, country lanes or our motorways. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has long been a campaigner in this area. Highways England put in a lot of effort, as did the local authorities. We have very good campaigners such as Keep Britain Tidy, which has a lot of support. However, at the end of the day, we must rely on two things to improve this situation. First, we need to deter—or incentivise—people from acting in the way they do. Some of that will involve education, some of it is bringing your food box or whatever back into the shop and you will benefit from doing that, or you will be faced—there are sticks, as well as carrots—with a rather more effective fine than we have at the moment. As the noble Lord, Lord Curry, said, there is a maximum level of fine for littering of £2,500, which would deter me. However, the actual fine in the courts is only £140, and the fixed penalty is £75.

As we have found in other areas, a hefty fixed penalty—or one that is properly enforced by the courts if we cannot do it entirely by fixed penalty—would be a deterrent. However, in order to enforce that, even through better deterrence, we need resources. The noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury, said that we owe a lot to the street cleaners. There is a big effort made, as I have said, by Highways England but the fact of the matter is that, with local authority finances being what they are, this area is being squeezed—it is not red circled, it is not prioritised from Whitehall. The resources for local authorities to engage in proper litter clearance are likely to be further squeezed.

I speak as a former member of the board of the Environment Agency, which deals with large-scale fly-tipping. Focusing on its key objectives has meant that the agency’s enforcement regarding fly-tipping and what is effectively a criminal act—a criminal gangs’ act—has been much reduced.

We need to recognise that this is a problem that affects all parts of the country and also, as somebody said, the way that you feel about walking through our cities or driving or walking through our countryside. It has a negative effect on the totality of our society and on our well-being. We need to prioritise more what is seen as a residual service, even now, within local authorities and by central government. I hope that the new, corporatised Highways Agency—Highways England—will have as one of its primary objectives ensuring that litter is removed from the highways. If it does not, other things will become more important to that new organisation.

Some deep cultural issues are involved but we can do something relatively easy about some things. Part of it is the deterrence but a lot of it is how we prioritise resources. England is a beautiful country. We have some of the most wonderful cities in the world but they are all being spoilt by the behaviour of our citizens; many of them would not be prepared to justify it to their children, or to each other, but they nevertheless continue it. We need to find a way of stopping them.

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8.22 pm

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Cormack for raising this important topic today. I also welcome your Lordships’ contributions and I shall make sure that my colleagues in Defra consider them fully as we continue to tackle this scourge on our nation. The Government are also grateful to the Communities and Local Government Committee in the other place for examining these issues and making a number of helpful recommendations. Its report is currently being considered and the Government will respond shortly.

I say at the outset that I come to this debate with the utmost sympathy with and support for all who see this matter as being of enormous importance. I agree with the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, that it is with great dismay and shame that, when driving round our country, we see accumulations of litter next to our arterial routes and country lanes. I have indeed joined the activist cadre, having handed back a can to a driver who had dropped it at a set of traffic lights. The surprise on the face of the driver as I posted the can back into the car will remain with me for a very long time. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Marlesford would endorse this approach but I say to him: I know that he is not a quitter and nor am I. Litter of any kind, whether it is a cigarette packet or plastic bag, or the fly-tipping of tyres and large amounts of waste is totally unnecessary and an unacceptable blight on everyone’s environment. I endorse the Country Life campaign, which highlights the challenges that we face.

Fly-tipping, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Cormack, the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, is a great problem and the Government are addressing it. The Government’s manifesto set out our intention to introduce new fixed-penalty notices for small-scale fly-tipping. My remarks tonight, however, should perhaps focus on some of the actions being undertaken to address the separate, but obviously related, problem of littering. As my noble friend Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, have described, this issue is selfish and anti-social. It spoils our enjoyment of the countryside, can harm human health and wildlife, makes our urban areas look run down and uncared-for and damages farming and tourism. We must resolve this as a matter of national pride. It was right of the noble Lord, Lord Rea, to remind us that this is an international scourge as well. We are all able to identify places—indeed, often much cared-for places—that are littered. I assure noble Lords that I share their frustration. Despite decades of campaigning and hundreds of millions of pounds spent every year, the problem remains.

We must get on to the front foot; there is a good deal of new and innovative work being done to try to curb this blight. Everyone has a role to play. I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, had to say—we can all do our bit and I shall certainly be considering what was suggested by my noble friend Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury.

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On 21 March this year, Defra and the Department for Communities and Local Government sponsored the first, official England-wide community clear-up day. My noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to this—the sense of community and of doing something together, which is so valuable. Hundreds of events took place across the country. Volunteers picked up bag after bag of litter, with many new groups getting together alongside the established litter-pickers. The event attracted more than 500 community groups. These co-ordinated activities demonstrate the desire of many people in England to live in a litter-free environment, as well as their willingness to get stuck in and be part of the solution. I take this opportunity to thank them all. My noble friend Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury was right to acknowledge them and the street cleaners of our towns and cities. It is not enough, however, simply to pick up the litter already dropped. We, as a nation, need to change the mindset of those who drop litter, some of whom do so in the expectation that others will bear the costs and risks of having to pick it up while others appear simply to not care, as my noble friend Lord Cormack described.

Over the years, Keep Britain Tidy—to which I was pleased to hear the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, refer—has been at the forefront of some truly ground-breaking projects to encourage people to do the right thing. The charity has recently launched a new centre for social innovation to bring together its work with that of others in the field and to enable others to learn from it. I am particularly excited about the award-winning We’re Watching You project, which was funded by Defra. Based on research that showed that people behave better when they think they are being watched, this project used images of watching eyes and messages based on social norms to tackle dog-fouling. It was so successful that fouling in those areas reduced by an average of 46% and far more in some places.

I also want to recognise the Clean Essex partnership, which has shown what is possible when local government, businesses of all sizes and individuals come together. With support from the county council and Keep Britain Tidy, the partnership used advertising to get across the message that,

“littering is ‘not cool’, ‘not pretty’, ‘not smart’ and ‘not classy’”.

Last year, the Love Essex campaign achieved a 21% overall decrease in the amount of litter across the county, with a 41% decrease in branded fast-food litter. This is a real, tangible change; it can be done and it really does work. I strongly encourage other councils to learn from this example.

Another project is CleanupUK. Its Beautiful Boroughs programme helps residents in deprived areas of east London to strengthen their own, immediate community by starting litter-picking groups. Initial results are promising and the benefits are not limited to cleaner streets. Since the project began, more people in these areas report feeling safer in their communities. They are more engaged with their communities, and they feel positive that the actions they are taking will make a difference. This sense of empowerment is important.

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One participant said, “One person can become two, then become three—we can take on the world like that!”.

Those are some examples of what organisations, charities and individuals are doing to try to change behaviour and reduce littering and its effects in their local areas. I could not possibly mention all the work that I know is going on up and down the country, from groups of litter-pickers such as Rubbish Friends and Zilch to the businesses that have subscribed to the Voluntary Litter Code in Larkfield in Kent, but I am most grateful to them all.

While local councils and bodies such as Highways England may be legally responsible for the practical aspects of picking up litter, of course we in government also have a role. Most litter problems are local and require an approach tailored to the characteristics of the area and the community. The role of central government is to enable and support this local action: providing a clear legal framework of rights, responsibilities and powers, setting national standards and, where possible, making sure that the costs of dealing with litter issues are passed to those responsible for causing the problem.

Last year, we amended the Highway Code to make it absolutely clear that throwing litter from a vehicle is not just dangerous and anti-social but a criminal offence. More recently, we committed in our manifesto to review the case for increasing the fines for littering. Currently, fixed penalty notices for littering range from £50 to £80, with a default fine of £75. We intend to consult later this year on whether these amounts should be increased. I very much hope that noble Lords who have taken part in this debate will wish to make a contribution to that consultation.

A number of questions were raised. The noble Countess, Lady Mar, asked whether the Secretary of State referred to in Section 89 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is the Secretary of State for Defra or the Department for Transport. It is the Department for Transport. My noble friend Lord Marlesford—I understand his irritation and frustration—asked when the research on littering from vehicles will be published. This will be going to Defra Ministers soon—this year, I hope. I assure my noble friend that I will be in touch with him to tell him about progress and to alert him to the publication of the research.

The noble Lord, Lord Rea, spoke about the tobacco industry. There is no question but that cigarette litter around the nation is a pernicious problem, and we are considering the recommendations in the Communities and Local Government Committee report. I also understand that this country is a signatory to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. As a signatory, we would not wish to include in that convention endorsing, supporting or forming partnerships with the tobacco industry.

My noble friend Lord Sherbourne and a number of noble Lords raised the question of education and asked how we can ensure that young people are best engaged. The Eco-Schools programme was delivered in England by Keep Britain Tidy and 17,5000 schools have taken part in it. I very much hope that, with the Eco-Schools international award programme helping schools to be more sustainable, there will be a continuing

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understanding that young people need to play their part in ensuring that the future environment is better than the one we have now.

Your Lordships will understand that there is much pressure on the public purse and that we have to avoid unnecessary expense. Therefore, we must make sure that all the resources which we undoubtedly need to use make a real difference. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made it clear that Defra is committed to delivering a cleaner, healthy environment which benefits people and the economy. Reducing litter is a key part of this—not just in delivering that cleaner environment but in encouraging civic pride and making our beautiful country even more attractive.

Childcare Bill [HL]

Committee (1st Day) (Continued)

8.34 pm

Amendment 6

Moved by The Earl of Listowel

6: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert—

“(1A) For the purposes of securing “high-quality childcare” under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must, within 6 months of this section coming into force, lay a report before both Houses of Parliament setting out her strategy for developing the early years workforce.

(1B) The strategy mentioned in subsection (1A) must include in particular—

(a) a target for the number of graduates in the early years workforce,

(b) a target for the proportion of managers of early years settings who are graduates, and

(c) a plan for increasing the number of nursery schools to a specified level.”

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, this amendment would require the Secretary of State, within six months of this section of the Act coming into effect, to lay a report before both Houses of Parliament setting out the Government’s strategy for developing the early years workforce. It seeks to secure a commitment from the Minister that the Government will publish a strategy to increase the quality and capacity of that workforce. I shall try to be quick.

I am grateful to the National Children’s Bureau for helping to prepare the amendment. I should like to seek clarity from the Government regarding their plans to ensure that all children receiving 30 hours of free childcare can access high-quality early years education and childcare that promotes both their learning and their development and is delivered by well-trained and qualified practitioners. I would like the expansion of free childcare to be supported by an early years workforce improvement strategy, setting out how the Government intend to recruit and train new practitioners and retain existing practitioners through qualifications and career development support.

Evidence shows that a well-qualified, confident and experienced workforce is central to the delivery of early years services that improve young children’s

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outcomes. The Nuffield Foundation has recently reported on a strong relationship between the level of staff qualifications, the quality of provision as judged by Ofsted and outcomes for young children. Despite recognition that employing a graduate leader improves the quality of provision, since the graduate leader fund ended in 2011 there has been no dedicated national funding available for local authorities to support the training and qualifications of early years practitioners. In addition, reductions in local government budgets have meant that many local authorities can no longer subsidise training for new and existing practitioners. At present, only 14% of private, voluntary and independent settings employ a graduate, with few opportunities for these providers to fund graduate training.

Measures are also needed to improve the qualifications of non-managerial staff. A significant minority of practitioners are working in the sector despite not holding a level 3 qualification, an A-level qualification, the minimum recommended by the Nutbrown review of early education and childcare qualifications in order to deliver high-quality services to young children and their families. One-third of childminders do not hold a level 3 qualification and 14% are unqualified. In group settings, 13% to 16% of staff do not hold a level 3 qualification and 4% are unqualified.

A lack of investment in the early years workforce, coupled with an increase in staff vacancies and a reduction in childminder numbers, is limiting the capacity of the early years sector to provide high-quality free entitlement places for three and four year-olds, with the greatest impact being felt by providers in poorer areas—areas that are required to deliver a greater proportion of free places for disadvantaged two year-olds.

Between 2011 and 2013, there was a 42% increase in staff vacancies in full-day care settings and a 59% increase in staff vacancies in sessional care settings. During the same period, the number of active childminders fell by 6%, from 48,800 to 46,100. I would argue that a review of the workforce delivering the free entitlement for three and four year-olds should be undertaken in order to ascertain existing and projected gaps in workforce capacity prior to the extension of free childcare to 30 hours. This review would help to ensure that accurate targets for increasing the number of graduates, graduate leaders and level 3 practitioners are set out in the workforce strategy.

The Department of Health’s health visitor implementation plan set measureable targets for increasing the health visiting workforce and is expected to miss its 2015 recruitment target of 4,200 new health visitors by only 3%. That is a tremendous achievement on the Government’s part.

If I may say so, the Childcare Bill provides an opportunity to increase both the quality and the capacity of the early years workforce through a workforce improvement strategy. Failure to do so would hinder the expansion of free childcare to 30 hours. I therefore have three questions for the Minister. Will he provide assurances that the Government will develop a strategy for expanding and improving the quality of the early years workforce? Can he confirm whether the Government will review the composition of the workforce delivering

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the current free entitlement in order to ascertain existing and predicted gaps in capacity? Finally, will the Minister confirm whether the Government intend to put in place measures to increase the number of graduate leaders? I apologise for not giving him notice of those questions and quite understand if he would prefer to write to me on them.

I have a couple of other amendments in this group, one of which is on hours of training for staff, particularly emphasising the need to allow staff to have training away from the children so that they can reflect on their relationships with them. Coram, a well-recognised, high-quality provider, provides such time away from the children for staff development. It can be seen as a costly input but it is vital. In teaching we have Baker days and recognise that teachers need time away from their pupils to develop themselves. The same should apply to early years provision. The other amendment is to do with increasing the number of nursery schools, and I was grateful to the Minister for his reply on that particular topic earlier today. I beg to move.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab): My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 13 and to support the other amendments in this group which have been very ably explained by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and all of which highlight the need for a high-quality workforce in this sector.

As we know, there is compelling and conclusive evidence that the presence of trained early years teachers in nurseries has the biggest impact on children’s early years development. This was a central theme of Cathy Nutbrown’s report and was echoed in the Select Committee’s report on affordable childcare, where it was identified that the number of qualified staff, and therefore the quality of provision, was higher in the maintained sector than in the PVI sector. Most worryingly, it was identified that provision in the most disadvantaged areas tended to be of lower quality. For example, the report quotes evidence from Ofsted, which described how in the more deprived areas the people who put themselves forward to work tended to have lower levels of skill.

Clearly there has been some progress in this area. The Minister spelled out some examples in his Second Reading response and in the subsequent policy statement. There has, for example, been a welcome increase in those holding a level 3 qualification, although it is by no means universal. But as Save the Children has pointed out, over half of independent nurseries do not employ a single early years teacher and only 13% of staff in independent nurseries have a degree. Meanwhile, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, pointed out, since the graduate leader fund ended in 2011, there is no dedicated national funding to support the training of early years practitioners, which could help the PVI sector. Save the Children has also described how a third of childminders do not hold a level 3 qualification, nor do a sixth of staff in group settings.

In response to these concerns about the quality of staff, the Affordable Childcare Committee report recommends that,

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“the Government considers how the proportion of staff qualified at a higher level can be increased in the PVI sector to drive up overall quality. In line with that, we also recommend that the Government reconsiders its response to the Nutbrown Review”.

We believe that this amendment provides a vehicle for the Government to do that. A report of the kind that we outlined would allow an assessment to be made of the progress in rolling out level 3 and early years teacher status. It would specifically enable an analysis to take place of the causes of lower qualifications among black and ethnic minority staff. This was also proposed by Cathy Nutbrown. It would provide a vehicle for analysing the recruitment and retention issues which many in the sector report are a major barrier to growth.

We also believe that low pay rates are at the heart of this problem. A recent survey for the National Day Nurseries Association highlighted evidence of qualified staff leaving to earn more money working in supermarkets. In his Second Reading speech, my noble friend Lord Sawyer gave examples of staff employed to look after dogs being paid twice as much as those who are looking after babies. All these examples demonstrate an urgent need to investigate levels of pay, comparators with earnings in other education sectors, the scope for paying at least the living wage and the contribution that a national pay structure can play in easing recruitment challenges in the future.

I hope that noble Lords will feel able to support this amendment which reflects many of the concerns of the Affordable Childcare Committee and would enable the Government to identify the further drivers which could help improve quality and retention in this sector.

8.45 pm

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I just want to speak briefly about baselines. As we are talking about quality, I wonder whether the Minister has seen the report of the Family and Childcare Trust, Access Denied, which does not talk about quality but about 38 English local authorities which failed to carry out and publish assessments of local childcare since 2012. Therefore, a large number of working families have no access at all to childcare. The report gave an example of a mother who said:

“I was so happy when my boy turned three and we got free nursery education. I decided to try and move him from the childminder to a nursery, where he could get the free hours. But I could not find a place with any vacancies. The local nursery and the school were both full, so I’m still with the childminder, so no free hours for him and a big bill for me”.

Would the Government like to comment on this problem of access to basic childcare, never mind quality?

Baroness Pinnock (LD): My Lords, I do not want to expand on what has already been said most ably by the mover of the amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady—oh dear.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: Jones.

Baroness Pinnock: Jones. I do apologise.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: It is getting late.

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Baroness Pinnock: It is, yes. I have been concentrating hard. I support everything that the noble Baroness said because it follows on from the earlier debate about quality. You cannot deliver quality unless you have a well-trained staff working in the childcare sector. I wanted to make it clear that there is support on our side. We have no critical comment to make but welcome the amendments that have been moved.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments 13, 17 and 36, on the early years workforce. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for bringing forward these amendments. They are wide-ranging and cover a review of the workforce and workforce strategy, together with specific issues such as training, qualifications and pay.

I am sure we would all wish to pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of the early years workforce. Their hard work and devotion does not go unnoticed, and the support they give to children in the most important years of their lives is critical to ensuring that every child gets the best start in life. The Government are committed to ensuring that childcare hours are of high quality and, of course, the workforce is key to that.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has moved an amendment requiring the Secretary of State to,

“lay a report before both Houses of Parliament setting out her strategy for developing the early years workforce”.

We covered this issue in an earlier group of amendments. I set out that strategy and some of the initiatives that the Government have introduced, so I do not propose to repeat those.

The noble Earl also moved an amendment to make explicit requirements for the use of graduates in early years settings. We are committed to continuing to raise the quality of the early years workforce. We have already set the bar high for the qualifications of people working in childcare, including early years teachers, who must meet the same training course entry requirements as primary teachers. Since 2007, 15,422 early years teachers have been trained. I also assure the noble Earl that we will continue to support expansion of the graduate workforce through the provision of early years initial teacher training routes and through providing funding support for trainees.

Regarding the noble Earl’s amendment to develop a strategy to increase the number of maintained nursery schools, we recognise that they have been shown to deliver high-quality early years education. However, we must of course also recognise that many private, voluntary and independent providers also deliver quality. At 31 December 2014, the proportion of all providers on the early years register rated good or outstanding by Ofsted was 83%.

While we agree that many nursery schools offer high quality, we also think that the diversity of the childcare sector is one of its strengths as it offers choice and flexibility to parents. We want maintained nursery schools to play their part in a diverse early years sector in years to come, delivering high-quality, sustainable provision that is responsive to the needs of parents in their local area.

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I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that I have indeed read the report to which she referred and we will certainly reflect on some of the findings laid out in it.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has also tabled an amendment which would require early years settings to provide a specified number of training hours per year to each member of staff. While I entirely understand the intention behind this amendment, to support staff training and development, we think this is a matter for individual employers and the sector to lead on. We will continue to support the sector in doing so, but do not believe that specifying a one-size-fits-all model would be helpful. Given these reassurances, I hope the noble Earl will withdraw his amendment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has tabled an amendment which would require a review of the qualifications and pay of staff. It specifically addresses the assessment of progress of level 3 qualification standards, the assessment of progress in introducing early years career paths, recruitment and retention, pay levels and the number of black and minority ethnic staff at different levels of the profession. I will take each of these briefly in turn.

We have a robust set of standards for level 3 early years educator qualifications. The quality of the workforce is increasing year on year. We know that the proportion of paid staff with at least a level 3 qualification increased between 2011 and 2013. The sector shares the Government’s ambition to see staff in key positions holding good GCSEs in English and Maths, as this can only be to the benefit of the children with whom they work and the status of the profession.

We recognise the importance of clear progression routes within the sector to attract and retain good-quality staff, and will be looking further at how to ensure that the current and prospective early years workforce can take advantage of the varied and rewarding careers that are available to them. I know that the Minister for Childcare and Education is looking closely at the qualification frameworks and rules to ensure that they are enabling the development of a high-quality workforce.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, also raised the important issue of recruitment and retention. It is important that experienced and skilled early years professionals want to stay in the profession, a point made by the noble Baroness. The Government recognise that settings, the majority of which are private businesses, manage this themselves in the context of their staff employment and deployment responsibilities.

There are many reasons why staff turnover may increase, including local economic factors which are beyond the control of providers. Making staff turnover information available at a local level to parents could lead to the information being misinterpreted and lead a parent to dismiss out of hand a good-quality setting that is doing good work to support staff. That is not what anyone would want.