Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 163)

WEDNESDAY 2 MAY 2001

MS MARGARET HODGE, MBE AND MR ALAN CRANSTON

Chairman

  160. Minister, although Nick has been leading on this you know it is the unanimous view of the Committee that you are wrong on this issue.
  (Mrs Hodge) I do.

  161. Certainly I, as an old fellow student of yours, am rather concerned about some of the comparisons you have made. I would hate to follow your logic when we talk about capital punishment, for example, where there is very clear poll there, very often with the majority for capital punishment, but we do arrogate to ourselves as politicians the right to say that this not the way we wish to go. As someone who introduced the Children in Cars Bill which forced children to be belted up, I was also part of that Parliamentary conspiracy that made parents do things that made their children safer. So I do not agree with your view, but I do not want to get into that.
  (Mrs Hodge) I just have to come back. I think these decisions have to be taken, each one, on its own merits. I do not think it is helpful to draw an analogy between deliberately doing an act to take somebody else's life and talking about whether or not you have a code which allows a childminder to smoke in front of a child. Remember, there is a distinction to be made between the well-being of the child which has to be protected and a smack. We all know the difference between abuse and a smack. I assume most of us, as parents, have acknowledged this. I just think you take it one at a time. I am sorry that we disagree on this.

  162. Minister, we shall agree to disagree on this. Can we just finish by talking about one last question which has come up. I have found this session of the Committee very useful, but one thing that came up time and time again, was that okay, we have a Minister who feels very positive about funding the whole pre-school area and is very committed to it. However, how long is the funding going to last? If you really change the culture—and this is what you are talking about—of the pre-school environment you have to maintain that financial commitment over time. If there is a Labour Government after the next election do you see that commitment continuing over a long time? Can we expect this commitment year-on-year so that we can actually change the culture that all of us in the educational world want?
  (Mrs Hodge) If I can make a party political point—which I cannot resist, I am afraid—it is that, of course, the Conservative Party's commitment to free schools would mean that the funding from the SSA towards the expansion of nursery education would go, unless that is another bit they are going to keep in the centre. At the moment, however, it would be part of the money that would be delegated, I think, to schools and not kept as a separate nursery education grant. My own view is that the demand of parents for childcare, whatever Professor Penn may say, is overwhelming. Parents know that a high-quality early years educational and childcare experience can enhance their children's opportunities and support families. That is such an overwhelming desire of people out there that every Government will have to respond to it. I do not think there is a chance in hell of there ever being a turning back on the investment that we have achieved so far. In fact, what I do say to everybody, particularly with the Neighbourhood Nurseries, which I think is a really exciting and important initiative, is that if we can get this to work well—and we are talking to a lot of large private sector providers, a number of voluntary sector providers and a number of small statutory and voluntary providers—I see that as the start of an extremely ambitious programme providing Neighbourhood Nurseries in all communities.

  163. I think that is the way to end—"not a chance in hell". That is a very good way to end. Thank you, Minister, for your attendance. It has been a very interesting and lively session.
  (Mrs Hodge) Thanks very much.





 
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