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Child Employment

Volume 469: debated on Monday 17 December 2007

Child employment legislation is set out mainly in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. However, that legislation has subsequently been amended and reviewed and we believe that the current law is more than adequate and not in need of review. But I agree that new guidance is necessary to support employers, young people and those advising them in understanding the law. As the hon. Lady may know, we have undertaken to publish improved best practice guidance next year.

The Minister will be aware that over the past four years, the number of children injured at work has more than doubled. Although having a job while at school is an excellent way for young people to learn new skills and earn money at the same time, much of the legislation, as the Minister said, dates back to the 1930s, and I would assert that it is now chaotic and unworkable. Will she commit to undertaking a comprehensive review of the legislation to ensure that it protects children properly and is not over-bureaucratic for employers?

There is the rub—getting the balance between the two objectives. Of course the safety of children is of paramount importance, and I am satisfied that the law is strong enough and is workable. However, we need to set out clearly for local authorities, employers and parents themselves exactly how to use the law effectively. Clearly it is unacceptable for any child to be injured at work, but very small numbers of them are injured at work compared with the thousands and thousands of injuries to children aged under 16 who are not at work. It is important to keep the issue in perspective. However, I am happy to agree that next year we will produce the best guidance we can, to make absolutely crystal clear to people what the law is and how they can use it effectively.