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Day Nursery

Volume 507: debated on Thursday 11 March 2010

My apologies, Mr. Speaker, as I think I may have caused the confusion.

Following the Commission’s decision to establish a nursery, a project board has been established and good progress is being made on drawing up the specifications.

Apologies for that slight slip, Mr. Speaker.

This important issue has not suddenly arisen before the House. I believe that the process so far has been unacceptable and undemocratic. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that £400,000 has recently been spent on refurbishing Bellamy’s bar, and that this proposal will cost an additional £400,000? Will he confirm whether that has been included in the House budget estimates for this financial year? Will he confirm whether the Finance and Services Committee—

Order. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. At Question Time, a Member asks one question, with a modest preamble, which the hon. Gentleman has already had. He has asked his question; he must now listen to the answer.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The recent refurbishment in Bellamy’s involves a significant amount of work and furnishing that can be reused—certainly about a third of the cost can be used directly. The hon. Gentleman says that this has come about swiftly, but I would point out that there have been constant surveys of the need for child care provision here, and the decision has been taken to move swiftly with this project so that the option is available to new Members as early as possible in the new Parliament to take up this facility if they need it.

It is often said that when we come into this place we do things for our grandchildren rather than for our children, because it takes so long to get anything done. The important thing, I say to the hon. Gentleman, is that we treat the House of Commons as the workplace of parliamentary democracy. Workplace nurseries are important. Will the hon. Gentleman give me an assurance that, after my 22 years in this place, there might be at least some prospect now of having a workplace nursery for my grandchildren, and those of other Members.

I hope that it will be available a great deal sooner than that. The project is making good progress. The detailed specification is being worked through at the moment. There are some difficulties, because of the nature of the building, but much work has gone into looking at the feasibility, and we intend the project to continue to make progress and to be ready by the end of August.

I entirely share the perception of the need for such a day nursery, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the House of Commons should establish any such facility on an exemplary basis. Given that, as on this particular occasion, a nursery cannot comply with statutory guidance to providers, I hope he will search urgently for an alternative site—one that would comply with that guidance.

There will be no question whatever of progressing with any project that does not meet all the statutory norms. We are progressing the project in consultation with experts and providers, and there is no question whatever of cutting corners and not meeting proper standards.

May I urge the hon. Gentleman not to be swayed by the anachronistic and vociferous views of a minority of MPs? There are plenty of places to get a beer in this place, but there is nowhere for our hard-working staff to drop off their kids.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his observation that this project fulfils a very real and serious need. Colleagues who have had to find facilities for their children at short notice will be better served by knowing that there is such a facility on site, and being run professionally.