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Childcare

Volume 597: debated on Monday 15 June 2015

I of course recognise that we have to look at the issue of nursery places. In the past few years, 230,000 places have been created in early years nationally. However, the biggest way in which we can create nursery places is to support the early years sector. We have committed to increasing the average funding rates that providers are paid for the free entitlement so that the sector can grow substantially.

I can confirm that a cross-Government review of the cost of providing childcare is under way to inform decisions on the funding required to secure sufficient quality childcare provision at good value for money to the taxpayer and consistent with the Government’s fiscal plans. I am today launching a call for evidence to inform this review, which will report and be published in the autumn.

My constituents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth welcomed the commitment in the Conservative manifesto to provide 30 hours of free childcare and look forward to its delivery. What plans are being made to bring that forward?

I am delighted to welcome my hon. Friend to the House. His victory in Labour’s No. 1 target seat carved the first letters in Labour’s electoral tombstone and ensured that the ridiculous “Ed stone” did not make its way into Downing Street.

As the Prime Minister announced on 1 June, we are pressing ahead with reforms to increase the childcare support that is available to hard-working families. We are bringing implementation forward to 2016. The Childcare Bill was one of the first Bills we introduced in this Parliament. I have just announced the funding review. Further to that, there will be a consultation with parents and providers so that we can implement this policy.

I welcome the Minister to his place, and I welcome the UK Government’s decision to follow the Scottish Government’s lead in expanding free childcare to 30 hours for three and four-year-olds. How much additional funding will be made available for the planned childcare expansion?

I welcome the hon. Lady to the House. The Government are making more support available for childcare than any previous Government. We set out in the general election campaign our plans to fund. We expect to make savings from tax-free childcare and from universal credit. The policy will therefore be funded to the tune of about £350 million.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Will he give the figure for how much additional funding will come to Scotland as a result of the Barnett consequentials from the planned expansion of childcare in England?

I understand that Scotland already provides about 25 hours of free childcare. I am happy to write to the hon. Lady to provide details of the Barnett consequentials from the expansion of this programme.

24. On Friday, I visited St Cuthbert’s Church of England infant school in Wells, where the head and her staff are doing a fantastic job not only in educating the children but in providing before and after-school care for them. Will the Minister share with the House his plans to give the teachers of that school the resources they need to provide that vital service for working parents? (900318)

Local authorities have a duty to provide sufficient childcare and we are supporting them to deliver that. We are very supportive of breakfast clubs and after-school clubs. We are also liberalising the childminding sector to allow childminders to operate for 50% of the time off domestic premises. They should therefore be able to support schools to expand that sort of care.

I urge the Minister to talk to the National Day Nurseries Association, which is based in my Huddersfield constituency, because it is very worried. Members all around this House want there to be more affordable childcare, but the NDNA is worried about the cost implications, because the money does not add up; about the pressure on building new facilities; and about the recruitment of staff. Those are real concerns, so will he talk to the NDNA?

I talk to the NDNA all the time. I am very much aware not only of its concerns but of the concerns of other players in the sector. We were the only party to commit to a review of the funding rate in the general election campaign. Today, I have announced that the review is under way. We will consult the sector and get its views not only on the exact rate, but on how to implement the 30 hours policy.