Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Anne-Marie TrevelyanMain Page: Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative) - Berwick-upon-Tweed)
To my mind, amendments 6, 21, 24 and 25 are grouped together under the heading of age and whether being a child ends at 18. I have listened with great care and interest to the arguments that have been made, and I was particularly moved by some of the comments from the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson). The argument essentially is that somebody does not cease to be a child just because they go over the age of 18; when they are 18 and one month old they are still just as much somebody else’s loved one and child as someone aged 17 years and 11 months would be. We have also heard about cases where the people concerned were very much older. My gut reaction and desire is that, if a parent is affected, they ought to be able to avail themselves of the assistance given in this Bill regardless of the child’s age.
My hon. Friend powerfully makes the very point I want to make. For any human being, burying a child is profoundly distressing, as it goes against our very nature as humans. We therefore should not even countenance saying that people should not be able to avail themselves of assistance just because their child is older; that would go against what we are trying to achieve.
While that is my wish, however, I listened carefully to the interventions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, and my overriding desire is that this legislation gets on to the statute book. If it just sets a minimum level, we do not have to say that that is it, the story is closed and we can never amend it again. We can come back to it: we can either amend this legislation through regulations or come back and debate it again, and campaign, as we are so used to doing, to ensure that we provide a higher standard. I would not like any changes to be made now that mean either the Government are unable to support the Bill or employers feel that it is too onerous on them, and as a result we do not have these much-needed protections. It must be our foremost concern today to put these protections in place.
The last group on which I want to comment is those that address notice periods: amendments, 9, 10, 11, 15 and 17. I think that an element of practicality is intended here, and I would certainly not wish to see anything in this Bill that requires people, at a time of profound distress, when their world has been turned upside down and they cannot think straight, to have to worry about filling in forms or jumping through hoops or having to comply with something, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) said, might mean they inadvertently fall foul of a regulation.
We are seeking to provide legislation that is compassionate and sensitive. The requirement for any notice period to be given must be very light touch and amount to nothing more than people simply telling the employer that this tragedy has occurred and they would like to go off for a certain period. That is reasonable to enable the employer to provide some cover for the job they are undertaking at that time, but I certainly would not want to see requirements put in place—perhaps involving training—and people having to worry about whether they have complied with them. That would be running completely counter to what we are trying to achieve here.