Lib Dems back parenting

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Teenagers would be given training in parenting skills as part of the national curriculum in schools under proposals for women published yesterday by the Liberal Democrats, writes Colin Brown.

The parenting classes would be for pupils about to leave school or entering a sixth-form college, said Diana Maddock, the party's spokeswoman on women's issues, although she did not rule out training for under- 16s. The former teacher, said parents lacking in parenting skills brought up children, who in turn had no parenting skills. "We have to break that cycle and make sure we don't produce another generation lacking in parenting skills.''

The children would be taught a wide range of skills, from how to look after a baby to home economics. The Liberal Democrats are also pledged to guaranteed nursery education for all three- and four-year-olds, funded by an extra 1p in the pound on income tax if necessary.

The party's policy document, Equal Citizens, is timed to highlight International Women's Day tomorrow. Labour will be holding a Commons debate today on women's rights.

The debate may show the parties are now closer than ever in their thinking about women's rights and the family. Baroness Thatcher resisted state help for women to go out to work while raising families because it would undermine the family, but that view has been rejected by John Major.

All the main parties are committed to an expansion of nursery education to allow more women to work; the Liberal Democrats came closer to Labour yesterday over the minimum wage by supporting a regionally-varied minimum rate to tackle low pay among women.

n Equal Citizens, Liberal Democrats Publications, 8 Fordington Green, Dorchester, DT1 1GB; £4 plus postage.