Parliament gets its first playgroup

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Indy Politics

Women MPs' battle for a permanent crÿche at the House of Commons will take a step forward today when the first children's playgroup opens in the Palace of Westminster, initially on a week's trial.

Women MPs' battle for a permanent crÿche at the House of Commons will take a step forward today when the first children's playgroup opens in the Palace of Westminster, initially on a week's trial.

Eleven children, aged between five and 12, will use the playgroup,in a former rest room for parliamentary staff near MPs' offices in Dean's Yard, Westminster. The scheme could be extended and enlarged if it proves a success with parents and the Westminster authorities.

With the Commons due to rise for the summer recess this Thursday there are no MPs involved in the scheme, but children of staff working in the Houses of Parliament will take part.

"We've never done it before and we want to see how it works. It is a pilot, so we will have to review it," said a Commons source.

Labour women MPs hope that the staff scheme will form a "bridgehead" on the issue which will prove that child care can be provided in Parliament for both members and staff.

Anne Campbell, the MP for Cambridge, who has led calls for reform of working hours for the Commons, said that the playgroup idea was a breakthrough. "I welcome it very strongly indeed. As with working hours, we need to get reforms like this in place before the next general election while the momentum is still there," she said.

In a separate move, women MPs have persuaded the authorities to consider a report by the Daycare Trust childcare specialists into the possibility of permanent facilities in the Palace of Westminster. Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley and chairman of the All Party Group on Child Care, has persuaded officials to look seriously at options including a nursery, a holiday play scheme and a change in working hours.

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