LETTER:Child labour laws

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From Ms Ann Clwyd, MP

Sir: Gillian Shephard's proposal for 14-year-olds to mix work experience and the national curriculum must be welcomed if it ensures that children enjoy a greater breadth of experience in both the academic and vocational spheres.

However, in conjunction with the existing proposals, the Government must ensure that employers are made aware of what is required of them when employing young people. Currently, one-and-a-half million children are working when the law says they should not.

Child labour by-laws are outdated. In my recent study on the illegal employment of children, one county council noted that the education authority had by-laws that covered the employment of lather boys in barbers' shops but nothing, for instance, to cover young people who work in fast-food outlets.

Existing by-laws must also be enforced - since 1979 there have been only 222 prosecutions in connection with the illegal employment of children, yet many authorities commented that the practice of employing children who are under-age, or for longer hours than is legal, is widespread.

It's time the Government addressed this problem instead of pretending it doesn't exist.

Yours faithfully,

Ann Clwyd

MP for Cynon Valley (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1