Peers including the vice president of Barnardo's debated child development in the UK, and its bearing on national wellbeing on Thursday 11 October
The Lord Bishop of Chester, tabled the debate saying: ‘There is still too much emphasis on pushing children and preparing them as soon as possible to enter formal education... in many ways what we need is nothing less than a culture change in how children are viewed in our society’ and that ‘we should seek to treasure and protect each human child as the miracle and mystery that they are’. He explained that ‘The message from children is that what is most important to them are the relationships that surround and nurture them’, and suggested a way to reinforce these is to ‘recognise marriage in the tax system’ which would ‘send a powerful symbolic message from government into society.’
Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Conservative) followed by focusing on the tax system, saying: ‘It is not so much a question of giving an incentive to people to become married as of removing difficulty that the tax system has created for people who live together as married and there is only one major income coming into the house.’
Baroness King of Bow (Labour) covered the issue of early intervention strategies, saying: ’A proactive, early intervention and family-focused approach has the potential to ensure proper child development’.
Baroness Benjamin (Liberal Democrat), Vice President of Barnardo's, considered the influence of television and the internet on child development, saying: ‘We must view the internet techno-genie with extreme caution, and ensure that we put into place measures to protect against the potentially harmful long-term effects on our children and, in turn, society. I ask my noble friend: what consideration is being given by the government of the effect of the internet and social media on children’s social and psychological development, and the implications for the future of our society?’
Baroness Garden of Frognall (Liberal Democrat) responded on behalf of the government. She said: 'We must do all we can to ensure that our children and young people develop as individuals, as members of their communities and as citizens to reach their full potential’. On the issue of marriage and tax she said: ‘The government remain committed to recognising marriage in the income tax system. We want to show that we value commitment. We are considering a range of options and fully intend to come forward with proposals at an appropriate time.’
Other speakers included:
- Lord Storey (Liberal Democrat), former primary school headteacher;
- Lord Sacks (Crossbench), Chief Rabbi; and
- Baroness Walmsley (Liberal Democrat), ambassador for the NSPCC and former party spokesperson for children, schools and families.
The Bishop of Derby, Lord Eames (Crossbench), Baroness Worthington (Labour), Baroness Howe of Idlicote (Crossbench), Lord Low of Dalston (Crossbench), Baroness Massey of Darwen (Labour), Lord McFall of Alcluith (Labour/Co-operative) and Lord Northbourne (Crossbench) are also contributed to the debate.