Children and Families Bill clears first hurdle

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The Children and Families Bill has cleared its first parliamentary hurdle, after MPs passed the legislation at second reading on 25 February 2013.

The bill proposes a number of reforms to children and family policies, which the government says represent the "best hope for children to thrive".

Proposals include changes to adoption and fostering, shared parental leave and child minding, as well as rules on special educational needs (SEN) and the role of the Children's Commissioner.

Dan Rogerson, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, welcomed the bill which he said "seeks to do a huge amount".

He was supportive of plans for flexible parental leave as "another step in the right direction"; a system of shared maternity/paternity leave will be enabled by the bill.

Mr Rogerson said the change could benefit employers as well as both partners in a couple.

Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson hailed the policy as a "radical reform".

She said it would replace "rigid rules" that "assume men are the breadwinners", and enable families to share caring responsibilities "in whatever way works for them".

Labour broadly welcomed the bill but had concerns about certain aspects, such as changes to support for children and young people in England with special educational needs.

The bill now moves to committee stage, where MPs will undertake line-by-line scrutiny of the government's proposals.

There was a short discussion on House business at the end of the debate, following a brief statement by the leader of the Commons, Andrew Lansley.

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