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Lansley: Labour nationalise childcare and dictate to families

In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference, Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley said:

"It's been a really interesting session. Thank you to Sue Palmer, Susan Jebb and Shaun Bailey and thanks to all of you for your contributions. I think it showed exactly why David and I wanted to devote our session to the wellbeing of children.

Nationally, there has not been a proper debate about how public services work for children. So, we have started that debate today.

But before I continue, I have to declare an interest: I have five children. I'm doing my bit to defuse the demographic time bomb!

Like the children on our video, children always have a capacity to surprise you - mine are no different.

I remember when my two eldest girls were on their way home from primary school. As we drove along, Katie, the eldest, said she had a letter from school in her bag. "OK", I said, "Better read it". She starts reading,

"Dear Parent, this letter is to inform you about the sex education curriculum your child will be following this year".

Gulp! OK- Let's not make a fuss - carry on Katie. The letter explains the curriculum rather fully! Meanwhile, Sarah, two years younger, is all ears. Katie finishes the letter. All is quiet. Just when I thought it had gone OK, a small voice pipes up from Sarah:

"Daddy, what does 'yours sincerely' mean?"

Children matter to us, first and foremost. The education they receive, their health, that they get the opportunities in life we enjoyed and more.

There really isn't a golden age of childhood to go back to. Child abuse happened forty years ago, but there was no Childline to go to. Bullying at school used to be covered up, not confronted.

Of course, the most important things in childhood have never changed:

• Children need parents who love them and give them a sense of security;

• children need boundaries and to be taught right from wrong;

• children need to be talked to and listened to;

• and children need, as they grow older, to develop the self-esteem, which empowers them to make responsible, right decisions for themselves.

None of these things is the responsibility of Government. The most important things in life come from our family. That is why we made it clear in 'Built to Last', that one of our aims as a Government will be to support the family and marriage, as the best environment in which to bring up children.

We will support the family, not supplant the family.

That is the difference between us and Labour.

Labour nationalise childcare and dictate to families.

Did you hear Mr. Blair on this? Because some parents are failing their children, he wants early 'intervention'.

'Intervention', mind you, not support.

Mr. Blair appears to believe that snatch squads of social workers, taking children into care, is preferable to putting every effort into supporting children to stay with their family.

He's wrong. The State is a poor parent.

More than half of the children leaving care have no educational qualifications whatsoever. A quarter have a major depressive illness; and a quarter of those in the prison population have been in care at some time.

Unless there is a clear danger to a child, we have to maintain family links and keep them closer to home.

Yet, we have to remember that the wellbeing of children is a social responsibility, not just a state responsibility.

Let's face it, if we carry on as we are, with increasing numbers of overweight children, high levels of drug taking; heavy binge-drinking and early unsafe sex, we will have epidemics of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, schizophrenia, and sexually-transmitted infection in the years ahead.

So we must build a strong, independent public health service.

But that will not be enough. I was talking a few weeks ago to members of the Youth Parliament. They emphasised the need, not just for better sex education, but for sex and relationships education. Absolutely right.

The issue is about social behaviour, not just information or services. It is about empowering children to make the right choices in life.

Not being prey to peer pressure.

Family is the bedrock which gives children that kind of confidence. And that starts from very early years.

So we have to give parents real choices about how they care for their children, especially when they are very young.

The work-life balance.

Mind you, I've never met anyone who ever thinks it is in balance - in reality it's a constant struggle to get it right.

Whatever choices parents make we must make sure that together we deliver the very best care for our children.

Real play, not an electronic baby-sitter. A good diet, not just processed foods; real exercise, including walking, cycling as well as sport; real relationships, with families talking and eating together - spending time together.

And what can we do through the NHS to help families?

We can ensure that mothers have the access to maternity care they seek.

We can reverse the decline in the number of health visitors and district nurses.

And we can ensure that every school has a school nurse, who supports a curriculum that incorporates healthy diet and lifestyle and provides advice on a one-to-one basis.

Child health has too long been a marginalised part of the NHS, where children are treated just as small versions of adults.

And now, because of their dreadful mismanagement of the NHS, services are suffering. Gordon Brown's NHS cuts are holding the NHS back.

It makes me angry; I know it makes the NHS staff angry and it makes the people of this country angry.

That 20,000 jobs are being lost in our hospitals.

Angry that thousands of NHS beds are being cut.

That doctors, nurses and Physiotherapists are leaving training and can't find jobs.

That maternity services and Accident and Emergency services are being shut.

Next week, we invite you to join us in a campaign to oppose Labour's NHS cuts and to show that we support the NHS, and support the doctors and nurses in the tremendous work they do.

But I tell you what also made me very angry: that Labour politicians, who are responsible for a demoralised health service, are sitting in secret meetings, plotting how they can minimise the political damage to them of NHS cut backs. It is a scandal and they must be held to account for it.

Last week Gordon Brown hinted that he will give the NHS independence.

Really, Gordon?

This from the man who has imposed more targets on the NHS than anyone?

From the man who blocked freedom for Foundation NHS hospitals?

From the man who thought the NHS so important that he said nothing - absolutely nothing - about it in his Budget - yet, at the same time, the NHS was plunging £1.3 billion into the red.

Well, heaven rejoices in a sinner who repents. But can you believe it? No.

Gordon Brown will not save the NHS any more than Tony Blair did after his "24 hours to save the NHS"

Good intentions are not enough if you don't deliver.

We have to deliver for the NHS.

We will ensure the NHS provides healthcare for all, free at the point of use, based on need. To do this, we do have to deliver greater independence for the NHS.

Stop the centralisation, bureaucracy, and top-down targets.

Deliver resources to the frontline.

Work with NHS professionals, not against them.

And we have to deliver services which support families and children.

In the months ahead we will take up the challenge, which Sue Palmer and her colleagues presented.

The challenge to put the wellbeing of children at the heart of our public policy objectives.

We know who is the future now.

It isn't in your Labour Party, Mr. Blair.

We know who is the future - our children are the future; and David Cameron's Conservative Party will be there, for them and with them, to make it a future of opportunity and hope."

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