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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Extended paternity leave rejected
Beverley Hughes
Beverley Hughes had been due to speak in Manchester
The government has rejected Children's Minister Beverley Hughes' call to extend paternity leave to four weeks.

A DTI spokesman said the current two-week period struck the "right balance" - and Mrs Hughes had not been setting out government policy.

Mrs Hughes earlier pulled out of a speech in which she was due to explain her proposals in more detail.

Her office said she was suffering from food poisoning and was keen to reschedule the event.

But the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) said there were no plans to change government policy on paternity leave.

"Two weeks is the right balance between allowing fathers to spend time with their babies and the needs of their employers," said a spokesman.

He added: "We have not seen any persuasive evidence to change the policy."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said she had been speaking in her capacity as an MP and not a minister.

'New ideas'

But the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), seen as the leading New Labour think tank, insisted the idea was being taken seriously by incoming prime minister Gordon Brown.

I think Beverley Hughes is taken seriously by Mr Brown and his allies and they are open to new ideas
IPPR spokesman

An IPPR spokesman said: "Brown is looking for new ideas.

"I don't think you will see a change of policy in the next few weeks, but with a change of prime minister the next phase of social policy is going to be developed.

"I think Beverley Hughes is taken seriously by Brown and his allies and they are open to new ideas."

The think tank says its research shows children with an actively involved father have better behaviour and improved attainment at school.

There is also evidence that where fathers play an active role at home there is a knock on effect on the quality and stability of the relationship between parents, the IPPR says.

'Proud'

Mrs Hughes is one of five ministers to have written a chapter in a collection of essays to be published by the IPPR on Labour's future, including Ed and David Miliband, Hilary Benn and Ed Balls - all seen as rising stars in a Brown government.

She had been due to set out her proposals at an IPPR conference in Manchester on Friday.

She was due to call for the rates of maternity and paternity pay to be increased and all jobs to be advertised as part-time, job-share or flexi-time unless there is a sound business case not to.

Writing in the IPPR pamphlet, she said: "I am proud that the government has already extended maternity leave and introduced paid paternity leave, but we must go further.

"It is not government's job to bring up children, but there is more we can do to help parents to realise their aspirations and do the best they can for their children."

Business warning

Fathers who wanted to "play an active role in their child's life" were not being encouraged enough by their employers, she added.

She said doubling the length of paternity leave and paying it at a higher rate "will help thousands of dads from all backgrounds to be there for their children in those crucial early weeks".

But business leaders have urged ministers to tread carefully before imposing new burdens on firms.

John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI, said: "While employers have worked hard to implement recent changes, doubling paid paternity leave as part of a very long wish list would be a step too far.

"We must remember that businesses still have to get the job done."


SEE ALSO
Long-hours threat to family life
04 Apr 07 |  Education
Maternity changes come into force
01 Apr 07 |  Business

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