A secret promise by Tory shadow ministers to end Labour's guarantee to every three- and four-year-old of 121/2 hours a week free nursery education, 38 weeks a year, and allow private nurseries to charge "top-up fees", revealed by The Observer newspaper, has come under fierce attack from Labour candidates, who describe it as "a punishing tax on women workers".|
Reading West candidate Naz Sarkar says "This free childcare - and Labour is pledged to increase it to 15 hours a week in September - has been a huge boon to working women in particular, and helps get children ready for school too. For the Tories to promise to end it, and to make that promise to providers without having the honesty to include it in their manifesto, is a massive step backwards, a commitment to a punishing tax on women workers hugely greater than Labour's planned increase in National Insurance contributions!
"Both of Reading's Tory candidates have pledged honesty in public spending," Mr Sarkar continues, "and this secret promise, which Maria Miller MP, the Tory shadow spokesman on the family, has not denied, shows just how little their pledge is worth. What other promises have the Tories made which they are not telling us about?"
And Reading East candidate Anneliese Dodds adds: "This tax on women workers, like the Tories' tax break for married couples, is actually designed to discourage women from working and push them back into the home. It shows how out of touch today's Tories are. Today, many women want to work - I certainly do - and in any case have to work to help pay the rent or the mortgage. Government should understand and respect that and work with it, not try and turn the clock back."