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Miliband Makes Better Childcare Priority For U.K. Labour

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s opposition Labour Party is looking at how it can offer parents better support for child care, its leader, Ed Miliband, told lawmakers in Sweden, citing that country as a possible model.

“A decent child-care system has got to be a big priority for the next Labour government,” Miliband said in a speech to the Social Democratic Party in the parliament in Stockholm today. “You have been world leaders in this. We’ve got further to go to really get near to the kind of universal provision you have here.”

Miliband said political leaders have to do more to encourage women to progress in business and politics and that child care is central to the problem. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday there are “not nearly enough” women in the U.K. Parliament.

The Labour leader, whose party leads the Tories in opinion polls, was speaking on the second day of his tour of Northern European economies. Yesterday he was in Copenhagen, where he met Social Democrat Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Tomorrow he’s in the Netherlands, where he’ll see Diederik Samsom, the leader of the Labor Party that’s part of the Dutch coalition government.

Miliband is drawing inspiration from Scandinavia’s Social Democrats. Last night he stayed in the Swedish party’s country retreat of Bommersvik, southwest of Stockholm, where the facilities include a sauna and a lake, currently frozen. Miliband and his delegation, which includes Labour’s foreign-affairs spokesman, Douglas Alexander, said they didn’t use either.

Swedish System

Sweden offers free child care for most children, and parents get 480 days of paid leave per child, to be taken in the first eight years of its life. The result, according to the Swedish government, is that 80 percent of all children have a mother who goes out to work.

Swedish Social Democrat leader Stefan Loefven faces an election in late 2014, and Miliband will take on Cameron in May 2015. “These are two coming prime ministers standing here,” Loefven told his lawmakers.

Miliband drew laughter and applause when he turned to Cameron’s proposed referendum on the U.K.’s membership of the European Union.

“The Labour Party is determined to remain in the EU,” he said, before arguing for reform of the 27-nation bloc. “We must be the people who are not for the status quo, we must be the people who are for change. How do we address this? The answer is not to leave.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in Stockholm at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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