U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will accelerate his party’s child-care bill, extending a hand to working families as opposition Labour assesses how it should recover from its election defeat.
The bill, proposed by the Conservative Party during its campaign, will be presented to parliament on Tuesday, a year sooner than planned, the party said in an e-mailed statement. The measure doubles the amount of free child care for families to 5,000 pounds ($7,650) annually, it said.
Cameron used the first days of his second term to woo German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande as he begins negotiating possible changes to Britain’s membership in the European Union. After appeasing party euro-skeptics, Cameron is taking advantage of the opposition’s period of introspection to reach out to traditional Labour Party backers.
“My message is clear, this government is on the side of working people, helping them get on and supporting them at every stage of life,” Cameron said in the statement Monday. “That is exactly why we are pressing ahead with these reforms.”
Labour is reviewing its unexpectedly poor performance in the May 7 general election in which it lost 40 seats to the Scottish National Party and party leader Ed Miliband stepped down. The opposition is reconsidering its leadership and policies, a process interim party leader Harriet Harman likened to a truth-and-reconciliation commission.
“We’ve got to look at why it was the public wouldn’t trust us to be the government,” Harman said in an interview Sunday with Sky News. “It will be uncomfortable, it was a serious defeat.”
The party is reaching out to non-members for input as it looks for a leader with public appeal rather than someone insiders prefer, she said.
“There’s got to be no ‘no-go’ areas for Labour,” said leadership candidate Yvette Cooper in an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marr. “We’ve been far too narrow and I think I can reach out to every corner of the country where we’ve got to win back votes.”
Cooper said she would retain the party’s 50 percent tax rate policy for Britain’s highest earners if she took over as Labour’s first elected female leader even as she sets out to “reset the relationship with business.” She also called for radical reform in party policies, including family policy and child care.
The Tory’s policy, which will come into effect September 2016, will offer families 30 hours a week of free child care for 3- and 4-year-olds. About 1 million families make use of the existing 15 hour-per-week benefit, the party said.
On Sunday, Conservative member of parliament Ken Clarke called for a swift conclusion to the “daft debate” on EU membership so that Britain can focus elsewhere. “It’s going to be a distraction to the work this government has to do, we have a list of other more important issues,” he said in a BBC interview.
Tory lawmaker John Redwood said he would oppose any demand from Cameron that asks Conservative cabinet ministers to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU while former Defense Secretary Liam Fox said a “complete restructuring” of the EU would be needed to satisfy party backbenchers.
Former EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday said negotiating a new treaty -- which would require the signoff from each EU member -- was “possible” as other member states look to strengthen the political relationship within the euro region.
“That could be a tradeoff: Britain could opt out of some areas -- why not, if it’s important for Britain to stay in the European Union -- but at the same time there would be a deepening of the euro area,” he said in an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marr.
The Conservatives require a new treaty to change existing policies on the indiscriminate freedom of movement between EU states, a “very clear principle” in the existing terms of membership, Barroso said. The policy has also been attributed as the cause for the Tories’ failure to meet immigration targets during the coalition government.