Miliband opposes end of baby books cash

Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday spoke out against the Government's withdrawal of funding from a programme to give free books to parents of new-born babies to encourage a love of reading.

Bookstart was told last Friday that the Department for Education was withdrawing all of its 13m funding for the scheme in England from April.

Former children's laureate Michael Rosen described himself as "absolutely appalled and utterly enraged" by the decision, while the charity's chief executive Viv Bird said she was "immensely surprised and disappointed" and was exploring other options for financial support.

The scheme is backed by devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Yesterday Mr Miliband, MP for Doncaster North, said that the programme, which provides book packs for new-borns and toddlers through health centres, nurseries and libraries, was one of the Labour initiatives which gave him most pride.

"This Conservative-led Government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing," said the Labour leader.

"The abolition of Bookstart will deprive children of an early opportunity to discover the joy of reading. It is one of the programmes introduced by Labour of which I am most proud. It was a gift from the Government to the next generation."