New Clause 1 — The relative low income after housing costs target
Bill Presented — Fiscal Responsibility
John Howell (Henley, Conservative)
I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point, but I look at it the other way around. We need to ensure that the increase in income that we use to help to eradicate child poverty is well used and that no other factor will come into play to prevent it from having the maximum effect, but we cannot tell that at the moment, because we do not see in the Bill how to deal with the causes of deprivation and poverty-what the right hon. Member for Birkenhead referred to as stopping the flow of negativity that enters the system and produces the root causes of the problem.
I well recall the comment in Committee that the Bill already took such things into account with the emphasis on material deprivation and the need to consider them in the strategy, but what stuck in my mind most in reading the report of the Committee proceedings was the information that the data on assessing material deprivation were so weak. So why is an imperfect measure buried in the Bill, when new clause 2 could provide us with a much better measure of the things that material deprivation indicates we are struggling to move towards. We must not view the issue in terms of narrow statistics. I do not want too many targets in any Bill, but nor do I want targets that skew the Bill and our actions towards income only.
In Committee, if I remember correctly, Steve Webb was sceptical and said that too many targets would allow the Government too much wriggle room. If there were 10 targets, they could say that they had achieved seven of them and therefore that they had met their goals, but those seven targets might not be the most important ones. I take that point-it is one of the things that needs to be worked out-but I do not believe that the process is impractical to achieve.
Those hon. Members who have been involved in the management of businesses may well have come across the concept of the balanced scorecard, by which the most important quadrants of a business's activities are divided and a handful of measures used to manage the business to achieve those objectives. Almost all those objectives are not single ones; they are baskets of objectives in which decisions are made about the importance of each in achieving the overall objective in each quadrant.
The methodology exists and is being used effectively in business and local government. In the days when I was a councillor, I happened to be responsible for introducing a balanced scorecard approach to my county council, and the management of the council's business improved almost overnight as a result, because of the clarity and decision making there had to be, not just in respect of headline-grabbing targets but in respect of targets all the way through. [ Interruption. ] I think the Minister is trying to intervene on me, is she not?