Childhood Well-being

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate 10:30 am, 1st March 2007

What recent assessment he has made of the effect of UK macro-economic performance on childhood well-being.

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Macro-economic stability has allowed the Government to achieve growth with fairness. Since 1997, average incomes have risen by 2.9 per cent., but the greatest growth has been for the poorest 40 per cent. of families, whose incomes have grown by an average of 3.4 per cent. a year. We should compare that to the period of 1979 to 1997, when incomes grew by an annual rate of just 0.1 per cent.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate

Given UNICEF's assessment that relationships have a significant impact on childhood well-being, would Britain perform better if we followed the advice of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, supported today by the Economic Secretary, not to give tax breaks to married couples? Or should we take the view of the Work and Pensions Secretary, which is that there should be support for couples who look after children? Will the Economic Secretary confirm that he agrees with the response given to Angela Eagle, and that the Government do not support marriage as a means of promoting childhood well-being?

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

I could not work out from that whether the hon. Gentleman supported the shadow Chancellor's policy or that of the Leader of the Opposition. The UNICEF report was based on data that went up to 2000. Since then, there has been a substantial fall in child poverty. The House does not have to take my word for it, as an esteemed newspaper columnist told the BBC:

"I'm mildly sceptical about the Unicef report...some of its facts are mildly out of date...I think it was actually unfair to the Government."

That commentator was the shadow Housing Minister, Michael Gove.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

Does the Minister understand that the critical—