Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 2:22 pm on 4th July 2007.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2:22 pm, 4th July 2007

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. We can only hope that the successor body—I will return to the issue of how much of a successor it really is—can make a difference and deal with the problems itself. My hon. Friend is absolutely right—the truth is that in few policy areas can we find a clearer case of big promises from the Government, followed by failure to deliver.

The Government claim that the Bill will help to tackle child poverty. That is to be lauded, but the truth is that the Prime Minister moved next door last week after 10 years of rhetoric about child poverty in which the figures actually increased, rather than decreased. The real picture today is that child poverty rose by 100,000 before housing costs last year, and by 200,000 after housing costs. After those 10 years, the total figure for child poverty now stands at 2.8 million before housing costs and 3.8 million after housing costs.

The Bill will go only a small part of the way in dealing with a problem of this scale, but for that part we welcome it, even though, as we agree, it is overdue. And even though it is overdue and the Government have had so much time to prepare it, they have still managed yet again to present Parliament with legislation that is praiseworthy in intent, but which leaves many questions still to answer, many details still to be addressed and a lot of information—although long promised—not yet available to the House. Ironically, the Bill, rather than being flawed in detail, contains very little detail. It is another of those measures that contain little substance and create a loose framework, leaving it to the Secretary of State to work out the details. Many of the Bill's clauses are built around phrases such as "arrangements will be made" and "the Secretary of State may".

Let me put the Secretary of State on notice that before we step aside to allow him to act, we will expect a lot more detail from him in Committee on how he intends to deal with the small print. It would help the Committee if he published draft regulations before it discusses these issues, so that we could understand the detail behind his intentions.