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Child Poverty Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 20th July 2009.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:37 pm, 20th July 2009

The hon. Gentleman will know that we take advice from the Low Pay Commission on the level at which the minimum wage should be set. We have also introduced tax credits, including the working tax credit and the child tax credit, to provide additional income for families. That has made a substantial difference of thousands of pounds a year to many families, without which many more would be in poverty today: it is transforming families' lives.

However, this is not enough-we need to go much further. We need to be even more ambitious in future. We know that achieving these targets will not be easy. The very fact of setting a relative target means that as the economy grows and society becomes more prosperous, we have to work even harder to make sure that no one gets left behind. We know, too, that the challenge facing us is even more difficult in our current economic circumstances, but it is also even more important that we succeed. Over the past 18 months, we have continued to set out new measures to tackle child poverty, even in tougher times, including increasing tax credits, expanding child care, and increasing support for parents to get back into work. Everyone knows that it will be difficult to meet our target of halving child poverty by next year, but we believe that it is right to keep working towards it and to make as much progress as we can, even in more difficult times.

The recession makes action on child poverty even more important. The action that we take now is critical to preventing child poverty not just today but for many years to come. It was the failure of Tory Governments to help people through the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s that led to the big increases in child poverty at that time. Too many parents in the '80s and '90s lost their jobs and were abandoned, left in long-term unemployment or pushed on to other long-term benefits to fiddle the figures, with devastating consequences for them and for their families. Parents, and young people who were soon to become parents, not only fell out of work but fell out of the labour market altogether, making it harder for them to get back on their feet when the upturn came. The cost of that Conservative neglect was felt not just among the parents but among their children who are themselves parents today.

The Tories are sometimes accused of abandoning a generation: the truth is they abandoned several generations. [ Interruption. ] Conservative Members do not want to hear about the consequences for future generations, and for child poverty today, of their inaction and their abandonment of young people-future parents-in previous recessions .

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