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Child Poverty Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 20th July 2009.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 5:46 pm, 20th July 2009

It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Reed, who reminds us, in this discussion of statistics and targets, about the human face of child poverty and the fact that tackling child poverty is a cause, not simply yet another benchmark, target or box-ticking exercise. His perspective is very welcome and his commitment to action in his constituency is impressive.

I welcome the Bill. I sometimes tend to be slightly churlish in response to Government Bills, but I unreservedly welcome the fact that this one contains a commitment to tackling child poverty. At Prime Minister's questions last week, the Prime Minister talked about abolishing child poverty. I think that the House would recognise that that is not what this Bill sets as its target; it sets a target of having fewer than 10 per cent. of children living in relative poverty-by my maths, that still works out as 1 million children. The common understanding among the public of "abolishing" child poverty would not be that 1 million children are left in poverty. I hope that the Government and the Ministers present today will reflect on how they describe this Bill, because there is a danger of a noble end being oversold-Governments of all sides have a tendency to do that. If the aim is presented as the abolition of child poverty and a future Government subsequently pat themselves on the back because only 1 million children are in poverty, the public would be justified in thinking that that was not quite what they had in mind. I hope that Ministers will be more realistic about what this Government seek to achieve through the Bill, but I welcome an objective of this sort and a process for monitoring progress towards it.

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