Schedule 1 — The Child Poverty Commission

Part of Bill Presented — Fiscal Responsibility – in the House of Commons at 6:28 pm on 9th December 2009.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 6:28 pm, 9th December 2009

It was interesting that when the Minister began her speech she said that she thought that it was wrong that any child should suffer poverty and deprivation. She was, of course, right. Andrew Selous said that the Bill talked about eradication, and it is regrettable in a sense-one might call it the poverty of our ambition-that we would regard success as 1 million children still living in poverty in 10 years' time. It might be that in modern industrialised societies that is, in the Government's view, the best that can be achieved. Clearly, it would be an awful lot better than the point from which we are starting. To that extent, we welcome the Bill. It is sad that the Government have felt it necessary to oversell it: the Prime Minister routinely at Prime Minister's questions refers to the Government's goal in legislation as being eradication, but he never qualifies that with the odd million who will still be left. That is really rather unhelpful.

It is true that the Bill raises the political price of failing to tackle child poverty, but no Government can bind their successor. Mr. Stuart asked what would happen if we were at war in 2018. If that happened, no doubt we would repeal or amend the Act because we would have to spend money because we were at war. We realise that there are always get-outs to such things, but the Bill will make it more difficult, in a relatively normal period, for a Government not to prioritise tackling child poverty.

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