Schedule 1 — The Child Poverty Commission

Part of Bill Presented — Fiscal Responsibility – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 9th December 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 6:36 pm, 9th December 2009

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is always good to take an intervention from the other half of the duo, who will no doubt make a contribution of his own in a moment. However, my hon. Friend is quite right to point out that that is also one of the legal consequences of the Bill, and I too think that it is an insult to Parliament as well.

I am also disappointed with the way that the Government continue to treat local government. It is clear from the Bill that they do not take local authorities seriously as entities in themselves, with their own agenda and ability to deliver, but regard them as the delivery arm of Whitehall.

Today is not the end of the matter with this Bill, as there is a huge pile of regulation and, even more worryingly, guidance to be issued to local authorities. All I shall ask of the Minister today is that she please take note of the evidence sessions and the comments made by witnesses. What is required from the Government when it comes to regulation and guidance is a light touch, if any touch at all. Many local authorities are already doing a good job in respect of child poverty, as was illustrated by the evidence to the Committee from Kent and Liverpool in particular. So please let us see in the guidance a recognition of the best practice that already exists.

I asked one of the witnesses what difference the Bill would make and whether it would make a big impact, because one of them had said that something pretty big needed to happen in the field of child poverty. I asked:

"Is that something going to happen as a result of the delivery mechanisms set out in the Bill?"

Neil O'Brien from Policy Exchange answered that negatively in terms of the delivery mechanisms and the aims in the Bill. It is interesting to read what he said next:

"you are not going to be voting in this place on the strategy and all of those things"- the big picture things-

"you are voting on just a target that is very much focused on central Government and everything they are doing. So, in answer to your previous question, there is a complete mismatch." --[ Official Report, Child Poverty Public Bill Committee, 22 October 2009; c. 110, Q21.]

That is a great shame.

The Bill could have shown greater ambition and taken us a lot further down the road towards eradicating child poverty. Instead, we have had the perversion of the English language, whereby "eradication" no longer means eradication in the sense that the rest of us would use the word. I hope that, with a change of Government, we will get a strategy for child poverty that is much more focused on delivering real change for children and particularly the families in which they live.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website