Schedule 1 — The Child Poverty Commission

Part of Bill Presented — Fiscal Responsibility – in the House of Commons at 6:41 pm on 9th December 2009.

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Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley and Holderness 6:41 pm, 9th December 2009

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. He was not here during the earlier debate, when I reminded the House of what the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Helen Goodman, who is on the Front Bench today, told the Public Bill Committee. She said:

"The Government are not wholly convinced that family breakdown is a cause of poverty". --[ Official Report, Child Poverty Public Bill Committee, 20 October 2009; c. 15, Q44.]

That is an extraordinary thing for a Minister in this Labour Government to say. They are turning themselves away from all the evidence. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire intervened on me earlier to read out the latest set of statistics, provided by the Minister's own Department, which show that a child brought up in a single-parent family is twice as likely as a child in a two-parent family to be in poverty. So my hon. Friend Mr. Bone is absolutely right.

We have a Government who, for their own narrow ideological or political dividing-lines reasons, insist on turning their face against a fundamental aspect of tackling poverty, which is to restore families and help couples-not necessarily married-to stay together to support their children. We know that if we can help to maintain that situation, general outcomes are much better. There is less likelihood of children being in poverty, and there is less likelihood of other unpleasant after-effects in later life, whether they involve mental health, educational outcomes or the likelihood of unemployment.

The essence of what comes out of the Bill will be the strategies that local authorities and the Secretary of State come up with, but it is most important that we tackle the causes of poverty. The Minister normally tries to be honest, and she talked about this piece of legislation-this Bill-ensuring that Governments have to be held to account and take action on child poverty. But, disappointingly, what did she do in her opening speech? Not once did she mention the 2010 target that this Government set, with a solemn promise that we would see child poverty halved. She did not even mention it, and we can only take politicians seriously on matters such as tackling poverty if they face up to their record to date. [ Interruption. ] I think the hon. Member for Northavon wants to intervene again.

There has been some progress, but the Government have not moved to tackle child poverty. Of course the irony is that, here we are, with this Child Poverty Bill and the Government congratulating themselves on introducing it, yet today, in the pre-Budget report, the door has finally been slammed in the faces of those who hoped-

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