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

If, like me, my hon. Friend does not like declaratory legislation, and does not think that targets should be set in law because they are a meaningless fraud on the British people, he may well not support the Bill. On the other hand, he may accept, as Conservative Front Benchers do, that this framework provides a driver whereby future Governments can show their intent to tackle child poverty. Given the difficulties with increases in child poverty in the past, it is tremendously important that we show the seriousness of intent of Conservative Members who wish and hope to be in government shortly; we must make absolutely clear our commitment to the eradication of child poverty. That is why, although I understand some of the questions about process that my hon. Friend no doubt has, I will not vote against the Bill. We need to show that there is consensus across the House that child poverty is wrong and we no longer want to see it. Through the details of the strategies that are produced in future, I hope and expect by a Conservative Secretary of State, we will be able to work away on the root causes of poverty and ensure that they are tackled.

I want briefly to mention an amendment dealing with rural poverty, which I tabled, unsuccessfully, in Committee. I appeal to Ministers, while we have them here, and before they go away to produce national strategies in addition to the local strategies produced by local authorities, to bear in mind the peculiarities of rural poverty. According to the Commission for Rural Communities, 22 per cent. of rural children and their families are in financial poverty. There are extra costs to living in rural areas. For example, households in rural settlements spend £74.50 on transport each week compared with £57.10 by those in urban areas. That is serious money coming out of income that might be thought to be in the hands of that family, making it better off than an urban family, but in fact they have to spend it on transport. I hope that Ministers will examine carefully the peculiarities of poverty in rural areas.

Like others, I congratulate my right hon. Friend Mr. Duncan Smith and the Centre for Social Justice on their work. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State is in her place, because I wish to say that one of the most exciting programmes that the next Conservative Government, if that is what we have, could undertake would be to follow on from the "Dynamic Benefits" report and consider the barriers preventing those who are currently living in poverty from escaping it and getting into work. We need to understand the incentives that affect those on low income with the same precision with which we seek to understand the incentives for the rich, where they may move and what tax they pay. We need to ensure that for people who are not in work, getting back into work pays and they do not find themselves worse off by trying to do the right thing. I do not know the detail of the measure that was announced in today's pre-Budget report, but if it is a response to that problem and intended to ensure that those who are not in work are definitely rewarded for getting into work, I will congratulate the Government on it. I hope that it is a reality and not just a pretence.

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