Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill

Part of Parliament (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 7:01 pm on 26th October 2010.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 7:01 pm, 26th October 2010

The answer is that we all want to encourage hand-ups to everybody, through whatever means possible, but that brings us to the second point about the difficult decision that the Government have had to take in their proposals-and which we as individual Members have to take-which is: what are the alternatives? I will come to that in one second, but on the Government's role in running saving schemes, one crucial lesson that I hope will be learnt from the stakeholder experience and, now, from CTFs is that the Government should operate such schemes at arm's length. When it comes to the creation of the national employment savings trust-or NEST-by the Department for Work and Pensions, I very much hope that that lesson will be taken on board.

The question then is one of choice. What could we do for our children with the money that the Government have been spending on CTFs that would be more effective? My belief is that the best investment that any of us can make as parents for our children is an investment in education. Therefore, Members need to focus on several crucial changes that have been made in the education of our children. Those changes will cost the Government and the taxpayer significant amounts of money, but that is an investment on which I believe we will all see a significant return. First, the retention of Sure Start children's centres, which were begun by Labour, is an important move by the Education Secretary. Secondly, there is an extension of the availability of free education to every three and four-year-old in the country. Thirdly and most significantly, there is the poor pupil premium, which will cost the Government some £7 billion over this Parliament and which comes on top of baseline funding for schools.

I really believe that the most important thing that any of us can invest in is education. This is not about money: I do not believe that there is any evidence that financial literacy in this country has improved as a result of CTFs, nor, in a sense, could it, because the children are not involved. Children benefit from financial literacy programmes that go into schools and talk about what type of mobile telephone package they should have and so on, not from being given a lump sum of money that goes into an account with which they have no involvement. From the choices available to the Government, the best way to spend the money was and should be in education. For that reason, I shall be supporting the Bill.