Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill

Part of Parliament (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 7:34 pm on 26th October 2010.

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Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston 7:34 pm, 26th October 2010

I hope that Conservative Members and the Minister will hear that contribution in the spirit in which we all feel it. This country has a poor record on outcomes for looked-after children, who enter adult life singularly poorly provided for financially. The child trust fund was a small step towards beginning to rectify that. As my hon. Friend says-and I hope the Government heed this-if the child trust fund is no longer to be the mechanism through which looked-after children are given some sort of nest egg with which to embark on adult life, I hope that Ministers will look for another way to secure the financial futures of such children. It is not sufficient to say that we will improve education, health and Sure Start support, important though those are. Plenty of evidence shows the importance for young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds-and looked-after young people most of all-of having a financial asset behind them.

Richard Graham, who I am sorry is no longer in the Chamber, cited the briefing that some Members had received from the Save Child Savings alliance. I was struck by the numbers he shared with us: 4.5 million child trust fund accounts are open; £2 billion is under management; and £22 million a month is saved in those funds. That is a lot of money being saved and set aside for our children's futures. I strongly urge the Government to take note of that success. The vast majority of families saving are on modest, medium or lower incomes, certainly of less than £50,000, and many of them on much less. The hon. Gentleman mentioned that, I think, 24% of families were not saving at all. He is right to draw attention to the position of those families, but I question what they will save with instead, if we remove the child trust fund. If the Government do not save on behalf of the poorest children, I very much doubt that a tax break, for families who probably do not pay tax anyway, will suddenly magic up savings for the poorest children. I ask the Government to address that point.

The child trust fund is well targeted for its purpose, which is to deliver an asset to young people as they start out on adult life. Better-off families can afford to support their children with university fees, renting their first flat, buying their first car, perhaps starting a business, having a gap year-all markers of social stability, and therefore at the heart of what the Government rightly want young people from low-income backgrounds to be able to participate in. I am genuinely at a loss to understand why a Government who repeatedly, and unjustly, lambast Labour's record in relation to social mobility and inequality, should totally dismantle a savings vehicle that has the potential to reduce inequalities, and instead propose a savings vehicle that will widen those inequalities by benefiting only those who are better off.

I am just as puzzled by the Government's attitude to the saving gateway. Pilots in different parts of the country have shown that, coupled with outreach and money advice, it helped to support a savings habit, provided low-income families with a cushion enabling them to cope with crises, allowed them to build up modest assets over time, and made possible additional savings that would not have been possible otherwise.

I am surprised-more than surprised; indeed, I am shocked-that a Government who are happy to extend tax breaks to savers and to maintain them on ISA savings, pension contributions and inheritance tax will not provide support to boost the savings of the poorest. I ask Ministers how that can possibly be fair.