Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill

Part of Parliament (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 9:27 pm on 26th October 2010.

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Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Solicitor General 9:27 pm, 26th October 2010

Over the past few days, weeks and months, there has been a lot of talk about "fairness", which is an easy word to use. Who is the judge of what is fair? Whose standards of fairness are being applied? Many believe that the measure of a civilised society is how it treats its weakest members. If so, the Bill clearly fails the fairness test, because it lets down families and leaves our children to take the strain.

When the Prime Minister spoke about "mending our broken society", he did not say that he would go around breaking it first.

"I want the next Government to be the most family friendly Government we've ever had in this country".

It was a broken promise, one of many, with more to come. Then we have the Chancellor's hollow promise of fairness:

"A fair Government make sure that those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden."-[ Hansard, 20 October 2010; Vol. 516, c. 955.]

Today we see the Liberal Democrat and Conservative idea of fairness.

Anyone who has young children running around knows how expensive bringing up a family can be. As we are discussing the removal of a grant of £190 to encourage health in pregnancy, I want to talk about how expensive simply being pregnant can be. There seems to have been a lot of debate and misunderstanding about the value of the grant. My hon. Friend Valerie Vaz made good points about the physical nourishment required by a pregnant woman, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. On a physical level, however, a pregnant woman needs clothes to go to work, shoes for her swollen feet, vitamin supplements-I craved fresh fruit salad. I know mothers who have suffered from chronic back pain and chronic pelvic pain. They have struggled to sleep because the later stages of pregnancy are so uncomfortable. All those conditions can be helped by customised cushions, back supports and other aids, none of which is available on the national health service, all of which must be purchased, and all of which I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase, although many on lower incomes would not be able to. The health in pregnancy grant was designed to ease the final stages of pregnancy, and to ensure that a child is not born to a broken mother.

All that arises before we consider the huge impact of the link between the health visitor, the midwife and the pregnant woman that is currently required for the grant to be obtained. The financial pressures during pregnancy are difficult for all women, but teenage mothers suffer a particular burden. The Institute of Education has found that they suffer a lifelong financial disadvantage, with a lifetime family income £12,000 lower-or an annual income 2% lower-than the family incomes of those who become pregnant in their mid-20s.