Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill

Part of Parliament (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 9:37 pm on 26th October 2010.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Treasury) 9:37 pm, 26th October 2010

Yes, we have to wonder whether the absence of so many Members from the Government Benches was due to a lack of interest or the fact that some of them have serious reservations about what is being proposed today. It was particularly noticeable that very few women Members from the coalition parties attended or spoke in the debate. I hope that that shows some concern on their part.

The hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys suggested that children would be better served by a piggy bank in their bedroom than a child trust fund, which shows a shocking lack of understanding of the issues. Richard Graham showed a similar lack of understanding by saying that an individual savings account was a better form of saving at zero cost to the taxpayer than a child trust fund. I gather from his CV that he worked for Baring Asset Management; I suspect that a background of working for Barings is not the best qualification for advising other people on how to manage their assets.

My hon. Friend Teresa Pearce made an eloquent speech in defence of the child trust fund. I want to congratulate her on becoming a grandmother today- [Interruption.] Has it not arrived yet? Well, I hope mother and baby do very well when it does finally come along. [Interruption.] Yes, there should now be a pregnant pause in my speech, as the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson, says.

Jim Shannon and his colleagues from Northern Ireland showed how important they thought the child trust fund was for the people of Northern Ireland. He mentioned that it is backed by the credit union movement, which is obviously well developed there, and that it has cross-party support. We very much valued his support on that point.

George Freeman described the contributions of Labour Members as "hysterical". I have to say that that word is often used by a certain type of man when women express strong views. I am sorry if this makes him uncomfortable, but Labour Members are not desiccated calculating machines and we care passionately about defending the measures that the Government are trying to abolish in this Bill. My hon. Friend Kate Green gave, as always, an awe-inspiring speech. She has impeccable credentials on this point and demonstrated the eloquence that comes from truly knowing her subject and caring passionately about it.

My constituency neighbour-in all other senses he is probably from another planet from me-Jacob Rees-Mogg, talked about these measures involving "pitiful" amounts that are "too small" to make a difference. It may be that in the world that he inhabits these sums are pitiful, but I ask him to cross the constituency border and come to meet some of the people who I deal with in Bristol East, because he would then learn some lessons about how much difference these small amounts of money can really make.

That was something that my hon. Friend Stella Creasy showed in a well researched speech full of statistics. She described just how investing small sums can create substantial assets for a child in its future.