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My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for securing such a generous slice of precious time for this important debate. I also welcome the Minister to his new spot. I wish him well in his important role; he has big shoes to fill.
I remind the House that I was on the Social Mobility Select Committee, which will become important later on in my very short remarks. I join the many noble Lords who have praised A Manifesto to Strengthen Families, with its eight calls to action and 18 suggested policies. We get sent many documents that are calls to action, but few are as crisp and well thought-through as this manifesto, and I congratulate the noble Lord and those responsible for it wholeheartedly. I had the rare benefit of an education on families policy from the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, during our year together on the Select Committee, and the passion and scholarship that I had the privilege to enjoy was visible for all to see in his remarkable speech when he opened today’s debate. Along with almost all, if not all, noble Lords here today, I am wholly supportive of all eight calls to action and all the suggested policies.
However, I want to underline two matters. The first I term the “forestry point” and the second I term the “Chinese doctor point”. In forestry terms, I want to remind the House of something the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, said earlier: this is a very long-term thing and you have to take a long-term view. The effects of policy interventions, good and bad, become truly visible only many years after they are made. What is disastrous is to chop and change policy every few years. Thus, in forestry theory terms, I submit that policy interventions in the families sector need to have broad cross-party support to give them a real chance of success, as they would then stand a significantly enhanced chance of surviving a change of government. Does the Minister agree with that point?
Turning to my second and final point, the “Chinese doctor point”, we in this House rightly concentrate regularly on those in our society who are at a disadvantage. The Chinese, however, visit doctors when they are healthy. I submit that the Government’s efforts in this policy area must not forget the importance of supporting and bolstering families that are in good shape. There is no magic bullet here, but each small assistance in family life would go part-way to strengthening and preserving that life. Does the Minister agree with that submission?