Amendment 16

Part of Financial Services Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 14th April 2021.

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Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour 5:00 pm, 14th April 2021

My Lords, this group of amendments contains issues of profound importance. It is not surprising, therefore, that our progress this afternoon has somewhat slowed. I can be blissfully short, because the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, spelled out in his usual eloquent and detailed fashion why Amendment 37C should be taken very seriously and that a solution must be found to the challenge that he laid out. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, I pay tribute to the noble Lord for his dedication and commitment. I have been proud to work alongside him. One of the great pleasures of this House is that it is possible to work effectively—I hope effectively—across party. The case that he made this afternoon, which he has been making for the last few months, is in my view unanswerable. The issue, therefore, is what progress can be made and what can be done.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, has taken this issue seriously and to heart since he joined the House and took up his present position. Forgive me if I call the noble Lord, Lord Young, my noble friend. As he has spelled out, it is surely not beyond the wit of woman or man—working groups that do not meet or address issues aside—to be able to unlock funds that are essential, albeit small, for those for whom they were intended. My noble friend kindly indicated my history in this area. It was blighted by not having spotted that the Mental Capacity Act, which succeeded the decision to introduce child trust funds, would inadvertently lead to those funds being blocked for the most vulnerable.

I still regret very strongly that the early part of the coalition Government abolished child trust funds—driven, it has to be said, by the then Chief Secretary and not by the leading party in the coalition. But that is water under the bridge. The paradox of course is that, had the child trust funds continued and been delivered in the way originally intended—including continuous top-up funding—we would have been in a more difficult position in releasing these funds for those with learning disabilities, because the funds would have been much greater. Sometimes there are twists in life which you do not see and sometimes there are those you wish you had not.

This is a simple issue here, whether it is about Holly who was highlighted by my noble friend Lord Young, or Mikey, highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann. I originally heard Mikey’s father outlining these issues on “Money Box”. He was also mentioned by the now leader of the Liberal Democrats in the other place. Those young people demonstrate the wider issue of access to modest but important funding that can help them at a crucial time of transition into adulthood, as was originally intended. There is also the profound issue of the growing capital asset divide in our country. With house prices accelerating as they are now, this divide will increase still further.

So I will make a very simple appeal. The noble Lord who is leading on this amendment will not press it to a vote. However, I think that the feeling of this House—both on the numerous previous occasions on which the issue has been raised and again this afternoon by noble Lords both online and present in this Chamber —is that a solution must be found, and found quickly. My experience during eight years in the Cabinet was that there were very good civil servants who explained, quite rightly, why something could not be done. I always valued them because they prevented me putting my foot in it more often than I did. But the best civil servants were the ones who highlighted the problem and then came up with a solution.