Poverty Reduction - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:06 pm on 22 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Bird Lord Bird Crossbench 2:06, 22 February 2024

I thank the Minister very much. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole of that debate, which was wonderful. I shall gather it all together, read it and distribute it to my friends and people who I work with, because it covered everything, including the kitchen sink.

I welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford. I am surprised he did not report on the fact that, every year, hundreds and hundreds of people go to Hereford, to a little vipassana silent retreat. I was there for 10 days over the new year break and had a wonderful time in the countryside of Hereford—it is a great pleasure to go there. I have been there four times, and the only reason I can carry on in life is that I can go somewhere and be quiet for that time.

The figures I came up with on the cost of poverty are very much based on what I have been told: that 50% of the time that the NHS spends on health, for instance, is spent on trying to make the poorest among us as healthy as possible. Some 34% of the money that goes into our classrooms is spent on the damage of poverty that is brought there, and that 90% of our Ministry of Justice’s bill, and all bills for crime, are to do with poverty. If you had a ministry of poverty and could co-ordinate and bring everything together, you might be able to close down half of the NHS. You might also be able to close down the Ministry of Justice—or just call it the “Ministry of Middle-Class Justice”, for all the middle-class people who are increasingly doing wrong.

I thank all noble Lords for doing this. I was with a group last night who said to me, “The idea of creating a ministry of poverty prevention sounds very Orwellian”. I reminded these people that in 1948, when we created the National Health Service, it was described even in those early days as Orwellian. I would love everybody to look at the invention that I am hoping will happen in my lifetime: an NHS, but called a “MoP”. Let us mop up poverty and get rid of it. Let us apply everything to get rid of it, and use MoP to do it, because I cannot see it happening unless we converge all the energies that the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Burt, the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, and everybody else has talked about today. God bless and thank you.

Motion agreed.