Fiona Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the remit is of the desk officer for Women and Children's Human Rights in his Department; and what role that officer has had in his Department's recent work on child rights and street children.
Fiona Bruce: The right hon. Gentleman claims that those numbers would have benefited from the scheme, but the figures are not absolute, are they? The individuals would only have benefited had they chosen to take advantage of the scheme. There is a big difference.
Fiona Bruce: Has the child trust fund really succeeded in improving the savings culture and the financial capability of the poorest? In light of evidence given by Dr Samantha Callan, of the savings accounts opened by parents, only 1% had received the maximum funding available. In other words, only 1% of those opened were by people on the lowest incomes.
Fiona Bruce: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Fiona Bruce: Dr Callan said during the evidence sessions that the scheme disproportionately favours the middle class. If we are making judgments about priorities, we need to consider how we can most benefit those who are most in need and vulnerable. The fund does not do that.
Fiona Bruce: Would a £50 contribution not produce the worst of all worlds for young people? The Labour party has said that the one benefit for young people whose families do not engage with the scheme is that they at least have a nest egg at age 18. That contribution would not provide that.
Fiona Bruce: Following on from the discussion about the positive and targeted work of the Healthy Start scheme, which meets the needs of the most vulnerable and those on the lowest incomes, at a time of scarce public resources, how does paying a health in pregnancy grant to families on higher incomes help?
Fiona Bruce: I understand many of your points. Because we do not have a magic wand, as you said earlier, we are having to make difficult decisions, and the importance of targeting limited funds on those who most need help is surely just and right.
Fiona Bruce: Or possibly broaden the Healthy Start scheme?
Fiona Bruce: One of my concerns about the child trust fund’s effectiveness is that although, as you said, a key aim was to trigger better saving behaviour, one in four of the children who are eligible for the funds has no active contact with the benefit of improved education. Is that a success, bearing in mind my concern that a large proportion of that quarter are probably those families who need...
Fiona Bruce: At a cost of £0.5 billion a year, I wonder whether that money is being spent most effectively, particularly as it is tied up for 18 years. Perhaps we could look at focusing some funds more effectively on better financial education in schools, where we would capture a broader range of young people.
Fiona Bruce: Absolutely; I do not disagree with that. It is about the enormous amount of money—the billions and billions of pounds—that are put into this scheme. Some of those young people will have an expectation of some money, and we need to look at helping the most needy and most vulnerable with the limited resources that we have.
Fiona Bruce: Dr Callan, the statistics show that one in four young people have families who are not engaging with the process. I would be very interested to know whether you have evidence for something you said. It has been my suspicion that those on the lowest incomes and those who most need to engage in financial education are the ones who are not doing so. What evidence do you have for that?
Fiona Bruce: Thank you. You also indicated that one of the best investments in a young person’s life, and perhaps one of the best ways of tackling future inequalities, is to give sound financial advice. Do you feel that we do that adequately?
Fiona Bruce: One more question, if I may, Mr Howarth? The child trust funds cost us £500 million a year. Some witnesses have given the view that, despite its being a universal benefit, much of the money, potentially millions of pounds, goes to young people who already have a nest egg, but that is a price worth paying, so children from low-income families receive what you called a “handout” at 18,...
Fiona Bruce: Thank you.
Fiona Bruce: What has come across to us from several witnesses is that financial education, particularly for young people, is patchy. I wondered whether your work on this Bill has led you to consider how we could improve on that in light of the fact that the financial savings education element, say of the child trust fund, is going. It has also been pointed out that only three out of four young people’s...
Fiona Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance his Department issues on the period within which a local authority must issue a written decision notice following a strategic planning committee decision to refuse planning approval.
Fiona Bruce: Some of the provisions that the Minister has talked about, and that the coalition Government are putting in place in light of the rearrangement that they are having to make regarding finances and the reduction of provision under the child trust funds, include: the pupil premium; 15 hours of free nursery care for all two-year-olds; an annual financial health check for every family; and, as you...
Fiona Bruce: Thank you for drawing to our attention so clearly the challenges that disabled people have when they seek financial advice. The Government are bringing in a new provision from spring whereby there will be a national financial advice service and everyone will have the opportunity to have a personalised financial health check and talk about their individual financial needs and savings plans. I...