Families (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:44 am on 21st March 2001.

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Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow Anniesland 11:44 am, 21st March 2001

As my hon. Friend says, not all of them do.

The Chancellor also helped small businesses, some of which were complaining that they could not afford the paternity leave. I am glad that small business relief has allowed businesses under the £20,000 threshold to claim back the full amount while, in effect, larger employers reclaim 92 per cent. In 2002, the threshold will double to allow 11,000 businesses per year to qualify, which will mean that 60 per cent. of businesses will pay a lot less than before. That dispels the myth that Labour does not help small businesses; Labour helps businesses and families.

The real challenge is to eradicate child poverty, which will not be done easily or quickly. The Government have at least pledged to try; I wish that the Conservatives had tried so hard when they were in government, instead of appeasing the paymasters. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said, abolishing child poverty is a complex problem that needs a multi-dimensional approach. We need to provide a decent income, extra help for those who cannot work, excellent public services, a good education that ensures equal opportunities for all, and voluntary and community sectors working in partnership to deliver best practice. That will not happen overnight, but it epitomises what needs to be done. We must work together in the private and public sectors to help each other. If we could pull people out of poverty, society would be better, and, if society were better, more money would be available. If more money is available, businesses do better, and the whole country does better. I think that the Government are doing their best, and that they can make that happen.

Billions of pounds have been invested in schools, which emphasises our continued policy of putting children first. Added investment in health makes clear our commitment there. The jobless total for Britain has fallen to below 1 million and has greatly improved in Scotland--although Anniesland is, unfortunately, a black spot, and I have asked the Minister to examine that.

I commend Mr. Browne for mentioning disability, although he pre-empted the next part of my speech. His points are valid and apply not only to Kilmarnock and Loudoun, but to the whole of Scotland--and even to the whole of Great Britain. I am pleased that under the new deal for disabled people families with severely disabled children will benefit, from next month, by an extra £11.05 for each disabled child. I wish that it were more, and that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor would do more, but it is a start. I am sure that he will make improvements in years to come.

My colleagues' remarks have shown that the Government are a Government for families. They can go into the next election with pride in their record, and with the expectation of a second term. The alternative does not bear thinking about.