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Volume 403: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2003

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When she will next meet representatives of poverty support groups to discuss poverty in Scotland. [106717]

I met the Poverty Alliance in September 2002. I have no current plans to meet representatives of poverty support groups, but am happy to discuss at any time the Government's record in combating poverty.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does she agree that guaranteeing child care for all children aged two and under, day-care provision for three and four-year-olds and setting up additional after-school and breakfast clubs throughout Scotland would be a huge step towards combating the scourge of poverty throughout our country? Does she accept that setting up such things in areas of greatest need should be a priority for the Government and the new Scottish Executive?

I might be prepared to accept some of that if the hon. Gentleman were prepared to accept that the cost of independence would undermine all of it. Significant measures have been taken on poverty in Scotland, covering children, pensioners and low-income families. Dare I remind the House that when the national minimum wage was being enacted, the one party that failed to send a representative on lifting people out of poverty was the very party that the hon. Gentleman supports?

When my hon. Friend meets members of the Poverty Alliance in Scotland, will she ask them what effect they think that the increase in the national minimum wage to £4.50 this year and the further increase to £4.85 will have on poverty in Scotland?

I will indeed. Members on both sides of the House know that the national minimum wage is one of the most significant measures introduced by the Government to lift people out of poverty wages. Every Member should realise, from the experience of their constituents, that the national minimum wage was a centrepiece of the last Parliament. In this Parliament, it will continue to be a centrepiece of our policies to tackle poverty.