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Volume 404: debated on Thursday 8 May 2003

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what evaluations he has made on the benefit to low income families of measures to promote savings. [112094]

The Government recognise the importance of saving and assets in providing security in times of adversity; independence and opportunity throughout life; and comfort in retirement. The Government's saving strategy is focused on:

improving the environment for saving, with macroeconomic stability and an efficient and well-regulated market in financial services;
creating the right incentives for saving by ensuring that the tax and benefit system does not unfairly penalise savers and by assisting those on low incomes;
empowering individuals with financial information, improved access to advice, and simpler and easier to understand savings products; and
developing saving products suitable for each stage in a person's life cycle. As the scale of saving increases, proceeds from one product may be rolled into the next, helping people to progress up the savings ladder.
A number of Government policies are promoting saving among lower income groups. For example, ISAs have helped to make saving simple for ordinary investors to understand. One in five ISA holders are from lower income groups compared with one in seven who had either a TESSA or PEP. The Saving Gateway is aimed at low-income individuals and offers a transparent incentive to save through a government-funded match. The Saving Gateway is currently being piloted and independent evaluation will assess its effect on saving behaviour. The Government are also committed to strengthening the saving habit of future generations. The Child Trust Fund will ensure all children born from September 2002 have an account set up for them into which an initial Government endowment of £250 will be paid. Children from the poorest families will receive an endowment of £500.