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Child Trust Funds

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 14 June 2007

The child trust fund is available to all families in our country. So far, we have opened 2.6 million accounts, of which 75 per cent. have been opened directly by parents. We published constituency information in January and will be able to publish information on low-income families later in the year.

Given that it is more than two years since the child trust fund was launched, and that it is vital that the children of low-income families are the first to benefit from them, is it not disappointing that the Treasury still has no idea whether children from low-income families are indeed benefiting, and that the only general figures available to the Treasury indicate that one in four children do not take up that child trust fund? The Treasury should be doing more to ensure that those funds benefit low-income families.

The hon. Gentleman should know that every child is benefiting. Even in a minority of cases when an account is not opened by the parent, an account is opened by HMRC within the year to ensure that nobody loses out. We published the constituency information in January. I can tell him, as I am sure he knows, that 76 per cent. of families in his constituency actively opened the account. He is right to say that the take-up rate is higher in higher-income constituencies, and that the take-up rate is lower in lower-income constituencies. We need to redouble our efforts to increase take-up. As part of that, we have collected the information, which we will publish as soon as we can, to show exactly what the figures are. The reason we had a child trust fund week at the beginning of the year was to ensure that we raised awareness of the child trust fund among all families, including those on lower incomes.

I congratulate my hon. Friend, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in particular, on behalf of my son-in-law and daughter, who has just given birth to a bouncing baby boy—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I thank hon. Members for that. May I point out that the 2 million people who do not have bank accounts are the same people who will not have the privileges that my grandson will have?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I have said, there is a correlation between low-income families not having bank accounts and their not opening child trust funds. That is exactly why we need to ensure that low-income families can benefit from opportunities such as those that my hon. Friend’s grandchild will have. I congratulate him, on behalf of the whole House, on the very happy event that has just befallen him.

I call Mr. Selous. [Interruption.] Order. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy) should not show her displeasure when she is not called. It offends the Speaker.