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Child Poverty

Volume 473: debated on Wednesday 19 March 2008

Through its work on families at risk, the Social Exclusion Task Force is seeking to improve services for families and children facing multiple disadvantages such as worklessness, poor housing and mental health problems.

Following more than 90 applications from local authorities and their partners, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Children, Schools and Families will shortly be announcing the successful councils that will develop innovative approaches to working with such families.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. He will know that the Opposition share the Government’s aspiration to eliminate child poverty by 2020 but, given that the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted that the Government are unlikely to hit their target of halving child poverty by 2010, what will his Department do to make sure that the Government hit their 2010 child poverty target?

The hon. Gentleman says that he shares our aspiration to meet the child poverty target, but why did the Opposition vote yesterday night against the Budget measures that would make it possible to take 250,000 more children out of poverty? It is all very well for him to say that the Opposition support the target, but that means that they must vote for the measures that will help us to meet it.

On the wider question of the 2010 target, the Government are determined to make progress. The shadow Chancellor has said that we have one more Budget to go, and we are determined to do more to tackle child poverty.

Last Thursday, the Work and Pensions Secretary—who has just come into the Chamber—said of the Government’s child poverty target:

“We aim to meet it in 2010.”—[Official Report, 13 March 2008; Vol. 473, c. 445.]

His words were rather different from those used just now by the Minister for the Cabinet Office. However, the DWP’s annual report was published recently and it makes it absolutely clear that

“these targets are unlikely to be fully met.”

In the middle of that muddle, who is right—the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, or his Department’s annual report?

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is absolutely right—we do intend to meet the 2010 target. It is a challenging one, but the difference between the Government and the Opposition is that we are determined to adopt the measures that will take us towards meeting it. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to shed crocodile tears about the target, but he is in no position to talk about these matters if he is not willing to take those measures.