Child poverty more than doubled under the previous Government to the worst rate in Europe. We have arrested and reversed the rising trend, with 600,000 children lifted out of poverty in the past decade. We reaffirmed on Budget day our commitment to halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020, and measures announced in last year’s Budget, and since, are expected to lift 500,000 children above the poverty line.
Like the figures for pensioner poverty referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), publication of the figures for child poverty has been delayed. Given that the reason for the delay cited by the pensions Minister concerned a technical problem that, according to the DWP’s technical note, relates to a relatively small number of people around pension age, can the Minister confirm that the yet to be released headline figures on child poverty have been known to the Government for some months?
No, I cannot confirm that. I do not know what the figures are. They are being reviewed in the way that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Pensions Reform described earlier, on the basis of a decision by the departmental statistician in consultation with the Government statistician and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. As my hon. and learned Friend said, the figures for households below the average income will be published on 10 June.
We have made a decisive break with the disastrous policy of the Conservative party in government, for which even now addressing child poverty remains a vague aspiration. We have reduced the number of children in poverty from 3.4 million to 2.8 million. If we had left the policies as they were in 1997, the figure would be above 5 million by now. Measures in the last two Budgets and in the pre-Budget report will help further. They are expected to reduce child poverty by 500,000. We remain committed to the target. There was a very small increase last year. The overall impact has been very positive.