Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Barbara Keeley.)
It is good to see you in the Chair, Mr. Martlew, and to see colleagues from all parties here to support—I hope—the principles of how we fund early intervention; its financing is a work in progress, and today I shall try to set out a stall for the next year’s work on making it effective. I hope to be lucky in the draw and follow up this debate with progress, towards to the end of the year, and then perhaps have another exchange with the Minister, whom I am delighted to see in his place. I do not know whether he thinks that I am tracking him on his journey around Whitehall. I have had lots of interviews and exchanges with him over early intervention, which have always been very positive and sympathetic. I now want to take the matter further with him in his new role and explore some of the financial aspects.
Will my hon. Friend refer to the report that he and the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) wrote? It is the most important report, official or unofficial, produced in Parliament since I became a Member 30 years ago.
I am deeply flattered by that tribute, as too, I am sure, is the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith). I hope that the report has made a small contribution to every party’s thinking—in a non-partisan way—on how we address some of the long-term problems facing us. My right hon. Friend gives me an excuse to say that bringing about intergenerational change will require a generation. Everybody, of all political complexions and none, will need to understand that. We will also require a social and political consensus to sustain it over the long term. That is what we were trying to do in the report, and what I continue to try to do with people of all persuasions of good will, who see that early intervention is actually a very long-term solution requiring the broadest possible social and political support.
I thank my hon. Friend for taking an early intervention from me—pardon the phrase. We will need a generation to convert and change the current culture. Nowhere will that be required more than in the media, which produce hyperventilating, hand-wringing headlines about an underclass. However, the moment that any Government, local authority or organisation try to tackle some of the problems, the media accuse them of being part of the nanny state and of interfering while parents try hard to bring up their children. Does he recognise that problem? How can we tackle it? We have in this place a genuine cross-party consensus on this matter; and I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) that the report is magnificent.
I agree with my hon. Friend’s point, which has to be taken on board, about the nanny state. However, it is a greater nanny state that interferes in the court, policing and welfare systems and requires constant governmental remedial action at a late stage, which is very expensive. It is less of a nanny state that enables youngsters—whether up to the age of three or 18—to make the best of their lives and to become freestanding, self-starting, emotionally and socially rounded individuals who can take control of their own lives. Oddly enough, that will require less governmental interference and nanny state-ism and, therefore, save the Government and taxpayers a lot of money.
For the sake of this debate, I shall refer to the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) as my hon. Friend, because we worked hard on this report and agree on the subject. I also apologise to him, because with interventions at this rate he will never get through his speech. However, does he agree that during the baby P and Karen Matthews affairs—I have written about this—the media wrote from the standpoint of perhaps the majority in society, and that, especially during the Karen Matthews affair, there was a major shock that a group in society was living in such a state. The key is to ensure that that shock makes people say, “Something has to be done!”, so that the nanny state becomes completely absent and there is no nanny at all, whether family or state, in many of these lives.
I agree with my right hon. Friend—I am pleased to call him that in the context of this debate—about the media. Hopefully, the media will one day see that it is possible for colleagues throughout the House—whether in Government or aspiring to it—to work together, while of course continuing to have differences, and provide leadership in producing a serious early intervention package and understanding how we can finance it. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Durham (Hilary Armstrong) for her pioneering work, not only as a member of the Cabinet but subsequently as a humble Back-Bencher who still, not so humbly, continues to push this agenda.
Before I give way, let me say that this debate has come as a bit of a surprise to us, because the original debate was withdrawn. I intend, therefore, to make my remarks at leisure, in order to keep up this conversation, which is far more valuable than the usual artillery exchange.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. As he knows, I have been lobbing things in the air and at the Treasury about this for some time. The evidence produced by him and the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) is similar to work that I did in the Cabinet Office. We now understand more about the development of the brain and how it works. We did not have that information in the past; now that we do, however, we would be derelict in our duty if we did not intervene. I am talking not about late intervention but about the right support and intervention at the time when it will give the child a chance of surviving and prospering in this world. If we do not do that, we will not have rejected the nanny state, but will have failed in our duty. We must be prepared to intervene much earlier than has often been spoken about thus far. For example, this morning I was reading a Government publication on families in Britain that came out in December. It mentions early intervention programmes for eight to 13-year-olds. They are important, but at that stage sometimes we will be too late. We must intervene at the right time and support the parents. All the evidence suggests that, if we do that, the life chances of the parents and children concerned will be incredibly enhanced.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention and you, Mr. Martlew, for the judgment that you are exercising to provide for a genuine debate. You need to be credited for that, Mr. Martlew, because we need this sort of exchange if this House is to be taken seriously. My right hon. Friend the Minister has been involved in enough Adjournment debates to know that they can be a lonely experience, with only a Minister and one Back Bencher present. Today, the record should say that heavyweight and intelligent people from all parties are participating in this debate, and I welcome that.
May I bring my hon. Friend back to his point about the nanny state? As I see the way in which his ideas are developing, they may include an element of the nanny state, but the aim is to do away with it. In the extraordinary world that we have experienced, we were the product of a wonderful wave of working class respectability that transformed the nation. That respectability was also about how we raised children. For reasons that we do not have time to go into today, the nation is increasingly falling out of love with the way in which it raises its children—the next generation. The proposals in the joint publication, and others that the two authors have spoken about, aim to get us back to the self-governing society that we once had. We developed this extraordinary way of successfully raising children. Families cohered in a way that allowed them successfully to negotiate the outside world.
I say to my right hon. Friend that we must be careful that we do not talk ourselves into a debate about the nanny state because it does not get raised that often. I have read the works of Thomas Paine and they say that Governments, even in their best form, are a necessary evil. The idea that state-ism should control people’s lives—as some people on the left, the right and the centre believe—is anathema to my political tradition. We want to liberate people and give them the equipment to make their own way. That is the basis of many, if not all, of the mainstream political philosophies in the UK.
I will come on to the subject of parenting later. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Durham knows, the famous child psychologist Bruce Perry was the first to pick out those shocking pictures of the brain size of a three-year-old who had been loved and nurtured and that of a three-year-old who had been seriously neglected. The contrast was between an ordinary three-year-old and a three-year-old in a Romanian orphanage. Physically as well, there was a difference in size. That stunning image was used by my right hon. Friend when she was running the Cabinet Office, and I have used it over and over again. Bruce Perry’s thesis is that there has been a breakdown in the intergenerational transmission of parenting skills. That is a sociological way of saying what I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green said in our modest publication “Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens”. If we continue that transmission of good parenting skills in a virtuous circle, we will be half way to setting up effective early intervention and creating self-starting, rounded and emotionally capable people. I will give way to the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink), but then, if I may, I should like to make a little progress because everyone is making my points.
May I move the hon. Gentleman from the philosophical and more general point to a very practical point? Regardless of what we do and spend, we will fail young children unless we get housing right. As Members of Parliament, we have all heard cases of single mums and families living together in very poor housing, being bumped from pillar to post, with children who are disabled, ill and sometimes emotionally challenged. Unless we make it easier for those people to get decent housing in which they can keep warm and dry and feel safe, we will not get anywhere. We have an economic crisis at the moment that could challenge financial support and early intervention. Those things would be a very soft target for ministerial cuts. We must not take our eye off the ball, and we could kill two birds with one stone by tackling the provision of housing for such children.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. As chair of a local strategic partnership, One Nottingham, I have learned that this matter is everyone’s business. The traditional idea that this issue is a matter for children’s services or health services is nonsense. Partnership—that overused word—is essential. We need people, from our employment partners, our housing partnerships and communities and development areas to help us on this. We must bring everyone to the party. This is not a problem that someone else will solve if we throw a bit of money at it and we appoint an early intervention project co-ordinator. It will be solved by everyone coming to the party and making their contribution. We are dealing with a circle. If we can intervene and break the intergenerational circle, then we are out into the open field in this policy area. To do that, everyone must play their part.
Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I should like to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s work. I hope to bring a bit of relief to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Gauke) and the Minister by saying that we are not necessarily talking about huge amounts of public money. We all know that public money is very tight at the moment. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on the political will that is necessary for local authorities to work with organisations in the voluntary sector? In my constituency, the South Bedfordshire community family trust—known locally as Two in Tune—is having good discussions with our local authority. If there was real political will for local authorities to work with organisations in the voluntary sector to give families the skills and the support to be good couples and then good parents, we would go a long way to solving the problems. Often, people are more comfortable working with organisations in the voluntary and community sector than they are with an organ of the state. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on the political will that is necessary in local authorities?
The most valuable commodity in this debate is political will and commitment, and our greatest enemy is administration. We need to consider such things in a more radical and political light—I do not mean a partisan party political light. For example, I may say a little later—if I get there—that we need to free up local government. Brilliant creativity, which is currently inhibited in local government, is a tremendous waste of a national asset. The creativity in the House is wasted as well because we are not able to make an effective contribution or hold Government to account. The idea is that there is stasis—that we administer, manage and maintain the problems, rather than tackling the causes. That issue was one of the most exciting things about the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Durham. She laid out a pathway for getting to the causes and not just treating the symptoms. If we can do that politically, and set it out—it has to be a social and political consensus—we will go a long way towards tackling such issues. The voluntary sector needs to find its place. However, it cannot find a place as effectively in the locality unless we free the locality to find space for it. The sector would choose to do that, but it is often constrained by its targets and by being told that it has to do something by next year. Short-termism, which is a characteristic of late intervention, hamstrings the efforts that we could put in locally with the voluntary sector.
Another thing to mention is the possible publication of a White Paper on social mobility. I welcome the Government’s efforts, but policies will be built on sand unless we get every child in the United Kingdom up to a basic level of social and emotional capability. It is virtually impossible to stop a child with a rounded, general social and emotional capability becoming literate and numerate being excited by learning and wanting to achieve and aspire and to get a decent a job. Above all, it is virtually impossible to stop them wanting to be a good parent when they in turn have children.
In Nottingham, in our own small way, we have attempted to introduce an early intervention package of measures that allows children, from their very first breath, and even before that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Durham said, to develop social and emotional capability. If such measures succeed, policies for social mobility and educational attainment would flourish, and policies regarding apprenticeships and getting back to work would have a solid foundation on which to work. In Nottingham, I want to get the 31,000 people who are on incapacity and related benefits back into some form of work, as long as it is work that suits them and in which they can be confident of achieving. They would be better placed if we had those foundations in place. I would welcome a social mobility White Paper, but we need the firm basis on which such policies can move forward.
I shall address funding later, but to get the foundation right, every child should learn about half what they will ever learn in their first three years. Too often, there is no appreciation of the importance of that: a lot of people wait for their child to start nursery or school to start their learning, but it should actually have started before that. We need a transformation of support during those first three years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) said that we had that in the past, but that we have lost it. We certainly need it now.
To build on what the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) said on not worrying about the cost, does my hon. Friend agree that all the services are there, but that they are in different silos, so getting them to focus on the kind of transformation that I mentioned would not necessarily be costly? I am thinking of children’s social workers and health visitors, who are important, but the range of local government and national health services should also be involved. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the voluntary sector, which is important, and at national level, we have the Family and Parenting Institute, Parentline Plus, the Children’s Commissioner and Ofsted. With political will, we need to knit those services together—that is the transformation that we want.
My hon. Friend makes a number of intelligent points, as I always expect from him. George Hosking of the Wave Trust has greatly influenced me. Rather comically, he has explained via a dance that a woman would have to have hips about 5 ft wide to give birth to a baby whose brain is fully formed—I could not possibly do the dance that he does to illustrate this, and I would not attempt to do so. To put it succinctly—I find this preposition memorable—every child is born three years premature. Parents—we might be talking about a single parent living in one room—look after babies who, in other circumstances, could be in an incubator in intensive care. We ask poor, lonely, young people, often women who are on their own, who are not educated in parenting, to look after what is in effect a premature baby and to take that baby through those vital first three years, when the brain explodes with neuron growth.
Age nought to three is a vital period. Perhaps because I come from Nottingham, I have an image of an archery target with that age group in the bullseye. The next ring is the age three-to-18 group. They will be the carers in future, so if they properly develop, they will make the valuable nought-to-three period of the next generation as prolific as possible, through empathetic behaviour, nurture, love, warmth and the family values that are traditionally part of raising a child. My hon. Friend is right that that period is important.
I shall address costs later, but in a nutshell, it costs £250,000 if a child goes wrong and is banged up in a secure unit for a year at the age of 16, and £230,000 if a child ends up on an intensive drug rehabilitation programme for a year. Let us imagine what would happen if that money was put into nurse-family partnerships, in which nurses have a relationship with every young teenage mother. It would pay for 50 youngsters—I have done a quick calculation—to get the most fantastic help with nurturing and loving their child, which every parent wants to do. That would save us so much money down the road.
In Nottingham, for example, we could give warmth, comfort, security and expertise to the parents and children to whom I referred for £2.8 million—we are already doing so for a quarter of the children of teenage parents for £700,000. That is the same cost incurred by five or 10 people who have gone wrong, not including court, prison and welfare costs. The problem cries out for that kind of sensible investment. I shall deal with this matter later, but if we can figure out how to make that saving, we could also provide a tremendous income stream for the Government for 20 or more years as this generation grows up.
My hon. Friend has moved on from this issue, but I have found, through my dealings in the media—the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) mentioned this—that when we talk about children failing generally, the questions are always about schooling. The media are absolutely obsessed with bad or failing schools, but they fail to recognise—it is difficult to get this across—that a huge chunk of a child’s education, even after the age of three, takes place at home and that, before the age of three, it takes place exclusively at home.
People need to understand that, if they want children to excel at school, they cannot simply say, “Everything is down to the school.” They must understand the huge significance of family involvement. The family must take the child to school or nursery education ready, as my hon. Friend has said on many occasions. This is the most difficult thing to get across to people, because they keep coming back to the fact that it is the school’s or the teachers’ fault. In fact, schools and teachers pick up the pieces of a failure that we should have dealt with right at the beginning.
If it is anybody’s fault—I do not think that ascribing fault is helpful—it is the fault of policy makers, so we need to look to ourselves and what we do. That takes me back to the last point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney). Local resources are available, and some of the numbers involved are quite small: there were 500 teenage parents last year in my city, and the number of people in key groups who need specific help might be in the dozens or as much as 50 or whatever. If the figures are broken down and dealt with effectively at a local level, we are not looking at an impossible tsunami of millions. However, as well as those resources needing to be deployed properly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Durham pointed out, we need strategy. One of her breakthroughs when in the Government—she has now had to leave the debate—and one of the breakthroughs that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green should also claim credit for, although within his own context, was that they brought strategic thinking to the subject. Should not Governments and Parliaments really be concerned with knowing what needs to be done across a generation, as well as with deploying resources here and there? Often those resources can be deployed far more sensitively by more free and independent local government and other vehicles.
May I make a plea that we are pushing at an open door? When I ask children and young people in Birkenhead and Manchester what they would most want from their school if they had a school contract, every one of them said that, within their first four priorities, they wanted to be helped to be good parents. The stunning facts that my hon. Friend has just given about the first three years of life would not only make the basis of some pretty good teaching and learning in schools, but start to give young people guidelines on their responsibilities for that intensive care over those first three years. No one now tells them what those responsibilities are, so why should they know?
There are so many brilliant concepts and philosophies relating to this area, including the sort to which my right hon. Friend has just alluded, and we need to liberate people’s capacity to implement them. I hope that that point will draw me back to not only the concept of early intervention, over which I have laboured in several Adjournment debates, but specifically its financing, because that is the guts of the debate. In looking at ways of drawing in finance to make early intervention work, I would like to make it as easy to invest in the human capital of healthy and happy young children as to invest in the physical capital of land, buildings and machinery, the intellectual capital of ideas, inventions and artistic creations and the financial capital of company shares and bonds.
The current economic downturn has been a signal for radical rethinking on borrowing and spending, and that needs to extend beyond what was done in the 1930s to what we need to do for the 2030s and the generation now growing up who will be adults a century after the great depression. Today’s borrowing must be tomorrow’s springboard for success, not a ball and chain or something that gives no returns in the future. The investment must give those returns massively and in ever greater amounts, create growing dividends and savings for a generation and help to repay current borrowing—something that must be done in the future.
Sadly, the case of Baby P has backed up the claim made in a recent publication in The Lancet suggesting that one in 10 children suffer abuse, and my view is that they are just the extreme tip of the iceberg. The bulk of the children to whom I am referring are those who, to put it more mundanely and less dramatically, would benefit from effective parenting, which can be created by early intervention. If children grow up healthy and happy in households that offer them love, nurture, stimulus and empathy, their prospects improve dramatically for the rest of their lives. They are less likely to commit antisocial behaviour and crime or to become dependent on alcohol or other drugs. They are more likely to achieve at school and less likely to stress their teachers and disrupt the education of others. They are more likely to secure well-paid employment and become taxpayers and less likely to be dependent on welfare. They are less likely to have unwanted pregnancies and more likely to become great parents of children whom they will also wish to raise to be good parents in their turn.
Taken together, all those effects suggest that successful early intervention policies will generate an exceptional financial payback, which could be seen as a bonus. I do this sort of work because I care about the kids in my constituency, but by the way, it will make the Government billions of pounds if done properly over the long term. To use a fashionable Keynesian expression, early intervention is a massive multiplier. That sort of common-sense economic and financial conclusion has now been underpinned by fantastic amounts of research. Five or 10 years ago, we might have been scratching around for an evidence base to prove it, but we now have a lot of solid evidence, not least because of the superb work done by Treasury officials in the lead up to the last comprehensive spending review.
There is also the work of James Heckman, the 2005 Nobel prize winner, who demonstrated that the economic payback of pre-school intervention was three to six times higher than that of post-school intervention. When I talk to people about that and try to search for the right words, I often refer back to my mum, who said that a stitch in time saves nine—it does not need to be a highly scientific explanation. We all know that helping a child early will save ourselves a lot of grief and expense later on.
Even last week, I discovered that a tremendous evidence base is being built in Birmingham, not least because of the inspiration of Steve Aos, who has done many calculations about returns using a very conservative methodology that gives the lowest possible return in all cases. Birmingham is now using some of that evidence and has a £41 million package that is intended to save £102 million, but I need to examine that a little further.
One thing that I do know about is the nurse-family partnership, because we brought it to Nottingham and, as I mentioned earlier, are using it with single teenage mums. It is a home visiting programme for low-income mothers with their first babies. The programme is now 26 years old. Professor David Olds, who started it in the United States, has an evidence base of 26 years—try contradicting that. It was based on extremely rigorous and deeply conservative, rather than speculative, assumptions. He has demonstrated, and independent scrutiny has supported, that under the programme mothers were significantly less likely to abuse or neglect their children or to have subsequent unintended pregnancies or misuse alcohol or drugs. They were significantly more likely—percentages are attached to these claims—to enter stable employment and escape welfare benefits.
Unsurprisingly, the programme has also demonstrated enduring benefits for the children. Compared with their control group counterparts who did not have intensive nursing and health-visiting support, those who did made 56 per cent. fewer visits to hospital emergency rooms, so child abuse and accidental injuries were reduced. As adolescents, the children who had been through the nurse-family partnership were arrested 56 per cent. less frequently than their other cohort counterparts and had 81 per cent. fewer convictions. As 15-year-olds, they had had 63 per cent. fewer sexual partners. There is a wealth of evidence, which I know the Minister has seen, to support those statements.
Clearly, appropriate intervention saves lots of money. The Treasury recognised that in the run-up to the last comprehensive spending review, as well as acting on it, which I welcome warmly, in a number of areas. For example, the Treasury supported Every Child a Reader, which gives one-to-one attention to young disadvantaged children struggling with reading and writing. The CSR backed the scheme, saying that raising children with poor education to the average would save £6 billion in public expenditure to deal with the consequences of poor literacy.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead said, we are pushing at what I hope is an open door at the Treasury, and we have one foot through that door. The only thing that I want from my right hon. Friend the Minister as a result of this debate is for that work to be taken further. I would like to discuss more informally with him, and perhaps with colleagues who are present today, how it can be taken forward along with the Treasury’s work. I do not want a cheque tied in a pink ribbon or a commitment that this or that financial instrument will be used in future, but I do hope that the Minister will entertain a continuing dialogue over the next year with colleagues of good will from all parties.
My experience from chairing the local strategic partnership in Nottingham, which pioneered the package, is that it is dangerous to seek short-term funding, funny money, two-year grant aid and the like. It is disruptive, the criteria and Government policy can change and it is uncertain. Therefore, I am looking for a long-term answer and a long-term commitment over a generation, with payback over a generation. I do not want any favours. I do not want social or ethical money from somebody trying to help me out. I want money from the hardest-faced capitalist who can be found in the toughest financial market that can be found, who sees it purely as a great investment that will yield them a return—not because they want to help the kids in Nottingham, North or any of the other constituencies represented here today, but because there is a tough case for it as a money-making scheme.
I need to devise a plan with the Treasury and others. I have pulled together a group of high-powered people from the City of London and the public and voluntary sectors to work on the matter, and I hope that collectively we will come up with something. As a constituency entrepreneur, I am happy to continue working on it with friends in this room, but I hope equally that the massive possible returns will interest the Treasury in working on its own to explore the possibilities.
There are some interesting points that I could make on the UK system of finance, but I shall try to avoid making them. One that I must mention is that local government often does not have the capability to make independent decisions, even where it sees ways to tackle local problems sensitively and make large savings.
My hon. Friend made a point earlier in his excellent speech about local government’s freedom to innovate. At times local government has had that freedom. In 1973, Margaret Harrison, an organiser of voluntary work in my county of Leicestershire, created Home-Start, one of the parents of Sure Start. At the time, local authorities were not constrained too much by league tables and targets. The problem with Sure Start, which is now funded and directly managed by local authorities, is that a layer of bureaucracy has been inserted into it—targets for Play-Doh proficiency and things of that kind—which obfuscates the purpose of the exercise. There can be risks. I am a big supporter of giving local governments freedom, but they should not be led astray into thinking that they must have a target framework within which everything must operate, because that is damaging.
I am just about to come to the question of local government, and I will address my hon. Friend’s points directly then. I hope, Mr. Martlew, that you feel that this has been a genuine debate. I have forgone pages of script to keep that debate going. It has been extremely useful. As an aside, I can only wish that Westminster Hall was used more frequently for exchanges such as this and less frequently as a mini-Commons Chamber where we do not listen to one another.
In the short time left to me, I shall outline a couple of possibilities, which I put to my right hon. Friend the Minister so that there are no surprises and so that we can have a further dialogue. They illustrate the scope of the task.
It is clear that in extraordinary times such as these, the unthinkable, such as nationalisation of banks, can become commonplace rapidly. The most radical proposal is full independence for local government. I say that it is the most radical; it is actually commonplace in most western democracies, but it is a rather radical suggestion in the imperial United Kingdom. Each local government unit would have the freedom to borrow against its credit rating for any purpose, using any means that it could persuade financial markets to accept. Central Government would have to stand aside; it could neither approve the borrowing nor give any guarantee on default.
As in the United States, borrowing could be subject to local referendum. Why not involve people? They often say, “I’m sick of those blinking kids down on the street corner. Can’t we do something about it?” Many people do not believe in “hang ’em and flog ’em.” Many appreciate that youngsters should be helped. “Give them something to do,” they say. “Why can’t they help their mum? Where’s the health service?” Local people appreciate that answers can be devised locally, so why not involve them in local referendums?
Municipal bonds are long established in most democracies, and are regularly used to fund long-range early intervention policies. They are an attractive way to do so, as many investors are willing to hold long-dated bonds until maturity and accept no returns in the early lifetime of the bonds. Bonds are also tax-exempt in the United States.
When I last considered the subject, in the middle of last year, there were 50,000 state and local entities in the US alone that could issue securities and more than 2 million separate issues outstanding, with a combined value of $1.7 trillion. More than 5 million US households owned municipal bonds directly or indirectly, and I understand that they have become still more popular since the crash in other asset prices. US municipal bonds are available to British investors, with the curious result that people in Nottingham can invest in the future of children in Colorado but cannot invest to finance similar packages or schemes in their own city.
A less radical proposal, but one that would still require political will, would be to have a new national savings issue dedicated to early intervention. Its proceeds would be ring-fenced and re-lent to local government or other vehicles to finance approved programmes. That might be attractive to lenders and markets because of the guarantee against default, but it would obviously be less attractive to local government because it would subject all its early intervention activities to central Government control or oversight. However, I am sure that local government could live with that.
A still less radical possibility would be for the Government to relax the criteria allowing local government or other structures to borrow directly from the Public Works Loan Board, or to undertake prudential borrowing. At present, these facilities are limited to physical capital projects, such as buildings and transport, which is an issue that I have raised with Treasury officials in the past. If the facilities could be extended to include human capital investment, that could open up a new means of financing early intervention. I hope that we can also explore these ideas, without commitment, with the Minister and his colleagues over the next year or so.
The Government might also consider the possibility of creating special purpose early intervention trusts, or socially responsible early intervention companies with powers to borrow money. So there could be some arm’s length agreement. It is not beyond our collective wit to come up with some measure in this area.
More simply, the Government could commit dedicated long-term grant aid to early intervention projects from current revenues. That suggestion is not attractive to me or to local government, because it would make those projects vulnerable to a change of mind by central Government when circumstances changed at national level. I would guess that it is not very attractive to the Treasury either, because it would involve committing current revenues far into the future.
Alternatively, the Government could examine the precedent set by the Department for Work and Pensions and work out the cost of a lifetime of public intervention for, say, 1,000 children, then offer half that cost to a private company, for example. The Government would immediately save half the costs of those 1,000 lifetimes and the company would be incentivised to have a brilliant early intervention programme, to retain savings, to increase its profits and to reduce the costs of remedialism, rehabilitation and a lifetime on welfare benefits. These are ideas that I am sure we can explore across the party divide and through the good offices of Government.
A further very simple proposal is that the Government could match the baby bond with an equal donation to each local authority or trust for each newborn child in its area, with the proceeds to be spent on early support programmes.
Whatever new investment vehicle is created for early intervention, it will face one key question and I hope that colleagues will help me in trying to think it through. How do we identify and capture the combined savings from early intervention and pay back the investors or original grant aid? That is the key question and it is one that I hope we can work with the Treasury to think through. I have thought about it a lot and I do not pretend to have come up with an answer yet. I hope by the end of the year to be able to pull together some of the work on that issue. It is the key question. The rewards of early intervention are real, but they do not always take the form of a stream of money income or a specific asset that rises in value.
This is a footnote to the point that my hon. Friend has just made. At the local level, we want people to spend to save, as he powerfully argued today. At that level, it may be that one person or body, such as the council, is required to do the spending, and another person or body, such as the criminal justice system or the NHS, will make the saving. Obviously, therefore, the need is for us to use these powerful messages to invade the local activity in every organisation. These days, the Government like that activity to be governed by local area agreements or multi-area agreements. However, is it not the case that we need to mobilise the Government, the Audit Commission, ourselves and the media if possible, to invade that process of local activity and make this issue a priority?
First, we again need the strategy and the highest-level political commitment, and I do not just mean whoever happens to be the party leader in power at that time. There must be a consensus and the strategy must be driven, in almost Swedish style, over 30 or 40 years. So we need that core commitment and strategy in place.
In addition, we need to ensure that the instruments that we are currently developing in Whitehall, whether they are local area agreements or other targeting instruments, are seen as being less crude and intrusive and more related to showing nimble and lively sensitivity locally, so that people can figure out what is happening locally. That is the alternative to a one-size-fits-all approach, where the name of the city is simply changed. We need instruments that genuinely reflect local circumstances.
Even in my own city of Nottingham—I am sure that it is also the case in my hon. Friend’s constituency —there is a big white working-class former council estate area, which I represent, and next door there is a very different, ethnically diverse inner-city area; my hon. Friend studied there and will recall it well. Even locally, therefore, we need to be sensitive, so that some of the crudity of approach that is imposed by one-size-fits-all thinking is loosened up and made much more sensitive, so that it can react a little more nimbly to local circumstances. Then, as my hon. Friend said earlier, there will be the resources locally to achieve that type of early intervention effectively.
The rewards of early intervention are not always that obvious and they take the form of outcomes for children throughout life that are better than the outcomes for children who did not experience early intervention. How do we value that difference? That takes us back to the key question that I referred to earlier about capturing savings. I think that the answer entails comparing two cohorts of children, as has been done in New Zealand and other countries, to establish the difference between a cohort of children who have experienced early intervention and a cohort who have not experienced it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green and I have asked party leaders to consider this proposal, as one of the key recommendations at the end of the book that we put together.
If the two cohorts of children are compared, we can figure out the percentages for fewer crimes, fewer demands on the health service, more time spent in employment, and so on. Of course, making such calculations is a formidable challenge and will involve a great deal of hypothesising, but making them will become easier if we build in this system of comparison over a generation, as we develop more knowledge of the detailed benefits of early intervention programmes. Indeed, the Treasury has already got past first base on this issue as a result of the work that it did prior to the last comprehensive spending review. There are also possibilities for involving the insurance industry, so that it may contribute its insight to the task of assessing rewards that only emerge over the long term.
I have taken some time this morning to make my case. I hope that I have left enough time for the Front-Bench spokesmen to make their contributions. I have deliberately encouraged people to participate in a genuine debate and it has been an extremely good debate this morning. I have just touched on some very complex technical territory. A lot of hard work needs to go into examining this issue and I hope to return to it towards the end of the year, to see how far we have got.
There are basically three fundamental truths in this area. First, the rewards of early intervention are far-reaching and the costs of late intervention are becoming prohibitive. Secondly, early intervention programmes must be long-term programmes and they are always at risk if they are compelled to rely on short-term financing from current revenues. Thirdly, it is both prudent and practicable for Her Majesty’s Treasury to help us to devise new forms of investment finance for early intervention that will meet the demands of lenders and allow the nation to improve its stock of human capital as efficiently and rapidly as it meets its other capital needs.
I would encourage the hon. Member to accept a fourth fundamental truth in this area. It is that if we get housing right, then social stability, health, education and finding employment for parents become so much easier and more achievable. Conversely, without decent, longer-term housing prospects, the young families that we are discussing will not move forward in these ways and any money that is spent will be less effectively spent.
The hon. Member is a great advocate for the causes that he believes in and I know that his words will be taken seriously.
Thank you for the way that you have allowed us to have a genuine debate this morning, Mr. Martlew. There is a great deal more to say about this issue and I would hope to say it, with some positive conclusions and some really concrete proposals, later in the year. All I ask of the Minister is that he keeps an open mind and helps us, where possible. Specifically, I hope that he will undertake to meet me and any colleagues who have participated in the debate this morning at some point in the not-too-distant future. Thank you again for your tolerance this morning, Mr. Martlew.
I am grateful for that, Mr. Martlew, and I shall keep my speech to about one minute.
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), whom I can legitimately call my hon. Friend in relation to these matters, as we have had so many conversations on it and have done so much work together. I have enormous respect for his work on this issue. He has mentioned the Wave Trust and George Hosking, who put me on to this issue and eventually to my hon. Friend. That is how we came together in what I hope has been a positive way. I thoroughly enjoyed working on the book that we worked on together. We continue to work together—I say this to all colleagues in the House—because we want to drive this matter forward as our No. 1 priority.
Let me quickly welcome the Minister. We have faced each other on many occasions, and have had plenty of private conversations, and I know that in his heart of hearts he agrees with all of this; I am sorry if that destroys his career prospects. I believe that he is headed in the right direction, personally, on this issue. The Government and Government spending are other issues, but I ask him, in this case, to let his heart drive his instincts and to let his instincts drive the Treasury, which sometimes lacks both.
I want to address a few elements before I sit down. First, it is critical that we understand early intervention, which my hon. Friend has discussed. The media often come back to crime and sentiments such as “lock ’em up” or “bash them, bang them up, do whatever—it is not hard enough,” but the prison population has risen and we know, mostly, who will be committing crimes tomorrow. For the most part, we know where those people will be drawn from, and they are mostly from the group we are discussing.
About 60 per cent. of all those in prison come from broken and often dysfunctional homes, and they have average reading and numeracy ages of a child of 11. More than 30 per cent. of those in prison come from care homes, although only about 0.6 per cent. of all our children have ever been in care homes. The vast majority of those children are drawn from that same community, and they dramatically furnish our prison population and crime figures. About 60 to 70 per cent. of prisoners have major drug or alcohol problems, and many have mental health issues. All that is drawn from the start that they got in life and what has happened to them.
Schooling is critical, because such children will never stay in school until they are 18. It is a nightmare to get them to make it to 12, 13 or 14 before they decide arbitrarily to leave the schooling system and end up on the streets. Their role models are in the communities of what has been referred to as the underclass. Those children rarely see anyone go to work, and they are often from families with two or three generations of worklessness. They may be from broken homes and have lone parents. The society that many such people experience is completely different from that experienced by those of us who dictate the debate on these matters. We need a better understanding of why these problems exist.
I have one plea to make and then I shall sit down. Together, we have been to all the party leaders, and we have received a good response from all of them, but I ask the Government to initiate the next stage. That has to be drawing in the other party leaders and people such as the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman, my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Gauke), whom I welcome, to thrash out these issues and reach consensus. If we do not get consensus, things will change every time a new Government come in and cut programmes because they are too expensive. We will get nothing out of this debate if we do not get consensus.
The key is getting a 20-year programme of change that we agree on. We need not agree on all the mechanisms to be used, but we should at least agree on the objectives. If we do that, we will have achieved something that is about good government. We go on about the nanny state, but we are already the nanny state in these areas, and an ineffective one. The costs of that are enormous and we still fail to change people’s lives. This is not about having no government or smaller government, but about having effective government, and I welcome that.
It is a great privilege for me to congratulate the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) on securing the debate and on speaking so eloquently on this subject. It is also a privilege for me to follow the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), who also has a long-standing and admirable interest in this field. We have the added context of the fact that the right hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn), who could not be present today, has been asked by the Prime Minister to do additional work on social mobility. That subject matter is not identical, but it overlaps with what we are discussing.
The problems are familiar to us all as constituency MPs, but it is worth touching on some of them, one of which is educational underachievement. I take the point that once children have reached formal education, much of the mould has already been set and the problems are already in train. Nevertheless, this issue is indicative of a wider malaise.
In the most deprived areas, 44 per cent. of schools achieve the requisite Government target GCSE pass rates, compared with 97 per cent. in affluent areas. So, children reach that level of attainment almost across the board in affluent areas, but in less than half of schools in more deprived areas. Only 21 per cent. of children who receive free school meals achieve five good GCSEs. To touch on the points that the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green has just made, many people who find themselves, in adult life or adolescence, in prison or otherwise severely disadvantaged have failed to reach those basic levels of attainment much earlier.
Relative financial poverty is another factor. The Government deserve some credit for seeking to address that systematically by targeting money, through one-to-one tuition, to equip people with greater skills in the workplace. There are also schemes such as Home-Start—I am familiar with Home-Start in Taunton—which is an excellent organisation. Under the scheme people, mainly mothers, mentor new mothers who are in less fortunate circumstances and try to pass on mothering and life skills.
We have touched on the cost of failing to intervene in terms of prison places and drug rehabilitation programmes. We can all agree that considering the matter simply in statistical terms of financial cost, education and Government programmes may mean neglecting the biggest aspect—the emotional and spiritual poverty in many communities. This is not simply about financial poverty; it is about deeply entrenched unemployment, about people living lives that lack structure or focus and about all the social ills that arise from such circumstances.
What about the solutions, inasmuch as we can readily arrive at solutions, and ideas for improvement? I agree with what the hon. Member for Nottingham, North said about the role of local government. We should encourage local communities, not only through local government but at lower and more immediate levels, to be imaginative in their solutions and to take responsibility for their own neighbourhoods. People should not see this as entirely an exercise of initiatives that are devised in London and passed down for implementation.
I agree that the private sector has a role to play. The hon. Gentleman’s thinking is extremely radical in that regard. Although the implications might be alarming for his colleagues and others, including some people in my party, we ought to explore that area.
Education is clearly important, and more could be done to help children before they get to school. That would be a better use of Treasury money than the baby bond that matures when children reach 18, when, I think we all agree, the direction of travel for their lives has mostly been determined. My party, as well as the Conservatives, and perhaps the Government, have talked about the so-called pupil premium to target extra financial resources at children who are falling behind in the primary school years of their education. In the past day or two, the Government have made announcements about giving incentives to teachers to stay in schools where the cohort of children is harder to teach. I welcome such initiatives.
The nanny state has been mentioned, and I think that agencies of the state have difficulties. For example, there was clearly a need for greater intervention in relation to Baby P. However, the newspapers that were critical of Haringey social services—I do not say that they should not have been critical—also criticise social services departments for confiscating children and say, “How dare the state behave in such a heavy-handed way?” There is a difficult balancing act to be achieved.
I admire the work of the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green. The latter talked about the prison population, which is a stark demonstration of the points we are discussing. However, I am slightly cautious about the risk of confusing cause and effect, and have some reservations about adopting a prescriptive approach—for example, financially penalising people for not being married. My parents are married and I went to university, but it is likely that I would have gone to university even if my parents had not been married. Sometimes inferences that might apply in general terms can be made, but they do not always apply in specific terms, and we ought to be cautious about that.
I conclude with this observation: aspirational poverty is the greatest danger that we must tackle. I think that the hon. Gentleman talked about liberating the capacity for people to help themselves. Dealing with this issue is not just about providing facilities. Since the Victorian era, free education has been provided by the state and we have had free libraries for anybody who wishes to go and read the complete works of Shakespeare or the day’s newspapers. Those services exist, but people need to want to access them so that they can realise their potential. It is not just about equality of wealth; it is about everyone being able to enjoy the full richness of life. I welcome this debate and, in the spirit of our contributions, I hope that the Minister will try to see this as a long-term, cross-party issue. We are all keen to achieve the objectives discussed. Those objectives will no doubt be further mentioned in the final two speeches.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr. Martlew, and I congratulate you on the way in which you have chaired the debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) not only on securing the debate and on setting out his thoughts so eloquently—and, indeed, on bringing in contributions from a number of right hon. and hon. Members—but on shaping debate on the subject more broadly. He mentioned that he has held a number of Westminster Hall debates and has raised the issue of early intervention in a number of contexts, inside and outside Parliament. In doing so, he has contributed hugely to developing political parties’ understanding—not just his party, but all parties—of the advantages of early intervention and has contributed to the wider debate outside.
I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith). He has made an enormous contribution to increasing the understanding of some of the difficulties that we face in society and some of the ways in which we can address those concerns. My right hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman have worked together on the publication of their book “Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens” and have provided an example to all parliamentarians. The right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) had another engagement and is no longer in the Chamber, but he mentioned that it was the most important report that he had read during 30 years in Parliament, which is praise indeed. At a time when there is great cynicism about politicians, if the public were to see the way in which my right hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman have worked together and brought forward the debate, they would be hugely impressed.
The central argument is that a section of society suffers from low aspirations. That important point was made by the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Browne). Often, the problems of drug and alcohol abuse, family instability, crime, and worklessness are passed from generation to generation. That creates neighbourhoods in which those characteristics become the norm and are prevalent. Sections of society therefore live a life of hopelessness.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green and the hon. Member for Nottingham, North have made the case that, although Governments of both parties have responded by trying to tackle the consequences, such as crime and poverty, they have not tried to tackle the causes to the same extent. The emphasis needs to be put on the early years, particularly between nought to three years old, which is the time when a difference can be made. The right hon. Member for North-West Durham (Hilary Armstrong) made an important point about understanding more about the development of the brain. So there is a great opportunity during those early years.
Clearly, dealing with this issue will benefit the poorest families, who will receive help directly, but it will also benefit wider society by reducing crime and antisocial behaviour. In the long term, demands on the taxpayer will be reduced. To use the terminology that my party tends to use, if we can tackle the problems of a broken society, we can reduce the demands on the taxpayer in the long term. Effective early-years intervention is a vital component of achieving that. The hon. Gentleman used evidence of studies in the US—for example, the nurse-family partnership’s home visiting programme—to demonstrate how effective that can be.
A corollary of the focus on early intervention—the hon. Gentleman teased out this point effectively—is the requirement for greater diversity in the provision of services. We need experimentation and for people who are close to the ground to be prepared to try something different to find out whether it works. That, of course, is an argument for greater localism—a point that the hon. Gentleman made—for trying to give greater powers back to local authorities and for moving away from over-prescriptive targets. That is vital, because doing so allows for greater involvement of the voluntary sector—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) and mentioned by the hon. Member for Taunton. Greater localism provides greater scope for the voluntary sector to play a role. Perhaps for understandable reasons, that sector shows greater initiative and experimentation in addressing some of these issues. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green made an important point about the need to enlist the voluntary sector, and my party supports doing so.
How do we ensure that we maintain the focus on early-years intervention? The key point in this debate has been about financing. The hon. Member for Nottingham, North is clearly thinking imaginatively and radically about ways in which we can deal with that, and we certainly encourage him to continue to do so—it is incumbent on all of us to do so. The key problem is how to capture the benefits. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) made a good point about the difficulty of some of the expenditure being incurred in one area and some of the savings in other areas. We need to think about that.
May I just raise a small note of caution? The hon. Member for Nottingham, North argued that the current climate has made us think more radically about borrowing, but I do not think that he will be surprised to hear me say that we need to be a little cautious about that. One of the arguments for early intervention is that it will lead to long-term benefits. I am not going to get into a debate about the current state of public finances, but there are long-term difficulties with the borrowing that we face, and I am nervous about that. There is clearly scope for reprioritising within the existing budget, to find savings that enable us, for example, to abolish the couple penalty in the tax credit system and to provide more health visitors. All that is possible within existing budgets, but I shall end on a conciliatory note, because we have had an excellent debate. The hon. Gentleman deserves to be thoroughly congratulated on pushing the agenda; it has support certainly from my party and, I believe, from all parties.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) for securing the debate and for the way in which he has pursued the issue over such a long period. He has followed an unusual and possibly unique path by taking on executive responsibility, as chair of One Nottingham, for programmes in his constituency, while pursuing Ministers and policy issues in the House. He has pursued a very fruitful programme, and I echo other hon. Members’ tributes to him and to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) for the contribution of their pamphlet and for other collaborations on thinking in this area. We have had a remarkably consensual debate, and I, like others, hope that the cross-party consensus will endure.
My hon. Friend referred to this morning’s White Paper, “New Opportunities: Fair Chances for the Future”, which was published more or less at the moment when he stood up to speak. I have been able to obtain a copy, and I draw his attention to one paragraph that touches in particular on our debate this morning. Paragraph 8.42 states:
“There is strong evidence that the right kinds of early investment in all people, particularly the young, can deliver substantial returns not just for individuals themselves, but also for society and for government. It is therefore sensible to examine, as part of our commitment to delivering value for money in public services, innovative new ways to achieve such investment. Alongside public investment, several models have been suggested for enabling private or third sector organisations to invest in public services in return for payments linked to social outcomes, such as those models proposed by the Council on Social Action. Government departments and other public authorities should explore contracts for payment based on outcomes”,
and so on. I hope that my hon. Friend will take that as evidence that the vigour with which he is pursuing the matter and his conversations with the Prime Minister and others are bearing fruit, but he is absolutely right—others have made the point, too—that such thinking must go a good deal further.
In the debate, we have heard about the evidence that shows conclusively that good-quality child care, early education and good home-learning give children the good start in life that they need. That has been the background to a number of changes that the Government have made: the Employment Act 2002, for example, extended maternity allowance to 39 weeks and introduced two weeks’ paternity leave for the first time, thus enabling millions of parents to spend more time with their children in the first few precious months of their lives.
My hon. Friend and others talked about family-nurse partnerships, and the new opportunities White Paper refers to them in chapter 7, which is entitled “Strengthening family life”. With the White Paper, it has been announced today that we will increase the number of family-nurse partnerships, based on the US model that my hon. Friend spoke about, to up to 50 by the end of next year—a significantly faster increase than was originally planned, thus ensuring that disadvantaged families get the help that they need.
We have now invested almost £2 billion in Sure Start children’s centres. The target—2,500 centres—was reached in the spring of last year, providing services to well over 2 million young children and their families, and there will be another 1,000 centres by the end of next year. All of us will have visited such centres in our constituencies, and it is clear that future generations will reap substantial benefits from that programme of early interventions. I have certainly been very impressed by what I have seen throughout the network of children’s centres in my constituency. Our report on the next steps for public service reform, “Excellence and fairness: Achieving world class public services”, sets out the need for services to focus increasingly on prevention, and that focus is reflected in the White Paper.
I shall suggest three challenges that we must address, some of which have already been touched on in the debate. First, many issues, from antisocial behaviour to rising obesity levels, on which early intervention can deliver real benefits, require an active contribution from citizens themselves, as well as through public service provision. Derek Wanless estimated savings of £30 billion over 20 years if people all took simple steps to look after their own health, and it is true that cost-effective early intervention will rely on services in which responsibility is shared between service providers and professionals on the one hand and users on the other. That can be difficult to achieve, and we must design incentives for citizens, as well as for service providers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) referred in his intervention to the second challenge: early intervention requires joint working across traditional service boundaries and, most obviously, when the cost of a programme is in one budget but the benefits score in another. We need to enable and encourage services to pool budgets where appropriate.
Thirdly, the most challenging problem is one of measurement. We can gain a reasonable sense of the likely cost and subsequent return on a bridge or on an airport runway, to quote a current example. The materials that we need to build such things are finite, and once they are built, they will not move around or refuse to do what we want them to do, but even those projections are often hotly contested. Working with human beings and with children, however, is infinitely more complex, and it can be very hard to attribute causality and establish the reliability of even relatively small and focused interventions.
Evidence shows that many preventive interventions are dependent on circumstances and the quality of their delivery, so, for example, some cognitive programmes that aim to prevent reoffending are demonstrably successful, but one evaluation suggests that they can suffer hugely from variability in implementation. That results in apparently similar programmes having a wider range of outcomes than would be perhaps anticipated or, certainly, desired. It is very hard to identify early the good ones, and we need to address that challenge.
The Office of the Third Sector initiated last November a three-year programme on measuring social value, bringing together academics and others to develop a social return on investment tool, which may be useful. On the specific issue of securing additional finance for early intervention programmes, however, my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North sketched out some thoughtful proposals, and I should welcome the opportunity to sit down with him and others later in the year to discuss them. He has been pursuing the issue for a long time, and we know that spending now can release savings in the future, but can we devise mechanisms that somehow realise those future savings by spending now?
I am aware of the interesting work by the Council on Social Action regarding the idea of a social impact bond, but I am aware, too, of the difficulties with value for money—especially at a time of tight fiscal constraint. I welcome the exploration that my hon. Friend is leading, however, and I am encouraged by the ideas that are emerging. I am grateful to him for his generous remarks about the Treasury’s role, and our watchword is value for money for the taxpayer. We need to build the evidence base, so that everyone concerned is clear about the value that is added by any proposal. Understanding cost savings and benefits will be the key to extending the preventive approach, and we need to work hard on building up evidence about the circumstances in which such interventions should be targeted.
We have had an excellent debate, and I am grateful to all who have contributed. It is clear that early intervention has great potential to deliver exceptional returns.