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Child Poverty

Volume 497: debated on Monday 19 October 2009

Measures that we have taken in the past decade have lifted 500,000 children out of relative poverty and halved the level of absolute child poverty. Had the Government simply uprated the 1997 tax and benefits system in line with prices, we estimate that around 2.1 million more children might live in poverty today. Measures announced in and since Budget 2007 are expected to lift at least a further 500,000 children out of poverty by 2010.

At the 2005 Labour party conference, the current Prime Minister announced his ambition to halve child poverty by 2010. Will that target be met? A simple yes or no will suffice.

We are now in 2009, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman realises. The latest figures that we have relate to 2007, and our best forecast is that the measures taken since then will lift a further 600,000 children out of poverty. That will take us two thirds of the way to our target. The opportunity still exists to take further action and the economy is changing, so I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be patient and wait until Question 1 in 2012, when we will have the answer to his question.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the biggest increase in child poverty took place between 1979 and 1997—in particular, when child benefit was frozen? Does she agree that any potential Government who in future froze child benefit would lead us to the biggest increase in child poverty, again, that this country has seen?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Child poverty figures doubled from 1.7 million to 3.4 million. We continue to increase child benefit and child tax credit, and that is why we have successfully halted and reversed the previous trend.

Does the Minister accept that the Child Poverty Action Group reckoned that £3 billion was required to do away with child poverty and move forward, and that, therefore, it is not going to happen?

No one said that the task was going to be easy. On the contrary, because it is difficult we have introduced the Child Poverty Bill to maintain the pressure on the Government, in all circumstances, to achieve the eradication of child poverty by 2020. The most important thing, however, is that in the depths of the recession this Government have continued to take action to tackle that scourge.