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On keeping records of children who are brought up in relationships that are marriage, civil partnership or long-lasting cohabitation, is that "long-lasting" for three years, or five, or 10? What counts as a target? On addiction to gambling, drugs and alcohol, is that one bottle a week or 10? What about smoking? We know that half of all lone parents smoke and that because they smoke they are poor. Why is smoking not included? Those who saw that programme about MPs going to live temporarily for a week or so in flats saw that smoking could take up quite a lot of the disposable budget. Many of us might argue, "If only it was spent on fruit or yoghurt," but one is dealing with something beyond the reach of Government. How will the noble Lord define this?
I really worry when the Front Bench spokesman on this tries to put in the Bill non-financial targets which the Government could monitor only with the most impertinent entry into family life. Even if they did that, they would still find it difficult to turn these into targets, which by definition have to be numerical. They have to assess something and have to put a figure to it. How much booze or gambling, how many cigarettes and drugs, and for how many years? If you are not careful, the Bill will not be about child poverty but about remoralising the parents of those children who happen to be poor. The state is then going into the territory that child poverty is about the fecklessness of adults and using legislation to "send a message"-that is the usual vocabulary-that this sort of thing is undesirable, as though people who may exhibit these traits read the legislation. This is completely inappropriate for legislation.
Nobody doubts the decency of the intent. Nobody is on the other side of the noble Lord, saying these things do not matter. Yet he gave it away himself. He quoted absolutely rightly-I would have produced this evidence if he had not-that those lone parents that go into poverty following, for example, a break-up of marriage or cohabitation regain their status when they go into work. He also knows, as I have sent details of the research to him, that lone parenthood is often fairly highly correlated with young male unemployment. Get the young men into work and they become that
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If we get into counting the number of years in a relationship, does that include the period before the male partner lived in the house or only when he is living there? What about if he lives in the next-door house or is semi-cohabiting? For heaven's sake, surely no politician can believe it appropriate for these sorts of non-financial targets, however well-meaning, to be turned into something that can be counted and tracked in a Bill. That turns it into a war on the fecklessness of parents and imposes an ideology which is quite inappropriate and, frankly, rather impertinent.
Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope: My Lords, I do not want to try to follow that. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, has got a lot off her chest there, and I agree with most of it. I cling to where we can find common ground with the noble Lord-we discussed this at some length in Committee. He is not alone in understanding the importance of allowing people to trade their own way out of poverty, whether child poverty or any other kind. No one any more is saying that this is all about financial transfers. The noble Lord is on to something here. He is trying to harness the power of government to get people into a better place. That is the way the debate is moving. I was at a breakfast this morning staged by Tomorrow's People. The organisation is working with families and households in a welfare-to-work context. The project will pay dividends and repay careful study.
The development of policies, alongside the Bill as well as within it, is going in that direction. The noble Lord is not alone in pursuing what he is trying to achieve in the amendment. However, the list is the problem, because it is incomplete. The noble Lord said that he was willing to talk about what is not in the amendment that should be. I would certainly be willing to talk to him about that. I agree that worklessness and lacking level 2 key skills are both no-brainers. We want to work on that.
However, there are worries. If the noble Lord thinks that paragraphs (a) and (c) of the proposed new clause are uncontentious, he is wrong. That is not to say that we are not willing to discuss with him how he gets to where he wants to go. But how do we do this? How do Her Majesty's Government create stability in marriage? What lever does the Secretary of State pull in order to achieve that? In Committee, we discussed domestic violence and a raft of other things that you would want in any such list if it were to be comprehensive. Therefore, this is not the place for the amendment.
I encourage the noble Lord to continue to think through what can be done. There is scope for reaching agreement on some of these issues in order, as he says, to shift the focus to embrace a more holistic and biopsychosocial model of assisting low-income households to get into a better position to deal with poverty over the next 20 years, and thereby indirectly to bear down on child poverty. This territory is worth revisiting, but I do not support the amendment.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I support the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Freud, has made a helpful adjustment to the Bill. I hear what has been said and understand the concerns. I am reminded of the UNICEF report, published I think in 2006, which looked at the 26 developed countries, and in which the UK came last. It was a rich report that looked at many dimensions of child poverty. For instance, it looked at how often children had time to spend with their parents over a meal. It commented in particular that Italy was the country where children spent most time with their parents. It looked at the relationships of children with their parents, and at a range of other issues.
One striking thing about the report is that the dimension in which the UK did best was health and safety. There is irony in that. It seems to me-again, the amendment speaks to this-that one problem in our culture is that we are very good at measuring what is concrete but not very good at being more imaginative and thinking more widely about the emotional needs of children. There is a DH Lawrence story about a young boy who has the ability of forecasting who will win horse races. He rocks on his rocking horse for some time, at the end of which he knows who will win a horse race. He tells his mother which horse will win, and the mother goes off and makes money on the races. He gets quite sick doing this, but carries on: everything is going well because they are making lots of money. This is a caricature of what the Government are seeking to achieve: that in our country anything that is measurable is worthwhile, while that which is not easily measurable is not. It does credit to the noble Lord, Lord Freud, that he is trying to reach things that are not easily measurable but which are very important to children.
In the recently produced Green Paper on family relationships, the Government have recognised the importance of stable parental relationships in terms of child welfare and child outcomes. This arises from American research which demonstrates that parenting interventions can be very effective, not when they are directed at the parent and child but when they are directed at the two parents together. This is perhaps obvious to your Lordships, but the stronger the parental relationship, the better the children fare.
There is a lot to be said for this amendment. If one is looking for a lever for government to improve parental relationships, the current proposals in the Children, Schools and Families Bill to introduce personal, social, health and economic education as a statutory part of the curriculum would be one way to encourage more children to avoid teenage pregnancies and to make better decisions about life partners. Their children would therefore have the benefit of growing up in a two-parent family.
I know your Lordships will have your own experiences and familiarity with working-class white and black boys, but I can remember working with a young black man several years ago who grew up in a lone parent family. He bewailed the fact that his mother had to work so hard for him and his younger brother because she was bringing them up on her own. Another young white boy at a local primary school would give me all
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Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, it is my role in life to try to comfort the noble Lord, Lord Freud. I thank him for his amendment and noble Lords who have joined in this debate. As he recognised, the themes raised by the amendment were debated at great length in Grand Committee.
I do not agree with the noble Lord's repeated assertion that the Bill is only or primarily concerned with income poverty and financial transfers. This Bill is actually focused on tackling income poverty, material deprivation and socio-economic disadvantage. He made several references, citing the role of the Treasury in all this in support of his proposition. He quoted Nick Macpherson speaking before the Select Committee about the PSA targets sitting with HMT because it has responsibility for financial support but, as the noble Lord acknowledged, that comment was made in relation to the 2010 PSA target. The situation is different in regard to the 2020 goal and the targets in the Bill. The levers to address this are no longer just about income transfers; they are more far-reaching, which is why we list a range of levers on building blocks in Clause 8 on the strategy. They can hardly be described as buried in the back of the Bill.
Our aims are that children in the UK should not live in poverty and suffer the effects of wider socio-economic disadvantage. Ensuring a focus on income and material deprivation is central to that, but so is taking action beyond financial poverty. Having a set of income targets to measure progress and define success does not mean that we are not aware of the drivers of poverty that need to be addressed to meet the goals in this Bill. They will be addressed through the child poverty strategy.
Our strategy needs to be multifaceted if we are to break intergenerational cycles of poverty and so truly end child poverty. The UK strategy will need to meet both the purposes set out in Clause 8(2), and Clause 8(5) requires the strategy to consider what measures, if any, ought to be taken across a range of key policy areas. Those building blocks have been determined through analysis of evidence that shows that they have the potential to make the biggest impact in tackling the causes and consequences of growing up in socio-economic disadvantage.
Turning to the four elements listed in the amendment, the Government agree, as did the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, that education and employment are crucial aspects in any effort to tackle child poverty, which is why they are included in the building blocks in Clause 8(5). We also recognise that support for parents and better parenting skills are important. Indeed, shortly, we will be moving a government amendment to add a new building block to Clause 8(5) to address the matter of supporting parents-in response to the tenor of the debate that we had in Committee.
We take issues of addiction very seriously. However, we consider that that is already covered by the existing building blocks, such as health, education and social services. I hope that I have made it clear that there is no need for the amendment, as the Bill already covers most of those matters. I agree again, and as usual, with my noble friend Lady Hollis: if we go down the route of having a list of all the things that we think ought to be covered, it will be never-ending. However, I contend that there is no firm evidence that family breakdown or addiction constitute the main drivers of poverty. Indeed, there was much debate about the difference between correlation and causation, which I do not want to reopen now; we had a good go at that in Committee.
In Committee, noble Lords queried what the policy responses to targets on addiction and family breakdown might be; we heard that again this afternoon. The question posed by my noble friend was absolutely right: how are you going to go about measuring the things that you want to? We wonder how the noble Lord would go about ensuring that adults lived only in couples and whether re-establishing the married couple's allowance may be linked to that. It would do little to help the poorest, but it would certainly line the pockets of the richer. On addiction, the noble Lord seems to be proposing withholding financial provision to households where one or more parents have an addiction. That would increase the risk of poverty for children in that household, so I would not support it.
The noble Lord has repeatedly challenged the accuracy of the data underpinning the income targets in the Bill. I question the accuracy of any data on addiction or family breakdown. Both issues would be difficult to address using a survey methodology, so it would be difficult to produce robust national estimates to inform statutory targets. Such data are also unlikely to be as rigorous as the ONS-approved HBAI data that the Government use for the targets in the Bill. I am surprised that the noble Lord would want the Government to collect, store and use such sensitive personal data on individual parents.
I think that the noble Lord acknowledged that our approach is to have the Treasury, DCSF and DWP heavily engaged. I know, as does the noble Lord from his previous experience, the strength of the DWP and its commitment to helping people to get closer to and into the labour market. Helping people into sustainable work in which they can flourish will be key to tackling child poverty.
The noble Lord pressed me on issues about stable relationships. As I said, we will move an amendment to add a building block about support for parents generally. We agree that stable family relationships are important in helping to nurture young people. Indeed, the noble Lord attended our small seminar giving an early preview of the strategic directions paper. That featured in our discussion there.
My noble friend Lady Hollis pointed out the risks of moralising on these issues by seeking to pursue targets in that way. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, made reference to the UNICEF report placing the UK at the bottom of the league. I think this was a 2006 report. The data used at the time were very out of
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The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, said that this is not just about financial transfers. We have common cause across the House on this issue. It is now thoroughly accepted that financial transfers are just part of it. We are not just looking at this to have a short-term fix on a target; we are looking at something sustainable. Financial transfers certainly have a contribution to make and it would be quite wrong to suggest otherwise. We need to do more, however, to make sure that the strategy is sustainable.
I hope I have demonstrated why I think this amendment is unnecessary. The Bill will already require action to be taken on both income and non-income factors to address poverty and socio-economic disadvantage. I have also revealed the problems with the direction in which this amendment would take us with regard to particular targets on family breakdown and addiction. On this basis, I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
Lord Freud: My Lords, I take issue with the idea which the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, put forward that this was essentially an impertinent and intrusive set of requirements from the state on individual parents and others. One can collect such survey data in exactly the same way as one can collect survey data on income. This is not focusing on individual parents and keeping those data; it is carrying out a survey. We already have a lot of the information, for instance, on the type of family formation so it is not a huge extra burden. I think it is even in the HBAI as it stands, which goes through the types of family that there are. The data will not be an extra intrusion to collect. This amendment does not aim to send a moral message to anyone; it does something quite different. It requires the state to develop strategies which underpin the things we know help to reduce poverty.
As I said when I introduced the amendment, it may not be exactly the right grouping but there are probably no more than one or two more than the four types of household that we put forward in this amendment which are critical in allowing families to pull themselves out of poverty rather than relying on the state to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, asked about the levers for stability-what can one do? The Minister referred to incentives for married people in the tax system. There is a much simpler lever-the effective couple penalty in the benefits and tax credits system, which runs at about £1,300 a year for couples. That is why the data show that there seem to be 200,000 more single parents than there really are. According to the IFS, people need to misrepresent their circumstances because of the perverse nature of the support system at that level.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The noble Lord has made this point before. I understand perfectly well that, when two people share a household in that way,
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Lord Freud: I thank the noble Baroness for her question. This is clearly an immensely complicated issue. The figures that I am using are from the Centre for Social Justice. They are average figures, which take account of all the benefits and credits. As I say, I think that the figure is roughly £1,300. The point is that the benefit to the couple is material; it is based on the difference between the actual costs of living as a couple and the actual costs of living separately. It certainly seems to be the most reliable calculation that I have seen in the research that I have read. It is the real penalty of the system.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for his contribution. I accept his support and I agree that we have levers, such as a family formation of the right type. There are lots of things that the state can and should be encouraged to do.
I make it absolutely clear to the Minister that the item on addiction has nothing to do with withholding funding from particular families. I made it clear at the beginning that it is no good having a system that just puts the money into the pocket of someone who is addicted and who will spend the money on their addiction. We must find a way, in those circumstances, of making sure that the money that we spend for the benefit of the children is indeed spent for the benefit of the children. That is a quite different proposition from the one that the Minister implied that I seek. I am glad that, since Grand Committee, the Minister seems to be a convert to the importance of a stable relationship between parents. He seems to have moved quite some way from what he said previously about correlations in this area.
I accept that many of the things that I seek are in Clause 8. The amendment is important because it seeks to balance the purely financial targets in the Bill, which are the main driver, with the causes of poverty. That is why I seek to give many of those elements the same weight as the financial targets. I am sure that the debate on this will continue, albeit in another form.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I entirely accept what the noble Lord said about addiction and not withholding resources, but is he suggesting that those resources might be applied or made available in another way, through vouchers or something like them?
Lord Freud: I thank the Minister for that question. At this stage, I do not have a specific strategy in the hypothetical situation of this amendment going through. I said earlier that the Child Poverty Commission could help enormously to work out the most effective ways of ensuring that the money gets to where it should go. I am sure that there is room for a great deal of thought and research into that question. As I said, this debate will continue in different ways and different forums but, on that basis and at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"( ) In making regulations under subsection (1)(c), (d) and (e), the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the calculation of the net income of a household is carried out in a way which gives an accurate indication of the material deprivation of a child in that household."
Lord Freud: My Lords, this amendment is designed to do two things. First, it aims to lay a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that major lacunae in the data are not simply accepted but are taken into account; indeed, it should reinforce the considerable efforts that the Government are now making to get a handle on the informal economy. Secondly, it aims to ensure that non-financial support for families is not actively discouraged.
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