Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-123)|
LEWIS MP, MR
30 NOVEMBER 2005
Q120 Chairman: If they wanted to
offer a cash-based product on their own?
Mr Lewis: If they approached us
and asked us would we consider it?
Q121 Chairman: Yes.
Mr Lewis: Yes.
Q122 Chairman: I want to be clear
about that. The rules could be changed to allow them to consider
that. That is a yes?
Mr Lewis: At the moment, as I
understand it, they have to offer stakeholders. That is the status
quo and I find it very difficult to believe we would want
to move away from that.
Q123 Chairman: Okay. Finally, on
this whole issue of targets and evaluation, I hope there is no
misunderstanding here. This Committee produced a report on the
child trust funds and supported it. It was supportive of the initiative
and its report was positive about that. You were referring to
enemies of the fund; they are not in this Committee, we are very
supportive of the initiative. However, we did have concerns right
at the beginning about take-up and whether it is being taken up
by the most appropriate group that it was targeted tothe
low-income groupand I am anxious to know how you will measure
how the policy is being delivered in that regard if you do not
Mr Lewis: Well, there are two
things. First of all, there is the number of people who make the
choice to open their own account. Then we know there will be a
gap and the state will have to open accounts for them. Then there
is the long-term change in behaviour in terms of savings and investment
and a belief amongst sections of the population for whom that
is not currently relevant that that becomes relevant and affects
behaviour and choices, so I think sometimes it is the responsibility
of politicians and policymakers to be upfront about saying that
the kind of change we are trying to achieve here is long term
and therefore it would be best to hold fire on short-term, knee-jerk
judgments or reactions because this is part of a much bigger picture,
as I said earlier, about transforming society, about inter-generational
ambition, aspiration and opportunities. Sometimes it is right
to look at policies on a long-term basis and the impact they have
on individuals and society more generally, and also I suppose
the economy, rather than rush to premature judgments, but along
the way there is a transparency about the information that this
Committee and others will have which will either enable you to
say, "We do not think this is as good as it could be,"
or maybe you could say, "Actually if you did it slightly
differently then maybe you would be more effective in achieving
your objectives." I think some of the questions that have
been asked today for me are not so much questions as very constructive
views of how the system could be better. At the end of the day
the system has already been designed, it is up and running, we
are going, but there is no reason why we cannot make changes where
those changes in the end are in our interest if we want to achieve
our objective. There are certain things which have been said today
which I regard as helpful and constructive.
Chairman: Good, I am glad about that.
Maybe we should have this kind of session about once a year and
see how this policy is going on, but we will let you go now. Thank
you very much.