Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440-459)|
13 DECEMBER 2006
Q440 Mr Mudie: I am very interested
in their names, their buildings and their locations, because I
would raise with you that my good friend and your good friend,
Ken Purchase, told me over breakfast in the tearoom that Wolverhampton
has not got one secondary school refurbished or rebuilt because
they will not take a decision on the academy. Is this a Cabinet
policythat if you do not take an academy you do not get
put in a programme?
Mr Brown: There are 3,100 secondary
schools going to come within this programme. It means that in
areas where there are academies and areas where there are no academies
schools are going to be refurbished. I was in Wolverhampton recently
and I saw a huge amount of investment going into Wolverhampton
University, so the college facilities there
Q441 Mr Mudie: That is not a school.
Mr Brown: are improving.
Q442 Mr Mudie: Chancellor, things
have changed from your day. That is not a school. Not one school
has been rebuilt or refurbished in Wolverhampton because they
will not take a decision on an academy. I find that appalling.
Mr Brown: I would be very surprised
if out of the 3,100 secondary schools to be renovated there is
not one to be renovated in Wolverhampton. I think that is probably
Q443 Mr Mudie: It comes on good authority:
Kenneth Purchase. I do not want to know from the DfES. I want
to know from the DfES details of the schools, if you wish, but
I want a financial note. We are the Treasury Committee and we
are here to scrutinise public expenditure. Can I have a public
expenditure note along the lines suggested? Jon, is that okay?
Mr Brown: We will give you a list
of the costs year to year of the schools programme.
Q444 Mr Mudie: No, no. Chancellor,
are you refusing what I have asked for? I have asked, and I have
spelled it out and it is on the public record. Are you agreeing
to give this Committee a note of the programme, the estimated
outturn of the programme, the completions to date and the public
expenditure to date on that programme, year by year? If you are,
fine, but that is what I am asking for.
Mr Brown: We can give you a note
that we have from the Department for Education on the individual
allocations for the schools, secondary and primary, over the course
of the last few years, and we can give you a note of how much
money has been spent on it, yes. 
Q445 Mr Mudie: What about the starting
point? You are the Chancellor.
Mr Brown: The programme was launched
in February 2004.
Q446 Mr Mudie: When you agreed a
15-year programme you must have got an estimated cost for it.
I am asking for that. I think that is a relevant question for
somebody on the Treasury Committee to ask the Treasury officials.
Mr Brown: We have allocated money
now right through to 2011.
Q447 Mr Mudie: If you are not going
to we will take it up in our deliberations, Chancellor, if that
is your last word. I find it unacceptable that you will not provide
straightforward financial information to the Committee.
Mr Brown: I am about to give you
the figures for the amount of money spent, and I am going to get
from the Department for Education the figures for the number of
schools renovated, which is what you want.
Mr Mudie: Thank you.
Q448 Mr Breed: Chancellor, in the
PBR you reiterated the Government's very laudable goal of eradicating
child poverty in a generation. Of course, the commitment to those
underlying targets has milestones to achieve that. If the Government
is to meet its target of halving the number of children in relative
low-income households by 2010-11 then child poverty needs to fall
by half as much again in the next six years as it has in the past
six years. Do you accept the findings of the IFS and others that
an additional £4.5 billion will be needed if you are to actually
reach that 2010-11 target?
Mr Brown: No, I do not necessarily
accept these findings, because there is a whole series of ways
that you can reduce child poverty. The most important way, that
I think the Committee would agree on, is to get people back into
work. If people are in work, earning a wage and able to contribute
to their children's upbringing that is the best way by which you
can reduce child poverty. We are determined, obviously, to get
more people into work. We have had some success2.5 million
more in workbut there is more to be done. That will be
the principal means by whichgetting more people into workwe
give families higher incomes.
Q449 Mr Breed: In order to achieve
the targets, therefore, we are looking at a spectrum of things,
of which additional money is only a part. There are no indications
within the PBR of what those measures might be in trying to reach
that particular goal.
Mr Brown: I can tell you that
one of them is getting more people back into work. In the last
year I think it is true that 90,000 people have come out of inactivity
and into work. Some people have come off incapacity benefit, and
some people have come off single parent income support and gone
into jobs. These are means by which, apparently, those previously
on benefits are now receiving income from work. Some of them will
also be receiving the working tax credit and they will also be
receiving the children's tax credit. So they will be better off
in work with a wage and the children's or work tax credit, or
Q450 Mr Breed: Do you accept that
at the present time we are a bit behind the curve in terms of
the quarter and half milestone targets to achieving it?
Mr Brown: Our target is for 2010.
We actually met our previous target, which was for the first five
years. So we met our previous target and we have got to do what
we can to meet the next target but, as I say, there is a range
of things that a government can do to meet these targets.
Q451 Mr Breed: You have just mentioned
tax credits. Tax credits have been modelled as a very effective
way of targeting low-income families. In that case, why did you
elect to extend the eligibility for child benefit rather than
to extend the tax credits system?
Mr Brown: This is a big issue
about nutrition and support for mothers who are about to give
birth to children and support for them at the point at which the
child is being born. We do give a maternity grant on top of the
other benefits to mothers in low-income families at 29 weeks.
The £500 that is made available can be paid in stages from
29 weeks. However, I felt that we should look at how we can help
all mothers at this particular point in their lives, and this
is not simply the poorest mothers, it is all mothers; where there
are additional costs there are also additional worries, there
are issues about nutrition and about the health of the mother
as well as issues about the health of the child. Just as we provide
maternity allowances to every motherand we actually provide,
during the first year of the life, child tax credit at a higher
level for every mother and, therefore, every childI felt
that we should look at what we could do for that rather critical
period. I felt in these circumstances it is right to help all
mothers and not just some mothers.
Q452 Mr Breed: When you say "all
mothers" that is all mothers of all income groups, including
of course all those that would not necessarily be classed as low-income.
Mr Brown: I believe in child benefit.
The point I am making is that there are two parts to this policy.
One is to recognise that every child in our community deserves
support, and that we, society, should recognise the costs that
parents have to bear in bringing up their children and in bringing
their children into the world. This is a particular part of it,
where there are huge costs associated with the last stages of
pregnancy and there are huge difficulties if people are not properly
getting nutritious food and everything else. Then there is a second
aspect of this: how we can deal with low-income families in our
country and help them? So on top of child benefit, which is universal,
and a universal recognition of the costs of bringing up children,
there is also, I think, some recognition for the low-income families
(or, if you like, middle-income families in this country because
child tax credit goes right up the income scale to over £50,000)
of the costs that particular families that are not the wealthiest
families have to bear as well.
Q453 Mr Breed: However, you must
accept that child benefit is not targeting the low income, in
Mr Brown: No, but child benefit,
I hope the Committee would agree, is a good benefit because it
goes to every mother and to every child. It is a recognition that
we in Britain have of the responsibilities of parenthood and society's
duty, in my view, to help people with the costs of bringing up
Q454 Mr Breed: Is it not really an
admission that the tax credits system has become so complicated
now that to add another part to that would just exacerbate an
already difficult situation.
Mr Brown: You started your question
by asking about child poverty. I think you would have to agree
that the biggest single factor in reducing child poverty in this
country in recent years, and the reason we met our first target
and the reason we have reduced child poverty continuously, is
because of the child tax credit. I just repeat: when we came into
power the poorest child
Q455 Mr Breed: If it is so successful
why are you not extending that?
Mr Brown: I am sorry; I am saying
there are two purposes in public policy: one is to recognise the
needs of every parent and every child, which I hope you would
agree is necessary, and the second is to recognise the particular
circumstances of a large number of families in this country who
need more income than simply the standard child benefit.
Q456 Mr Breed: So you did not consider
at all extending the full tax credits system to those with 29
Mr Brown: In case it is not known,
support available for low-income families after 29 weeks includes
a maternity grant at £500, which is paid in stages. That
is something we introduced; it was £100 before and now it
is £500, and we made it possible to be paid so that mothers
could buy clothes and other things that a child would need when
they were born. There is a second element of our help as well,
and that is support for diet and nutrition, where we provide between
£6 and £12 a week for mothers for the nutrition of the
mother-to-be and, then for the nutrition of the child in the years
from 0-1. So for low-income families, in addition to child tax
credit at a higher level, there is also available the maternity
grant and, as I have just said, help in particular payments for
nutritious food, including milk and other baby foods. So I think
we are doing quite a lot to help mothers at this stage in their
pregnancy and at the point at which a child is born; I think the
issue for us was that we wished to recognise the needs of every
mother as well as the specific needs of low-income families.
Q457 Mr Breed: Can I just briefly
turn to transportation. The costs of motoring have, effectively,
declined over a long period of time. In fact, the real costs of
bus and rail travel have shot up, and we certainly know that in
rural areas of Cornwall, which I represent. You decided against
the reintroduction of a fuel duty escalator, which I suspect was
a relief to lots of people, but if you are not going to do that
how are we going to really ensure that motoring starts to be addressed
and that we try and get down transportation costs in order to
try to attract people on to public transport for all the environmental
Mr Brown: I think you will find
that the support that has been given to public transport over
recent years, both locally and nationally, has risen very considerably.
Our bus schemes for rural areas
Q458 Mr Breed: Do you accept that
fares have really gone up very high?
Mr Brown: You have also got to
accept that provision in railways and in buses has also improved
as a result of changes that we have made, and a very considerable
amount of public money goes to help with bus fares and to help
with rail fares. We have always got to get the balance right.
In the end, this is an individual choice that motorists, or travellers,
have got to make themselves. I think people have to be aware of
the real costs in terms of emissions of different forms of transport,
and we are trying to make people aware, but I do not think it
is true to say that we have not supported public transport; we
have supported public transport with a very considerable increase
in support for the rail network, the Underground refurbishment,
of course, is taking place, and also the road network.
Q459 Mr Breed: Do you believe that
the balance is right at the present time?
Mr Brown: We always have to look
at what is the best balance moving forward, and that is why we
commissioned the Eddington Review, to look at some of the problems
in transport that we now have to deal with. We have now gotand
this comes back to the Chairman's question at the beginninga
period where people can absorb what the Eddington Review has said,
give us their views on that as on the other reports, and it will
allow us to make further decisions both in the Budget and then
in the spending review.
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