Yvette Cooper plans binding legal commitment to cutting child poverty

• Bill sets out four targets for action by 2020
• Long term measures will tie in future governments

Yvette Cooper is to publish plans to place a legal duty on all future UK governments – including any future Tory administration – to abolish child poverty by 2020.

The proposed bill, to be discussed in cabinet tomorrow, will establish four separate targets in primary legislation, Cooper, the new work and pensions secretary, said. "I am absolutely clear that this is about reducing inequality, and being bold about what a future Labour government's vision represents. It is not simply about reducing poverty. It will embed a desire to reduce inequality in our society in legislation."

She said a government that failed to show how it was seeking to abolish child poverty could be subject to judicial review, adding that a Tory government wishing to abandon the commitment would have to go back to parliament.

Ministers will have to show they are aiming to meet all four targets.

The first is relative poverty, and aims to have less than 10% of children living in relative low income poverty by 2020, defined as households with less than 60% of the median income in society.

The second target is defined as material deprivation, and sets an aim of having less than 5% of children living in combined material deprivation and low income.

The third target will be defined as absolute low income, meaning less than 5% of children living in families with an income below an absolute threshold.

The fourth target is defined as persistent poverty, which will measure the percentage of children living in relative poverty for three out of four years. The measure will be fixed at the end of 2014.

The bill will set up an independent child poverty commission to report on progress, and ministers will be required to produce a strategy every three years and publish an annual progress report.

The commission will provide public advice on the development of child poverty strategies and ministers will be under a duty to "have regard to that advice".

Cooper said that if a future government felt it was unable to meet the targets, it would have to repeal the legislation and not simply say it did not have the resources to meet its goals.

The bill is largely modelled on the Climate Change Act, which requires the government to reduce carbon emissions by 80% from a baseline of 1990. But the child poverty bill will not allow the government to amend its target, unlike the climate change measure.

The government has lifted more than 500,000 children out of poverty since it came to power, but it is not going to meet its target of halving child poverty by 2010, partly owing to the recession.

Cooper said the new bill was not a piece of window dressing but a reflection of the government's commitment "to put its feet to the fire on child poverty".

She added: "It also sets down a challenge to the Conservatives to say whether they support this legislation. So far the Conservatives have merely said that cutting child poverty is an aspiration, and not a pledge."

The bill will receive its second reading in a fortnight and is due to become law by the end of the year.


Patrick Wintour, political editor

The GuardianTramp

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