In 1999 the Government said it would halve child poverty by 2010 - taking 1.7m children out of poverty. To date it has missed its targets and only removed 600,000 children from poverty. In the pre-budget briefings pouring out of Number 10 and the Treasury we were all led to believe that the Chancellor would make a major announcement today to get the Government back on course to meet its target.
Instead, the Chancellor has admitted defeat in the war against child poverty and has confirmed that the Government will not meet its 2010 target - and will leave over 2.5m children still living in poverty in the fifth richest countries in the world.
The measures announced today will only remove at most a further 250,000 children from poverty by 2010. Some of the media and other agencies have grasped at this straw argung that at least the Government's budget proposals aren't as bad as some thought they would be . But on analysis the situation is even more disappointing. In calculating child poverty the Government has massaged the figures by removing housing costs from the calculation. If these costs are put back the real assessment of child poverty confirms that in fact 3.5 million children will remain in poverty in our society. The TUC has rightfully expressed the deep disappointment of the trade union movement at the failure of the Government to prioritise effective action against child poverty.
At the same time the Chancellor has done virtually nothing to tackle the unfairness of our tax system. Big business benefits from the lowest corporation tax in this country in decades, which is to be cut further on 1st April. Proposals to tackle the scandal of non doms, some of whom are paying less tax than their servants, have been watered down and there are no measures to address the £97 to £150 billions the Treasury now admits to losing each year from tax avoidance.
If after eleven years in office, a Labour Government cannot meet such a basic aim of lifting our children out of poverty, many will judge this period of government as the greatest missed opportunity in the history of the Labour party. There is a growing feeling that the Government is running out of both time and ideas.