Campaigners have urged ministers to ensure new legislation to hold the government to its pledge to end child poverty by 2020 will not be “riddled with loopholes”.
The Child Poverty Action Group warned that the Child Poverty Bill, announced in this week’s Queen’s Speech, could prove as ineffective as similar legislation on tackling fuel poverty unless it was properly drafted.
Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged recently failed in their bid to force the government to spend more to tackle fuel poverty in a judicial review on the government’s statutory targets to end fuel poverty.
Fuel poverty legislation
The Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 obliged the government to set and implement a strategy for ending fuel poverty – “as far as reasonably practicable” – by a target date. This led to targets to end fuel poverty by 2010 for vulnerable households and by 2016 for all.
However, though the government is set to miss the 2010 target by a wide margin, judges ruled that it did not have a legal obligation to increase its spending.
Help the Aged said the court had found that the government had a duty to implement its strategy but judges had declined to assess the quality of the strategy, revealing a “huge loophole” in the law.
Lessons to be learned
CPAG spokesperson Tim Nichols said there were lessons to be learned from the ruling. He continued: “We firmly believe that however the legislation is drafted, it should be firm enough to avoid the kind of problems it looks like they’ve been having with the fuel poverty target legislation.”
He added that the organisation was “fairly confident” that the Bill would be robust.
Hilary Fisher, director of the End Child Poverty coalition, said that legislation needed to be strong enough to make ending the UK‘s high level of child poverty a priority for any future government.
The government is currently not on course to hit its intermediate target of halving child poverty from 1998-99 to 2010-11.