Conservative Diary

« Ten facts about the new Tory Chairman, Sayeeda Warsi | Main | World finance ministers back George Osborne's deficit reduction policy »

Frank Field will help David Cameron to find effective ways of fighting poverty

Labour MP Frank Field has been appointed by David Cameron to lead an independent, seven month review into poverty. The review has the formal title, 'The Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances'. The Review has been charged with focusing on "non-financial" measures.

In an article for today's Telegraph Mr Field emphasises two things.

DAMAGED-BOYFirst, he says that spending more and more money is clearly not an adequate response to poverty. "Over the past 13 years," he writes, "the government doubled all its key budgets; in real terms, overall public expenditure rose by more than 50 per cent. Few people would argue that the solution to the complex social and economic problems Britain faces is even higher spending."

Secondly, he calls for a new definition of poverty. He says that the non-monetary factors that contribute to poverty needed to be assessed. Neil O'Brien of Policy Exchange has already started this thinking.

On this morning's Today programme Mr Field highlighted the work of Iain Duncan Smith and Graham Allen in focusing on a child's early years. Their report on early intervention was, Mr Field said, the most important recent contribution to the subject of poverty reduction.

Mr Field rejected suggestions by Radio 4's Jim Naughtie that he focus on questions of inequality. My aim, he said, was not to 'think the unthinkable' but to 'think the workable'.

Announcing Mr Field's appointment Mr Cameron said:

"I am pleased that Frank Field is undertaking this work. In particular I hope that he can look at the issue of whether we should give more attention to - and find better ways of measuring - the time people spend in deep poverty, the gap between those in deep poverty and mainstream Britain and the problems of multiple deprivation and what keeps people trapped in poverty. Understanding the real causes of poverty - both financial and non financial, including the importance of families and the pre-school years - is vital if we are going to make Britain a fairer society in which opportunity is more equal."

Mr Field joins Will Hutton as a left-leaning thinker recruited by the Coalition government. Mr Hutton is looking at pay differentials in the public sector.

Tim Montgomerie


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.