Former Labour Welfare Reform Minister and MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field, was asked by Tony Blair to “think the unthinkable” in 1997.
Fourteen years later David Cameron has invited him to conduct an independent review into poverty in Britain.
In a talk given at Stonyhurst College to A level politics students, Mr Field began by looking at the political re-alignment taking place in Britain since the election of a coalition government.
He covered many issues, including the Government’s fiscal policy, immigration and citizenship, the need for technical colleges as well as universities and how university vice-chancellors have responded to government pressure to widen access.
Mr Field then talked about poverty: £150bn spent on trying to eradicate it, he said, has had relatively little impact. He believes a key factor is parenting, quoting longitudinal studies which have shown that a child’s life chances may be determined by the age of three and certainly by five.
Mr Field concluded that good Foundation Years education followed by primary schools, run as microcosms of society at its best, can be effective in lifting children out of poverty. Then, at secondary level, pupils should be taught about child development to prepare them to be good parents themselves.
The audience was captivated by Mr Field’s wide-ranging and forthright presentation and asked many questions afterwards.