Government targets have got a bad name but they don't half focus the minds of politicians. Labour's ambitious child poverty targets are making life hard for the chancellor in the days before his Budget. A good thing too, child poverty campaigners will no doubt retort.
Today the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee published a report pointing out, as others have done before, that the government is going to miss its ambitious goal of halving child poverty by 2010. The Committee says the target is likely to be missed by one million children (1.5 million on an after housing costs basis) if nothing further is done.
Clearly, though, something further is about to be done. Why do I say that? Because the prime minister himself said so in his party conference speech at the weekend which I have just got around to reading:
"This government must end child poverty in this generation and in the next few weeks we will move further towards our goal".
This came after some stirring rhetoric about the importance of tackling poverty:
"Child poverty is the scar that demeans Britain. When we allow just one life to be degraded or derailed by early poverty, it represents a cost that can never be fully counted. What difference could that child have made?
"What song will not be written; what flourishing business will not be founded; what classroom will miss out on a teacher who can awaken aspiration? Because just one child's life wasted haunts us with the thoughts of what might have been.”
The chair of the End Child Poverty Campaign, Barnado's chief executive Martin Narey, has claimed that Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report used money set aside for helping poor children to cut inheritance tax for the rich.
The PM appears to be signalling that he won't be doing the same again. Not, of course, that he is has very much money to splash about.