Social Mobility Strategy

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Electoral Commission Committee – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 5th April 2011.

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Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 12:32 pm, 5th April 2011

I am afraid that the Deputy Prime Minister gave up the right to pontificate on social mobility when he abolished the education maintenance allowance, trebled tuition fees and betrayed a generation of young people. When I heard that he was going to launch a commission on social mobility, I thought that it was April Fools’ day. In just 10 months this Tory-led Government have launched an assault on opportunities for young people, especially the poorest.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that the new Office for Fair Access has no teeth? It is presiding over soaring youth unemployment, so why have the Government abolished the future jobs fund? For many young people, mobility now means a bus down to the jobcentre. Families with young children are feeling the squeeze, so why have the Government cut tax credits? The first few years are vital to a child’s prospects, so why have they cut Sure Start?

The Deputy Prime Minister boasts about the pupil premium, but will he admit that the Government are cutting school budgets? He claims that he wants to improve social mobility, so why has he dropped section 1 of the Equality Act 2010, which would have legislated for all public authorities to play their part in narrowing the gap between rich and poor? In opposition he said that the Act did not go far enough, but now he is dancing to the tune of the Tories. Next he will be foxtrotting down to the Tory party’s fundraising ball, auctioning City internships for the children of the highest bidder. Is that not the Government’s idea of social mobility? We have further to go, but they are turning the clock back.

The Deputy Prime Minister says that he is on a mission to improve social mobility. Curiously, whenever he is on a mission to achieve something, the very opposite seems to happen. His support for EMAs saw them abolished, his determination to end tuition fees saw them trebled, and his commitment to no VAT rise resulted in a hike to 20%. Is there not a very important lesson here? If you care about something, the very last person whom you want on your side is the Deputy Prime Minister. He may be a man on a mission, but with him at the helm, it is mission impossible.