Social Mobility

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 27th January 2016.

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Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer Conservative, South East Cambridgeshire 11:30 am, 27th January 2016

What steps the Government are taking to increase social mobility in the civil service.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

Social mobility is mission critical to our plan to ensure that the civil service is fully representative of the nation that it serves and benefits from talent in every part of Britain.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer Conservative, South East Cambridgeshire

I welcome that answer. May I ask the Minister to give the House an update on research by the Bridge Group on social mobility in the fast stream?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

We asked the Bridge Group to look into social mobility in the fast stream and the people who are joining the civil service, and it will report very soon. I can tell my hon. Friend the number of new apprenticeships in the civil service: 884 since we introduced the scheme in 2013—another part of broadening access to the civil service.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Many young people from working-class estates across the United Kingdom lack the capacity and training skills to join the civil service. What are the Government doing to ensure that they have the greater skills required to get on the ladder into the civil service?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

Great training is available for people once they are in, but I want to broaden the number of people from different backgrounds coming into the civil service right at the start, which means people from all over the United Kingdom: from all parts, from all groups, from all ethnic backgrounds, men and women, to make sure that we make the very best use of the talent that is available.

Photo of Tom Watson Tom Watson Party Chair, Labour Party, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

I see that the Minister’s right hon. Friend the Chancellor has his own mission critical approach to social mobility. His closest adviser got a 42% pay rise while most public servants got a pay freeze; he has five times the usual number of special advisers while 80,000 jobs have been cut in the civil service; and this week it was revealed by The Sunday Times that the permanent secretary in his Department has used a loophole to avoid paying tax on his pension pot. Is it the Minister’s view that that is an appropriate leadership approach in the civil service, and is it not true that when it comes to tax, the Chancellor’s friends in Google get special treatment, and when it comes to social mobility in the civil service it helps to be a friend of the Chancellor?

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office

It is disappointing that we do not have a cross-party approach to improving access to the civil service—who comes into it—to make sure that we have the very best people working for the common aim of delivering the Government’s agenda to improve the lives of citizens whom we serve, because that is the job that we focus on.