In its state of the nation report, the Government’s Social Mobility Commission today issued a damning verdict on progress: things are getting worse. The commission concluded that the key drivers of social mobility—quality in early education, narrowing the educational attainment gap, and access to work and housing—are all going backwards on the Prime Minister’s watch. When will she come forward with a real strategy for opportunity for all, instead of fixating on creating an even more elite education for those who are already elite?
I note that the Social Mobility Commission has recorded today that more working class youngsters are benefiting from higher education than at any point in our history. The Government have invested record amounts in childcare and the early years, and the attainment gap, as the report acknowledges, has actually narrowed. The hon. Lady refers to the education system and the reintroduction of grammar schools, so I refer her to the report commissioned by a Labour council in Knowsley to look at how it could improve educational achievement there. That report said:
“Re-introducing grammar schools is potentially a transformative idea for working class areas”.
Today the BBC World Service announced its biggest expansion since the 1940s, including 11 new services in different languages, bringing the total number of languages covered around the world to 40. Does the Prime Minister agree that this is an excellent example of soft power and a lifeline to many people around the world?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The service that the BBC provides through its World Service and the independent journalism that that brings to millions of people around the world is very important, including by bringing that to people in places where free speech is often limited. It is important to support the BBC World Service, which is why we are investing £289 million over the next four years so that it can provide accurate and independent news to some of the most remote parts of the world.
The University of St Andrews in my constituency gets 25% of its research funding from the EU. It has benefited from freedom of movement, which brings some of the finest researchers to St Andrews and elsewhere. What guarantees can the Prime Minister give about research funding and freedom of movement for academics, particularly after 2020?
The hon. Gentleman will know that we have already given guarantees about the research funding available from the EU and those contracts that will be signed. He will know, too, that within the immigration rules for people outside the EU, we are already able to ensure that the brightest and the best can come to the United Kingdom. I remind the hon. Gentleman, however, as I reminded his right hon. Friend Angus Robertson, that it was not that long ago since he was campaigning to come out of the European Union and come out of free movement.
In a Committee yesterday, I learned that the Iraq Historic Allegations Team had placed serving members and veterans under surveillance in this country. I also learned that, despite everything we have said, we have paid for “chasing” lawyers to go out and collect evidence in theatre. I know of the Prime Minister’s commitment to this agenda. Does she agree that we need to work harder to close the gap between what we say and how things actually feel for our servicemen and women?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. I recognise the concern that has been expressed by a number of my hon. Friends about the impact of the IHAC on servicemen and women. It important that we ensure that it conducts its inquiries within a reasonable timescale, which it is now set to do, and that it weeds out what could be described as the more frivolous cases. I am sure that my hon. Friend will accept that credible allegations of criminal activity should be investigated properly, but I am conscious of the need to ensure that our servicemen and women, who do such a good job for us around the world and keep us safe and secure, have the support that they need.