Inequality and Social Mobility

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:45 pm, 12th June 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
notes the findings of the Institute for Fiscal Studies that the UK is second only to the US in terms of income inequality among the major world economies in Europe and North America, that the share of income going to the wealthiest one per cent of households has nearly tripled in the last four decades and that deaths from suicide and from drug and alcohol overdoses are rising among middle-aged people;
further notes that 1.6 million food parcels were handed out by Trussell Trust food banks last year and that child poverty has increased by 500,000 since 2010;
recognises that following the resignation of the entire Social Mobility Commission in November 2017 in protest against the Government’s inaction and a near year-long delay in appointing replacements, the new Commission has found that social mobility has stagnated for four years;
considers that the Government’s programme of austerity has decimated social security and led to growing inequality of provision across education, health, social care and housing;
further considers that the Government’s austerity programme has caused and continues to cause suffering to millions of people;
and calls on the Government to end child poverty, to end the need for the use of food banks and to take urgent action to tackle rising inequality throughout the UK and increase investment in public services.

Levels of inequality in the UK are both shocking an unsustainable. The crisis in homelessness evident on our streets, the stark rise in food bank use and the millions of children growing up in poverty should sound alarm bells for this Government that something is deeply wrong. It should not have taken a debate in the House to get the Government to take note, yet sadly that is where we are today.

In December 2017, the chair of the Social Mobility Commission and all four board members, including a former Conservative Education Secretary, resigned over the lack of progress in tackling inequality. What an indictment of this Government’s social policy! It is the commission’s job to monitor progress towards improving social mobility in the UK and to promote social mobility in England. The chair, Lord Milburn, said in his resignation letter:

“Whole communities and parts of Britain are being left behind economically and hollowed out socially.”

He added that he saw little evidence of the Prime Minister’s rhetoric being translated into meaningful action. In 2018, the commission’s report confirmed that view, finding that social mobility had been stagnant for the past four years.