Inequality and Social Mobility

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:20 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth 6:20 pm, 12th June 2019

I am afraid that the Government’s record on inequalities, across the piece, is absolutely woeful. I was particularly concerned by some of the data mentioned by the Secretary of State.

Last month, on the 49th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Equality Trust published more data showing pay inequalities. It analysed the average pay of chief executives and other workers, gender pay gaps and gender bonus gaps in FTSE 100 companies. That followed the report, in February, of an increase in income inequality according to the Gini coefficient, a standard measure. Who could forget “Fat Cat Friday” in January, which exposed the fact that top executives were earning 133 times more than their average worker? In 1998, the ratio was 47.

My hon. Friend Margaret Greenwood was absolutely right to draw attention to the impact of austerity and the Government’s choices—and they are choices: poverty and inequality are politically determined—to ensure that their tax and spending plans harm the poorest most. That is not just my view. A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has shown that the poorest tenth of households will lose, on average, 10% of their income by 2022, which is equivalent to £1 in every £8. There have been similar findings from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and other organisations.

However, it is not just a question of income inequalities. Wealth inequalities are also prevalent and have worsened in this country. The richest 1,000 people in the UK have wealth estimated at £724 billion, which is more than the wealth of the poorest 40%, at £567 billion. That privileged 1,000 saw their income increase by £66 billion in one year alone and by £255 billion over the last five years.