It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh. So bad is this Government’s failure on social mobility that in December 2017the Social Mobility Commission walked out in protest, warning that “nothing” was being done to deal with inequalities and social division. That happened within a year of the new Prime Minister delivering a mission statement to the nation, promising to make Britain a country that works not for the privileged few, but for every one of us, and to tackle
“the burning injustice that, if you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others.”
Of all the Government’s failures—on Brexit, schools, public services, and children’s and adult social care—this is the most shameful, because not only have they utterly failed to improve the lives of the less fortunate but they have made those lives much more difficult.
Homelessness, food bank usage and in-work poverty have soared, and the Government’s own data shows that the number of children in absolute poverty has risen to nearly 4 million. What could be more telling of a policy failure than the fact that a quarter of children are growing up in poverty? The privileged have become wealthier, while people from disadvantaged backgrounds have had their opportunities to get on and move up cut off. That is the Conservative way. Big businesses and the super-rich get tax cuts, while children grow up in poverty and schools struggle to pay for basic resources, struggling even to stay open for a full working week.
A hungry child cannot learn, which is why poorer children are falling behind their peers by the age of five. Teenagers who cannot afford university tuition fees and increased debt have their life chances cut off at 18, with children from better-off backgrounds almost twice as likely to go to university than those from low-income families. The out-of-control housing market prevents children from leading independent lives or from moving to bigger cities where job prospects are better. “Know your place and stay in it”—that is the result of Tory austerity.
It is a shameful record, and it is set to get worse under this shambolic Government. The front runner to be the next Prime Minister has already found £10 billion to fund a tax cut benefiting only the richest 12% of taxpayers. The Foreign Secretary wants to cut corporation tax even further than the Government already have to 12.5%, making the UK’s tax rate by far the lowest in the G20 and turning the country into a tax haven for rich people. Whoever is appointed to become our next Prime Minister, there will be more of the same for the majority—“Know your place and pay for the mistakes of the wealthy and powerful.” Rather than helping a few people up the social mobility ladder, we need to construct a framework of social justice, so that everyone can climb, not just a few.