Inequality and Social Mobility

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:57 pm on 12th June 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 6:57 pm, 12th June 2019

I welcome the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Government. I was sorry to hear Lyn Brown accuse the Government of not responding to the report of the UN rapporteur. That is not true; they have responded. I was also sorry to hear her exploit Allie, an 18-year-old, in an attempt to weaponise this issue, when we have heard really thoughtful contributions from other colleagues. Labour employs the politics of division; it was sad to see that today.

I thank colleagues who have spoken, including Neil Gray, my right hon. Friend Justine Greening, Emma Hardy, my hon. Friend Gillian Keegan, Judith Cummins, my hon. Friend Vicky Ford, and the hon. Members for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill), for Leigh (Jo Platt), for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin), for Glasgow East (David Linden), and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders).

Many of the contributions this afternoon were about the long-term issue of delivering social mobility. As Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for children and families, I will naturally focus in my speech primarily on the work of my Department. You will not be surprised to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I believe that one of the most effective means of reducing inequality is education. As someone who came to these shores unable to speak a word of English, I know at first hand how education can change lives and truly open doors. Everyone has the right to a good education, regardless of their circumstances.

Social mobility, tackling inequality and social justice are rightly critical priorities for my Department and of course my Government as a whole. That is why, for the Social Mobility Commission, we have recruited a fantastic chair in Dame Martina Milburn, along with a board of commissioners each with a unique experience of social mobility. I will say a few words about their vital work.

At the end of April, the commission published a comprehensive “State of the Nation” report which shines a light on where Government, businesses and employers can continue to raise the bar for everyone living in this country.