07 MAR 2018
Thank you very much for taking the time to email me about inequality and the related EDM, number 591.
I realise you would like me to sign EDM 591, however like many MPs I do not sign any EDMs no matter how worthy the cause. This is because EDMs now cost a huge amount per year to administer and have no chance of changing the Law. They are in effect petitions which only MPs can sign. They have also been superseded by online petitions which can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government. Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated. There are also concerns that EDMs may give a false impression that action is being taken.
Nonetheless, I hope the following information on this topic from the Government Equalities Office is reassuring:
The UK Government's record on equalities is one the best in the world and the Government are determined this will remain so as, and after, we leave the EU.
There is already a Public Sector Equality Duty in place that requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and another other conduct prohibited by the Equalities Act. Public sector bodies must also advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it. However, the Government is reviewing the future of the un-commenced provisions in the Equality Act.
Social mobility has to be a top priority, and real progress has been made in recent years. The attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has narrowed since the introduction of the pupil premium, the proportion of eligible disadvantaged two-year-olds benefiting from funded childcare has risen from 58 per cent in 2015 to 71 per cent in 2017, and more money than ever before is being invested in the early years.
However, there is still more to do and the Department for Education recognises the need to focus on areas of the country with the greatest challenges and fewest opportunity. The Social Mobility Action Plan has been introduced to focus on places and communities across the county that have not yet seen the improvement that other parts of the country have benefited from. It also includes ambitions to boost access to high quality early language and literacy, close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, create world-class technical education to introduce real choice for young people post-16, and ensure rewarding careers are a reality for all. £72 million is being invested in the 12 opportunity areas programme. As this gets into the full implementation stage, we will see improvements in those areas and learn lessons that can be applied elsewhere around the country.
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