On housing, we have increased the provision of affordable housing and are doubling our investment, from 2018-19, to £8 billion to deliver more than 400,000 new affordable housing starts. We are creating 200,000 starter homes to be sold to young first-time buyers at a 20% discount compared to market value, and delivering 135,000 Help to Buy shared-ownership homes. A quarter of a million people have already signed up for the Help to Buy ISAs. We are building 10,000 homes that will allow tenants to save for a deposit while they rent, and at least 8,000 specialist homes for older people and people with disabilities. We will extend the right to buy to housing association

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tenants, and extend Help to Buy by introducing an equity loan scheme by 2021.

On improving children’s life chances, as a Government we have set out an agenda of action. We are determined to do more to improve the life chances of all children. We are bringing forward proposals in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill that will drive action that will make the biggest difference to children’s lives, both now and in the future. We are introducing new reporting duties on worklessness and educational attainment in England, publishing a life chances strategy in the spring to set out a comprehensive plan to fight disadvantage and extend opportunity, covering areas such as family breakdown and problem debt, and reforming the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission to strengthen and expand its social mobility remit. The reformed commission will ensure independent scrutiny of progress to improve social mobility in the UK.

Nick Thomas-Symonds: Will the Minister explain how cuts to the work allowance of universal credit from this spring incentivise work and assist with child poverty?

Justin Tomlinson: We have had a number of debates on that point and even the Institute for Fiscal Studies acknowledges that such an analysis is a static one. What will need to be considered over time is the continued jobs growth and wage rises, the introduction of the national living wage and all the different opportunities that will come in. The criticism of the tax credit proposals was that the changes would not have had time to filter through. With universal credit there will be a big difference.

As I said, for the first time ever people who have been out of work and are going into work again will no longer just be waved off and wished all the best; they will have a named coach to support them, giving them advice and support with additional training, and with pushing for extra hours and getting promotion. Many of us had families who pushed us—“Go and seize the opportunities that are given”—but that is not the case for everyone, and that is the thrust of the debate. For the first time ever we will extend the provision to people entering work, and ensure that they can take advantage of it.

In conclusion, the Government are absolutely committed to improving social mobility and life chances. That is central to our Government’s agenda, and we will continue to extend opportunity for all. It is a credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North that she has once again highlighted an important area for the Government’s focus. There have been many examples of good and best practice, and the Government are keen to share and push them, so that everyone has an opportunity to succeed in life.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the social mobility index.

5.44 pm

Sitting adjourned.