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Equality

Volume 716: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2010

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister for Women and Equality (Harriet Harman) has made the following Statement.

Today the Government have published their official response to the National Equality Panel’s report, An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK. The National Equality Panel’s report, which has also been published today, and the full Government response document can be found online at www.equalities.gov.uk, and I have placed copies in the Library. Printed copies of the NEP report and the Government’s response are available upon request from the Government Equalities Office.

To build a modern, prosperous society, we have to tackle the barriers that unfairly hold people back and give everyone the opportunity to succeed.

Equality matters in the modern world:

for individuals, who are entitled to fairness and to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and achieve their aspirations and not be held back;

for the economy, because the economy that will succeed in the future is one that draws on the talents of all; and,

for society, because an equal society is more cohesive and at ease with itself.

That is why I commissioned the National Equality Panel in 2008, chaired by Professor John Hills, to undertake an in-depth analysis of economic inequality in the UK today. The panel has examined how a range of factors—including gender, race, disability, social background and where you live—are associated with and influence how people fare at school and at work, their earnings, income and wealth.

The panel’s report sets out the scale of the challenges that will need to be addressed if we are to effectively tackle inequality in the UK. The National Equality Panel’s report confirms our strongly held view that public policy intervention can and does make a difference to economic inequalities.

We welcome the panel’s groundbreaking report. We have made progress over the past 13 years. Some of the widest gaps in outcomes between social groups have been reduced, and trends reversed in the last decade. For example the attainment gap between black and white pupils fell from 18 per cent in 1997 to 6 per cent in 2008. The pay gap between men and women has also narrowed. But we are also determined to build on this and achieve more to create a fairer and more prosperous society. It is unacceptable that social background and other factors make so big a difference to the ability of people to fulfil their aspirations and potential.

The Government will continue to make the choices that prioritise fairness and aspiration.