Robert Halfon proposes bill to expand Social Mobility Commission powers

A new law that would give greater powers and resources to the Social Mobility Commission will be proposed by Robert Halfon, chair of the parliamentary education committee in the House of Commons tomorrow.

The bill is backed by the MPs on the committee, who published a report on the social mobility commission in March.

They are seeking to expand the commission’s powers to allow it to publish social justice impact assessments on government policies and proactively advise ministers on social justice issues.

They also want to establish a new governmental body to implement the social justice agenda. A draft of tomorrow’s bill was published by the committee in March alongside its report.

The commission released a “state of the nation” in November, which claimed that social mobility is “a stark postcode lottery” and that too many people are being left behind.

“If the government is serious about fighting the burning injustices in our society, we need a commission with real teeth and we now have an opportunity to make that a reality,” said Halfon.

The bill would strengthen the commission, tasking it to assessing all domestic legislation for its impact on social justice and giving it the power to hold ministers’ feet to the fire.”

It would create a minimum membership, at seven members in addition to the chair.

After the resignation of former chair Alan Milburn, former deputy chair Baroness Shephard and two other members in December, the commission was was left with no members at all, from an initial membership of 10.

The proposed legislation would also change the name of the commission to the “social justice commission”, to reflect its aim of creating an environment of equal opportunities.

“An effective social justice commission working in tandem with an implementation body at the heart of government can help to begin to heal some of the great social divides in our country and give the most vulnerable in society the chance they deserve to climb the ladder of opportunity,” Halfon said.

He will take advantage of the “10-minute rule”, a facility which allows any MP to introduce a bill in a speech lasting up to 10 minutes. After the proposing MP’s speech an opposing speech may be made, then the house decides whether or not the bill should be introduced.

To qualify to give their speech, an MP must be the first through the door to the public bill office on the Tuesday or Wednesday morning 15 working days before the date they wish to introduce their bill.

The rule is popular and has led to strong competition between MPs in the past. Some have even chosen to sleep outside the office in order to guarantee a slot. However, in practice this method of introducing a bill is not often successful.

Halfon’s motion with be broadcast live on Parliament TV on Tuesday May 22, after 12pm.

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