22 May 2018, Katy Morton
Mr Halfon will make a case for the new Bill to legislate for greater powers for the Social Mobility Commission (SMC), which has had no members since December, in front of MPs and Lords, who will decide whether or not it should be introduced.
If Mr Halfon is successful, the Bill will be taken to have its first reading.
The draft Bill, which was published by the committee in March, proposes greater powers and resources for the SMC, as well as guaranteeing a minimum membership of at least seven members in addition to the chair, and changing the name to the Social Justice Commission to more accurately reflect its role in ensuring equal opportunities for all.
It follows a report by the Committee that branded the SMC ‘powerless’ and made a number of recommendations to strengthen its role. The report was shaped by evidence sessions with former members of the SMC, including its chair Alan Milburn, who resigned from the post in December. Reasons for Mr Milburn’s resignation included roles on the SMC being left vacant for almost two years and his belief that the Government was ‘unable to devote the necessary energy and focus to the social mobility agenda’.
Reports suggest that candidates are being interviewed this month to replace Alan Milburn as chair of the Committee. The other commissioners will be recruited after the new chair has been chosen. Mr Halfon said, ‘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. The changes in this Bill would strengthen the commission, giving it the vital task of assessing all domestic legislation for its impact on social justice and would also give it the power to hold ministers’ feet to the fire.
‘Support for our Bill will be the first step in bolstering the commission. 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.’