Press release

Alan Milburn and Neil O’Brien set to lead the drive to improve social mobility and reduce child poverty

Alan Milburn has emerged as the preferred candidate to be Chair of the independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

After a competitive process, Alan Milburn is the preferred candidate to be Chair of the independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, the government announced today. Pending the outcome of an Education Select Committee hearing, Mr Milburn, who is currently the interim Chair, is set to take up the post on a permanent basis from next month.

Neil O’Brien, Director of Policy Exchange, will be appointed as Deputy Chair and is also expected to take up the post from next month.

In holding the government and others to account, the commission will help to ensure that everyone, whatever their circumstances, has a fair opportunity to fulfil their potential. It will do this by challenging and monitoring progress by government and other external institutions against the objectives of improving social mobility and reducing child poverty. The commission will also produce an independent annual report on the progress that has been made.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

Fairness is a fundamental value of this government and giving every child the opportunity to succeed, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, lies at the heart of our social policy.

The independent commission, which we’ve established, will play an important role in holding the government’s feet to the fire in making real progress.

I’m delighted that Alan Milburn and Neil O’Brien have been nominated to lead the commission.

Sarah Teather, Minister for Children and Families, said:

We are doing all we can in a tough economic climate to ensure that young children get the best start in life.

The commission will enhance aspiration and tackle child poverty. I look forward to working with the Chair and Deputy Chair towards these goals.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

This government is committed to eradicating child poverty and across departments our aim is to tackle the problem at its source. By supporting parents and their children to overcome the barriers that trap them in poverty, we can set them on the path to an independent life beyond the state.

In announcing the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, we take an important step in our strategy to tackle child poverty. I look forward to working with them both in this most important of endeavours.

Notes to editors

  1. Alan Milburn was the MP for Darlington from 1992 until 2010. He served for five years in the Cabinet, firstly as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1998 to 1999, and subsequently as Secretary of State for Health until resigning in 2003, briefly rejoining as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He stood down at the 2010 general election and in August 2010 was appointed as the Independent Reviewer on social mobility, with his remit subsequently extended to include child poverty. He has been Interim Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission since May 2012.

  2. Neil O’Brien appointed as Director of the think tank Policy Exchange in August 2008. Previous to this he was the Director of Open Europe, a think tank working for free market reform in Europe. He gained a first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Christ Church, Oxford.

  3. The government’s Child Poverty Strategy is online. The government’s Social Mobility Strategy is available.

  4. The appointments process was run in accordance with the Code of Practice issued by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) and was made on merit: political activity played no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations and the Code of Practice, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity (if any declared), and other information, to be made public. Alan Milburn is affiliated to the Labour Party. Neil O’Brien is affiliated to the Conservative Party.

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Updates to this page

Published 26 June 2012