Lord Waldegrave, a former Conservative MP who served as a Minister for both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, has criticised a Government plan to ask job applicants if parents paid for their education.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph Waldegrave, who is now the Provost of Eton College, said:
“Fundamentally, I think it quite wrong to punish children for decisions taken by their parents, and to run the risk of choosing crucial public service jobs not on the basis of merit but of social engineering. The ablest candidates come from all possible backgrounds”.
Waldegrave also said that he would consider leaving the Conservative Party if the matter was forced on employers, saying:
“I have told the chief whip in the Lords that I do not see how I could continue to accept the whip if I believed that the government was actively seeking to damage the charitable school of which I am a trustee, and the many other schools like it which are meeting the justifiable demands of the Charity Commission to help the wider community”.
“Good employers must of course get behind what Mr Hancock calls ‘polish’. But I do not think we should have turned down Churchill in 1940 because the postcode would have revealed that he was born in Blenheim Palace, nor because he went to a great public school. He and Ernie Bevin won us the war, and both were the best men for the job”.
Waldegrave’s comments came after Matt Hancock, a Cabinet Office Minister, had raised the issued of equality of opportunity. Hancock had said:
“We are tackling the last workplace taboo. We British don’t always like to discuss things like our parents’ background, particularly at work. But you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.
A spokesman for the Government said that Hancock’s comments were not compulsory, saying:
“The proposals we have outlined to measure social background are part of a broad consultation and no legislation is being put forward”.