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Social mobility fall 'disturbing'

Britain has seen a "disturbing" decline in social mobility over the past three decades, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

Mr Hague's comments follow ex-prime minister Sir John Major's warning over the "shocking" dominance of privately-educated and affluent individuals in powerful positions.

Prime Minister David Cameron suggested yesterday that social mobility is being held back because people from outside the white middle-class can lack the "aspiration" to make it into top jobs.

Mr Hague, who attended the state Wath-upon-Dearne School, put the blame on shortcomings in the education system, which he said were being tackled by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I did go to a comprehensive school and I've become the Foreign Secretary so not everything goes to privately-educated people.

"The disturbing thing, I would say, is that in the 30-odd years since I was at a comprehensive school, it probably in those intervening decades will have become a bit harder for somebody from a comprehensive school to become the Foreign Secretary, or whatever position they aspire to.

"That reflects on a long period of this country falling too far behind in the world in state education, and thankfully we now have the best Education Secretary in living memory - or longer - who is trying to put that right."

Mr Hague played down the suggestion that his state-school background left him feeling "socially inferior" to Eton-educated Mr Cameron.

"I can tell you, having grown up in South Yorkshire, in Rotherham, and been to a comprehensive school, I've never felt socially inferior to anybody. And I have met most of the kings, presidents, queens and princes of the world," he said.

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