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Category Archives: Economics

My statement on the Government’s announcement on ‘Degree Apprenticeships’ – a frankly meagre announcement showing a lack of ambition – 26 November 2014


Responding to the government’s announcement on Degree Apprenticeships today, Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills said:


“Ed Vaizey’s meagre announcement of 150 new apprenticeships places is nowhere near enough to fix the country’s skills crisis. Labour has announced clear, bold plans on apprenticeships and earn-while-you learn-degrees. That’s the polar opposite of the woeful lack of ambition we’ve seen from the Tory-led Coalition.”




Notes to editors:


1. Today just 16,000 out of 640,000 apprenticeships reach degree level skills. Since 2010 there are now 17,000 fewer apprenticeships for under-19 year olds.


The issue is particularly serious in the area of digital skills. The number of people starting ICT apprenticeships has fallen by 24% since 2010 and new starts on computer science degrees are down by 1/3rd over the past decade. The need for digital skills is only going to grow: the Science Council estimates that the ICT workforce alone will grow by 39% by 2030.


2. Labour’s plans to tackle the national skills crisis include a pledge to bring the number of apprentices into line with those taking a degree and a national mission to address the shortfall of 400,000 engineers by 2020.



Ministers sow confusion on student places chaos

Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills Liam Byrne MP has attacked the ‘wholesale confusion’ in the Government’s plan for expanding university places as ministers presented MPs with conflicting budget figures today. 

In Business, Innovation and Skills Oral Questions in the House of Commons today, Mr Byrne asked what funds BIS has set aside to meet the Chancellor’s pledge to ‘uncap’ university places, which remains apparently unfunded. In response the minister presented figures which contradicted previous statements from the Chancellor. BIS has failed to provide answers to Parliamentary questions tabled by Mr Byrne to seek clarification on the funds.

Following the minister’s answer, Mr Byrne has written to demand clarification. 

Greg Clark Letter

Figures from the House of Commons Library suggest a big cut in the funding from £8,000 to £4,000 per place if the government proceeds with plans to uncap student number controls which were presented in the Budget in March this year. 

The Minister’s statement comes after the head of HEFCE, the body responsible for university funding, wrote to Vice-Chancellors asking for “additional assurance” that the government’s reforms wouldn’t compromise on quality education.

Earlier this week a damming report from the Higher Education Commission stated that previous government reforms had created the “worst of both worlds” in the university funding system and recommended that the government look carefully at the impact of uncapping student places.

Speaking in response to the statement Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills said:

“Either Greg Clark has got his figures wrong or he’s just pulled an imaginary £80 million rabbit out the hat. Either way, it may mask a huge cut in funding for student places revealing the government is indeed short-changing universities for a plan made up on the hoof. It looks like utter chaos. That’s why I’ve written to Greg Clark today – ministers need to come clean on the full implications of the black hole they’ve created in the student finances.”

 Notes to editors 

  • At BIS Oral Questions on Thursday 20th November, Universities Minister Greg Clark announced that £550M had been put aside to cover the removal of student number controls.
  • Liam Byrne received a response from the BIS Department to a Parliamentary Question on November 17th regarding plans to pay for the uncapping, which stated that the government were not able to provide details at the given time.
  • Figures from the House of Commons Library show the £410m allocated for the uncapping of student places in the 2013 Autumn Statement and the cost per student.
Expansion of Higher Education 2014-15 2015-16  
Scored money for abolishing the cap (£m)* 120 290  
Additional place estimates** 15,000 75,000  
Cost per place £               8,000  £              3,867  
*Treasury Scorecard, Autumn Statement  
**2014-15: Greg Clark, ‘Higher Education: diversity in strength’ (9 September 2014)
2015-16: Autumn Statement 2013  


Byrne demands answers following government ‘caving in’ on patent box – 19 November 2014


Byrne demands answers following government ‘caving in’ on patent box


The Tory-led government have decided to cave in on a core part of the UK’s science policy.


This is concerning news, particularly as the latest figures from the Campaign for Science and Engineering show that the UK currently “performs poorly” compared to other countries when it comes to private sector investment in R&D.


The Treasury has conceded to German demands to make modifications to Patent Box, a tax incentive for companies commercialising research in the UK. The deal was made between UK and German officials at the G20 summit in Brisbane last week. Ministers have not released full details of the impact of the changes to Patent Box.


Liam Byrne said:


“Just last month ministers declared that Patent Box would “transform” Britain’s life science industry. Now we learn the government caved in to German pressure to change it. Ministers must come clean and confess what this change will mean for our crucial life science industry. We can’t have our science base threatens by the Tories isolation on the continent.”



West Midlands Labour Annual Conference – 15 November 2014


Dear friends,

I have just returned from the West Midlands Labour Annual Conference at Warwick University in Coventry.

It was an excellent couple of days with great opportunities to engage with fellow MPs, members and regional staff.

One of the most important things to come out of the conference was the final draft of Labour’s West Midland’s Economic Plan which I helped work on.

You can download a full PDF version of the plan using the link below.


West Mids Economic Plan - Nov 2014 - Image

All the best


The European Commision has axed Europe’s chief scientific adviser – 13th November 2014


Dear all,


The European Commission has just announced that it’s axing the role of Europe’s Chief Scientific Adviser. This is a deeply concerning move. See my statement below as well as the Labour MEP’s statement:


Liam Byrne said:


“It a big concern that the Commission has taken this step backwards on scientific advice. Science is at the centre of the EU’s answer to the big challenges facing the continent, from climate change to food safety. That is why we need a strong voice offering impartial, transparent advice. It is important that the Commission outlines a proper replacement that can offer the same expertise.”


Labour MEPs: Commission must demonstrate commitment to science-based policy making


Labour MEPs today called on the European Commission to demonstrate its commitment to ensuring science’s role in policy making, as it emerged the newly appointed European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) would not include a dedicated scientific adviser role.


The open letter, signed by five Labour MEPs representing the industry (ITRE) and environment (ENVI) committees, says:


“On the day the Rosetta mission sent back to Earth the first ever photographs from the surface of a comet, we would like to express our concern for the new Commission’s lack of commitment to science as a key player in policy making.


“Following the announcement of the scrapping of the Chief Scientific Adviser’s role, we are calling on the Commission to propose a replacement consultative body for impartial and transparent scientific advice.


“We are concerned that any scientific advice received by the Commission must be transparent, must be impartial, and must draw on a broad base of the best available evidence. The success of the much touted ‘Better Regulation’ agenda will depend on this.”


The Commission’s announcement of the EPSC said there would be six policy advice teams – an economic team; a social affairs team, a sustainable development team; a foreign affairs team; an institutional team; and an outreach and communication team. These will be designed to provide professional and targeted advice to the Commission President.


On the restructuring, the MEPs add:


“If the European Political Strategy Centre is not now to include a scientific adviser, we call on the Commission to establish a transparent, independent panel for scientific advice, which will draw on a broad range of sources from the scientific community, and which will be institutionalised so it can fully contribute to the broader social and political discussions on the Commission’s legislative proposals.”

A Metro-Mayor for the West Midlands – A proposal from Liam Byrne MP – 6 November 2014


Dear friends,



You may have read my interview in the Birmingham Post this morning entitled; Midland mayor “could run policing, transport and support for business”


The news that Manchester has got the green light for a metro-mayor is great. As Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the last government, I worked hard to accelerate the devolution of powers to Manchester and its neighbours – and the model Manchester has designed ensures strong accountability of any new mayor to local government leaders.


Birmingham should control it’s own destiny too and a metro-mayor for the West Midlands would make a huge difference.


You can read the Birmingham Post story using the link above. My proposal for a West Midlands metro-mayor and a backgrounder from my time at the Treasury is below:


What Should a West Midlands Metro-Mayor Do


Backgrounder on a Reformed Regional Tier





Labour is listening on Science – Byrne Speaks at Labour Science policy Breakfast – 29th October 2014

Dear Friends,

This morning I spoke to a wide range of business leaders about how Labour’s science policy can help create the jobs of the future.  It was an opportunity for Labour to set out its strong commitment to an ambitious plan for research and innovation. It was also a chance to hear from the science community about how to take this conversation forward.

We talked about how Labour’s approach to science and innovation are central to our priorities: skills, regional growth and the NHS. I was also able to share the key insights from the responses we’ve already had to Labour’s Science Green Paper, ‘Agenda 2030: One Nation Labour’s plan for Science’ which I published over the summer. The paper can be found here.

Labour will continue to listen to businesses and experts as we further develop our policy for science and innovation. Our goal is clear: to build an opportunity economy with high skilled jobs and wages to match.


Science Breakfast Picture

Byrne hosts Birmingham-China Summit to boost investment for the City – 28 October 2014




Dear friends,


I wanted to share a few photos from an exciting event which we held this afternoon here in the House of Commons.


We brought together Birmingham business leaders, academics and politicians with a group of Chinese investors to make the case for further Chinese investment in Birmingham.


The West Midlands is already a centre for Chinese investment – it’s the only region in the UK with an export surplus to China. But we want to build upon that success.


The event was covered by the Birmingham Post here and by ITV news here.


I chaired the proceedings and we had presentations from a stellar cast of speakers, you can access their presentations below:


  • Jack Dromey MP for Birmingham Erdington


  • Richard Burden MP for Birmingham Northfield


  • Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor, Birmingham University
    You can read Sir David’s speech here


  • Neil Rami, Chief Executive, Marketing Birmingham
    You can see Neil’s presentation here


  • Tim Pile, President, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce


  • James HunterJohnston, Marketing Manager, NVC Lighting
    You can see James’ presentation here












Byrne warns local NHS hitting breaking point as social care cuts bite – 23 October 2014



***Embargoed until 09:30 23 October 2014***


Dear all,


Byrne warns local NHS hitting breaking point as social care cuts bite


Please find below a press release from Liam Byrne MP including House of Commons statistics on severe increases in waiting times in A&E at Birmingham’s Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and a statement on Monitor’s report into the Trust this due for release this morning.


 23 October 2014News from Liam Byrne MP


Embargoed until 09:30 on 23 October 2014



Byrne warns local NHS hitting breaking point as social care cuts bite



A&E waiting times at HEFT increase by 240% since this Tory-led coalition took over



This morning Monitor is releasing its report into Birmingham’s Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. The report is deeply concerning – highlighting a severe increase in waiting times for A&E, routine operations and cancer care patients, as well as mortality rates.



In response to the report Liam Byrne MP said:



‘Residents all over Hodge Hill are telling me pressure on our NHS is hitting breaking point. And this reports shows why.  The government’s huge cuts to Birmingham’s social care means it’s harder than ever to get older residents home from hospital. That means it’s getting harder to get people in the front door through A&E.’



Notes to editors:


1) Figures released by the House of Commons Library (below) show an increase in those waiting over 4 hours in A&E at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. Between Q3 of 2009/10 and Q3 of 2014/15 the number has gone from 1,619 to 5,518; an increase of over 240%.


Patients waiting over 4 hours in A&E at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust
As at Quarter 3:

Total attendances

Number waiting over 4 hours

% waiting over 4 hours

























Sources: 2011/12 -2014/15 NHS England Weekly Sit Rep reports, pre 2011/12 DH Total Time Spent in A&E quarterly data series



















2) Monitor is the sector regulator of NHS-funded health care services. Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 its main duty is to protect and promote the interests of people who use them.


3) Monitor’s press release attached.






Monitor Press Release:


Under strict embargo until: 09.30am Thursday 23rd October 2014

New action taken at Heart of England to improve services and strengthen leadership

Monitor is taking action to improve services and strengthen the leadership of Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT), so that patients receive better care.

The health sector regulator has imposed a further condition on HEFT’s licence enabling it to take further action if the trust’s leadership does not perform better.

Monitor is acting after HEFT failed to reduce long waiting times for A&E, routine operations and cancer care patients, together with additional concerns regarding mortality rates. The regulator has decided that the range and seriousness of these issues demonstrate a clear failure in leadership and the trust’s organisational systems.

The trust and Monitor have also agreed new legally binding enforcement undertakings aimed at improving these care services on a sustainable basis.

HEFT provides services across the West Midlands at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital, Solihull Hospital and Community Services at the Birmingham Chest Clinic.

Monitor first found HEFT in suspected breach of its licence to provide healthcare in December 2013, after it failed to meet national targets at two of its hospitals, for treating patients in A&E within four hours.

Adam Cayley, Regional Director at Monitor, said:

“We want all patients of this trust to receive quality and timely care, which means all parts of the organisation must operate effectively.

“This action should ensure that the trust’s leadership takes appropriate and swift action to address our concerns around how it is led and run.

“We will continue to monitor the trust rigorously and take further regulatory action if we consider it necessary.”


Notes to editors

  • For further information please contact, Nick Burke Media Relations Manager, on or 020 3747 0800.
  • Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) was authorised as an foundation trust on 1 April 2005.
  • Details on Monitor’s previous regulatory action at HEFT can be found here.
  • Monitor is the sector regulator of NHS-funded health care services. Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 its main duty is to protect and promote the interests of people who use them.
  • Information about Monitor’s role can be found here.
  • Follow Monitor on twitter @MonitorUpdate



Statement on Ofsted’s note on Birmingham Schools – 14 October 2014


Dear friends,


In response to Ofsted’s note, published today, on Birmingham Schools I have issued the following statement?


“This is incredibly frustrating for the parents I’ve been working with non-stop since the summer.


They are being forced to watch Government inaction from the side-lines and Nicky Morgan must remember that it’s their children who are the most important individuals in all of this. Crucially the Government and schools have got to dramatically step up the pace of getting parents involved.


Ultimately schools with strong parents are strong schools.”




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