Category Archives: Labour market
I have today tabled an Early Day Motion to commemorate the very sad news that production of the classic Land Rover Defender is drawing to a close in the West Midlands.
You can read the text of the EDM below and see who else has signed it here: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/338
“That this House records with great pride the production of the two-millionth Land Rover Defender; salutes the extraordinary achievement of Land Rover’s designers and workers in creating a world-renowned British classic; and notes with great sadness the end of an era as production draws to an end, but looks forward to an ever brighter future for the UK automotive sector in the years to come.”
Today HEPI has released the findings of it’s recent survey of students’ attitudes towards studying alongside international students.
Here’s my statement in response:
“If we want to lead the world in science, research and new technologies then the free movement of students and scientists is key. Today’s research from HEPI show that our home students know that already.
We have to ensure that our country is connected to the best brainpower, wherever it happens to be born.
If we want to lead the world then we must look again at the current post-study work visa arrangements.”
You can read the report here: http://www.hepi.ac.uk/2015/06/25/new-hepi-hea-research-shows-half-undergraduates-say-international-students-work-harder-british-ones/
The reports key findings:
- The vast majority (86%) of undergraduate students in the UK study alongside international students. Only 10% say they do not. A relatively high proportion of students in London and Scotland (both 95%) and a relatively low proportion of students in the West Midlands (74%) say they study alongside people from other countries.
- A majority of students (54%) think international students work ‘much harder’ or ‘a little harder’ than home students and only 4% think they work ‘less hard’ or ‘much less hard’. One third (33%) think they work the same and 9% say they don’t know.
- The results vary by residency, with 52% of home students, 67% of EU students and 69% of non-EU international students saying international students work either ‘a little harder’ or ‘much harder’ than UK students.
- Over three-quarters of respondents say studying alongside people from other countries ‘is useful preparation for working in a global environment’ (33% ‘strongly agree’ and 45% ‘agree’). However, students from other countries were more than twice as likely to ‘strongly agree’ (29% for UK students, 65% for students from the EU and 62% for other students from abroad).
- Although the number of non-UK students in the survey was small, they were also typically more positive about the other benefits and less negative about the potential disadvantages: for example, only 12% of UK students ‘strongly agree’ that studying alongside international students helps them develop a global network compared to 37% of EU and 47% of non-EU students.
- One-in-four students think international students need more attention from lecturers (26%) and slow down the class due to language issues (25%) but two-thirds disagree that the presence of international students reduces the quality of the academic discussions (65%).
- The majority of students (75%) are agnostic about whether their lecturers come from other countries, although twice as many (16%) hope to have some lecturers from abroad as hope they do not have any (8%). Students in the north east are the least favourable towards international staff, with 6% wanting to have some lecturers from abroad and 17% per cent hoping they do not. Those studying in Scotland are notably more favourable, with 22% hoping to have some lecturers from abroad and only 3% wanting none.
I thought I would share with you some figures from the House of Commons Library on unemployment in Hodge Hill. The total number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants in Birmingham, Hodge Hill constituency in February 2015 was 4,461. This represents a rate of 9.8% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, the 4th highest of the 650 UK constituencies. (1st = highest rate of unemployment, 650th = lowest rate of unemployment.)
The number of claimants is 1397 lower than in February 2014 and 8 higher than in January 2015. These data are not seasonally adjusted.
All the best,
I wanted to share with you a copy of the East Birmingham Growth Prospectus which I launched this morning.
This is the biggest plan for jobs in East Birmingham we’ve ever had. It was hard fought. But by demanding the government, the Council and HS2 pull together we’ve got an amazing plan for jobs and skills. At Washwood Heath we’ve forced HS2 to look at new plans to ensure 2,334 jobs are created rather than a giant train carpark – plus a £1 million investment in skills for local people and the City Council’s regeneration plan. It’s a once in a generation opportunity to transform our local economy.
You can find the full press release with statements from Shabana Mahmood MP and Jack Dromey MP here.
The news was covered by both the Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Mail.
With all best wishes
Byrne welcomes HS2 Committee call for Plan B at Washwood Heath
Liam Byrne MP has welcomed a major breakthrough in the battle for jobs at the LDV-Alstom site earmarked for a marshalling yard.
Following a major campaign led by Liam Byrne MP. The HS2 Bill Committee has ordered the Government and HS2 Ltd to change their plans to maximise the number of jobs on the site.
Although the committee has not ordered the marshalling yard to be moved, the committee have ordered HS2 to report on how they will work with site owners.
The proposed site is the size of 100 football pitches and makes up one third of the industrial land in Birmingham.
It lies at the junction of Ladywood, Erdington and Hodge Hill – these three constituencies are together home to 45% of the City’s unemployed.
The site owners, together with Liam Byrne MP, have now submitted a ‘Plan B’ proposal that would see 2,334 jobs be created.
Liam Byrne MP said:
“This is a real breakthrough. The HS2 Committee has heard our call for jobs. Now HS2 Ltd must work with us on a Plan B that could see 2,334 jobs created in the inner city.”
Lorely Burt MP for Solihull said today:
“I have long argued for jobs to be protected at Washwood Heath whilst also being conscious of not damaging UK Central’s prospects for delivery. The Select Committee’s decision on Washwood Heath is quite obviously a ‘win-win-win’. A win for the people of Washwood Heath, Solihull and also HS2. Now we need HS2 to engage fully with all interested parties to deliver the 2300 private sector jobs set out in the alternative plans referred to by the Committee plus the 600+ new railway jobs as soon as possible.”
Caroline Spelman MP for Meriden said today:
“The decision from the Select Committee is common sense in action in relation to the Washwood Heath site. This is a win-win situation where HS2 get to build some of the infrastructure they need while the rest of the site can be used to create many more jobs, without needing to displace the marshalling yards into my constituency. HS2 should now engage and respond positively to the AXA proposals. Anything less would not be in accordance with the Select Committee’s wishes.”
Notes to editors:
Statement from Robert Syms MP (Chairman, HS2 Select Committee) dated 16th December 2014:
“On Washwood Heath, we were impressed by the submission from AXA and our colleague Liam Byrne and we sympathise with the need to address high unemployment in and around his constituency. We do not believe there is enough evidence to support a move of the RSMD from Washwood Heath. We impress on HS2 the need to adjust the scheme so there is minimum land take and for the shortest time … We expect to hear from HS2 on that and on whether they can reach agreement on that taking account of the more recent AXA proposals which are dated 12th December.”
Great news, figures released today from the Office of National Statistics show that unemployment continues to fall in Hodge Hill – 17 December 2014.
The number of unemployed claimants in Birmingham, Hodge Hill as of November 2014 was 4,479. This represents a rate of 9.9% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64.
This number is far too high and there is still much work to be done, but the new figures show that the number of people claiming jobseekers allowance (JSA) is 1473 lower than November 2013 and 263 lower than October 2014.
These figures show that Birmingham City Council’s efforts to tackle unemployment are making a real difference here in Hodge Hill – we will continue to fight to get more people into better jobs.
All the best,
My statement on the government’s apprenticeship numbers: just more smoke and mirrors – 9th December 2014
Responding to Vince Cable’s announcement on apprenticeship numbers, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills Liam Byrne MP said:
“Today’s announcement is just more smoke and mirrors from ministers. We need more top quality apprenticeships and more opportunities for young people. But we’ve had the exact opposite under this government as we’ve seen apprenticeship starts for young people – and apprenticeship starts overall – fall in the last academic year, while the Tory-led government has opposed Labour’s plans to use government procurement to create thousands of new high-quality apprenticeship opportunities.”
1. The government’s provisional statistics on apprenticeships show that the number of opportunities for under 25s numbers has fallen compared to the previous year. The figures also showed that the total of apprenticeship starts has also fallen from 2013.
2. 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.
News from Liam Byrne MP
HS2 jobs claim destroyed
HS2’s claim that a marshalling yard in East Birmingham will create extra jobs has been destroyed in a committee hearing at the House of Commons this morning.
HS2’s counsel was cross-examining Hodge Hill’s MP, Liam Byrne who was giving evidence to the committee arguing that the marshalling yard should be built outside the city.
HS2’s team then presented evidence admitting that the plan to site marshalling yard at Washwood Heath will create nearly 2,000 fewer jobs – under pressure from Mr Byrne they admitted that they had not factored in the loss of 1,300 jobs from businesses already on site who will be forced to re-locate.
Liam Byrne said:
‘HS2’s jobs argument has collapsed this morning. They have been forced to admit that their evidence to parliament was at best a half-truth, and at worst, completely misleading.
‘Even the government now admits that we could create an extra 4,000 jobs in Hodge Hill in the short term.
‘It’s time HS2 now gets serious about giving east Birmingham a boost and not a battering. We’re fighting for jobs – they should be with us and not against us.
They should certainly come clean to parliament about the costs of their plan to jobs, lost taxes and lost business rates to the city. The phoney war is now over. It’s time for HS2 to get round the table and give us a better plan.’
- The proposed site is the size of 100 football pitches and makes up one third of the industrial land in Birmingham. It lies at the junction of Ladywood, Erdington and Hodge Hill – these three constituencies are together home to over 40% of the City’s unemployed.
- Liam Byrne was giving evidence to the HS2 bill committee this morning. You can find more information on the work of the committee here: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/high-speed-rail-london-west-midlands-bill-select-committee-commons/
- Mr Byrne has consistently argued that HS2 should not build their marshalling yard in Washwood Heath and Hodge Hill.
- Most recently he secured a Westminster Hall Debate on the siting of the Marshalling Yard at Washwood Heath. You can read the full text of the debate here: http://liambyrne.co.uk/my-speech-in-westminster-hall-debate-on-proposed-hs2-marshalling-yard-at-washwood-heath-18-june-2014/
- In the 18 June 2014 debate the Minister responding admits that the government own estimate is that 3,700 jobs could be created on the site if the planned marshalling yard did not go ahead.
- Latest unemployment figures for Hodge Hill:
Unemployment – July 2014
Hodge Hill 5,181 11.6 %
West Mids 107,043 4.0 %
UK 995,835 3.2 %
Youth Unemployment (18-24) – July 2014
Hodge Hill 1,415 10.7 %
West Mids 26,185 4.9 %
UK 239,345 4.0 %
Long-term Unemployment – July 2014
(Claims of duration over 12 months)
Hodge Hill 1,945 (fall since July 2013) -355 -15.4%
UK 303,160 (fall since July 2013) -119,470 -28.3
“The long-term unemployment figures have fallen in Hodge Hill (in line with the trend nationally) but they have fallen at almost half the rate of the figures from across the UK.”
Hodge Hill rankings (out of 650 constituencies) July 2014:
Claimant rate: 4th highest; 11.6%
Number of Claimants: 4th highest; 5,181
Claimants aged 18-24: 1st highest; 1,415
Claims of duration over 12 months: 3rd highest; 1,945
‘Ending the gap between classroom and career: Labour’s next steps in skills and higher education reform’ – my speech at the City of Westminster College – 7 July 2014
This morning I gave a speech to the City of Westminster College entitled; ‘Ending the gap between classroom and career: Labour’s next steps in skills and higher education reform’.
See the full text below:
Ending the gap between classroom and career: Labour’s next steps in skills and higher education reform
Speech by Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills
Monday 7 July 2014, City of Westminster College
[CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]
It’s a huge privilege to be here at the City of Westminster College’s Paddington Green campus.
As the grandson of a college principal I feel very much at home.
It’s a privilege to be with those who share my grandfather’s passion for learning that changes lives.
And it’s a privilege to tell the story of someone who shows us just what that change can mean.
Catherine was homeless when she enrolled here.
She’d leave a nearby shelter each and every morning, making the daily trip to and from this very campus.
By night, she’d study under torchlight, dreaming of a way out, dreaming of a way in which she could make her life better.
And she did just that.
Ladies and gentlemen, Catherine graduated in 2011.
She’s can now pay rent, support a family and live the sort of comfortable life that so many of us take for granted.
Her energy, her commitment, her belief were the driving forces behind her remarkable achievement… but without the values and virtues of this College, the City of
Westminster College, there would have been no ladder to climb.
So Catherine has a lesson for us:
We have to ensure that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, has a real choice to change their lives with education.
Without that real choice, we’ll hear less stories of lives changed – less stories like Catherine’s.
And that’s what I want to talk about today.
With under a year to go until the next election, the battle of ideas is taking shape.
The Tory-led government’s script is already clear.
And so are its flaws.
As I said last week they might boast of a recovery – but it’s not a recovery for the many.
Families will be £974 a year worse off in 2015 than they were back in 2010
What does that mean in practice?
It means we have to work harder – it’s an extra fortnight every year at the moment – just to stand still.
Why? Because that old curse, the ‘British Disease’ is back.
That crisis of low productivity that haunts industry and makes it ever harder to give your staff a pay rise.
Since the last election, output for every hour worked hasn’t gone up.
It’s gone down.
Output per worker?
Not up, but down.
Did you know that today’s crisis in productivity is actually far worse than it was the end of the 1970s?
The damage to our global position is huge.
We’re now 21% less productive than the G7 average.
What countries in the G7 finish making on a Thursday, takes us till the end of Friday to complete.
If there is a global race, we are well and truly losing.
We can’t go on like this;
Thankfully, over the last fortnight you heard the voices now calling for a change of course.
The IPPR’s ground-breaking condition of Britain report sets out a path back to full employment, especially for our young people and our parents.
Mike Wright’s review of manufacturing and the supply chain is making clear the role of government in bringing together sectors to plan long term to boost skills and lower our cost base
Lord Adonis’ breakthrough report arguing for a radical devolution of powers and resources to our city regions.
John Armitt’s call for a new approach to infrastructure.
Our own launch of a review into science and innovation policy.
And tomorrow Ed Miliband is speaking at the Sutton Trust’s conference on the importance of high quality vocational education
When you boil it down, our argument is simple:
Big reform, not big spending
An inclusive prosperity for this century
As Ed Balls puts it: “more good jobs, boosting skills and long-term investment as we restore the broken link between the wealth of the nation and family finances.”
Now the sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed that running through every single report, every single major statement of the last month, running like a golden thread is the challenge of skills.
And that is why you are so important.
Your country needs you like never before.
The years ahead should become a golden age for educators.
When your passion for learning and your mission of service put our country on a new and better path.
It’s now very clear that skills are the key to a Britain that grows more, firms that employ more, and workers who earn more,
How much evidence do we need?
The inextricable trends in trade and technology, discussed so eloquently in books like the ‘Second Machine Age’, sound the death-knell of ‘routine’ jobs
The Migration Advisory Committee has added 117 high-skilled roles to the shortage occupation list.
British business has had to sponsor over 282,000 skilled people into Britain – that’s the same size of Newcastle – because they couldn’t find the skills here.
But look at the future and the skills crisis looms larger still.
In the UK, between 2012 and 2022, it is projected that we’ll need:
Over a million more people in professional occupations
Nearly 600,000 new managers, directors & senior officials
The Royal Society of Engineering tells us that we’re delivering 36,000 too few engineering graduates every year.
Mike Wright says that the country’s automotive and aerospace industries will suffer if there isn’t a greater focus on improving the level of domestic engineering skills in the
Andrew Adonis describes the skills shortage as the “single most important impediment” to British businesses
How many more times do we need to hear it?
The tragedy is that great firms want to bring back work to Britain.
I can understand why.
When I left Business School in America, there was only one place I’d consider to build any business.
Here is Britain.
It’s one of the best places in the world to build a business.
And lots of people want to do more.
In fact, PWC says that ‘re-shoring’ could create 100-200,000 extra jobs over the next decade, adding £6-12billion onto GDP.
What’s standing in the way?
A lack of skills.
This is what KPMG said is stopping too many jobs coming here.
And here’s the tragedy for workers.
Extra skill means extra pay.
Analysis for BIS shows the difference in earnings between a high quality level three apprenticeship and a GCSEs, is £117,000 over a lifetime.
But for most it’s a degree that’s the key to a middle-class life.
Economists may disagree on what technically constitutes ‘middle-class’, but the marketeers tell us it’s the difference between earning £37,000 and £47,000 a year.
That’s the kind of earning power a degree level qualification gives you.
On average, degree holders earn more than £100,000 more than someone with only two A-Levels.
Shifting more people into ‘top gear’ with a degree is one of the best things we can do to earn our way out of this cost-of-living-crisis.
But, right now it’s too hard for students to shift into ‘top gear’
There’s the traditional degree route which is well-established and open to half of our young people, thanks to changes that Labour made in office.
But what about everyone else?
More and more want an earn-while-you-learn route into higher-level skills.
Yet look at the figures: the number of under-25s starting on an apprenticeship isn’t rising, it’s falling under this Government.
In the last year alone, we’ve seen 11,400 fewer young people starting an apprenticeship.
That’s why Ed Miliband has made it a central mission to change the future for the forgotten 50% who today do not have a good enough or clear enough choice of high
quality vocational education.
They do not have enough apprenticeships and there’s no real vocational route to degree level technical and professional qualifications.
Right now a vocational route to higher-level skills is like navigating rapids: risky, a bit haphazard with a high risk of drowning.
First up, it’s very hard to get your foot on the ladder.
Last year, there were 11 applications for every apprenticeship vacancy.
That means it’s now twice as hard to get on an apprenticeship as it is getting into University.
High-quality apprenticeships, where firms are prepared to sponsor you to degree level skills are even harder to win.
It’s almost three times more difficult to enrol on a Rolls Royce apprenticeship than going to Oxford.
For BAE it’s 2.5 times harder than getting into Cambridge
So we have frustrated companies and we have frustrated workers
We need a new way forward.
A path that’s pro-company and pro-worker.
So today I want to out some principles for change.
First we have to accept the big, bold principle of devolution for skills that Andrew Adonis has set out.
Today I want to say more about how that might work in practice, and as I do I want to say a huge thank you to my advisory group, co-chaired by the Rt Hon Stephen Timms, Rushanara Ali, and advised by, amongst others, Cllr Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds and Cllr Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council.
Let me say at the outset that as we give employers and LEPs and Combined Local Authorities more say over how skills funding is spent, no-one is advocating for the proliferation of funding agencies, handling cash or contracts or countering fraud.
Second: We think the role of employer-led sector bodies, built on reformed SSCs and their industrial partnerships, are critical to fostering a ‘something-for-something’ deal with big employers and their supply chains to drive up apprenticeship numbers.
So we’ll give employers, working collectively through reformed sector bodies, more control over the standards and assessment criteria for training in their sectors, and enable them to broker a significant share of the £1.4bn apprenticeship budget to address their skills needs.
In return, we will ask them to work to drive up the number of high quality apprenticeships in their sectors and supply chains – and we’ll use the power of public procurement to help.
Large firms will need more apprenticeship to win big government contracts. Full stop.
Third: Combined Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships should shape the broad goals for adult skills in their neck of the woods.
To win this freedom, these authorities will have to show us that they are up to the job and Andrew Adonis has set out some tests for quality governance.
But I think these broad plans will have some important things in common.
First, they should include what Lord Adonis calls Business Hubs – and what I’ve described in this post as City Apprenticeship Agencies.
One stop shops that provide information and advice in particular to small and medium businesses with a real focus on support for apprenticeship recruitment.
It’s a model like we’ve seen in Leeds – a solution that’s seen apprenticeship numbers doubling in the city.
In an age where SMEs are creating jobs five times faster than big business, we need solutions that works for all firms, regardless of their size.
So in the future, if I run an SME in Birmingham I will have on my doorstep, a hub that can offer me advice on how to set up a high quality apprenticeship with a choice of apprenticeship arrangements: some put in place by sectors nationally; or as a service delivered locally.
Second, we want LEPs and combined local authorities (CLA) to shape some goals for the adults’ skills in their area.
Back in December 2006, Sandy Leitch set down an important principle: “The skills system must meet the needs of individuals and employers. Vocational-skills must be demand-led rather than centrally planned”
This is an important principle.
But for the £2.4bn 19+ Adult Skills budget we need to bring a better balance to the ambitions of learners on the one hand, and the ambitions of business to employ them.
So: we desperately need better information and guidance so ‘demand’ is better informed.
We need a different relationship with DWP, as you see work so well in Germany, where students are far better informed about the local world of of opportunity.
But I think we also need LEPs/CLAs and providers together to forge the kind of ‘Outcome Agreements’ that are tried and tested in Scotland and over the medium term, aim to eliminate the skills gaps in a demand-led system.
Third, I think there is a need for the CLAs/LEPs to directly commission what you might call a strategic core of skills, where serious local skills gaps have been identified.
This flexibility is absolutely critical in a world where we envisage Combined Local Authorities and LEPs are taking a much bigger role in co-commissioning Work Programme contracts.
This will – for the first time ever – ensure that skills provision meets the needs of local areas, balancing social and economic demands with identified areas for growth.
Many parts of Britain, including my own constituency, have very high-levels of unemployment alongside firms crying out for skills.
Mike Wright of JLR has spoken about JLR’s challenges.
Yet on the south side of the M6, half a mile from the Castle Bromwich gates is my constituency with the highest youth unemployment in Britain. The balance between the ‘commissioned core’ and the ‘market margin’ will obviously look different in different places.
Giving local areas the flexibility and freedom to commission against local labour market priorities will help us join up the skills system and the welfare to work system for the first time.
Naturally, there is still a great deal for us to work through, and I look forward to those discussions ahead.
Already clear is that two funding systems, split between the adult and young people’s skills budget, is a complex set-up.
So we’ll want your advice on whether to move post-19 funding to a per-student, not per-qualification basis, as works for under-19s and in Scotland.
The changes we propose offer the chance of a creating a far stronger ‘triple track’ for skills, for young and old alike.
Some will want to take the well-established academic route from A-Levels through to University
Others will want to progress through the vocational track, with opportunities to move through colleges specialising in delivering technical and provisional skills, on courses better aligned to the needs of local employers.
And we hope many more will secure high-quality apprenticeships with high-quality training ahead.
But every track will need to offer something more.
A surer route to higher-level skills.
Back in 2006, Sandy Leitch advised an increased focus on L5 and above skills.
Yet today it’s incredibly difficult to take an apprenticeship or college route to degree level professional and technical skills.
Just 2% of apprentices are given the chance to study to degree level each year.
None of our competitors are making the same mistakes.
Back at the end of the 19th Century, the huge explosion of our university system was in part driven by the need to equip a new generation of businesses and a new generation of workers with the skills to shift into ‘top gear’ with the qualifications that can unlock a middle class life.
Beginning with the creation of my alma mater, Owens Colleges, Manchester in 1851, eleven universities were opened over the course of fifty years with a clear empathy for the German model, pioneered by the University of Berlin in 1810, and what Rev. J Percival described as:
“Teaching [the people] things which would help them in their occupations”
In the years that followed, science and engineering expanded whilst classics declined until finally under the pressure of World War One, a modern relationship was finally forged between government, academia and business.
This was a spirit and a purpose which Harold Wilson rediscovered in his famous ‘white heat’ speech.
Before the 1964 election, Labour’s Higher Education Study group concluded:
‘Economic expansion is only possible if university and technological education expands rapidly and continuously to provide the necessary brain power and skill’.
This was the analysis that inspired the great explosion of Polytechnics.
Today, we want colleges, universities and business to come together in a new alliance as they did in the 1960s.
Not in two different worlds. But in one, world-class system.
We want to open many routes – not just one road – to a degree and the better life degree level skills can open.
When we were last in office, we began the job of reform.
Bill Rammell gave colleges the right to apply for powers to award foundation degrees.
John Denham pioneered the Workforce Development Programme.
But the truth is today there are many rocks in the path of building the vocational path to degree level professional and technical skills.
Over the months ahead, we want your advice on turning this ambition into action.
Every so often in British politics, we arrive at this point where we see the skills challenge in a stark and profound way.
Back in 1944, Lord Percy, Rector of the Newcastle Division of Durham University put it like this: ‘the position of Great Britain as a leading industrial nation is being endangered by a failure to secure the fullest possible application of science to industry; and second that this failure is partly due to deficiencies in education’
I couldn’t put it better myself. And we are determined to change it.
There is no other way to a prosperity that is inclusive.
And a recovery for the many and not the few.
Thank you very much.
My speech to Parliamentary Links Day 2014 – Launching Labour’s Green Paper on Science – 24 June 2014
It was an honour to launch Labour’s Science Green Paper, entitled: Agenda 2030: One Nation Labour’s Plan for Science and Innovation, this morning at the annual Parliamentary Links Day 2014.
You can read the paper here.
My speech is in full below:
Strengthen British Science and Strengthen Britain
Launch of Labour’s Green Paper, Agenda 2030: One Nation Labour’s Plan for Science and Innovation
Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP
Speech to [Parliamentary Links Day], House of Commons, London. Tuesday, 24th June 2014
Check against delivery
It is a tremendous honour to help mark the greatest day of the year for science in parliament.
I want to pay an enormous tribute to Dr Stephen Benn and the Society of Biology for helping bring the day together.
I want to commend you all for the way so many people and so many organisations have come together from across the worlds of science and engineering to talk, debate, speculate and lobby and leave us here in parliament with fresh impressions, fresh analysis and fresh evidence of how important both science and engineering are to the future of our world.
I want to thank you above all for the inspiration of your example.
I count myself as very lucky to have known an extraordinary scientist from a very young age.
She was a biologist and a teacher and a head of science at comprehensive schools including my own.
She was someone who inspired in me a lifelong wonder for science, a curiosity, and an admiration.
Ruth Byrne was not only my teacher, she was my mother.
And when she died at the age of 52 from cancer of the pancreas, she left me not only with a sense of scientific possibility but a sense of how much work still lies ahead.
Science and Parliament
Your theme this year is about Parliamentary links to Science and Engineering. I want to offer you a view about how we cement science and engineering centre-stage in the run-up to the General Election. As we are in Parliament I thought it would be apposite to reflect on the way science and engineering, industry and politics come together today and the relationship that lies ahead.
Around 300 years ago, a very great writer left London on his travels around the country to write a book, which is today one of our finest records of Britain on the eve of the industrial Revolution.
Daniel Defoe’s ‘A plan of the English commerce, being a complete prospect of the trade of this nation’ paints a portrait of a country amidst tremendous change.
‘The most flourishing and opulent country in the world,’ he called it and the cause he said was clear; ‘Trade’ and its two daughters, ‘Manufacture and Navigation’
Defoe suspected that for all the advance he saw, something bigger was coming.
And he was right.
By the time ’A Plan’ was published in 1728, the Royal Society, founded in Gresham College, was 50 years old. Sir Isaac Newton, its great master, had died the year before and in Birmingham, one of founders of the industrial revolution, Matthew Boulton was born.
Over the next six decades, Boulton, together with his friends in the Lunar Society in a story wonderfully told by Jenny Uglow, took the traditions and methods of those great founders of the Royal Society and fused them to industrial method, helping trigger the industrial revolution.
A nation of explorers and traders quickly became a nation of inventors and industrialists. The worlds of science and industry were irrevocably connected.
Back in the early days of the Enlightenment, the French writer Diderot had observed that uniquely in Britain:
‘philosophers are honoured, respected; they rise to public offices, they are buried with kings’.
Well, it wasn’t long before we were putting great inventors and industrialists like James Watt alongside our philosophers and our kings.
But it was to take another century before science and industry were really fused with the dirty and difficult business of politics.
From the 1850s and 1890s, concern with the state of our science base, and the state of our schools gathered pace until under the burning pressure of world war one a real partnership came together;
- The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was founded in 1915.
- Universities came to play a mission critical role in the work effort and crucially a new alliance between science, industry and government was hard-wired together.
And we’ve been trying to get the relationship right ever since.
Now that alliance has never been more important.
The scale of the problems, which I realise are merely solutions in disguise and which we are tackling today, are simply too big for one scientist, one university, one company, or one government to tackle alone.
The new partnerships that you see in such spectacular collaborations like the Gaia One Billion Star Surveyor, or the Hadron Collider are gigantic incarnations of the same ethos and approach that drove the Lunar Society, but they are global in scale.
These journeys of curiosity, exploring the endless frontier, are rightly your principal concern.
But there is a second reason the alliance is so vital.
Your country needs you.
Searching for some inspiring words for today’s speech, I stumbled across these in the House of Commons library last week;
‘the position of Great Britain as a leading industrial nation is being endangered by a failure to secure the fullest possible application of science to industry; and second that this failure is partly due to deficiencies in education’
Those were the words of Lord Percy, Rector of the Newcastle Division of Durham University, reporting to the government in 1944.
They could have been written last week.
Two years later, Lord Barlow agreed;
‘If we are to maintain our position in the world and restore and improve our standard of living’ he wrote ‘we have no alternative but to strive for that scientific achievement without which our trade will wither’.
What was true back in 1945 is true again today.
The Challenge Today
Our old enemy, ‘British disease’ is back with a vengeance.
That traditional crisis, of extremely low productivity while other nations streak ahead, now scars the recovery and haunts industry, making it even harder to escape today’s cost-of-living crisis.
Producing more with less, as every business owner knows, is the key to doing well and the fastest way to give your workers a pay rise.
But look at the figures today.
Since the last election, output for every hour worked has not gone up; it’s actually gone down. Equally, output per worker has not gone up. It’s gone down. We’re actually less productive than we were four years ago.
This appalling record is far worse than the last years of the 1970s, long deemed the moment when ‘British disease’ reached its peak but a period when output per worker, and output per hour worked actually rose by over 5%.
Worse, we’re now falling rapidly behind our competitors. The gap in productivity per hour between the UK economy and G7 average is now 21 per cent – the widest gap there has been since 1992.
This is absolutely fatal for any escape from the cost of living crisis. If companies can’t produce more then it’s not easy for firms to give their staff a pay rise.
As someone who started work behind a fry station in McDonalds, I know that any job is better than no job.
But I also know that a good job is better than a bad one and right now we’re simply not producing enough good jobs.
Today, the average full-time worker has to work an extra one hour and 52 minutes a week in 2013 to earn what they earned in real terms in 2010.
Look at our ‘knowledge economy’ and it becomes clear what is going wrong.
Economists and scientists now know that science and research is the key to growing productivity.
As the breakthrough report from Research Councils UK put it;
‘The greatest long-term productivity advances come through breakthroughs in basic knowledge’.
In the US, the authors of the Gathering Storm remind us that 85% of growth in wealth per capita is driven by innovation.
The knowledge economy is the powerhouse of productivity growth, creating better jobs with better wages.
Yet, with the honourable exception of automotive and aerospace, which Labour did so much to save during the global crash, the story isn’t good.
Getting innovation policy right is not actually rocket science. It is about people, ideas and money. You need great people, great institutions and strategic investment.
Yet, look at what is happening in the UK.
In 2012, the last year data is available, UK investment in R&D by government and business together has fallen by nearly £1 billion – (£923M) – the largest annual fall since consistent records began in the mid-1980s.
Amongst advanced Western nations, Britain now ranks 23rd out of 33 in the league table of R&D spenders.
In our most important research industry – pharmaceuticals – which accounts for a quarter of all UK R&D spending, research budgets have fallen by a huge £467 million since 2010, that’s a 10% fall.
In telecoms, one of our other leading R&D sectors, budgets have fallen by 20% – that’s £240M.
Look at our great institutions.
In our universities, the great epicentres of science and knowledge, we have the world’s best thinkers.
But their labs and classrooms now rest on a mountain of debt. University borrowing will reach £7.3bn worth of debt by 2015, an increase of £1.8 billion from 2012. That’s £45.6 million for every university in the UK.
Vice-chancellors tell me that falling research budgets now mean that the brain drain has been gathering pace for at least the last 18 months.
And that’s nothing when we consider the black hole that’s been created in the finances of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by the Government’s unsustainable funding system.
The Public Accounts Committee now estimates that at current rates, students will be borrowing nearly £200 billion over the next twenty years to fund their studies and 45 per cent of this will be written off. It’s universities and our researchers of the future who will be paying the price.
And let’s not forget that other great institution that is important here.
The European Union.
European policy makers now understand that innovation is the only way out of austerity.
And the creation of the Horizon 2020 programme is proving crucial for the strength of British science, as UK universities, research centres and businesses can expect to receive £2bn in the first two years of the new funding round.
Leaving the EU, as some propose, would be absolutely catastrophic for science funding.
Third we must address human capital. The skills gap across the country grows worse. A fortnight ago, KPMG reported that skills shortages are bringing to a halt the plans of manufacturing firms to ‘re-shore’ work.
Since 2010, the number of people working in ‘Scientific research and development’ has fallen by over 12,000.
The Migration Advisory Committee has now added 117 high skilled roles to the shortage occupation list, which employers can fast track onto visas, because there are not enough skills in Britain.
The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that we’re currently 36,000 short and at the rate we’re going there will still be big gaps to fill.
In our schools, Michael Gove’s disastrous School Direct scheme for teacher training has produced a huge shortage of physics teachers.
Half of state schools now send not one girl to do A Level physics.
Practical experiments have been taken out of the exam curriculum. The careers service has been destroyed. Apprenticeships for the under 24s are actually falling.
We cannot go on like this.
That’s why today I am pleased to be launching our green paper on science and innovation.
Our message is simple.
We need to strengthen British science – because British science will strengthen Britain.
We want to start a big debate on how business and government come together to grow the strength of science.
We want to work with the science and engineering community, in all parts of Britain to get the answers right.
We want to work across parties – because wherever we can maximise cross-party consensus we will.
We know that predictability and certainty are important; that they help make your work easier.
We want a new culture of science and evidence in public policy.
We want stronger universities with a bigger share of global science budgets and a bigger role in their regional economies.
And crucially we want to strengthen every rung on the ladder up into a science and engineering career for our young people.
As NESTA argued two weeks ago, the debate around science and engineering is seen by the public as vitally important.
In part, that’s because the public knows science, engineering and the business of innovation is key to the development of new cures for diseases, earlier diagnosis, greener, cheaper energy and crucially the jobs of the future.
The public knows that if we are not the pioneers then others will be.
If we don’t develop the jobs of the future, then others will.
And that will irreparably damage the opportunities of our children and our grand-children.
After all they are the very people for whom we want better chances than the chances that we enjoyed.
I think we know how futures are really built.
I think we learned that lesson a long time ago.
And now is not the time to ignore the lessons of history.
  http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11463&page=1. The 85% refers to the work of Robert Solow and Moses Abramovitz published in the middle 1950s demonstrated that as much as 85% of measured growth in US income per capita during the 1890-1950 period could not be explained by increases in the capital stock or other measurable inputs. The unexplained portion, referred to alternatively as the “residual” or “the measure of ignorance,” has been widely attributed to the effects of technological change