Speech: Labour and the Scientific Revolution 50 years on – IPPR, December 2013

by Liam Byrne | 09.12.13 | in: Uncategorized, Universities, Science & Skills, Westminster


50 years on from Harold Wilson’s famous speech on the ‘white heat’ of the technological revolution, Shadow Minister for Universities and Science Liam Byrne MP will set out Labour’s approach to science and innovation in a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Mr Byrne will argue that Britain needs to win a race to the top, with major reform of the economy to create a good supply of high-paid and high-skilled jobs which help families to earn more, to tackle today’s cost-of-living crisis.

He will call for a long-term approach for science to underpin certainty and spur investment, after the Tory-led government abandoned the ten-year funding plan for science which Labour put in place in government. He will announce an advisory group to build on Labour’s Skills Taskforce and the Adonis Growth Review. The group will plan how to deliver for the forgotten 50 per cent who do not go to university and close the widening regional skills gap including through Further Education colleges.

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Universities and Science, speaking at the IPPR, will say:

On science and innovation playing a crucial role in ending the cost-of-living crisis:

“In short, despite our science base, we are not building an economy that is on track to win a race to the top.

“And what that means for families struggling with the cost of living crisis today is that we’re simply not creating the good supply of high-paid, high-skilled, high-valued-added jobs that we need if they are earn their way out of today’s crisis.”

On how Britain can win a race to the top by reinventing the state:

“If we’re to win a race to the top, we can’t simply eliminate the state, we have to reinvent the state. Not a big state. But a smart state.

“A smart state with new answers to organising the three most important competitive advantages in the 21st century; people, ideas and money.

“The right state, the right public institutions, is the only way we can build a different kind of economy, an economy with a bigger supply of high-skilled, high-paid jobs, and if we give more opportunities to people from all walks of life, then we will create a more socially mobile society.

“We will be able to say and mean, that no matter who you or where you’re from, if you work hard you will do well. That is the promise of social democracy – and a promise on which you can win an election.”

On the need for a ‘double-shift’ on science and innovation:

“Our goal must be to ensure that Britain is not simply the world’s best place to do science – but the world’s best place to do collaborative science. What’s needed is a ‘double-shift’

“On the one hand, we need to attract a bigger share of global science spending – and on the other, science needs to power a bigger slice of our regional economies.”

On strong regional skills policy and driving down unemployment:

“Perhaps worst of all, we have rising skills shortages in areas of very high unemployment, like my own in the West Midlands.

“In fact in the North West and the West Midlands, nearly one in five vacancies are caused by a problem attracting the right people yet across those two regions we have 540,000 people out of work.”

“If Britain is to win a race to the top, we need our regions to grow faster.

“The opportunity now is to underpin these ideas with strong regional skills policy aimed at driving down unemployment, meeting the skills gaps facing employers and increasing the opportunities for the forgotten 50% of young people that do not go to university.”


Notes to editors

1. The group will bring together Shadow Ministers from the business, DWP and education teams: Liam Byrne, Stephen Timms and Rushanara Ali, as well as Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council, and Cllr Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, and Chair of Britain’s biggest college, Manchester College.

2. The group will be advised by Chris Husbands, Director of the Institute of Education; Michele Sutton, President of the Association of Colleges and Principal of Bradford College; John Armitt, Chairman of City and Guilds; and Tom Wilson, head of UnionLearn at the TUC.

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