March 3, 2015 1 Comment
February 16, 2015 1 Comment
It ought to be a no-brainer, a question about the importance of science and engineering to the United Kingdom. In my job, as an information technology professional, I get a glimpse at the importance of science and technology.
In my, thus far, thirty-eight year long working life I have witnessed huge changes in how we work, and what we work with. I have also seen the UK’s industrial base change, and now we are far more dependent on service industries. It is clear, though, that we were a market leader in the science and engineering sectors, and we still are. The challenge ahead is to keep Britain important.
The twenty-first century is already seeing significant changes and challenges. Whilst the old order of Western Europe and North America is still very important, Asian and South American economies are rising. To meet the challenges that are presented by the likes of China, India, Japan, Brazil, Russia, etc, the UK has got to make sure its workforce has the skills and is able to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Education is key.
Business also has to acknowledge the simple maxim of adapt and survive. This means that education does not cease with the first job, but should be an ongoing thing – and employers should encourage training. Research into new technologies, which could mean new ways of doing old things, or it could mean new opportunities, must be encouraged – and Government can help here. Research without development, though, is effectively useless.
I liked it when the last Labour Government made policy to encourage more of our young into universities. I like it not that the current Government is making university a less attractive proposition. I also think that the education system must provide confidence in its examination system – employers must know the qualifications equate to ability and learning.
But it is not just about getting the numbers up at universities and further education establishments – I would hope that science and engineering courses would see a rise in popularity, and a more even gender balance. Women, so it seems to me, are for one reason or another enrolling in these courses in far fewer numbers than men. It is also true of my industry, computing, that the ratio of men to women is very unhealthy.
I am not a scientist, I am not even someone who reads much about science. It was not always the case. In a recent interview I was asked about my earliest favourite subjects at school. I answered that it was astronomy and palaeontology. I cannot adequately explain why I did not stick with them, or other sciences, but in part it must be down to the schooling that I had that did little to encourage here. I suspect, no I know, that the schools of today are unrecognisable from what I experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. The future must see similar levels of evolution in how we teach, what we teach, and the subjects we teach.
I am no crystal ball gazer, but it does not require prescience to see that the technological revolution has a long way to go, and that this revolution has happened because of advances in science and engineering. Britain has to remain at the vanguard, or it will see the effects in lowering relative prosperity. The internet and communications are shrinking our world and making changes in every facet of life.
We also have a future that has to address the issues of climate change. My belief is that new technologies, new green technologies, will become ever more important. This is an opportunity for a small island nation that clearly will be affected by rising tides (for example) to lead the way. Energy is another area that has got to see technology create new sources, or the lights really will go out.
Science and engineering matter in their own right; they also matter to the UK. For Britain to remain competitive and relevant, and for this to translate into prosperity, we need new scientists and new engineers emerging from our education system, and we need employment opportunities for them to take up.
February 7, 2015 2 Comments
Labour has committed to tackling tax avoidance, a commitment I am happy to endorse.
Whilst there is nothing wrong in organising a business’s affairs to make it tax efficient, on too many occasions we have seen this as a way to avoid most, if not all, tax responsibilities. This is plain wrong.
Many businesses make large profits in Britain, and it is not unreasonable to see some of those profits returned by means of taxation.
Perhaps it is emotive, but every overcrowded classroom or under-staffed hospital is arguably caused by those who avoid their civic responsibilities. Every reduction in police numbers, every unfixed pothole, every public service that is forced to reduce its offer to its clients is caused by the greedy refusing to pay their taxes. I think this should stop.
I would also seek to tackle the issue of tax havens too, although this will require international cooperation.
Therefore I would support a bill that seeks to address tax dodging. Whether that can happen in the first hundred days of a new Labour government I cannot say – to be honest there are a number of competing priorities.
I am happy to back the Tax Dodging Bill Campaign, although we must frame the rules in a way that does not damage our competitiveness as a country.
I would also support campaigns that would make it easier for the Government to collect unpaid, avoided, and uncollected taxes – and this means the recruitment of more tax collectors.
January 14, 2015 2 Comments
Having read Early day motion 202 it strikes me as perfectly reasonable to require democratic accountability for TTIP, especially in its dealings with Government bodies. I have therefore no problem with supporting this.
Of course, I am not a Member of Parliament (yet!) and so can only offer vocal support at this point, but I think it important that I do so, and that I broadcast my views so that all may know where I stand on this issue.
The motion reads as follows:
TRANSATLANTIC TRADE AND INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP, DEMOCRACY, RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW
That this House notes that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership includes investor-state dispute settlements that are being designed in secret, so enabling multi-national companies to intimidate and sue governments for lost profits due to Government policies designed to protect the public as consumers or workers or to change the level of public ownership, that such settlements will be decided in private by arbitration panels, not in open court, that such actions and arrangements threaten to compromise the UK’s established democracy, human rights and the rule of law and that the shared fruits of trade should not be at the expense of the social and economic justice that democracy demands; and therefore calls on the Government to ensure that all proposed arrangements are fully scrutinised by Parliament and that no arrangements are made which compromise established standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
As I write this there are 67 signatories to this EDM. Although mostly supported by Labour MPs, I acknowledge that there are signatories from the Conservative, SDLP, SNP, and Liberal Democrats.
December 23, 2014 Leave a comment
The Government’s record as regards to promises they’ve made on the economy is poor. They gave millionaires a huge tax cut when they promised we would be all in this together. They promised people would be better off yet many in Southend West are not feeling the recovery. Working people are now £1,600 a year worse off under the Conservatives.
This cost-of-living crisis is why the Chancellor had to admit that his key promise now lies in tatters; he will not balance the nation’s books by next year.
Because too many are stuck in low-paid jobs and wages aren’t rising the tax revenues we need to get the deficit down are not coming in. The Conservatives do not understand the fundamental link between the living standards of everyday working people in Southend West and Britain’s ability to deal with the deficit. The Chancellor has now borrowed a staggering £219 billion more than he planned and the economy is set to slow down next year after forecasts for wages have been revised down again.
Labour’s plan will raise the minimum wage, expand free childcare for working parents, scrap the bedroom tax and cut business rates for small firms. We will balance the books in a fairer way, starting by reversing the Tories’ £3 billion a year tax cut for the top one per cent of earners.
Changing stamp duty to help people on middle and low incomes is welcome, but we also need to get more homes built and we need a Mansion tax to help save and transform our NHS. With an extra £2.5 billion a year on top of Tory spending plans we can get the extra 20,000 nurses and 8,000 GPs we need to help transform our NHS and save it from the Conservatives.
The Conservatives promised to eliminate the deficit by 2015 but with less money coming in because of their wrong economic decisions, they’ve broken their promise, failed their own economic test and its hardworking people who are paying the price. It’s time for an economic recovery for the many, not just a few.