Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 8th March 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alan Mak Alan Mak Conservative, Havant 4:44 pm, 8th March 2017

I thank the hon. Gentleman. I think that John Maynard Keynes’s economic theory is now largely discredited. As Conservatives, we prefer a pro-innovation, free-market, low-tax economy that helps entrepreneurs and businesses to grow. As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, our job is not to hold things back and yearn for the past, but to reach for the future. That is what investing in skills and T-levels will do. That is why I am so pleased that the Government have decided to invest in T-levels and in streamlining the 15,000 courses down to just 15 routes that are linked to the needs of employers in a modern economy. I prefer Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes. He is much more relevant to the modern economy that we want to build in this country, and he was a Scotsman.

As we move to a more automated digital economy based on the free market and innovation, the supply of workers with science, technology, engineering and maths skills—STEM skills—will be critical to Britain’s ability to compete in the world, harness the fourth industrial revolution to our benefit and project an image to the world as we leave the European Union of a bold, confident and technologically enabled modern country. The Budget helps because it helps our skills base to get fit for the future.

As we leave the EU, develop a new industrial strategy and adopt an outward-looking global trade policy, we must continue investing in skills and reforming our education system to ensure that people have the right skills to succeed in future. As we do that, we will build on a position of tremendous strength. We have world-class universities, sixth forms and further education colleges, including South Downs in my constituency; a strong base of scientific research; and an extra 1.8 million children going to good or outstanding schools since 2010.

We build on very strong foundations, but to equip Britain to lead the fourth industrial revolution, we need fully to understand its implications on our labour force and skills base. Our approach must therefore be strategic and long term. I hope that Ministers in the Treasury and other Departments, including in the Department for Work and Pensions, will consider my proposals for a detailed review of the nation’s skills base to be conducted at the start of every Parliament—a future skills review backed by the Treasury. I hope that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary considers that as a representation for the next Budget.

Just as the strategic defence and security review examines the country’s long-term security needs, and just as the comprehensive spending review sets out our long-term spending priorities, so a new national future skills review will help us to futureproof our economy and skills base. That future skills review will look above the horizon and examine our long-term skills needs. It will also identify the sectors and industries that are vulnerable to automation, and the opportunities for new technology to help drive economic growth. The review would give us valuable data to identify skills gaps, inform national policy making and help educational institutions to plan for the future, particularly to meet the needs of employers.

In the long term, a new wave of jobs will be created by businesses harnessing the power of the fourth industrial revolution. They will harness that power to expand and provide new jobs and products, from British-made 3D printers to British-designed driverless cars. Mastering and leading the fourth industrial revolution must begin with closing the skills gap, so that Britain’s workers are equipped to take up those new jobs. A first step is investing in skills, fully understanding the challenge of automation, and responding decisively and strategically through a skills review and new investment. Those are the steps that will get Britain to the future first.

I invite right hon. and hon. Members with an interest to the launch of the new all-party group on the fourth industrial revolution on 20 March, where the Chancellor will speak from the platform about how the Government are committed to helping to deliver an economy fit for the future. In the meantime, I am proud to support the Budget and will be delighted to support the Finance Bill as it progresses through the House because it helps Britain to futureproof its economy and improve its skills base.