Covid-19: Recovery Strategies - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:16 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour 1:16 pm, 11th June 2020

My Lords, I too believe that we should learn from the past without living in it. In 1998, we introduced the new deal for the young unemployed, which included in it a particular strand for environmental work, but crucially for training and for jobs of the future. We face an even bigger catastrophe now and therefore we should mobilise, learning from what happened previously, and ensure that we link that to further and higher education.

The importance of research and knowledge transfer cannot be overestimated, but this is a devastating moment for our university sector, as money that was previously coming in from overseas students, particularly postgraduates, which funded and cross-subsidised the research agenda, will not be available. I hope that the Minister will be able to encourage the research sustainability task force to come forward urgently and encourage the Government to take up its recommendations and fund them properly, so that we can take up the work of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the University of Sheffield and partnership programmes across the north of England. This will help us to break the triangle of Imperial, Oxford and Cambridge as we rebalance our economy and our future.

Crucially, time is running out: we see from the discouragement of people using public transport because of the two-metre rule that traffic is already returning to previous levels. Pollution can even be tasted in the air that had become so clean over the past two months. Linking job creation for young people and research and knowledge transfer from our universities with immediate action to avoid a return to the pollution that we experienced earlier this year will be vital if we are going to have that sustainability for the future.