Economic Justice Commission

Part of Funeral Poverty – in Westminster Hall at 5:13 pm on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 5:13 pm, 11th September 2018

As I have outlined, the Government are committed to devolution and to giving local people the power to take decisions. There is a Minister responsible for the shared prosperity fund in that Ministry, but we feed into it across Government.

However, we are committed to delivering for the whole UK, including England, Wales and Scotland. That is why we are implementing the industrial strategy and why we are working with local communities to come up with, for example, local industrial strategies, which will build on their strengths and deliver on the economic opportunities that every region in the UK requires. Leadership and ambition for the future are key, and we recognise that there are individuals in those regions who can deliver those. The Government also continue to support the northern powerhouse strategy and have invested more than £3.4 billion directly into it for locally determined projects. Public support, combined with private sector dynamism, is enabling the region to flourish.

Technological change presents both challenges and opportunities for the world of work. New ways of working have a part to play in a modern, flexible labour market, but it is absolutely right that we look at what we can do to support people through these changes. In response to Matthew Taylor’s review of modern employment practices, the Government published the “Good Work” plan, in which we commit to reporting annually on the quality of work in the UK, with the first baseline report to be published later this year. I am clear that quality of work should take equal priority to quantity of work. Through the plan, we are also supporting workers by introducing a right to request a more predictable and stable contract, to tackle issues around one-sided flexibility, and by introducing enforcement of holiday pay.

I will pick up on some of the points raised by hon. Members. I again thank the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill for bringing the debate before us. I also thank Siobhain McDonagh, who has a strong interest in this area and is extremely committed to tackling the injustices that affect her constituents.

On the point from the right hon. Gentleman about AI, robotics and the potential loss of 2.4 million jobs, the report by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, “The Age of Automation”, suggests that technological advances would not necessarily lead to job losses in the medium term but would actually improve opportunities for workers.

I must also clarify a point around zero-hours contracts. We often hear that they are all bad contracts and that people do not want them. In reality, we need to keep up with modern practices, and people want the flexibility that these contracts provide to work around childcare or other home commitments. That is why it is important that we are truthful about the benefits of zero-hours contracts.

On the Taylor review, we are analysing the responses to it and we will come forward with proposals in the relatively short term. I am committed to that.

I thank the IPPR for its report. I am committed, as the Minister responsible, to delivering fairness and quality of work for the people of this country. I must mention that I am not smug and I am not wealthy. I am a working-class girl who is a Conservative MP. I am absolutely committed to delivering for the people of my country.