Read the full response from Labour Party Leader, Ed Miliband, setting out the party's commitments that are relevant to science and engineering
In the run-up to the 2015 UK General Election, CaSE has written to the leader of every political partywith at least one MP in Westminster, sending them our election briefings and asking them to set out their manifesto commitments that are relevant to the science and engineering sector.
Below is the response from the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband
It’s great to have opportunity to set out how a Labour Government would support world-class science and engineering in driving growth, prosperity and business success for the 21st century.
The UK’s strong science and engineering base is one of our greatest assets as a nation, with an unparalleled record of invention and innovation driven by world-leading firms and universities.
But our economy is only now picking up after the slowest recovery from a recession in a century and too often working families are not feeling the benefit. Average wages have fallen by £1,600 a year since 2010, and the lower tax receipts as a result of this squeeze on family budgets s have also led to a failure to deal with the deficit.
These failures on growth, living standards and the deficit are symptoms of a wider failure to address the unbalanced patterns of an old economy which is too reliant on consumption and rising house prices, while levels of exports, wages and skills are too low to create the long term success Britain needs.
We have a plan for working families and business to succeed together. It will raise living standards, create more high skill, high wage jobs, support our leading firms and sectors in planning for the future, and ensure the UK can make the most of new technological advances.
Science and engineering have a central role to play in this plan, as well as managing the wider global challenges of the 21st century from tackling climate change and making the transition to a low carbon economy, to delivering a world-class NHS that supports the needs of an ageing society.
Yet, at the moment, persistently lower levels of investment and productivity relative to other advanced economies are exacerbated by:
- A lack of long-term planning for major public investments in research and infrastructure;
- Serious skills shortages in STEM subjects, including a looming shortfall of more than 400,000 engineers in the next decade, that are threatening our ability to grow our leading sectors and meet the challenges of the future;
- The current uncertainty of Britain’s future position in the European Union because of the Conservatives’ commitment to a referendum on our continued membership within two years of the General Election.
That’s why Labour’s Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity, which I launched in February 2015, includes measures to implement a long term funding framework for science and innovation, ensure our research base and companies can get the skills they need to succeed, build a long term investment culture in business and secure our place in a reformed European Union. Some of the main elements of our approach are set out below.
Labour understands that Britain will only succeed when working people succeed. In the modern global economy, supporting a broader contribution from firms and working people across all regions and sectors of the economy is the only route to sustainable growth, rising living standards, and bringing down the deficit.
Labour’s plan for science and engineering
Providing long term policy certainty and expertise:
Labour will introduce a long-term funding framework to provide the stability and long-termism that our research base and companies need. Sustained government support for the scientific and technological advances that are often too high risk for firms to carry out alone can encourage higher levels of business investment.
Our approach will build on the previous Labour Government’s ten year funding framework for science, and will cover spending on innovation and applied research as well as traditional science spending. The strategy will signal our priorities for science and innovation – supporting Britain to take advantage of new technological developments in a digital age and tackle the major 21st century challenges such as climate change and an ageing society. We will also look at how to make smarter use of departmental data and spending to inform policy-making and ensure investments in R&D in areas such as energy, transport and health are being used strategically to support growth and innovation in our leading sectors. Key to this will be efforts to strengthen scientific advice at all levels of government – including looking at whether the network of Chief Scientific Advisors could be broadened and the benefits of a more multidisciplinary approach.
Educating the scientists and engineers of the future:
Labour will set a new national mission to put the UK back at the forefront of invention, technology and engineering. As a country we need to work together to meet the engineering skills gap – and in the 21st century that means not just the traditional civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, but also the engineering sectors of the future in which the UK could also excel, including information technology, green energy, and life sciences. And for this to succeed we will need to support more young women to do STEM subjects and go into careers in science and engineering.
To do that Labour will implement a radical set of reforms to create a clear gold standard vocational route from schools right through to university, including measures to:
- Introduce a new gold standard Technical Baccalaureate for 16-18 year olds, with vocational qualifications accredited by employers;
- Ensure that all young people study English and maths to 18;
- Reform FE colleges into specialist Institutes of Technical Education, with measures to improve the teaching in colleges and their links to employers;
- Boost the number of high quality apprenticeships by requiring all firms that get a large government contract to offer apprenticeships and giving employers more control over apprenticeship funding and standards, in exchange for driving up the number of high quality apprenticeships in their sectors and supply chains; and
- Introduce new Technical Degrees, delivered in partnership with industry, to ensure firms can get the specialist skills they need to succeed and support our world-class university system to take a leading role in driving growth in their regions.
Building a long term investment culture:
Labour will support businesses to raise levels of investment in training and R&D by providing certainty, improving access to finance, and tackling the short-term pressures facing some of our leading firms. In an independent review for the Labour Party, Sir George Cox identified incentives in the public and private sector that create short-term pressures that are limiting levels of investment.
We will foster innovation and investment in new low carbon technologies by strengthening the Green Investment Bank and setting a 2030 decarbonisation target, and create certainty for wider investment by setting up an independent infrastructure commission to plan for Britain’s long term needs. We will ensure small and medium sized firms can access the finance they need to innovate and grow by implementing a British Investment Bank and a network of regional banks. And we will protect our leading firms from short-term pressures by putting duties on investors to prioritise the long-term growth of companies, restricting who is able to vote on a takeover to those already holding shares when a bid is made, and looking to broaden the public interest test for takeovers to take into account the impact on the UK’s science base.
Securing the UK’s place in a reformed European Union:
Labour will secure Britain’s place in a reformed European Union. As well as enabling UK exporters to access to international product markets, the EU enhances our world-leading research capabilities by supporting collaborations with other countries and providing more than £1bn in research funding a year.
At a time when we need to prioritise growth and jobs it is not right to threaten the interests of Britain’s leading firms and research base with an in/out referendum on Europe at an arbitrary date. By putting the UK at the heart of the EU we can reform it to make sure that jobs, growth and rising living standards are at the heart of its agenda. Labour will push to change the way that the EU budget is spent – focusing on areas such as infrastructure, energy and innovation – and leading reform of state aid rules so that future governments have powers to pursue more active industrial strategies that support national growth and prosperity.