What do Select Committees do?

As a relatively new member of the House of Lords I was delighted to be appointed to the Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills. Unlike select committees in the House of Commons, which are generally responsible for overseeing the work of government departments and agencies, those of the Lords look at general issues. They can be permanent, or, like this one on Digital Skills, ad hoc. We will report by March next year.

This select committee has been formed to look at the UKs digital landscape and particularly competitiveness and skills. It is a timely and important investigation. The UK is at the forefront of digital skills in Europe but the digital landscape changes so quickly it is essential to look constantly at how well equipped we are to keep up with developments. In particular how will jobs be effected and how fit for purpose is the current education and skills training system?

Technology is likely to dramatically reshape labour markets in the long run and to cause significant changes to the types of skills that workers will need. There is debate as to how drastic these changes will be but some studies suggest that jobs vulnerable to computerisation range from 45-60% of the current labour force. Whilst government priority is obviously boosting employment, it would be short sighted indeed not to consider how to adapt to a jobs environment that requires different skills.

The Committee meets weekly to hear from expert witnesses and consider various evidence. So far we have heard from Microsoft, Google, academics and industry experts. Most meetings are public and available to watch live via Parliament TV.

In July we published a call for evidence. This is an appeal for a public response to the questions we are considering, particularly: skills training, support for the digital sector, industry and infrastructure. What are the challenges? What should the government be doing? Please see the full text of the call for evidence here.

It is a significant amount of work and an important task. We will absorb and process a vast amount of information, cross examine witnesses, draw out the key elements and make concrete recommendations. I sincerely hope that our work will improve the nation’s connectivity, competitiveness and enable us together to be increasingly tech fit for the future.