Chris welcomes government crackdown on unpaid internships

Chris welcomed news of a crackdown by the government on employers who use unpaid interns. The government has sent over 550 warning letters to employers and has set up enforcement teams to tackle repeat offenders. HMRC will focus particularly on the media, performing arts, law and accountancy.

Business minister Andrew Griffiths said: “Employing unpaid interns as workers to avoid paying the national minimum wage is against the law and exploitative.

“That’s why over the last three months, government enforcement teams have been targeting employers advertising for unpaid interns, reminding them of the law and the consequences of breaking it.”

Last year Chris introduced a private members bill to prohibit unpaid work experience over four weeks. The purpose of the bill is to provide clarity over an area of employment law that is clearly not well understood or enforced.

The government has maintained that current law is sufficient to prevent unpaid internships because anyone who is defined as a “worker” must be paid minimum wage. However, campaign groups have highlighted that despite the law 70,000 internships are offered annually and a significant proportion of them are unpaid demonstrating that current law is clearly not being enforced.

The government themselves recently admitted that there have been no prosecutions related to interns under existing employment legislation and Chris hopes that this initiative will raise awareness among employers and prevent further abuses.

Chris’s private members bill has had it’s second reading in the House of Lords and is awaiting Committee stage following which it will go to the House of Commons for consideration.

The Sun, Interns Blitz

The Guardian, Initiative to crack down on unpaid internships

Chris questions the government about the “potential and pitfalls” of big data



Today (5th February 2018) in the House of Lords, Chris asked the Government what action they are taking, or plan to take, to ensure that people are aware of their rights and obligations in respect of data protection and privacy.

Writing in Politics Home Chris argues that we must raise awareness and start a public debate to promote a greater understanding of data: the value, use cases, protections, obligations and ethics including asking what a social contract based on data for public good might look like.

“Data is increasingly described as the fuel driving the 4th IR, just like the oil and electricity of previous industrial revolutions, but unlike those earlier examples we, the people, are producing the data. Huge tech giants have users and customers, and as users our data is ‘farmed’ and monetised then sold to customers. Most of us understand and accept this arrangement as beneficial to us and relatively benign, in exchange for information about our shopping habits we receive (sometimes useful) targeted adverts. But the potential of data, particularly as fuel for Artificial Intelligence, extends far beyond these commercial applications. Already, insurance companies the police and other organisations are watching and using our data in ways that are less well known or understood. Just one statistic helps underline the exponential ‘everythingness’ of this; 90% of all data was created in the last two years.

Data is a precious resource. Of course, as with anything, all that glistens is not gold, but there is gold, diamonds and doubloons a plenty if we get this right. Imagine, a health service transformed through insightful, responsible use of data, in law enforcement, big data could become our best detective and if we no longer fancy horse in the lasagne, data has a role. We can transform our public services and be at the forefront of global standards, it’s down to us. Everything and nothing changes. We are experiencing an extraordinary pace of change, all driven by data but we still seek truths, reliability and connection. Thus, we must have conversations about data, who owns it, what rights we have and what obligations. What could a social contract based on data for public good look like?

Progress is being made in terms of legislation governing data; from May this year the GDPR will come into force and the Data Protection Bill is currently making its way through parliament. Many colleagues have done excellent work on the Bill and I am heartened that the government has accepted an amendment to ensure a more robust data regime for children following outstanding cross party working led by Baroness Kidron. Also in the Lords, Baroness Lane-Fox tabled an excellent debate in September calling for improved digital awareness.

It is beholden upon us as legislators to determine how we regulate, how we transact, how we thrive in the Fourth industrial revolution. In doing this we must protect citizen’s rights and responsibilities and most of all ask what society we want to be. I welcome the Governments work to develop a digital charter and establish a centre for data ethics and innovation. These are excellent initiatives but we must keep up the pressure particularly in communicating this work to the general public. We cannot leave it to the tech giants to determine what is best for us; as we saw recently with Zuckerberg’s claim that Facebooks recent changes were made “in order to amplify the good”.

In conclusion, we have everything we need and more to engage in the most marvellous of public debates, like that Baroness Warnock so beautifully achieved with reproductive advances decades ago. We are born human, we have the ethics, we can plot the innovation all rooted in transparency and trust, commerciality and care and an unyielding focus on proportionality and purpose putting data sharing at the heart of a new 21st Century social contract.”

Chris gives annual lecture on ‘Inclusion for Innovation’ at University of Worcester

Chris was delighted to give the University of Worcester’s annual Fellows Lecture this year, on February 1st 2018. In responding to the speech Professor Sarah Greer said that Chris had shown how “one person with a passion can actually change the world.”  The lecture, titled ‘Inclusion for Innovation’,  started with Chris’s personal experiences; highlighting that he understood the meaning of inclusion before he had ever heard the word. Chris’s determination to stay at school and keep swimming after he lost his sight meant that he learned in a fundamental way what was required for him to achieve anything at all. His personal and professional achievements continue to illustrate again and again Chris’s main point that inclusion has nothing to do with doing the right thing but is all about empowering individuals and enabling creativity and innovation.

Chris was welcomed on stage by Lord Faulkner of Worcester who described Chris as a “thoughtful, eloquent, witty and profound” speaker. In November 2016, the University of Worcester awarded Chris an honorary degree in recognition of his outstanding achievements and distinguished contribution to the causes if diversity and inclusion. Given his local connections and the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion Chris was delighted to accept the honour and in this capacity return to the University to give the annual lecture.



Chris responds to major industry review into shared space

The industry body tasked by the government with conducting a review into controversial shared space street design has today (9 January 2018) published its conclusions and recommendations. The CIHT review considered how shared space is being designed, implemented and installed across England and is based upon eleven detailed case studies. Most striking is that only one of the case studies was found to be ‘positive’ in respect of ‘inclusive environment’ and that was a scheme described as “very much on the limit of what might be called shared space” as it has several controlled crossings and clearly defined footway delineated by a traditional kerb. ‘Creating better streets: Inclusive and accessible places’ provides a series of recommendations to Government and industry that, should they be implemented, should ensure that in future authorities can achieve designs that meet the needs of all their users.

Chris said:

I have campaigned on the issue of shared space for several years and congratulate the CIHT on taking the issue of accessibility and inclusion in the public realm seriously. I am delighted that the recommendations include ensuring that local authorities understand their duties with regard to the Equality Act and also recognise that: greater awareness, better training, more research and improved guidance are all needed.

I’m also delighted that the report concludes – regarding crossings – that “there should be sufficient provision for all users to cross the carriageway safely and in comfort” and – regarding kerbs – that the separation between carriageway and footway “should be clearly delineated and detectable by all”.  It is essential that all our public spaces are safe, inclusive places for us all to enjoy.”

The recommendations include:
– the need for greater awareness to create streets that are inclusive and accessible;
– the development and use of a framework of objectives and outcomes for the basis of street design;
– the need to replace the use of shared space as a concept with different design approaches;
– the need for detailed research into the needs of all users and around specific design features;
– the review of existing guidance and the development of new guidance to assist local authorities in producing better street design;
– and, consideration of amending legislation in certain areas.

Find the full report here

GDI Hub launches disability innovation challenge: Enable Makeathon 2.0



Chris is Chair of the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) a London 2012 legacy project based at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The GDI Hub is partnered with UCL to promote collaboration between government, academics, entrepreneurs, local communities and NGOs to promote accessibility and inclusion and remove barriers faced by disabled people.

Today, (4th December) the day after the UN International Day of Disabled People, the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, and the new Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton MP, joined GDI Hub at an event in Parliament to launch the Enable Makeathon 2.0.  Teams from around the world will come to London to design new disability innovation products and services. The international, collaborative nature of the Makeathon makes it a unique social movement, events are taking place simultaneously in Bangalore and London. This intensive innovation programme will put ideas into action in just 90 days. Co-creation, expert guidance and collaboration will push ideas through the development, refinement and testing phases. The best will then be incubated and the winners given the opportunity to scale up their ideas. The co-creation camp begins on Wednesday 6th December.

Speaking at the launch Chris noted that “inclusion is the parent of innovation” and thanked the GDI Hub team and everyone for working so hard on this and other initiatives.

Tarun Sarwal, Innovation Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross said:

“The first Enable Makeathon held in Bengaluru, India last year led to the establishment of some great new products which Red Cross can now test in the field, helping to meet real need in conflict and post conflict situations. This year we are delighted that the GDI Hub team, with Richard Frost, are going to be running Enable Makeathon 2 in London.’



Read more

Tech: The Opportunity or Carpe DLT

We are in the midst of a revolution, an industrial revolution, mark 4, with the potential to make the original one appear a mere murmur by comparison.  And there is plenty of fear abounding, the bots are coming and our jobs are going, what if it all goes wrong?  What if artificial intelligence mean the machines turn on us and Arnie’s Terminator wants so much more than our bike, boots and jacket?

Well, that’s one view and consideration of consequences I would say is always sage.  However, with the right level of caveat and caution I suggest that we can step forward with optimism and evidence based positivity.

In this spirit, today I have the pleasure of publishing a report into the opportunity for citizen and state, business and Whitehall, from what is known as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), one of the technologies that has arrived with the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Entitled, Distributed Ledger Technologies for Public Good_leadership collaboration and innovation, the report seeks to set out key areas across the public sector where DLT could enable increased safety and security, transparency, traceability  and trust, reduce cost and increase service for the citizen.

So what, you may ask (as I did not so long ago), is DLT?

DLTs are typically (but not exclusively) enabled by blockchains. A block is a set of data records, as in a database or spreadsheet, which is cryptographically sealed and linked to the previous block.  The sequence of linked blocks (the blockchain) cannot be altered without breaking the chain.  Consequently, an unbroken blockchain promotes trust and provides extremely strong evidence that the data has not been altered or tampered with.  DLT then provides all parties with the correct rights or permissions and automatically enables all to have a local copy of the register or database.

This means that DLT is good for managing unique identifiers that have to be used consistently across multiple systems and organisations.  It ensures data integrity and avoids data fragmentation, allowing far greater integration of new and existing systems and improved organisational effectiveness.

Having worked with experts in the field, in the preparation of this report, I believe that DLT can play a valuable part in enhancing the delivery of government services to the citizens of the UK, in securing the UK’s competitive position as a global leader in technology-based innovation and in protecting the security of government and citizens’ data at a time when both are increasingly under threat.  Without claiming any silver bullet status for DLT, it would certainly seem worth investigating some more.

So, where and how can DLT help?

Well, for example, if HM passport office could enable a DLT solution, bye bye fake documents, identity tricksters and the like and Hello  to a potential £500M gain for the UK.  As any prophet has to say to the sceptic, “time will tell”, but certainly worth further investigation;

In the NHS, currently an estimated 25,000 days are lost, or spent, on doctor identity and pre-employment checks.  Vital, of course, but if done via DLT, imagine those 25,000 days, currently a cost, being converted into care.

Some more food for thought, with a DLT solution enabling traceability and transparency in the food supply chain, when it comes to horse in the lasagne, we could say with confidence, nay more;

Cybercrime now accounts for 50% of UK crime.  Let’s embark upon our own investigations to establish whether DLT can become our best detective and crime prevention officer.

Just some examples.  The report is in no sense claiming that these examples are the best use cases for DLT but that they (and others) are worth further investigation, experimentation and discovery.

The purpose of this report is pretty simple, to re-energise and refocus UK government attention on DLT’s potential so that we can accelerate our own digital maturity, enhance the productive capacity of our businesses and benefit our citizens.

This report is a call to action for all those with the interests of the UK at heart to join in that collaborative effort and the practical steps proposed so that the benefits of DLT can serve as a common good for UK businesses and citizens.

While the report’s focus is on one technology, or more correctly group of technologies, I am fully aware that others – 5G, Cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and even Nanotechnology – are all developing as fast and may indeed compete for future time and investment. The report makes the case that DLT has the potential to enable the better exploitation of those technologies, and also as a means of overcoming some of the issues associated with the existence in government as well as in many commercial entities of “legacy” systems developed piecemeal and over time using different software formats and access systems.

I call on Government to seize this moment.  The great news is this is not about money but leadership, collaboration and connection, experimentation, empowerment and, crucially, implementation to enable Britain to be at the forefront and realize all the benefits of the Fourth industrial revolution for us all. Carpe DLT should certainly be part of this.


Chris questions the Government on its response to the fourth industrial revolution

Today (15th November 2017) Chris asked the Government what cross-Whitehall work they are undertaking to maximize opportunities from the fourth industrial revolution; particularly in terms of digital skills, artificial intelligence, machine learning and distributed ledger technology.

The question was intentionally broad and included a range of technologies and priorities as Chris hoped to highlight that the Government must grasp the ‘everythingness’ of this new technology.

As Chris wrote in Politics Home: “the 4IR is already well underway and it will make the first industrial revolution sound a mild murmur by comparison… There is no separate world of digital. It won’t be possible to focus on, for example, health, education or defence and leave others to “do the digital”.  Crucially, the 4IR is inevitable, not optional and whilst I welcome the inclusion of digital in DCMS I seek reassurance that the scale of the challenge and the necessity for a cross-governmental approach is understood and acted upon.

The technology may be complex – who really knows what goes on inside the black box at Deep Mind or appreciates the finer details of the cryptograph hash function of Bitcoin. But this is not about the tech per se it is about the potential, the solutions which can be realized and what will be required from Government, from all of us, for such realization to become reality.”


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