The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill has been introduced in the House of Lords. The bill aims to make provision for establishing a new financial guidance body; funding of debt advice in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and the regulation of claims management services. Chris spoke in the second reading on Wednesday July 5th where he welcomed the appointment of a Minister for Financial Inclusion (who had come to the House of Lords to listen to the debate!) This is the first time a Minister has been granted this specific responsibility and an important demonstration of leadership on the significant problem of financial exclusion. Turning specifically to the bill, Chris asked the government for more detail about how the new finance guidance body would be funded and how it would maintain it’s independence, including how it will exercise any public policy role, and also whether the bill was an opportunity to look again at addressing the problem of cold calling and scams. A particular area of concern for Chris is how financial institutions treat vulnerable customers. Using an illustration from a recent report into banking services for people with cancer, Chris described the problem people faced trying to get practical financial support from their banks following a cancer diagnosis. Chris asked the government to consider whether adding a statutory ‘duty of care’ responsibility to financial institutions would help address the problem. Read the full speech here.
Chris has been appointed to a new House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence or AI, is a topical issue, given the ongoing pace of technological advances and there are a number of interesting angles which the Committee might focus on, ranging from the rate of technological change, to economic and social issues, and even ethical issues. This will be an ad hoc Committee meaning its work will be conducted within one session of Parliament and a final report will be published by the end of March 2018.
A call for evidence has not yet be published but is likely to invite contributions on the following topics: • Pace of technological change • Relationship between developments in artificial intelligence and productivity growth; • Creation of new jobs; • Sectors and occupations most at threat from automation. • Economic and social issues • The role of Government in the event of widespread job displacement; • Further education and training, for both children and adults; • Unemployment support, including the case for a universal basic income; • Government funding for artificial intelligence-related research and development. • Ethical issues • The Government’s role in monitoring the safety and fairness of artificial intelligence; • Transparency around the use of ‘big data’; • Privacy rights of individuals; • General principles for the development and application of artificial intelligence.
The work of the Committee will build upon Chris’s areas of interest and expertise and he is delighted to have been appointed.
The State Opening of Parliament offers all members of Parliament an opportunity to submit their own ideas for new legislation, known as Private Members Bills. Today (21st June 2017) Chris submitted a private members bill that aims to limit any unpaid internships or work experience to four weeks. It will have its first reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday 27th June.
Chris strongly believes that if we are to secure the best possible future for our young people and access all the talent we must put an end to this practice of patronage. Unpaid internships grant access to professional networks and valuable work experience only those wealthy or lucky enough to be able to work for free.
The Sutton Trust has calculated the cost of working in an unpaid internship in London to be £1,000 per month. Estimates suggest there are up to 70,000 internships across the UK every year with the number up 50% since 2010.
Chris’s Private Members Bill aims to stop this widespread practice that entrenches privilege rather than identifying and enabling talent. The bill, should it become law, would provide much needed clarity to employers and strengthen the position of interns who are often too afraid to complain.
The fourth industrial revolution has seen advances in technology that are revolutionizing the world of work, yet one of the most striking aspects of the current employment landscape are work practices that belong in the past. Unpaid internships are one example; a divisive, anti-competitive product of the past that this bill hopes to consign to the past.
There have been attempts in the past to introduce a similar bill but Chris hopes that with increasing awareness of the issues and powerful campaigns by the Social Mobility Commission that the time might now be right for change in the law.
Chris was delighted to give the keynote speech at tech conference, ATEC London 2017 today (June 6th 2017). He spoke about innovation, technology and the potential for assistive technology to offer solutions for disabled people. He also highlighted that inclusive design was beneficial for everyone, regardless of whether you have a disability or not.
ATEC London 2017 is a one-day event that allows disability professionals involved in the workplace and post-16 education to listen to and meet with assistive technology experts, solution providers and other likeminded delegates.
In his speech, entitled ‘Assistive Technology: a measure of civilization’, Chris shared his personal experience of assistive technology saying:
“From cassette tapes to text to speech software, I could not have enjoyed the education and career I have been lucky enough to have experienced so far without it.
I am genuinely and passionately excited about the potential of assistive technology to remove barriers, unlock opportunities and unleash talent.
Talent is everywhere but opportunity is not and assistive technology offers a way to address that terrible imbalance.
I urge everyone to learn more about what’s out there, ask questions, find solutions and share the good news”
ATEC London 2017, which is sponsored by Barclays, gives delegates the chance to keep up-to-date with emerging assistive technology products, trends and innovations.
Employers are becoming increasingly aware of how assistive technology can promote well-being and inclusion in the workplace, whilst improving performance.
It can enable disabled employees to work effectively and increase productivity, as well as helping to reduce stress by empowering disabled people and removing barriers to work.
— Barclays Access (@BarclaysAccess) 6 June 2017
Chris is also working in Parliament to increase awareness among members of the vital role assistive technology can play in improving lives and is Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Assistive Technology.
Chris is undertaking a Fellowship Programme organised by the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT). IPT fellowships are educational, non-lobbying attachments for parliamentarians, providing a unique perspective of the challenges and issues facing UK industry. Chris is particularly interested in the ways in which businesses and organisations are introducing new technologies and exploring different approaches to innovation. With this focus and visits arranged across sectors Chris hopes to get a detailed perspective on the strengths and challenges facing UK industry as the fourth industrial revolution gathers pace.
At the start of his visit Chris was given a tour of the Technology Exhibition where he was able to learn more about next generation manufacturing techniques and technologies including the Trent XWB aero engine, the most efficient wide body aero engine. Rolls-Royce has invested £30m in its production facility in Derby to help to deliver its order book including 1,600 Trent XWB engines. Chris was also delighted to sit down and hear from a group of young people involved in the on site Apprentice Academy.
Chris was delighted to give the keynote speech on financial inclusion at a major Fintech conference that kicked off Fintech week in London in April. As a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion, the full findings and report of which were published just two weeks earlier, Chris was pleased to have the opportunity to pull together themes from this work and his work in fintech. Chris highlighted the terrible cost and persistent nature of financial exclusion by asking why those who have the least, pay the most. He pointed out that in the UK there are currently 1.7 million people without a bank account and 40% of people without £100 in savings. Recommendations from the Lords report include introducing financial literacy at school, expanding the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority to include financial inclusion and creating a Cabinet Minister with direct responsibility for financial inclusion. Chris also celebrated the possibility of technology to offer solutions to some of our trickiest problems, not least the issue of financial inclusion. Chris reminded the audience that technology in-and-of-itself is neutral and the key is to ask always how will the enable, empower and include? On the same stage that morning Tim Berners-Lee had spoken about the need to think about the effect on society in a highly connected, networked world and Chris followed on from this by touching on the need for greater understanding and ownership around resources, identity and data stating that it’s your data, your choices and your permissions. His emphasis on the potential and possibility of technology to solve problems was again clear when he finished by asking everyone to imagine the power of fintech in its totality.