Chris goes behind the scenes at Inmarsat to learn about global mobile satellite communications

Today  (Thursday 6 July) Chris visited Inmarsat as part of his Industry and Parliament (IPT) Fellowship focusing on digital technology and innovation. This particular visit has enabled him to gain insight into how innovation and applications of new technology affect a range of sectors.

The UK Satellite operator Inmarsat is the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications, delivering reliable voice and high-speed data communications to governments, enterprises and other organisations, with a range of services that can be used on land, at sea or in the air. Inmarsat owns and operates a fleet of thirteen geostationary telecommunications satellites, including four Global Xpress (GX) spacecraft, which together form the world’s first, globally available high-speed broadband service, based upon a $1.6bn investment by Inmarsat, . The visit took place at Inmarsat’s Old Street roundabout HQ.

During the visit Chris met with key members of Inmarsat including CEO Rupert Pearce who gave him an overview of Inmarsat, in particular highlighting the different channels and strategy behind the technology transition. With more than half of all mobile connections around the world now being ‘broadband’, it is becoming increasingly more important to have strong communications systems in place. Lord Holmes was able to gain insight into Inmarsat’s plethora of services, which cover a broad range of sectors including maritime, aviation, governments, first responders, Internet of Things (IoT) and a wide variety of other commercial enterprises.

A key highlight of the visit was a tour of the facilities which included the Network Operations Centre and Satellite Control Centre, where Chris saw how Inmarsat proactively manages its global data and voice services and met the team that ‘fly’ the company’s satellites.


Financial Guidance and Claims Bill

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 announced as member of House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence

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.

New law to ban unpaid internships?

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.


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Chris to Chair Global Disability Innovation Hub

Chris standing in front of banner with GDI logo


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Inclusive Design for a Better Britain

Chris on stage giving keynote at ATEC Conference


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.

We spoke to @LordCHolmes about the future of #AssistiveTech at @ATEConference #ATEConference

— 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 visits Rolls Royce site in Derby

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.

IPT Press Release about Rolls Royce Visit

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