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.
Today (25th April 2017) the House of Commons Select Committee published their report and findings into their enquiry into Disability and the Built Environment including housing and shared space schemes in the public realm. Chris welcomed the report’s recommendations saying:
“I’m grateful that the Committee has recognised the importance of this issue and consulted so widely with stakeholders and disabled people as well as disability groups. The impact on people’s lives when public spaces are not accessible is devastating. Inclusive design must be the golden thread that runs through all new buildings and works in the public realm.
I’m also delighted that the committee agree with my recommendation that a moratorium on shared space schemes is necessary. Local authorities require clarity in this space and the exclusion of people from their communities and potential waste of public money must end.”
Key recommendations include:
- Strategic leadership The Government has a range of levers that can be used to achieve more accessible built environments, but is not using them well enough. Greater co-ordination and leadership is needed to make this framework effective, and to make it clear that inclusive design is a statutory requirement, not just a ‘nice to do’.
- Designing for equality The Government should make it easier for local planning authorities to follow this lead through revision and clarification of national planning policy and guidance. Local plans should not be found sound without evidence that they address access for disabled people in terms of housing, public spaces and the wider built environment; to support this, the Equality and Human Rights Commission should investigate the Planning Inspectorate’s compliance with the Equality Act. Planning consent should only be given where there is evidence that a proposal makes sufficient provision for accessibility.
- Housing More ambition is needed in the standards the Government sets for the homes that the country desperately needs. Housing standards need to be future-proofed and to produce meaningful choice in housing, not just to respond to immediate local need. The Government should raise the mandatory minimum to Category 2, the equivalent of the former Lifetime Homes standard, and apply it to all new homes – including the conversion of buildings such as warehouses or former mills into homes.
- Public buildings and places Much more can be done to make the public realm and public buildings more accessible: through building accessible workplaces, and incentivising employers to improve existing ones; by updating the regulations for new buildings and amending the Licensing Act 2003. Greater provision of Changing Places toilets should be a specific priority: such facilities should be required in all large building developments that are open to the public.
- Shared Spaces Shared spaces schemes are a source of concern to many disabled people across the country, particularly features such as the removal of controlled crossings and kerbs and inconsistency in the design of schemes from place to place. The report recommends that the Government halt the use is such schemes pending the urgent replacement of the 2011 guidance on shared spaces, ensure that the new guidance is developed with the involvement of disabled people – and that it is followed in practice.
Read the full report here.
Read Chris’s comment piece for Transport Network here.