Feedback on Skills & Training and Environment discussions

I am delighted to be able to share with you the formal response from Downing Street to our discussion papers on Skills & Training and the Environment.

Dr John Hayward, Policy Director, CPF


27th July 2018

Dear John,

We have met in recent months with James Kent and Chris Skidmore to consider CPF’s Paper 1/2018 on “Skills and Training for a 21st Century Workforce” and Paper 2/2018 on “Conservative Conservation”. These were excellent discussions: thank you again for coming in to present CPF’s thoughts on these two policy areas critical to the Government’s domestic programme.

The Papers are diverse, wide-ranging and engaging; their suggestions for policy development are both thoughtful and compelling. We very much value the direct input of CPF members into our work here in Downing Street, and I am very pleased, on behalf of Gavin Barwell as Chief of Staff, to enclose formal feedback to several issues that were raised.

Paper 1/2018 – Skills and Training for a 21st Century Workforce

  1. Turning to ‘Section One: Productivity & Globalisation’, as I’m sure you are aware, the Government is committed to a significant uplift in specific skills training via our apprenticeships programme and the introduction of T Levels in 2020. We consider it vital that young people are given a clear and compelling technical pathway through post-16 education, one with equal esteem and equal reward as other more traditional routes. I was particularly struck by the emphasis in the paper on “in-career” training, as well as the idea of a professional qualification to recognise skills for small business owners, both of which I will ask our special adviser for business, Giles Wilkes to consider further and provide a more detailed follow up for you. I agree that government has an important role to play in providing high quality apprenticeships, and I am pleased to note in response to three particular suggestions – increased research and development spend, wider roll out of broadband, and relocating civil service jobs away from London and the south-east to other cities of the UK – that the Government is already committed to making these suggestions happen. 
  1. As noted in response to your last paper, the Government commissioned Philip Auger in February 2018 to lead a review looking at how we can drive better value from the tertiary education system, including how we can create better join up between the Higher and Further Education sectors. Many of the suggestions in ‘Section Two: Changing Skills Requirements’ will be valuable to Philip’s work, and I know you are already feeding into his review. I was particularly struck in this Section by the suggestion for a National Skills Programme, including a learning credit scheme, better provision of e-learning packages, increased focus on rural upskilling, a formal qualification for SME managers, and a Training Board for teachers to upskill. These are excellent suggestions, which I will ensure are fed into policy development work which we are undertaking at the moment. I am also pleased to report that we are already promoting regional centres of excellent via our modern industrial strategy; that two year degrees were made possible by the passage of this Government’s High Education Reform Act in 2017; that life skills such as budgeting are now part of the revised curricula for both citizenship and maths, and that DfE are currently consulting on how to improve financial education for young people aged 16-18; that we are already pursuing a programme to get more of our young people in school coding; and that at Party Conference last year we committed to a significant uplift in nurse numbers.
  1. Section Three: Technological Change’ begins by touching upon future immigration policy, and I agree that when we set our preferred system in due course, we must ensure that we have people with the right skills here in the UK as part of our labour market. Many of the suggestions in this section are underlined by a theme of rebalancing the UK economy across the whole of the country, something which is at the heart of our plan for jobs and growth in the modern industrial strategy. I agree with the idea of potentially exploring how incentives for companies to invest in education could be better harnessed, as well as the suggestion that we should increase emphasis on encouraging a new generation of teachers into the profession. I will ask our special adviser for education, Mike Crowhurst to consider further and provide a more detailed follow up for you.

Paper 2/2018 – Conservative Conservation

  1. I was very glad indeed to see you commission this Paper. As we have discussed, this Government takes very seriously indeed our responsibility to ensure that we hand on to the next generation an environment that is cleaner than the one we inherited. Michael Gove’s 25-Year Environment Plan forms the backbone for much of our policy thinking in this area, and as you rightly note in the Paper, our ambitions must be high both in the standards we set at home and those we advocate abroad. We must actively promote good practice globally, especially through our Commonwealth links, as the Prime Minister did recently in using the Heads of Government Meeting in London to agree a commitment to removing plastics from our oceans. And in particular response to one of your suggestions in the ‘Global Leadership’ Section, we are already using ODA for global nature conservation, including tree planting, and cleaning up rivers.
  1. There are many very valuable suggestions in this Paper and I want to turn to some in particular. In ‘Section Two: Renewable energy generation’, you signal support for a move away from coal dependency, which as our first day last year of generating power with no reliance on coal demonstrates, is an aspiration within our grasp. I entirely agree that we should invest in more electric car charging points, and that we should investigate requiring all new commercial car parks including electric charging facilities; we have to do all that we can to make the transition to electric cars as straightforward as possible. A next generation of nuclear power capability is something the Government is already committed to, as is investment which backs shale gas extraction and battery research. You rightly note the opportunities available both in exploring greater use of carbon capture storage, and in ensuring that we develop standards for new housing that promote sound environmental credentials, as well as being future proof both for the elderly and those less able. Claire Perry leads the Government’s work in this policy area and it sounds like either a discussion for CPF members with her – or a webinar – would be very productive. I’m very happy to help facilitate that, if you and CPF members would find it worthwhile?
  1. Section Three: Plastics’ contains many valuable suggestions the Government is already getting on with, in particular taking decisive action to ban single-use plastics, as well as encouraging both a next generation of plastic which degrades, and the eradication of black plastic in supply chains. Michael Gove has already spoken of our ambition as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, to develop a world-leading food labelling regime, which as well as helping to ensure better nutritional information, could also ensure consistency for packaging, as you indicate here. The suggestion that we should encourage wider uptake of recycling in the NHS as one of our leading national employers, especially plastic and foil encapsulating medication, I will ensure is fed into the Long Term Plan which we are currently developing with NHS England, via James Kent, our Health special adviser.
  1. I was glad to read in Section Four, clear unambiguous support for our plan to ensure that Air Quality is cleaned up; this is an issue which rightly many people express concern over, especially in cities. In ‘Section Five: Trees’, you rightly note that there’s a lot more we can do to ensure that trees are replanted wherever they are taken down, as well as enforcing tree preservation orders, and supporting the work of the Woodland Trust. You also note that we should launch a tree planting campaign for schools, and I will ask John Randall, our special adviser for the environment to come back to you to engage CPF members in drawing up a specific strategy for how the Party can support more tree planting across the United Kingdom, to ensure the right trees are planted in the right places. 
  1. Finally, in ‘Section Six: Farming and Fishing’, we agree that we must advocate a much greater use of “agri-tech”, as well as ensuring high quality soil and reducing unnecessary food waste. If any CPF members have specific expertise in these policy areas, John Randall would particularly welcome further discussions with them. As I know you are aware, as we leave the European Union, we will be taking back full control of our waters, and ensuring that our vital fishing industry is properly supported; as similarly, we are also committed to proper environmental principles and governance following our exit from the European Union, detail of which will be published in due course.

Thank you again for continuing this vital direct link between CPF’s policy discussions and our work at the heart of government. I very much look forward to meeting CPF members when we gather in Birmingham for Conference at the end of September.

With very best wishes,

James Marshall
Director of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit

cc:

  • George Freeman MP, CPF Chairman
  • Chris Skidmore, Party Vice-Chairman (Policy)
  • Rt Hon Gavin Barwell MP, Chief of Staff, No10
  • James Kent, Deputy Director of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, No10
  • Giles Wilkes, special adviser, No10
  • Mike Crowhurst, special adviser, No10
  • Charles Ogilvie, special adviser to Rt Hon Claire Perry MP
  • Rt Hon Lord Randall of Uxbridge PC, special adviser, No10