Dods at Party Conference 2019

Labour | Conservatives | SNP

15 July 2019
Newspaper front pages on the refugee crisis

May Days: Despite a humanitarian crisis, three and a half years on, fewer than half of the children who could have arrived under the government’s tokenistic cap have been brought here to safety, writes Alf Dubs

Theresa May was Home Secretary when the Immigration Bill was going through Parliament and I moved an amendment to bring in unaccompanied child refugees from Europe. Her response was to ask for a meeting where she urged me to withdraw the amendment, citing what she believed would be the “pull factor” of any legislation that made it easier for unaccompanied child refugees to find safety in the UK. My view then, as now, was that we cannot abandon children to their fate in Calais, Greece, Italy and elsewhere in Europe when we know that for many of them this means trafficking, criminality and prostitution. The amendment passed in the Lords, was narrowly defeated in the Commons, was amended and passed again in the Lords – this time with a bigger majority – before reaching the Commons for a second time. This prompted Theresa May to ask to see me again, this time to tell me that the government proposed to accept the amendment. I believe a major reason why the government changed its position...
Alf Dubs
15 July 2019
May visits a lab

May Days: Theresa May has shown admirable resolve in her education reforms – but there is still much to do to tackle the burning injustices in our society, writes Robert Halfon

When Theresa May stood on the steps of No 10 and pledged to create a country that worked for everyone, there was huge optimism about her mission to end the burning injustices that exist in our society. Three years on and looking back on the legacy of the prime minister’s efforts to create a better Britain for all, there are achievements that should not be forgotten. Firstly, recognising the scale of the problem which had emerged with funding for the further education (FE) sector, she commissioned the independent Augar Review with an acknowledgement of the powerful role FE can play in transforming people’s lives and growing the economy. The prime minister also demonstrated admirable political resolve to overhaul technical education and keep on track T-levels, which will provide a fantastic groundwork for our young people in the skills needed by employers. On top of this, there has been a shifting balance from teacher recruitment onto retention, to stem the tide of valued and...
Robert Halfon
15 July 2019
Robotic arms rivet car panels together

Living and working in an area and understanding the nuances and intricacies of that place makes you best positioned to decide what should happen, writes Lord Bilimoria

UK manufacturing has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. However, clouds loom on the horizon with Brexit threatening just-in-time supply chains, and technological change heightening uncertainty for workers. This is precisely why a well-crafted industrial strategy that reaches all parts of the UK is essential for future prosperity. Since the financial crisis, Britain’s productivity levels have stagnated. While we have come a long way since our nadir as the ‘sick man of Europe’ in the 1960s, we need effective action to reinvigorate the economy and drive productivity forward. Low take-up of readily available technologies and management best practices is driving the UK’s productivity problem. While the UK’s best performing firms are highly innovative, best practice must reach a greater range of businesses, improving productivity through the adoption of proven technologies and ideas. This would help to close the productivity gap between the ‘best’ and the ‘rest’ of UK...
Lord Bilimoria
15 July 2019
A LNER (London North Eastern Railway) sign at York train station

May Days: Britain needed bold action on transport and infrastructure – May did not provide it, says Lord Adonis

Theresa May’s legacy on transport and infrastructure can be summarised in two words: Chris Grayling. The areas that Grayling had the most influence over were failures, while those that were insulated from him fared better. The East Coast mainline franchise is a case in point. After Stagecoach and Virgin could no longer meet the payments agreed in their contract, Grayling planned to bail them out to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. This would have meant slashing other national infrastructure projects and raising fares, and would have destroyed the franchising system which only works if you hold companies to their contracts. It was indefensible and drove me to resign from my position as chair of the National Infrastructure Commission. Fortunately, the outcry forced Grayling to U-turn and take the correct decision to renationalise the East Coast service. Sadly, other areas of transport were not lucky enough to avoid the Grayling curse. Last year’s Northern Rail debacle shows...
Lord Adonis
15 July 2019

The use of artificial intelligence and automation in the public sector opens the door to new efficiencies and transformative systems. However, it is also awash with ethical and practical challenges, explains Guinevere Poncia

New technologies often present the most complex opportunities and challenges for government. Ministers identified Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation as one of the ‘grand challenges’ in the Industrial Strategy, which seeks to put the UK at the forefront of emerging technologies for public benefit. After an era of austerity that has left many departments short of resources, and with ever-mounting pressure to operate more efficiently, the Chief Executive of the Civil Service John Manzoni, among others, has heralded the potential of automation for transforming citizens’ interactions with public services. HMRC has led the way in this area, having created an Automation Delivery Centre which processed its 10 millionth transaction in 2018. It is also experimenting with using AI in its risk and compliance functions. Meanwhile, civil servants in the Department for Transport use machine learning to scour the news for transport-related stories, and the Serious Fraud Office is utilising...
Guinevere Poncia - Dods Monitoring
15 July 2019
Theresa May's Brexit deal was defeated three times in parliament earlier this year

After a trio of defeats – including the biggest defeat ever suffered by a Prime Minister – Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was presumed dead. But, Sebastian Whale writes, are some Labour MPs beginning to rethink their opposition? 

After three bruising parliamentary defeats, Theresa May brought forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill as a means of meeting Speaker John Bercow’s requirements for holding another vote. Having failed to win over her party’s eurosceptics, the Prime Minister reached out to the Labour frontbench and held talks with trade unions and backbench MPs from Her Majesty’s Opposition. The fruits of their endeavours included pledges to give MPs a binding vote on holding a second referendum, dynamic alignment of workers’ rights with the EU and an effective customs union until the next election. The likes of Lisa Nandy and Stephen Kinnock – Labour MPs reconciled to Brexit who rejected May’s deal three times – were taken in by the progress. But the PM’s position unravelled soon after her speech unveiling the proposals. Members of her party could not stomach her movement on a second referendum and subsequently secured her demise. A new Prime Minister will be announced on 23 July, and both candidates...
15 July 2019
A police officer stands outside No.10

May Days: Her move at a stroke moved policing back towards the 1950s, writes Lord Dear

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyages of their life are bound in shallows and in miseries.” Brutus, in Julius Caesar, knew that few golden opportunities exist. Theresa May had just such an opportunity to reform and modernise British policing when she became home secretary in May 2010. She served for six years as home secretary, longer than anyone since Chuter Ede in the 1940s and 50s, but she failed to seize that opportunity, and then allowed the service to drift and decline during her time as prime minister. She started briskly in 2010 with a declaration that she would be tough on migrants (n.b. Windrush eight years later!) and announced cuts in the police budget, quickly followed by the decision to create the National Crime Agency. The first two produced long faces, the third cheered those who had long advocated a streamlining of the current, fragmented police model. Perhaps here was a truly reforming home...
Lord Dear
15 July 2019
Demonstrators protest against the hostile environment immigration policy outside the Home Office

May Days: It was Theresa May herself who accelerated the appalling “hostile environment” policy, which contributed to the Windrush scandal, writes Dawn Butler

Theresa May’s time is up, and many of us couldn’t be happier to see the back of her. Her appalling policies on race relations and immigration will be her legacy. Theresa May’s record as prime minister is one of failure – from the Home Office to Downing Street, she has entrenched racial inequality. When she became prime minister, Theresa May spoke about tackling the “burning injustices” in society. But in office, she did nothing but tinker around the edges of the big issues, and ultimately ended up adding fuel to the fire through her shocking failures. While our eyes welled up with tears over Grenfell, Windrush and the refugee crisis, there was a lack of emotion forthcoming from the prime minister. She only managed to muster a few tears at her demise. When I think back to the disgraceful and racist “Go home” vans, which Theresa May as the former home secretary signed off, some of which drove around my constituency in Brent targeting immigrants, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for the...
Dawn Butler
15 July 2019
Aerial view of Liverpool town hall

Both Parliament and Whitehall are paralysed by Brexit. Whether we stay or leave, we need to empower our cities and give them the tools to thrive, writes Lord Heseltine

In both Houses of Parliament, most of us have learnt and plied our trade within the politics of urban Britain. For 18 months in 1981, following the riots in Liverpool, I lived in a suspended world, somewhere between the cabinet and the street corner. Every week I searched out derelict sites, empty buildings, alienated communities, warring factions and sought solutions. The experience changed me more profoundly than any other political experience of my life. Everyone knew what was wrong. It was always someone, or something, else. There must be change but leave ‘me’ alone – it’s ‘your’ responsibility. That is where the problems start and, too frequently, end. The moment the arrow of responsibility points accurately at one person, group or organisation, the excuses begin. The truth was obvious. There was no one in charge. Every proposal to fill that void was resisted by those whose micro world was challenged. Nowhere is that more the case than in the subservience of our great historic...
Lord Heseltine
15 July 2019
“Too often steel policy responds to the urgent needs of now, rather than setting out a strategic path forward”

Steel is crucial to the UK’s economy, defence and infrastructure – yet we have fallen behind globally, writes Nic Dakin

Two-thirds of the steel used today wasn’t around 15 years ago.  Steel is an innovative, flexible, highly recyclable product that will be a crucial part of our future. If the UK is serious about being a strong, independent country able to play its full role in the world, it must have its own independent steel making capacity. It is essential for our own infrastructure and defence security. Strong economic world powers have strong steel sectors. The US tops the league table for strongest steel sectors, with China second, Japan third and Germany seventh; the UK comes in at a humiliating 30th. We can’t afford to slip further down this table if we want to play our full part in the world. It is therefore right that the government stepped in quickly to provide an indemnity for British Steel after it went into liquidation due to the threat of a no deal Brexit and its impact on European customer confidence. Thanks to the fantastic workforce and management, and the patience and commitment...
Nic Dakin