Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which the Conservatives staked out their claim for the centre ground, with Theresa May declaring that the Tories were the true party of ordinary working class people, branding Labour the new “nasty party”. Her keynote speech to the Conservative Party Conference also attacked the politicians and commentators who she said are out of step with the public on Europe and immigration. Her speech was well received by the Tory Party faithful, but less so with certain large tech companies who were put on notice that the government would not stand for those companies who “treat tax laws as an optional extra” or “refuse to work with the authorities even to fight terrorism”. Theresa May’s other policies on new grammar schools and social mobility have gone down so well with the UKIP leadership favourite Steven Woolfe that he apparently considered switching sides, prompting a row with a fellow UKIP MEP which landed him in hospital. Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn embarked on yet another reshuffle of his shadow cabinet in a move to stamp his authority after being re-elected with 62% of the vote.
In this edition:
Jeremy Corbyn kicked off his reshuffle yesterday, moving his closest ally Diane Abbot to Shadow Home Secretary and appointing ex-Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti as shadow attorney general. Meanwhile Keir Starmer, who was among the wave of Labour MPs who resigned from the front bench in June, has returned as shadow Brexit secretary. Dame Rosie Winterton has been sacked as chief whip, with Nick Brown, Tony Blair’s first Chief Whip and Gordon Brown’s last, replacing her. Clive Lewis has been moved from the defence brief following a dispute over Labour’s policy on Trident, and will now be the shadow secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy.
Conservative Party Conference
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley addressed the Conference and tackled head on her perceived lack of experience in the brief. After explaining her interest in football and the arts, the Secretary of State emphasised the vital role that the industries covered by DCMS have on the economy; 13% of all goods and services in the UK are covered by DCMS industries. She also explained that she will be working closely with the Secretary of State for International Trade to sell “creative and cultural offerings to the rest of the world” and will also be working with the Secretary of State for Education to ensure all adults are digital literate.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s speech was rather more controversial. Leaving aside the suggestion that companies should be required to declare the number of their foreign employees, Ms Rudd also announced that the government will also be looking for the first time at whether the student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of the course and the quality of the educational institution. She commented that while she was proud that we have world-leading centres of academic excellence a question needed to ask as to whether a system which “allows all students, irrespective of their talents and the university’s quality, favourable employment prospects when they stop studying” is the right one. She continued: “I’m passionately committed to making sure our world-leading institutions can attract the brightest and the best. But a student immigration system that treats every student and university as equal only punishes those we should want to help. We need to look at whether this generous offer for all universities is really adding value to our economy.” This has led to many reporting this as an attack on international students and damaging to the UK’s higher education institutions.
Internet giants and May’s industrial strategy
Theresa May used her speech to promise a clampdown on large firms avoiding tax, in a veiled attacked on Internet giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook who have all recently been embroiled in tax rows. In a speech at the Tory Party conference she said: “If you’re a boss who earns a fortune but doesn’t look after your staff, an international company that treats tax laws as an optional extra, a household name that refuses to work with the authorities even to fight terrorism, a director who takes out massive dividends while knowing that the company pension is about to go bust, I’m putting you on warning. This can’t go on anymore.” She also said the creative industries are one of the key strategic sectors which the Government will do everything it can “to encourage, develop and support”. May said the new industrial strategy would “address those long-term structural challenges and get Britain firing on all cylinders”. She said the strategy was about identifying the industries that are of strategic value to the UK’s economy, and supporting them through policies on trade, tax infrastructure, skills, training and research and development. “It’s about doing what every other major and growing economy in the world does. Not just sitting back and seeing what happens – but putting in place a plan and getting on with the job”, she said. She also used the speech to vow to make Britain a “Great Meritocracy”, declaring that the Tories were now truly “the party of the workers, the party of the NHS, the party of public servants”.
Apprenticeship and skills minister Rob Halfon said there was a need to transform the “prestige and culture” of apprenticeships, admitting that even if the Government got all policies right on apprentices, not much would change if they did not have the prestige. In a fringe debate, Halfon said the apprentice policy “must be directed at social justice” and that apprenticeships were the perfect vehicle to changing people’s lives. He defended the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, saying that for too long businesses had under invested in the skills needed. He said there would be no delay to the levy, although he was happy to have a debate on new standards and frameworks.
Brexit and the creative industries
Digital and culture minister Matt Hancock said the Conservative Party was the party that cared the most about getting policies right for the creative industries. Speaking at the Conservative Arts and Creative Industries Network fringe event, he said that an example of this is that the creative industries and the impact of technology and the creativity it can unleash has been a theme throughout the Tory conference. Meanwhile at the fringe event, a panel discussion on what Brexit means for arts, culture and the digital industries, focused on the strength of the creative industries in the face of any challenges posed by the vote. Creative England Chief Executive Caroline Norbury said that a positive is that the creative industries “punch above our weight”, but warned that the UK needed to counter the impression that it was retrenching following the Brexit vote. “We need to attract people to our country and make sure we are seen as open to business,” she said. Meanwhile Simon Mellor, Executive Director of the Arts Council, said Britain will have to re-identify itself and said the arts can play an important role in that and in healing the nation.
The chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled a £220m funding package for the life science and university sectors to help technology breakthroughs translate into commercial success. The package includes £100m to extend and enhance the Biomedical Catalyst, which provides grant support for disruptive healthcare technologies in disease prevention, early diagnosis and tailored treatments. Another £120m will be used incentivise the collaboration between universities and the tech industry in an effort to transform research at universities and institutions into viable business ventures. It will also expand the Challenger Business Programme to address regulations that post the largest barriers to the adoption of disruptive technologies.
Competition policy goes digital
We attended an event at the Institute of Directors on the impact that large tech companies are having in disrupting traditional industries and whether this requires new policies and regulations to manage this disruption. Speaking on behalf of Google was their Chief Economist, Professor Hal Varian, who set out his arguments as to why the large tech companies are so successful and how technology has shaped their operations and led to competition across many markets between a smaller number of very large companies. Not surprisingly he argued that there were very healthy levels of competition as indicated by the ease of entryism into certain online markets where the cost of entry is now much lower than before. Responding on behalf of the regulator was Philip Marsden, from the Competition and Markets Authority, who questioned whether competition was as strong in certain markets as Google claimed and made clear that the CMA would look closely at the usual areas - competition, pricing collusion, mergers – but also at examples of where business practice introduce artificial price floors to prevent new entrants into a market place.
The IPO has launched Lambert 2 - a negotiation toolkit aimed to bolster collaboration between universities and businesses across the UK. The updated negotiation toolkit includes a set of:
- Decision guides to identify which agreement you could use for your circumstances
- Model agreements to commence your negotiations
- 11 model (one to one and multi-party) agreements
- Additional agreements for when additional parties join your projects; and
- Substantial guidance notes to take parties through the process of identifying and using the model agreements
Lambert 2 builds upon the successful ‘Lambert Toolkit’ which has streamlined knowledge-exchange between the worlds of higher education and business since 2014. During the Lambert era collaborative research has increased by 9.9 per cent to £1.26bn and income generated as a direct result of intellectual property has increased by 18.5 per cent to £155.4million.
Commenting, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property said: “Innovation and creativity are vital to the UK economy. Marrying the R&D expertise of universities and the entrepreneurial excellence of UK business will help cement the UK’s position as an IP world-leader.”
Following the negative judgment last week, the three publisher plaintiffs in the legal case against Delhi University (reported in last week’s PA’s PA) have filed an appeal with the Court in India. The right to appeal has been granted and the date for the appeal hearing expedited. This will take place on 29th November.
This week we have:
Been in Delhi assisting members in their appeal in the Delhi University case; been at Conservative Conference; attended the H Club 100 Awards, run by the Hospital Club and the Creative Industries Council; met with the IPO to discuss the draft copyright directive; attended a briefing by the DfE on their maths mastery programme; briefed UCL students on the work of the PA; met with UKSG to discuss potential joint initiatives;
Next week we will be:
Attending a special meeting of the Creative Industries Council to discuss the impact of Brexit on the creative industries; meeting with Department for International Trade Creative Industries Sector Advisory Group; meeting with the Creative Industries Council Education and Skills Working Group; discussing with the BBC how they undertake their fair trading analysis; discussing next year’s Academic Book Week with key partners;