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PA's PA 23rd September 2016

PA's PA 23rd September 2016

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which world leaders met at the United Nations in New York with the Syrian crisis front and centre in everyone’s minds. Theresa May used the summit to put forward plans to address the “unprecedented levels of population movement” around the world, saying that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and defending the UK’s right to control its borders. She said “urgent measures” were needed to maintain public confidence in the “economic benefits of legal and controlled migration”. Meanwhile, amid concerns at home that UK banks could lose passporting rights with a hard Brexit, she also sought to reassure leaders that the UK would not turn away from the world and would remain at the heart of international affairs.

In this edition:

Intellectual Property Crime Conference

London hosted the tenth international Intellectual Property crime conference this week.  Hosted by INTERPOL, City of London Police, the Corporation of London and UL (Underwriters Laboratories) the conference brought together Government, law enforcement and industry to showcase work to tackle counterfeit trade.  Approximately 600 international delegates including senior government, law enforcement and industry figures attended the two-day conference to share best practice under the theme ‘Celebrating a decade of success.’

The event attracted global representatives from the food manufacturing industry, luxury fashion brands and internet retailers and opened with a discussion from The White House’s IP enforcement coordinator, Daniel Marti.

UK IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe gave a key note speech where she noted how IP crime affects not only all parts of the supply chain from manufacturers to retailers, from small innovators to large corporates but also consumers who find that quality is no longer a guarantee, undermining trust, or, in the worst cases, causing mechanical failures and personal injuries.  She pointed to the work she has been doing in the UK, throughout Europe and as far away as South-East Asia (referencing her recent visit to China which the PA accompanied her on) and how such criminal activity does not only affect “abstract broadcasters and content owners” but real people. “Our core ambitions” she said, “are to ensure: that UK companies - including small businesses, which are so important to our economy and around the world - are more confident in operating internationally as a result of better IP protection; that rights-owners have straight-forward access to proportionate and effective mechanisms to resolve disputes; and that consumers are educated in the benefits of respecting IP rights, as well as the possible repercussions of law breaking. Enforcement and education go hand-in-hand”. 

Work of Department for International Trade

This week at PA Council we were fortunate enough to be joined by the new Director General of the recently formed Department for International Trade, John Alty, who is responsible for overseeing the governments trade policy. John explained to Council members some of the challenges his department is facing post-Brexit in creating a 21st Century trade function, but also made clear the opportunities that can come from a new function set up to respond to the needs of digital services alongside more traditional goods. He explained how the department will be seeking to expand its work in the future, how that could support the publishing industry in its continuing success and how this function would fit into the wider trade landscape alongside organisations such as International Exports and Investments (formerly UKTI). John made clear that his Department wanted to hear from publishers on any issues the they faced but also on our priorities for future trade agreements and market focus. If any members would like us to pursue any specific trade or export issue further then do get in touch and we will support you in approaching the department. 


Opposition in the Conservative ranks to the government’s new policy on grammar schools continues.  Speaking on Peston on Sunday, former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said she felt the grammar schools debate was a distraction from areas of the country where "schooling is not good enough". She has also taken to social media writing on Facebook that she believes “that an increase in pupil segregation on the basis of academic selection would be at best a distraction from crucial reforms to raise standards and narrow the attainment gap and at worse risk actively undermining six years of progressive education reform.” 

Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron also stated his party’s opposition to the policy in his closing speech at this year’s Lib Dem Conference in Brighton, saying it was “threatening to relegate 80% of our children to education’s second division by returning to the 11-plus”. He also criticised the current education system, particularly at primary level, for focusing on getting young people through the “wrong kinds of tests” rather than developing them for later life, work or further studies. He said: “It’s not about whether kids can solve problems, or converse in other languages – or even their own. It’s about statistics. Measurements. League tables. Instead of building an education system, we have built a quality assurance industry.” He said that he would end the current system of SATS in primary schools, which he called a “distraction” from real education. 

The issue of teacher workload has been raised in Scotland.  A review by HM inspectors of Scotland’s 32 local authorities found 14 had more work to do to help reduce teacher workload. Bill Maxwell, Education Scotland’s chief executive, said: “Whilst all local authorities were clearly committed to the principle of tackling undue workload, our review highlighted the need for many authorities to do more to speed up progress in ensuring consistent good practice.”  A recent review into teacher workload in England and Wales pointed to the role access to published learning resources play in helping teachers free up time to concentrate on teaching. 

Higher education

The vice chancellor of Oxford University has warned that Brexit is risking vital research funding and student numbers. Speaking on the BBC radio after Oxford University topped this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings, vice chancellor Louise Richardson said that the EU referendum had created significant uncertainty about the future. She called on the Government to secure a relationship with the EU that is “as close to the current situation as possible” and also to guarantee the status of EU citizens in the UK, who make up 17% of the university’s staff. She said that some universities were already trying to poach its best academics. “Our concern is that our academics who are at Oxford might decide to leave if they are concerned that they may not be able to get their research funding in the future. There are many universities in the world who would be thrilled to have them and who are approaching them and are asking them if they would return to their universities instead,” she said. She also noted that the university currently received around £67m a year from the European Research Funding, and said it needs to ensure it can continue to access funding for its research.

Meanwhile science minister Jo Johnson is set to outline plans to strengthen collaborative research between Britain and China when he opens a joint UK-Chinese plant research centre just outside Shanghai this weekend. Explaining the move, he said: “Over the past 20 years, China has significantly increased investment in science and when UK and Chinese scientists work together the results are proven to have more impact than when each country works alone. Frankly, it’s obvious that we should continue exploiting our shared success.” The government’s plans comes after rapid growth in Chinese research over the past few years. According to a study by the PA, while in 2000 China spend about as much as France on R&D, today it spends more than 28 EU members states combined, spending over 2% of its GDP on R&D.

Johnson also used a Thunderer article in The Times (£) to remake the case for the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework.  He wrote that while it was excellent news that Oxford had topped the university rankings he pointed out that this table is heavily influenced by research performance which only tells part of the story when discussing university excellence.  With student satisfaction levels dropping, teaching needs to be made as much of a priority for universities as research. 

Library closures

More than 300 writers including Malorie Blackman and Philip Pullman have called on the new secretary of state for culture, Karen Bradley to “set a new course” for public libraries, following the closure of hundreds of libraries over the past few years. The letter, which was written by libraries campaign and children’s author Alan Gibbon and signed by 300 authors, said that Bradley should recognise that there is a “crisis” in the public library service, stating that 343 libraries have closed since 2010. It also notes that 8,000 paid and trained library staff have been lost with a 93% increase in the use of library volunteers over the past six years. The letter says: “Public libraries, museums and galleries are vital social and cultural resources at the heart of our communities. They give access to reading, literacy, information, technology, history, art, information and enjoyment. But they are in crisis. We call upon you, as secretary of state for culture media and sport to recognise this crisis and set a course after years of decline.” Campaigners are also preparing to march in protest against cuts to libraries on 5 November, starting at the British Library and ending outside the House of Commons. Meanwhile Warrington Central Library, the first UK public library, is among nine libraries in Cheshire facing closure as the organisation that runs them needs to save £300,000 from its annual budget.

Reading for Pleasure

The joy of reading is being killed for many children by constant school tests, former children's laureate Michael Morpurgo said at the inaugural Book Trust annual lecture. The author of War Horse, who is president of the reading charity Book Trust, wants primary schools to reinstate story time. He said that successive government have pressured teachers into “teaching literacy fearfully”, taking the wonder out of stories and turning them into a subject for tests of comprehension, handwriting and grammar in which at least as many children fail as succeed, leading some to give up. But he also noted that society as a whole, not just schools and government, is responsible for whether children succeed or fail in literacy.

He pointed to an “apartheid system” of kinds in this country between “haves and have-not children, between those who read, who through books, through developing an enjoyment of literature can have the opportunity to access the considerable cultural and material benefits of our society; and those who were made to feel very early on that the world of words, of books, of stories, of ideas, was not for them, that they were not clever enough to join that world, that it was not the world they belonged to, that it was shut off from them for  ever". The lecture was part of Book Trust’s Time to Read campaign, to raise the debate around children’s reading.

Brexit update

The PA has submitted short submissions to the inquiries underway by the Science and Technology Committees of both Houses into the implications of Brexit on science and research.  The areas of concern raised include: potential loss of funding from EU grants; the impact on higher education funding should there be a reduction in the numbers of international students;  restrictions on freedom of movement; and the overall loss of UK influence in important EU policy debates. The submission also demonstrated that any damaging affect Brexit might have on science and research would trickle down to academic publishing, and the export revenues it generates.

This week we have:

Met with Oxford Economics; met with the Alliance for IP at its working groups on copyright and research and education; heard about the work of the new Department for International Trade from the Director General for Trade Policy John Alty (formerly Chief Executive of the IPO); attended the Booktrust annual lecture given this year by Michael Morpurgo; met with the National Literacy Trust.

Attending the Labour Party conference in Liverpool; meeting with Jisc; attending the Libraries Taskforce working group on PLR and elending; discussing the implication of Brexit at a roundtable at the IPO; meeting with the BBC on the #lovetoread campaign; meeting Ann Rossiter, Chief Executive of SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries); meeting with the Creative Industries Federation; discussing reading for pleasure strategies with the literacy charities.