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WEEKEND WEB: Commons at its best when party politics are put to one side

The House of Commons
The House of Commons


The House of Commons is, perhaps, at its best when debating matters so unquestionably in the national interest that they are beyond party political brickbat.

Such was last week’s consideration of the Space Industry Bill. The proposed legislation provides a framework to allow and encourage further investment in the space industry in this country.

Crucially, in doing so, it does not attempt to predict an unpredictable future. Such a dynamic sector as space travel will be unrecognisable in five or ten years’ time as the technology grows and alters.

Further measures will be needed to bring the Bill’s essence to life as we have a clearer picture about what the specific requirements are.

People with the right skills are always needed. My interest in the development of practical skills is long-standing and so I am proud of the progress which we have made in elevating technical and vocational competences.

But although great strides have been made, there is much more to be done. According to the OECD, fewer than 10 per cent of the UK adult population aged between 20 and 45 have professional education and training qualifications, compared with more than 15 per cent in the United States and Australia and almost 20 per cent in Germany.

​These mid-range technical qualifications lead to higher technical learning, and it is here that we must do more.

British companies are at the forefront of scientific and engineering developments and achievements of which we can all feel proud, but we must resist resting on our laurels.

Britain’s best future lies as a high-tech, high-skilled nation, with people – able to develop their skills, aptitudes, taste and talents – ready to make that future a reality.

The challenges we face are not purely technological; they are distinctly, profoundly human matters.

Many in South Holland and the Deepings will gain opportunities through such skills.

Having made hundreds of speeches from the front bench over the last 20 years, last week I spoke from the back benches for the first time since 1999.

I was pleased to do so in a debate on a Bill which I helped to shape. That colleagues – from all parties – made such appreciative comments on my record in Government shows just how generous Parliament can be.

As I said in my speech last week, those chosen to serve the people have a duty – indeed a mission – to promote the common good and the national interest.

By creating the conditions for new developments to flourish, the Space Industry Bill does exactly that. It is about changing lives by changing life chances, inspiring a new generation to look up and travel what Milton called “A broad and ample road, whose dust is gold, / And pavement stars.”


New freedom and zeal to represent my constituents


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