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Leaving the EU: Employment Levels in the Science and Technology Sector

Volume 729: debated on Wednesday 15 March 2023

5. What assessment she has made of the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU on levels of employment in the science, innovation and technology sector. (904138)

My Department’s work will ensure that we are breaking down barriers and levelling the playing field, so that more women can enter STEM jobs in research and innovation. This includes UK Research and Innovation funded STEM ambassadors in schools and, just last week, the Government announced £150,000 funding to support women who are taking career breaks and need skills to get back into STEM careers.

Thanks to Brexit, universities in the UK have lost almost £1 billion in EU funds, with 115 cancelled grants last year alone. Unfortunately, many EU-based workers, such as researchers, now feel unwelcome because of the United Kingdom’s hostility and have followed the funding out of the UK. My constituent Ms McCallum’s long-term partner is French. He is unable to secure a visa to work in our STEM sector. The complexities of the system, and the attached costs, are making it impossible for him to choose to reside in Scotland. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to reduce visa costs for skilled workers, incentivising them to come to the UK and set up home here?

We do not for one moment underestimate just how important it is to attract the best and the brightest to the UK, to work in science and technology and to study here. Just last week, we announced the global talent network for AI. Since 2020, this Government have created the global talent visa. We have created new routes such as the high-potential individual route, and we have the scale-up route. It is this Government who are delivering.

Since our departure from the UK—[Laughter.] Not yet! Since our departure from the EU, the UK needs to forge our own regulatory path to provide certainty to businesses investing in the UK, as well as providing confidence to consumers. However, UK law has failed to tackle the harms, including fake reviews and subscription traps, that we all now encounter online. The Government claim that they are taking action, yet we still have no legislation. Another delay, another broken promise—can the Secretary of State tell us when we can expect to see the digital markets, competition and consumer Bill finally laid before Parliament?

We have committed to delivering it in this Session. Further details will be announced by the Leader of the House in due course.

Will the Secretary of State pay tribute to the quality of the workforce we have in the UK for science and technology? In north Hertfordshire, companies such as Johnson Matthey are doing fantastic work in the environmental field, and neighbouring Stevenage has Airbus and other wonderful businesses. Will the Secretary of State do all she can to get us back into the EU programmes?

It is absolutely because we have the best and the brightest in this country that we can lead the way. I pay tribute to the people who work in my right hon. and learned Friend’s constituency; I look forward to visiting them as soon as I can. As I have said, our position on Horizon has not changed.