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Written Statements

Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 14 July 2021

Written Statements

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Green Workforce

As we look ahead to publishing our comprehensive net zero strategy and hosting COP26 in the autumn, we must focus on how we invest in the UK’s most important asset—our workforce—so that people have the right skills to deliver the net zero transition and thrive in the jobs it will create. This builds on the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution set out in November 2020—the first step in capturing the once in a lifetime opportunity to lead the charge and pursue a global green recovery, level up the country, and support jobs throughout the UK as we accelerate on our path to reach net zero by 2050.

Today, together with the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), we welcome the publication of the independent Green Jobs Taskforce’s report. The report brings together evidence on the skills needed in the green economy and sets out their independent recommendations for how the Government, industry and a wide range of stakeholders can work together to meet the important challenges and grasp the opportunities they have identified.

We are also pleased to announce the formation of a cross-cutting delivery group to maintain the momentum generated by the taskforce and drive action across the green skills agenda.

BEIS and DFE convened this taskforce of 17 individuals from diverse backgrounds in industry, academia, unions, and the education and skills sector to come together to advise the Government, industry and the education sector. The Government will now consider the taskforce’s rich evidence base and comprehensive recommendations ahead of setting out, later in the year, our net zero strategy.

But we are taking the first steps to ensure that green jobs are good quality, that they can be accessed by people of all backgrounds and in all parts of the country, and that workers in sectors and industries undergoing change can reapply their skills and expertise towards this new challenge.

In England, the reforms to the skills system set out in the recently published Skills for Jobs White Paper provide the foundation on which we can build. This programme of reform, which placed employers at the centre of our technical education system, includes the introduction of new T-levels, flexible apprenticeships, skills bootcamps and occupational traineeships. Earlier in the year, we marked a major milestone in the lifetime skills guarantee, with the roll-out of almost 400 qualifications which are now available and fully funded for any adult who has not already achieved a level 3 (A-level equivalent) qualification.

We will ensure that these programmes are directed to support more people to get the skills they need to move into green jobs, and consider where we might need to go further or faster to fill skills gaps identified by the taskforce. We are already making progress—skills bootcamps will, from July this year, support flexible training in key green sectors such as construction and nuclear; a green apprenticeship advisory panel is identifying existing apprenticeships that best support green career pathways; our free courses for jobs offer is supporting more adults to study fully funded qualifications in subject areas crucial for green jobs, such as construction, forestry and engineering; and a new emerging skills electrification project will identify cutting-edge skills in the battery/electrification sector, develop short, modular content to meet the needs of employers, and upskill the teaching workforce.

This report also highlights how supporting people to develop the right skills to thrive in this transition cannot be the responsibility of the Government alone. We want to see businesses step up and invest in training the green workforce, and so we urge them to reflect on the taskforce’s work and use it to inform how they can benefit from and contribute to the green industrial revolution.

The Government will continue to work closely with industry to ensure the employer-led skills system we are building through our ongoing reforms meets employers’ needs and reflects the fast changing shape of the UK labour market.

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Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Publication of the Online Media Literacy Strategy

I am pleased to inform the House that the Government are today publishing our “Online Media Literacy Strategy”. This strategy is a complementary measure to the proposed Online Safety Bill and will play a critical role in allowing us to meet our ambition of making the UK the safest place in the world to be online.

Through this strategy, we want to improve media literacy across the country by providing direction to the sector. We also seek to highlight the challenges that all citizens face in navigating an increasingly complex media landscape, with an amplified focus on vulnerable and disabled users.

The strategy sets out our plans to ensure a co-ordinated approach to online media literacy education. We have established a media literacy framework that enumerates the skills we want citizens young and old to learn in order to navigate the online media landscape safely. We set out the key user groups on which we will direct particular focus to ensure an inclusive approach to media literacy. We lay out six media literacy challenges to provide direction to the media literacy sector. We also highlight the specific issue of misinformation and disinformation, and the potential for media literacy by design to assist media literate online behaviour.

We have engaged with a broad range of stakeholders from academia, regulators, civil society and industry, drawing upon their expertise to inform the strategy. This is only the beginning of our engagement with the sector, and we will look to work even more closely with these organisations and more to ensure the maximum possible impact from media literacy activity.

As our attention turns to delivery of the strategy, we will focus on taking forward a number of different initiatives. Alongside the strategy we are publishing the first annual Online Media Literacy Action Plan for the Financial Year 2021-22. The action plan sets out a number of initiatives to enact the strategy, from establishing a cross-sector media literacy taskforce, to working with teachers to help embed media literacy in schools, to collaborating with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Administrations through a UK media literacy forum.

It will be important that we work productively with other key stakeholders across the sector. Ofcom has an existing statutory duty to promote media literacy. The Government’s efforts in the media literacy landscape will play a supportive and complementary role to that of Ofcom, by providing focus for organisations across the sector. We will continue to engage closely with Ofcom where there is a potential to increase the impact of our efforts.

Media literacy is a devolved policy and so the initiatives contained in the strategy will only apply directly to England. However, we are working closely with the devolved Administrations and intend to establish a UK media literacy forum to engage with our counterparts in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and ensure we are achieving the greatest possible impact across the whole UK.

A copy of the strategy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Education

Level 3 Qualifications Reform

Today, I am pleased to announce the next stage of the Government’s reforms of post-16 qualifications at level 3 in England.

Reforming post-16 education and skills is at the heart of our plan to build back better and level up the country by ensuring that students everywhere have access to qualifications that will give them the skills to succeed. We have already improved the quality of level 3 study by reforming A-levels, redeveloping apprenticeship standards and introducing T-levels. This work is vital to the reforms and will create a coherent system in which all classroom based qualifications that sit alongside A-levels and T-levels are good quality.

These reforms build on the Skills for Jobs White Paper, which set out our ambition to improve the opportunities for young people and adults to progress into skilled employment by linking technical qualifications to employer-led occupational standards. These standards form the core of new T-levels and the reforms published today will ensure that this will also be the case for other technical qualifications on offer at level 3.

High-quality qualifications are essential to helping everyone, whatever their age, to get good jobs and realise their ambitions. Whether they want to go into skilled employment or into higher education (HE), achieving a level 3 qualification will be an important stepping stone. The system also needs to be adaptable, so that we train people for the jobs of the future.

We are grateful for the thoughtful contributions to our second-stage consultation on level 3 qualifications, and for the high level of interest in these important issues. Though our goal of a slimmed-down, higher-quality system remains the same, we have listened carefully to feedback on the range of qualifications that are needed. Our policy statement sets out where we see the value in qualifications that can be taken as part of mixed study programmes alongside A-levels, as well as the limited range of subjects where it is justified to take specialist alternatives, such as in performing and creative arts.

Our reforms are bold and will lead to significant change from the current system. We continue to be unapologetic about both the need and our commitment to raise standards in technical education, as we have already done for GCSEs, A-levels and apprenticeships. It is vital that in a fast moving and high-tech economy technical education closes the gap between what people study and the needs of employers. We are proposing to put many of these changes into law through the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill.

We will streamline and improve the quality of the level 3 system. We are strengthening the pathways to progression, creating clearly defined academic and technical routes with qualifications leading to academic study, and/or skilled employment. This clarity of purpose will allow students to see more easily how their study will help them to progress.

We will ensure that all qualifications sitting alongside A-levels and T-levels provide progression for learners, respond to the needs of employers and meet rigorous quality standards. Funding approval will be removed for technical qualifications overlapping with wave 1 and 2 T-levels from 2023, and with wave 3 and 4 T-levels from 2024. We have listened carefully to feedback on the pace of implementation of these reforms and will phase the introduction of reformed qualifications, starting with a digital pathfinder for introduction from 2023, scaling up in the following year and completing the reforms by 2025.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (the institute) and Ofqual will work to ensure that qualifications approved for funding are high-quality, meet the needs of employers, and stay up to date with our evolving economy. The Education and Skills Funding Agency will continue to have overall responsibility for funding decisions.

We also recognise that getting a quality offer at level 2 and below is key to making sure that students have clear lines of sight to level 3, apprenticeships, traineeships, and directly into employment. As a result, we want to improve study at level 2 and below alongside our reforms to level 3 qualifications. We are considering feedback to the call for evidence which ran from 10 November to 14 February and will consult on proposals for reform later this year.

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Transport

Transport Decarbonisation

Transport decarbonisation is a dull way of describing something much more exciting and far-reaching.

Because transport is not just how you get around. It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, our cities, our countryside, our living standards, our health, and our whole quality of life.

The Transport Decarbonisation Plan that will be published today, the first in the world, is not about stopping people doing things: it is about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive on improved roads, but increasingly in zero emission cars. We will still have new development, but it will not force us into high-carbon lifestyles.

Transport is the largest contributor to UK greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), with road transport alone accounting for almost a quarter of our total emissions in 2019. We must deliver a step change in the breadth and scale of our ambition to reduce transport’s GHG emissions to reach net zero. In March 2020, “Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge” committed to bring together a transport decarbonisation plan to deliver transport’s contribution to carbon budgets and net zero across all forms of transport.

The plan published today is genuinely high ambition—technically and feasibly—for all areas of transport and notes that decarbonisation will rely, in part, on future transport technology, coupled with the necessary behavioural and societal change. Because of the pandemic, we are already seeing some of these changes in behaviour happen much faster than expected. We have seen homeworking change traditional commuter and leisure trips, video conferencing has changed business travel and we have seen a rise in cycling and walking all of which could save thousands of tonnes of carbon themselves.

In the 16 months since March 2020, we have published ambitious policies to transform England for cycling and walking with an investment of £2 billion and more than 300 cycling and walking schemes already being delivered. We have published plans to fundamentally reshape our bus network along public service lines and have created Great British Railways to make services easier to use, to grow the network and build on the huge acceleration of electrification we have already seen since 2010.

The commitments set out today include linking local infrastructure funding to solutions that cut emissions—aligning that investment to our net zero programme, improving public transport, increasing support for active travel so mass transit and cycling and walking play a bigger role than ever, a net zero rail network by 2050, net zero domestic aviation emissions by 2040 and leading the transition to green shipping.

The plan also sets out a world-leading pledge to consult on the end of sale of all new, non-zero emission road vehicles by 2040 at the latest.

As a major step towards that, alongside the plan we have published a consultation on phasing out the sale of all new non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) by 2040, demonstrating our commitment to tackle the second largest source of domestic transport carbon emissions and furthering our ambition to decarbonise UK roads.

This comes with a Green Paper, which will set out options for a new regulatory framework requiring vehicle manufacturers to improve the efficiency of new road vehicles. This will allow us to meet our phase out ambitions whilst creating new jobs for the automotive sector and delivering certainty to drivers.

To underpin our petrol and diesel phase out dates and help achieve them, we are also publishing a 2035 Delivery Plan today. This plan brings together all of our committed funding streams and measures for decarbonising cars and vans, from across Government, into a single document. It outlines the key timelines, milestones and how we will monitor progress towards our commitment to deliver mass ownership of zero emission cars and vans.

Leading by example, our decarbonisation plan will increase the level of ambition for the whole central Government fleet, moving the target date for the 40,000-vehicle fleet to be fully zero emission forward to 2027.

Today we are also publishing the Government’s response to the Electric Vehicle Smart Charging consultation. The response commits to laying legislation later this year to ensure that all private EV charge-points meet smart charging standards. The transition to EVs is central to Government’s net zero commitment but will also increase demand on the electricity system. Smart charging can help mitigate these impacts. This legislation will play an important role in driving the uptake of smart technology, which can save consumers money on their energy bills.

We also intend to tackle the challenges of decarbonising the aviation and maritime sectors head on. Today, we are also launching a Jet Zero consultation that commits the aviation sector to a net zero emissions target by 2050 and sets out our approach and principles to achieve this. The consultation focuses on the rapid development of technologies in a way that maintains the benefits of air travel and maximises the opportunities that decarbonisation can bring for the UK.

The decarbonisation plan sets out further commitments for our maritime sector, establishing our ‘Course to Zero’, consulting on how we get more ships plugging in to our decarbonised grid, exploring how we phase out emissions from vessels, and considering how we take advantage of the UK’s strengths in the maritime sector to support growth in green technology and shipbuilding,

The Government are also publishing their Rail Environment Policy statement, which will set the direction for the rail industry on environment issues and inform the forthcoming sustainable rail strategy. The document will look at traction decarbonisation, air quality, decarbonising the rail estate and a range of other environmental-related issues on the railway, including biodiversity and waste.

This suite of announcements marks a major leap forward in delivering ambitions to decarbonise transport and we are the first country in the world to do this, taking a firm leadership position as we host COP26 later this year.

The plan is ambitious, consumer friendly and world leading. It will create economic growth, new industries and jobs and help us build back better and greener.

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