Stourbridge News Column – Thursday 7th March
It has been a difficult month in Parliament, but our travails are as nothing when compared with the tumult elsewhere in the country. The discussions I have had with people in the car industry and farming, never mind the tech industry, have reinforced to me the complete calamity in which leaving the EU without a deal would result. As I have written elsewhere (you can read all my articles at www.margotjames.com/brexit), although not perfect, I think we can build a positive future from the PM’s deal. I am therefore preparing, again, to vote for the EU Withdrawal Agreement in the middle of this month or before. Meanwhile I try not to get consumed by Brexit during either my constituency or my ministerial work.
Almost five and a half million adults of working age do not have the full range of basic digital skills. This is a big concern when you consider that over 80% of jobs advertised online now require basic digital skills. And jobs requiring general digital skills pay approximately 30% more than average earnings. One of the things I’m proudest of is how we are spreading the success of the tech industry across the country now. We want as many of these better paid tech jobs as possible to be created in city regions like Liverpool, Sunderland, and places like Stoke and here in the Black Country.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to visit the global heart of the tech industry, Silicon Valley, in California. I met a wide range of experts and companies, including Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg. With all these companies, we discussed the government’s plans to reduce online crime; and how we propose to hold the tech giants to account more effectively. I am a great believer in the power of technology to do good. But as with every other revolution, there are unintended consequences, some of which are seriously harmful and need to be tackled urgently.
I was in Stourbridge last Friday and Saturday. Two of my most important meetings were, firstly, with the Chief Executive of our local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Paul Maubach, to discuss Russells Hall, and secondly, Chief Superintendent Sally Bourner, to talk about local crime levels. Improving our local hospital and tackling crime are two of the most vital issues in our area right now, and I am having regular discussions to make sure all the relevant organisations are focused on them. It was pleasing to hear that violent crime is the number one focus of our local Police force in Stourbridge, and the resources of the wider West Midlands Police are being provided to support our local officers in bringing perpetrators of crime to justice.
Tomorrow, Friday, I will be back in Stourbridge. It’s National Apprenticeship Week, so I’ll be meeting some local apprentices to talk more about their learning and training. I will also be running another advice surgery. If you would like to see me at an advice surgery, or if you would like to contact me about an issue, please do get in touch with my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01384 370572.