If children cannot read, write or add up well enough by the age of 14, he says, their parents should be denied state benefits and made to live on food vouchers.
That is the proposal of Lord Digby Jones, the only person to have ever served as a minister in Her Majesty’s Government without being a member of a political party.
> I think with views like that he’s an honourary member of all the main parties anyway…
And it is a good job that he has no political allegiance, because he is scathing about Labour’s pledge of a bankers’ bonus tax as the solution to the country’s woes and would certainly have faced a few awkward questions were he sitting at Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet table.
He has little time for any politician who pledges low taxes and high spending and believes Labour, Liberal Democrats and Tories alike to be guilty of such empty promises.
This is Asia’s century, he tells an audience of business people and academics in Wolverhampton.
The former minister for trade under Gordon Brown is adamant that there is no way for British manufacturers and service providers to compete with India and China on price alone.
The solution, he says is to offer better quality. And the only way to do that is a skilled workforce.
But there is a problem. Kids are not coming out of school with high enough standards of literacy and numeracy.
As the 58-year-old gives his speech at the University of Wolverhampton Science Park he says he knows that the left-leaning newspaper the Guardian ‘will say shame on you’.
He says it anyway.
“If children can’t read and write by the time they leave formal education the teaching profession has failed,” he says.
“The teaching profession will say they have kids who go home and they don’t see a book again until they are back at school the next day.
“If you have kids who can’t read and write to the appropriate standard by the time they are 14, you should have your benefits stopped.
“You can have food stamps. But the extra bit, the Sky dish, the fags, that stops until the kids can read and write.”
> Yeah ? But what if the kids who can’t read come from a family NOT receiving benefits ? Even, god help us, a rich family ?
Already it’s a two-tier system. Benefits = punish them, rich = oh, never mind, our connections will get him a job in the city even if he is as thick as a brick.
Speaking with the Express & Star, he also suggests that schools could lower the age that children can leave to 14, particularly if they are disruptive in class.
“You could solve youth unemployment if the education system could send young people out of school at 16 able to read, write and add up.
“I would have them out at 14 if they want to come. Get them out into the world of work.”
> Oh for fuck’s sake – THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH JOBS TO GO ROUND AS IT IS. And this guy advised the government ? My god… no wonder we’re in a mess.
He says he would want them to be given some form of vocational training or an apprenticeship if it suited them better than studying in a classroom.
“Having skills doesn’t mean a PhD,” Lord Jones says.
> So tell that to all the employers who seem to regard paper qualifications far more highly than time-served practical skills.
His frustration at the level of ‘functional illiteracy’ among young people in Britain goes hand in hand with his concerns that the country must change the way it does business if it is to compete with developing countries and the new economic powers of China and India.
In his speech Lord Jones suggests that Britain is on the verge of a calamity, even invoking the image of the ‘doomsday’ clock used to explain how close mankind is to some form of nuclear or environmental catastrophe.
“The Guardian will say shame on you. But this is five minutes to midnight my friend.
“This is Asia’s century.”
Lord Jones believes the employers have to innovate and add value to their products and services.
“If all you compete on is price, then China will have your lunch and India will have your dinner,” he says.
The 58-year-old former lawyer was director general of the CBI from 2000 to 2006. He was made minister of state for trade and investment in 2007 but did not join a political party, instead being made a life peer.
> “He was made minister of state for trade and investment in 2007 “ – just before things really started going pear-shaped. Coincidence ?
Innovation, he says, is not just about invention.
“It was a Brit who invented the World Wide Web, a Brit who invested the television, penicillin, the telephone.
“We remember how good we were at invention but who leads the world on this now? It’s about innovation, taking an idea to the market.”
> It was a Brit who invented Universal Credit and all the other “innovations” that don’t work but continue to swallow cash by the billions.
He tells his audience that politicians of all parties in all countries have ‘lied’ ‘every day in every way’.
> Well, can’t argue with that… but then he spoils it by repeating all the old crap about benefits and jobs and stupid, lazy people. He’s a political party all on his own.
And it will be those who innovate in the public sector, such as the councils now drawing up deep cuts, who get themselves back on track.
“Whether it was Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour, they all told us we can have it all. They told us we can have high public spending, low taxation.
“But ‘vote for me and I will cut your spending’ is not the greatest election slogan of all time.
“Tax the bankers? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money. We all have to understand that the party is over.
> “Tax the bankers? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money.”
Read that as : “Tax my mates ? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money. Screw the poor instead.”
“The public sector has to do it in a different way. There will never be the same money around. We have to cut our cloth accordingly.”
He also warned about the pressures of Britain’s ageing population as he made a plea for people to get the skills and training they needed to get a job and have a long career.
> In a world of part-time, short contract, zero-hour contract jobs ? Its all short term nowadays – does anyone really want a life-long career doing zero-hour shifts for Poundland ?
“If you have a system of government where you’re going to be looked after for longer than you were putting into the state, you will go bust.
“People will live longer and with the scourge of dementia.
“No-one costs more to care for than a physically healthy but mentally challenged older person.
“Where are we going to get the money from? And don’t say just tax bankers’ bonuses. That doesn’t solve it all.”
> It’d be a bloody good start, though…
Source Wolverhampton Express & Star, 27 Feb 2014
Arts funding must not be limited to groups inside the golden circle of the M25, the wife of playwright Lee Hall has said.
Baroness Beeban Kidron, the director behind films such as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, has called on the Government to ensure the North sees a legally binding share of arts funding.
The peer was one of many speaking out following a report last year that showed half of the Arts Council England funding budget went to London, as well as some 90% of the £450m Department for Culture, Media and Sport budget.
This means the capital gets £69 of cultural spending per head, compared with just £4.50 in the rest of England.
Alongside this, 45% of National Lottery arts cash goes to London.
Baroness Kidron, whose husband led efforts to reverse council arts cuts in Newcastle, said that just four institutions in the capital receive more lottery funding than the 33 local authorities which are home to six million people at the bottom of their funding list.
She added: “These local authorities are predominantly, although not exclusively, in the North, but they all cover areas that are already challenged by other symptoms of deprivation and where current and prospective local authority cuts are biting most deeply.”
Speaking before members of the House of Lords, she called for the Government to make funding for the arts “a legal requirement” and to give local authorities the resources to fulfil that requirement.
She said that “talent is not centred in London, appreciation is not centred in London, the need to see oneself reflected in our world is not centred in London” and made the point that the national and international reputation of excellence in the creative arts started with individuals and groups in towns and cities across the UK .
“If we withdraw funding now we decimate the art and artists of the future,” the peer said.
“Starving the ecosystem of the tiny, the local, the experimental, the site-specific and the amateur groups, or insisting that this same list become little businesses, will simply kill the juggernaut of British theatre which has conquered Broadway and beyond.
“Could not Her Majesty’s Government consider making arts funding a legal requirement of local authorities and provide the resources to support that requirement, in order that we do not decimate arts provision outside the golden circle of the M25 and, in doing so, deprive ourselves of the artists and art of the future?”
Jane Tarr, director for the North at the Arts Council England said that the organisation is a “national champion for the arts and culture all over the country”.
“However, we’re not the biggest investor in culture in this country.
“With organisations like the National Glass Centre, The Baltic, The Sage and MIMA it’s clear that the North East is home to some world class arts and culture organisations – the result of very successful partnerships between the Arts Council, local authorities and higher education.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 14 Feb 2014