A record low for the gender pay gap

November 24, 2014

I was pleased with the announcement from the Office for National Statistics that the gender pay gap is now at its lowest level since records began in 1997. The difference now stands at 9.4% in April 2014, compared with 1997 when it was 17.4%. It has fallen sharply in the last year. The gap is the narrowest at the ages of 22 to 29, and this is especially heartening news as we look for progress in achieving more equality in the future.

This is another step in the right direction, but we must not be complacent. Equal pay for equal work is a principle that is so obviously correct, but we still see an imbalance in our economy. It is suggested that better paid, more flexible, part-time work opportunities, and better paid leave for fathers to encourage more equal parenting could cut the gap further, and I agree that more flexibility in the jobs market can only be a good thing.

These figure show that we have come a long way, but there is still a way to go.


Some good news for small businesses

November 12, 2014

I was very happy to hear that the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills has given independence to the British Business Bank. The Bank has been a key part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and its independence represents an important development in providing finance to small and medium-sized businesses.

Before being given its new independence, the Bank was run from within the Department and, in the 12 months to June 2014, helped provide £829m of lending and investment to small UK firms, taking the total number of companies helped by the Bank to over 35,000. It builds on previous government schemes of supporting venture capital and promoting lending diversity. High levels of investment are a powerful way to grow our economy and strengthen our position globally, and with nearly a billion pounds put into businesses last year, the British Business Bank is becoming ever more successful. The fact that the Dutch Parliament has recently voted to create its own institution based on our model is testament to its success.


The Eurozone Crisis…

May 17, 2012

The Eurozone crisis has shown up the very different economies which operate in certain parts of Europe. For a large country such as Germany, centrally located with a very skilled workforce, plenty of capital and modern efficient industries, the low exchange rate for the Euro gives huge trading advantages, the product of which we are seeing in Germany’s growth. However a moment’s thought shows that if the Deutschemark were still the German currency, its exchange rate would be sky high, making life difficult for German business.

For smaller countries such as Greece, life is not so easy. Normally a currency union succeeds where there are capital transfers from the wealthier parts to more disadvantaged areas, labour mobility follows and a united fiscal policy would exist. Looking at it on a micro scale, within the UK taxes are taken from Herts and spent in less fortunate parts of the country, people move to find jobs and all parts of the union have the same fiscal policy. However this is not true of the Eurozone and these structural issues need to be addressed. It is only when a sensible package is hammered out, that this Eurozone crisis will be resolved.

At last – good news on the economy?

February 8, 2012

This morning I was pleased to read the latest Jobs Report from the recruitment industry body REC. They produce this report monthly with KPMG and this month there was good news with permanent jobs’ placements increasing for the first time in four months. This is the first positive indicator for some time that employers are looking to hire staff. It is particularly encouraging that six out of eight sectors surveyed show growth in demand, including engineering, IT and office professionals.
This Report can be seen to confirm the other good news last Friday with better-than-expected services’ data from the Purchasing Managers’ Index. This suggests strengthening confidence in the UK economy from consumers as well as businesses. I believe that it also ties in with ERSA’s figures showing a good early performance by the Coalition’s Work Programme in helping the long-term unemployed into work.
I have long been concerned that many vacancies are in skill areas where we do not have enough trained workers. The REC Report seems to suggest that this is still a challenge. I agree with Skills Minister John Hayes MP that increased use of apprenticeships to get young people into employment with vocational skills development is important. REC also comment that improved careers guidance is needed too.
The recent massive increase in apprenticeships in NE Herts is a good start, but we must all hope for the continuation of these signs of the Jobs’ Market looking up.

Strengthening links with China…

January 26, 2012

Oliver speaking to a Chinese Delegation

Britain is trying to strengthen links with China at all levels and George Osborne has recently visited China to develop trade and economic contacts. The Chinese are also interested in how our constitution works and our anti-corruption measures.

I was recently invited to speak to a delegation of elected officials from Shanghai about standards in public life. I was able to explain the development of thinking in this country over recent years, leading to the establishment of the Nolan Committee, subsequently the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and the introduction of IPSA and the role of the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee. The officials were well-briefed and took a keen interest in Nolan’s seven principles of public life. We had a lively discussion – or as lively as can be had via an interpreter – and it did seem that the highest echelons of local government in Shanghai are looking closely at emulating some of our procedures.

Strike Ballot Turnout

March 23, 2010

With strike ballots very much in the news, it is worth considering whether there should be a turn-out threshold for the results to stand. At present a simple majority of votes cast is enough. Given the potentially drastic impact of a strike, there is a case for requiring a majority of those balloted. This would enhance workplace democracy by putting a premium on turnout. Some argue that in a General Election not even a simple majority is required to elect an MP. But there is a difference between deciding on a strike action – yes or no – or electing an individual MP taking account of their qualities and party policy issues. It is noteworthy that in that other area of workplace democracy – trade union recognition – there is a threshold that 40 per cent of those balloted must support recognition. Conservatives introduced modern workplace democracy with the introduction of secret ballots. A reasonable ballot threshold would further encourage turnout and legitimacy.

Is this becoming the Spring of Discontent?

March 19, 2010

In my last blog, I was remembering when the last Labour Government lost its grip on the nation’s finances and was damaged after a welter of strikes in 1978/1979 known as the Winter of Discontent. A number of readers have commented to me that it just does not make sense to strike in the current economic climate with the risk to the employer’s business and jobs. As though the BA strike threat was not bad enough, we now hear of a threat of a first national rail strike in 16 years after the RMT union voted for industrial action. This lunchtime RMT announced 54% of members voted for industrial action over signal workers’ job cuts. Train operators have condemned strike action. Perhaps the unions sense that the government is a lame duck and will be desperate to find a way out, hoping they will apply pressure to meet strikers’ demands. But jobs are precious and the success of business is vital to see jobs created and protected. Strikes damage business anyway, but to strike in the middle of an economic crisis didn’t make sense in 1978/1979 and doesn’t make sense now.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.