Reports & Galleries
Just how well do we understand what controls our climate?
As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met for its annual gathering in Madrid and on the same day it was declared that earth has experienced what is likely to be the hottest decade on record, The Lunar Society hosted the first in a series of lectures and talks on the issue of climate. The first event in The Boulton and Watt Lecture series for 2019/2020 was presented by two professors who have achieved worldwide reputations for their hypotheses as to the cause of climate change and the contribution made by the interaction between cosmic rays and solar activity in the influencing of cloud cover and earth’s climate. A packed audience heard from Professor Mike Lockwood, FRS, Professor of Space Environment Physics at the University of Reading – who spoke on “Global and regional climate change: what we know and what we do not yet know”- supporting the CO2 argument. Professor Henrik Svensmark, Physicist and Professor in the Division of Solar System Physics at the Danish National Space Institute in Copenhagen and the originator of the cosmic ray hypotheses spoke to “The role of sun in climate: is it important?”. The Boulton & Watt Lecture was hosted The University of Birmingham and sponsored by Breckland Scientific. In a wide-ranging discussion members and guests heard variously that half of global warming could be caused by solar activity but also that manmade CO2 emissions are the cause of climate change. It was also acknowledged that debate on the subject, at least outside academic circles, was stifled. Broadcasters in particular came in for criticism as being “anti-debate” on the causes of climate change. Said Professor Svensmark: “This is the first debate that I have attended in more than 10 years. “My claim is climate sensitivity is relatively low and if you look at data there are no trends – which is a good thing.” However, Prof Lockwood concluded: “Nobody lives in an average world; we each live in our own climates. We are changing land use and that has an impact. There’s no doubt that we are changing things.” Deirdre LaBassiere, Chair of the Society who facilitated the event, said: “In true Lunar Society tradition the debate was robust & indeed, on occasion controversial, yet respectful. “The discussions were held in the context of the view that man-made CO2 has caused warming over the last century and that unless CO2 output is drastically reduced we face global catastrophe. “The UK aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 but to meet that target will require an investment estimated at more than £1trillion. The consensus of the event was that scientists must be provided the platform for open debate in order to inform the critical issue of climate change. We were delighted The Lunar Society can facilitate such an event. Both Matthew Boulton and James Watt would be proud.” A recording of the event, can be viewed on our YouTube channel here:- Slide presentations are available to view here:- Professor Lockwood Professor Svensmark
What’s the future of hospice care? Birmingham hospice hosts debate with city’s influencers
“The next five years will be about sharing excellence to make sure that there is hospice care for all, delivered in more settings. It’s about being more joined up and integrated with other health and social care organisations and community groups, so that the hospice approach is threaded through the work of a wider number of professionals and that we learn more about the support already delivered by citizens and communities.” Tina Swani, chief executive at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice Educating professionals, collaborating with others, and continuing to encourage conversations around death, dying and bereavement were just some of the recommendations made to enable hospices in the UK to have a sustainable future. The suggestions came from leaders at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice and influential members of The Lunar Society, after they recently met to discuss ‘A New Era of Hospice Care in our City’. Taking place on Tuesday 5 March – the very day that Birmingham St Mary’s turned 40 years old – the debate was designed to highlight the current challenges and opportunities that face hospices across Birmingham and the rest of Britain. Representing Birmingham St Mary’s on the panel was chief executive, Tina Swani, and community development and partnerships lead, Sharon Hudson, who together discussed the importance or working more cohesively with other health care organisations and communities. BBC WM broadcaster and chair of Birmingham Press Club, Llewela Bailey, was also present to share her personal experience of using Birmingham St Mary’s services, after her husband Martin was cared for at home in 2005. Charing the debate was former home secretary, Jacqui Smith, now chair of University Hospital Birmingham. One of the biggest challenges the panel highlighted was how quickly the demand for hospice care is growing. Although people are living longer, they are doing so with more complex illnesses and conditions. As the older population increases, it means too many individuals are dying alone, unsupported, and unaware of the difference that hospice care can offer them. This poses two issues: how can hospices meet this increasing demand but how can it also ensure that people – including those from harder to reach communities – know what kind of care a hospice can offer them and feel able to access it. Panellists and members of The Lunar Society concluded that to create a sustainable model of hospice care – and therefore to help meet growing demand – education and sharing expertise should play a leading role. As Tina Swani explained: “Over the past three years, referrals to Birmingham St Mary’s have increased by 40 per cent and we anticipate that this figure will continue to rise significantly. Whilst we’ve increased our voluntary funding and staff numbers to meet current pressures, educating others is playing a big part in making sure that more people can access hospice care whenever and wherever they need it. “In the past year, Birmingham St Mary’s has educated over 1,700 health and social care professionals across the city, including teaching palliative care modules to medical students at local universities. We recognise that in the current climate, hospices can’t provide hands on care to everyone that needs it but by thinking innovatively and working in partnership with other health organisations, we can make sure that they have the skills and knowledge to support more people to live well when diagnosed with illness.” Collaboration between hospices is also crucial, especially as health and social care workforces aren’t growing at the rate of demand. Tina added: “There’s a great synergy between hospices across the West Midlands and we’ll often work together in partnership, particularly when recruiting staff or raising awareness of the overall hospice movement. I truly believe that we are far better when we work in collaboration – it definitely makes us stronger.” When asked how hospice’s can reach more people, the panel agreed that talking and listening is at the heart of the solution – especially when it comes to communities who experience barriers to palliative care. Sharon Hudson’s role at Birmingham St Mary’s is dedicated to reaching out and developing relationships with different groups across the city, such as the Bosnian or LGBTQ communities. Whilst talking is a must, Sharon states that it’s “listening and understanding their needs” that is absolutely vital. It’s not always about what hospices can teach community groups but instead, what they can teach hospices. Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice was founded in 1979 by former NHS matron, Monica Pearce. When the Hospice first opened, it could care for just 25 people on any given day. Four decades later and the Hospice is supporting over 400 individuals and their loved ones every day, providing care in people’s homes, in the community, and at the Hospice itself. The Lunar Society is a dynamic forum that aims to influence change through stimulating ideas and broadening debate. Its ‘A New Era of Hospice Care in our City’ event was held at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice in Selly Park. Lunar Society member, David Clarke, created a podcast with Tina Swani which sums up the debate and discusses how hospice care is likely to change and evolve over the years. You can listen to their discussion here. To find out more about Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, please visit here.
New addition to the Society’s Executive Committee
We are pleased to announce that Olwen Dutton has joined the Society’s Executive Committee as a co-opted member. Olwen is a solicitor and a partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, based in Birmingham. She has had a career in local authorities and the wider public sector since 1985 and has a keen interest in how strong public services contribute to a strong democratic society; and how advances in science and technology can develop this contribution. Olwen is also a strong advocate for women and, as someone from a working-class background, knows how equality of access and opportunity can be broadened. Olwen is currently vice chair of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Chair of Writing West Midlands, and a trustee of a small alms-house charity. She is a listening volunteer with Samaritans.
Jacqui Smith on Honourable Ladies in Politics – International Women’s Day 2019.
Jacqui Smith’s talk on Honourable Ladies in Politics proved an entertaining and informative start to International Women’s Day 2019. The lecture, held at Aston University was well attended and the audience heard of the many inspirational, pioneering women across the political spectrum, from Lady Megan Lloyd George and Bessie Braddock to Tessa Jowell and Edwina Curry. What stood out in each case highlighted was the individual’s enthusiasm, effort and passion for making a positive difference to people’s lives. As the UK’s first Home Secretary said, “Every politician I have met believes they can make a difference. Politician’s want change and always want to achieve something.” The downside of a life in politics is, according to Jacqui, the “toxic nature of public life, which tends to affect women disproportionally”. In the subsequent Q&A session, she confirmed that some of the challenges facing women in politics 100 years ago remain the same today and the juggling of personal life and public persona continues to be as difficult as ever. It was a humorous, insightful and candid appraisal of some of the most influential women in British politics over the past 100 years.
David Miliband 2013
Note on David Miliband dinner talk to the Lunar Society on 2nd May 2013 ‘We need to be on a war footing’ to tackle youth unemployment in this country. So said David Miliband in concluding his talk to a dinner meeting of the Lunar Society on 2nd May 2013. Describing how the problem was a global phenomenon and one whose causes ran deeper than the current financial crisis, David covered the various initiatives recommended by ACEVO’s Youth Unemployment Commission that he chaired. He stressed the importance of having a jobs guarantee for all young people who had been unemployed for 6 months or more. No country had solved this issue without such a guarantee. David compared the ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) recommendations favourably to the plans of Birmingham’s Youth Unemployment Commission. Given it was one of his last talks in Britain before flying off to his new job in New York, David also covered a number of other key issues from his political career to date. However, it was his intelligent passion on the need to tackle youth unemployment that was the most important message for me and, I believe, for Birmingham. Our city has over one in five of young people seeking work claiming job seekers allowance, a higher rate than any of England’s core cities, including Liverpool and Newcastle. In some wards, the rate is close to those of Greece, Spain and Egypt. David’s message was that changing this had to be a priority for the city. Another feature of the event that struck me was the attendance of a higher number of young people from the third sector than is usual at Lunar Society events. This included the Community Connect Foundation which is deeply involved in providing employment support and training to young people from some of the most deprived wards in the city. Maintaining and increasing this engagement is a challenge that the Lunar Society urgently needs to address. Chris Khamis CSK Strategies Ltd
Housing Report 2014
Lunar Society Housing Discussion with Lord Best, 15 April 2014 Introduction Richard Best is President of the Local Government Association, chairs the Hannover Housing Association and the All-party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Elderly people, and is a former Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one of the leading social research institutions in the UK. He led a discussion on housing, giving us the opportunity to explore the housing crisis with his expert input. Additional commentary from a range of perspectives was provided by three local experts: Angus Kennedy OBE: formerly Birmingham City Council implementation planner, Chief Executive of Castle Vale Housing Action Trust throughout its life, now running an urban regeneration consultancy; John Acres: Director of Residential Business, Turley Associates and RTPI Assembly member, with many years’ experience representing house-builders; Glenn Harris, Finance Director of Midland Heart Housing Association. The event was chaired for the Lunar Society by Alan Wenban-Smith, a member of the RTPI’s Policy Committee, who also prepared this report and the appended ‘crib sheet’ distributed to attendees. The event was sponsored by the Midland Heart Housing Association, and was held at their Birmingham HQ on Bath Row. The discussion session was attended by about 50 members and guests, and was followed by an invitation dinner for 15 guests, hosted by Midland Heart to continue the discussion. This report summarises the key points from both phases. Except for initial presentations, comments are not attributed. Key points from initial presentations Lord Best An indication of the depth of the housing crisis is that almost everyone in England under 40 faces a serious housing problem: whether in finding an acceptable home to buy or rent property, or keeping up rising mortgage interest rates rise and increasing rents ; The rise in the number of households over the next 10 years is projected to be 225-250,000 per year, while new building has fallen since the 2007 credit crunch to around half that level; Also shown in Figure 1 of the ‘crib sheet’ is how private sector provision has remained in the range 120-150,000 from the early 1970s to 2007. Total provision above 250,000 depended on roughly equal amounts of council housing. That almost ceased after 1980 and Housing Associations have not been able to fill the gap. Leaving housing provision to the market will deliver only half what is needed; Other kinds of market failure are illustrated by boom in apartment blocks along the Thames: o Many are being built and returning their profits to foreign owners (eg Qatar, Kuwait, Russia); o In spite of high local unemployment construction works is dominated by imported labour; o Much of the output is sold off-plan to overseas buyers and does not provide local homes. The government’s proposal for a New Town at Ebbsfleet shows some recognition that he private sector cannot deliver on the scale required, but the major post-War programme took decades to start delivering [Note: over 50 years it averaged about 5% of national output, and peaked at about 10%]. The New Town concentration of planning and implementation powers needs to be applied through Development Corporations for our existing cities. Housing should be regarded as economic infrastructure (in the same light as major transport schemes). There will be a return, justifying the public investment of resources and effort; Quicker-acting measures are also needed, in tandem. An example could be helping ‘extended middle agers’ (55-75) to downsize from our huge stock of 3-bed semis much of it occupied by one or two people. The necessary incentive is good quality, local housing more suited to their needs (and with outgoings more commensurate with their pensions). Angus Kennedy Housing finance has taken the biggest hit from austerity. Capital grant has reduced significantly thus making new build costlier for Housing Associations. Increased Government emphasis on value for money and return on assets. How safe are Housing Association assets in future? Forced downsizing through the bedroom tax does not solve the problem of suitable stock to downsize to, and is destabilising communities for no good purpose; Although neighbourhood planning shows promise (eg linking local budgeting and planning in Balsall Heath), there is no wider planning policy for where new housing should go. Nor are there the more broadly-based area improvement initiatives that were crucial to urban regeneration in Birmingham in the 1980s and 1990s. John Acres In spite of consensus between parties on land needs for 200-250,000 new houses pa, output is at half this level – according to Money Supermarket the average age of first time buyers is now 37! Regional housing targets in RSS were imperfect, but better than the uncertainty created by their removal. This has set up a continuing battle between builders and NIMBYs-influenced Councils; The private sector now produces the lion’s share of new housing and should enjoy the rewards for the risks they take. However, need to shift the balance from focus on major sites, leading to present excessive dependence on a few major builders, disadvantaging smaller, more local builders. Planning process needs to provide a broad portfolio of sites – large/small, greenfield/brownfield, etc; Does not agree with mooted Labour policy for ‘use it or lose it’ approach to permissions, or penalties for land-banking. Problems lie with landowners, not builders, who are keen to build and sell asap. Glenn Harris Housing Association output has been circa 25% of total completions over past 5 years , but could be greater. Larger, developing organisations can’t borrow a lot more against their assets with the current low grant regime (subsidy has been switched to revenue via Affordable Rents). A key problem lies with the long term affordability of this to tenants. Rents can’t continue to rise above inflation if Housing Benefit is to be capped below these levels: rents will simply become unaffordable to many facing cost of living pressures; Resolving these problems requires a long-term strategy: there is
Food meeting 2014
Food and Our Future in the West Midlands Summary of Food Poverty, Access and Health Event Food and Our Future in the West Midlands Food Poverty, Access and Health The Food and our Future event on 15th May 2014 kicked off a much needed policy- and action- orientated debate on the impact of developments in the production, distribution and consumption of food on the lives of all of us in the West Midlands. Organised by a partnership between the Lunar Society, Localise West Midlands, the Birmingham Leadership Foundation, Midland Heart and the Nishkam Centre, this meeting focussed on food poverty and health asking: Why are we seeing a growth in the number of food banks and the numbers who depend upon them across the West Midlands region at the same time as we face a growing obesity epidemic, much of it within our younger population? What do we actually know about the extent of these issues and their causes? What can we do locally to mitigate negative consequences and what local, national and international trends do we have to consider in the short, medium and long term? The first speaker was Chris Mould, Executive Chairman of the Trussell Trust that, over the last 10 years, has been providing emergency food through a network of over 420 food banks across the UK. It is currently opening 2 new food banks each week and the number of people assisted each year has risen from 61,000 to just short of one million people in the four years from April 2010 to March 2014. He explained that this has been in response to a food poverty crisis: estimates suggest that there are over 13 million people living below the poverty level and that one in five mothers skip meals to ensure their children are fed. One in five employees is paid less than the Living Wage. Chris explained that according to their statistics, the main reasons that people were turning towards food banks were delays or reductions in benefits and low incomes based on low paid part-time work or zero hour contracts. Two thirds of users reported these reasons in 2013-2014, with almost half citing benefits. More people do not have enough money to afford essentials as the cost of living has increased over the last 5 years, particularly food costs, while incomes have not risen to keep pace. A recent study revealed that people are spending more of their income on food, and taking home less food and food with a lower nutritional value. Chris described the “simple, effective and replicable model” the Trust operates. Donations of non- perishable food are received from the public and these are sorted by volunteers at the food banks. A locally-established network of professionals such as doctors and social workers, provide vouchers to people in crisis who can then exchange them for three days of food at a distribution centre. These centres provide more than food: equally importantly, volunteers offer emotional support and signpost people who are in difficulty to other agencies. Long-term dependency is avoided as 65% of people who go to Trussell Trust food banks only need one three-day voucher within a 6 month period. To give a human face to these statistics, Chris played a video of the story of a food bank user, 19 years old Charlotte. She had been in foster care and had not had three meals a day for a period of three months. She had feared being stigmatised if seen leaving with bags marked ‘from a food bank’ but was relieved to find that they were just ordinary bags. Chris concluded by saying that Trussell Trust food banks have thousands of people who have similar stories; Charlotte “tells it as it is.” Adrian Phillips, Director of Public Health for Birmingham followed with a presentation provocatively entitled: ‘Food and our future: or the latest battleground for macroeconomics, profit and poverty’. He focussed on the evidence of food-related health problems and their causes and on possible policy responses. Obesity is a national scandal: one in five is classified as obese. “We are a big nation; you can recognise us on holiday” commented Adrian. Yet the situation in Birmingham is worse with one Food and Our Future in the West Midlands Summary of Food Poverty, Access and Health Event in four classified as obese, including Year 6 school pupils, and even worse in the more deprived areas of the city. Obesity also increases with age with one in three aged 65 to 75 being obese. Obesity and the quantity and quality of food we eat are related to a series of health problems in the city including coronary heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and breast and bowel cancer. They are also related to Birmingham’s children’s poorer dental health. Again, these health issues are worse in more deprived areas of the city. What are the causes of these problems? Adrian said that evidence suggested that it wasn’t because on average we were eating more calories: the average intake had changed little since the Second World War. It was because we were engaged in far less physical activity, encouraged by increased use of gadgets and the wider spread of technology that reduced the need to expend energy such as escalators and lifts. It was also because we were eating poorer quality food, encouraged by the marketing efforts of many food businesses in search of profits. The tendency to eat poorer quality food with a greater fat and sugar content than recommended had been further stimulated by the rising cost of food and stagnant or falling incomes, the quality of food purchased being very sensitive to price. This was a major reason for obesity and related problems amongst poorer segments of our society. A further probable reason was that physical activity levels of people on lower incomes had been reduced with the collapse of manufacturing jobs. What can we do? Adrian suggested a number of possible beneficial local and national policy changes, some
Annual Review 2014
Sharing our expertise to promote growth Birmingham City University is providing knowledge-driven innovation to support the region’s global leadership in applied creativity. Our dedication to supporting the city as a hotbed of innovation and ideas stretches back as far as 1843. Over the past 170 years we have continued to improve the prospects of the city and its people by providing highly-skilled graduates, working with employers and carrying out ground-breaking research. The University is undertaking a £260 million investment programme, including our agship Parkside Building at the City Centre Campus in Eastside, which opened in September 2013. Further phases of development will follow in 2015 and 2017. The University contributes around £180 million to Birmingham’s gross domestic product (GDP) each year and supports almost 5,000 jobs in the city (source: Ecotec). About the Lunar Society The Lunar Society, founded by some of the 18th century’s finest thinkers, was re-founded more than 20 years ago to encourage debate around all aspects of the development of Birmingham, the West Midlands and beyond. The Society does not itself take positions, but provides a forum for stimulating ideas and broadening debate on issues critical to the future of the city and the region, inspiring its members to influence change. The topics it tackles include a wide range of subjects from science, medicine, the environment to technology, manufacturing, economics and the social sciences. It is non-party political, and past keynote speakers have included Sir Mervyn King, Vince Cable, Ed Milliband and Michael Heseltine. Future events for 2014 The Lunar Society Heritage Trail – Children and Family event Saturday 6th September | All day Soho House Science and technology – ‘Blood in the Wire’ Thursday 11th September | 4:30pm University of Birmingham, Lecture Theatre Boulton and Watt Commemoration Lecture: Tuesday 28th October | 6.30pm University of Aston, Sumpter Lecture Hall Guest Speaker: Professor George Feiger, Executive Dean Aston Business School The Lunar Society Annual Dinner: Friday 7th November | 7pm Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Banqueting Suite Guest Speaker: The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve, QC, MP The Attorney General For more information or to book an event please visit our website: www.lunarsociety.org.uk If you would like to know more about the Society and becoming a member please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Chairman’s introduction This is my first Annual Report and it gives me great pleasure to present the work we have undertaken over the last year. We have had a very busy programme, organising events with di erent formats covering a range of topics. I am pleased that we continue to attract high profile national speakers as well as key individuals and thinkers locally. I have been keen on ensuring our events produce written reports that are used to influence policy and key decision makers. We have exciting plans for our programme of events over the next year that will make a considerable impact in Birmingham and further field. We have been working on increasing the profile of the Society and attracting new members that reflect the diversity of the City and the region. Although we have made a start, we still have a long way to go. Over the next 12 months we will prioritise increasing our membership and ensuring we attract young people and people from diverse backgrounds. During the year, the Executive Committee agreed to review the administrative support provided to the Society, in light of the need to cut costs and improve the e ectiveness of the public relations and development of the Society. We invited a number of companies to submit proposals to provide a full service to the Society including administration, events management, Society development, press and public relations. I am pleased to announce that we appointed Birmingham-based Clarke Associates and we look forward to working with them in the future. I would like to place on record our thanks to Dipali Chandra, our Secretary who has done an excellent job for the Society. In appreciation of her service to the Society, the Executive Committee conferred a two year honorary membership to Dipali. I would also like to thank Boilerhouse Media who have been filming some of our key events and publishing articles on their media platform, Information Daily, on a pro- bono basis. We are continuing to work through the application to become a charity, although this has been a lot slower than anticipated. We hope to conclude this very shortly. We are very grateful to the Barrow Cadbury Trust, who have supported the Society with an administrative grant of £3,000 per year for three years. This coming year is the final year of the grant and we have been fortune that over the last few years we have been able to show a surplus because of the grant against a backdrop in the reduction of member numbers and a continuing challenging financial background. Therefore it is imperative we increase our members and attract more sponsorship income for our events in order to continue to undertake the excellent work we do in the City. The Treasurer has set this out in his report and budget. I would like to place on record my thanks to our sponsors, partners and supporters over the last year including KPMG, Midland Heart, Birmingham Museum Trust, Localise WM, Nishkam Centre, Millennium Point Trust, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City University, Birmingham Metropolitan College, Mills and Reeve, Redcli e Catering, Squires Sanders, Birmingham Cathedral and Paycare. Finally I would like to thank the Executive Committee for the support they have provided, some of the members will be stepping down after their term of o ce have been completed. Waheed Saleem Chairman Programme of events When I took over the Chairmanship of the Society I set out my key themes and issues I wanted to the Society to consider over my two-year tenure of o ce. My overarching theme was ‘Poverty and Social Exclusion’. I am pleased that we have organised a number of events that consider key areas under this theme and that Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA,
Annual Review 2015
About the photography in this publication The images of Birmingham in this year’s annual review were taken by local professional photographer Verity Milligan. Her work has been licensed globally, and commissioned by companies such as Carillion PLC and Taylors of Harrogate. Her stunning landscapes of the city and eagerness to create a positive image of Birmingham have attracted a large following on social media, awards and national press coverage. She is keen to connect with people in the city and is available for commissions. To contact Verity or nd out more about her work, visit veritymilliganphotography.com Stimulating ideas and catalysing action The ethos of The Lunar Society is to ensure that those issues likely to affect us in the years ahead are the subjects of today. The Society exists to stimulate ideas…broaden debate… and catalyse action. The past year has been no exception, writes the Chairman of The Lunar Society, Waheed Saleem. During the past 12 months, the Society has engaged with prominent speakers from all walks of life and added to the debate on issues as diverse as the European Convention of Human Rights, the preservation of our heritage, community engagement in schools, technology in vehicles and macro and micro economics – to name but a few. We have done so impartially, apolitically and independently – with the interests of the people of Birmingham and the wider area at our heart, true to the beliefs of our founders. This is my last review as chairman of the Society. It has been a privilege to serve the Society and Birmingham and to be part of an organisation that can be not only proud of its heritage, but also take pride in the contribution The Lunar Society makes to our society. One of my proudest moments has been when honorary member of the Society, Birmingham’s Lord Mayor Cllr. Sha que Shah, lead the Westminster Abbey service for Matthew Boulton, one of the Society’s founding members. It was fantastic to see Boulton’s huge historic contribution to the city, and indeed the nation, being recognised. Another proud moment was the awarding of the prestigious Lunar Medal to the Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Paul Sabapathy CBE who formally received the medal at our annual dinner in November. The medal is awarded by the Society to those who have recorded outstanding achievements and contributed signi cantly to the Society’s aim of furthering social and economic improvements in the West Midlands. There could not be a more worthy recipient. As the Lord-Lieutenant, Mr Sabapathy is her Majesty the Queen’s representative in the West Midlands. Throughout his time in the UK – he was born in Chennai, India and moved here in 1964 – he has worked tirelessly in industry, healthcare, for charity and with the community. His e orts embody the values of the Society. The presentation coincided with a keynote speech at the Society’s annual dinner in November by the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, QC, MP who spoke and answered questions on a range of topics including the European Convention on Human Rights. He told nearly 200 guests that a future Conservative government would be prepared to withdraw from the European Convention if Britain failed to secure a new approach from the European Court of Human Rights. Human rights were also central to the Society’s discussions about an issue that generated international debate – the so- called ‘Trojan Horse issue’. Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, chose a Lunar Society event to make his rst public statement on the issue since the publication of reports from separate enquiries. In an open discussion, attended by a good representation of Birmingham’s diversity, he was clearly con dent that “opportunities would arise from adversity”. The Society has continued to provide a forum for debate with a further joint event with the Birmingham-based equality charity BRAP and supported by Barrow Cadbury Trust (whose support of the Society we gratefully acknowledge). Nearly thirty participants from a range of fields attended – including headteachers, school governors, voluntary sector sta , academics, parents, and activists. Meanwhile, local MP Andrew Mitchell and former Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Chief Whip, spoke at an event hosted by the Society’s business and economy group, on his vision for Birmingham and its economy. This group also hosted a dinner at which the principal speaker was Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, shadow spokesperson on business, innovation and skills. We have partnered extensively with the city’s universities. Dr Tim Haughton, reader in European Politics at the University of Birmingham, together with MEP Siôn Simon, spoke as part of a pre-election debate on ‘The role of the UK in Europe’ – an issue that is likely to dominate the headlines throughout the coming year. Meanwhile, in conjunction with Aston University, Prof George Feiger, Executive Dean of Aston Business School, delivered the Society’s 2014 Boulton and Watt commemoration lecture, ‘If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride’. He spoke of the complexity of global nance, the lack of e ective controls, and the risks of institutionalising incentives that encourage rather than discourage excessive risk taking. In our annual lecture held at Birmingham City University, global connected car director at Jaguar Land Rover Dr Mike Bell spoke about the role of advanced technology in vehicles – and how this technology is vital in furthering our road safety. Health issues were the focus of corporate partnerships – we worked with Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust to provide a discussion on its Healthy Villages programme, held a visit to Birmingham Women’s Hospital and conducted important debates about health issues in our local area.
Annual Review 2016
Introduction Following on from the formal part of last year’s AGM, there was a member discussion about the content of the future programme. Some of the ideas put forward then have already borne fruit: meetings have already taken place on innovation in healthcare, the changes in city- regional governance and future relations with Europe – and more are planned for our future programme, discussed later in this report. The Treasurer’s Report for 2015/6 demonstrates major nancial and organisational issues facing the Society: unless these are resolved, our capacity to deliver such programmes in future will be seriously compromised. This Review is therefore structured around these two themes – our Events and the Society – for each looking back over the last year, and then looking forward to the next. As well as the constitutional purpose of informing members, this is intended to provide a starting point for an informal discussion, like that of last year. Our aim is to ensure that the views of members are part of the Executive’s decision- making process over the coming year, about the crucial organisational issues as well as the programme of events. Looking back at 2015/16 Events Birmingham’s increasing prominence in healthcare innovation was re ected in the 2015 Boulton & Watt Lecture in September, chaired by the Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Chair of the University Hospitals Birmingham Trust and Vice Chairman of the Society. In two complementary presentations, Tim Jones, UHB, showed how advances in IT, pioneered at UHB ,were transforming the management of healthcare, while Tom Clutton-Brock gave a live demonstration of wearable sensors for remote monitoring of patients allowing interventions to be more timely and appropriate. The Annual Dinner in October drew a record attendance to hear Andy Street, Managing Director of the John Lewis Partnership, talk about economic progress since the establishment of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Economic Partnership (LEP), which he chairs. Pointing to the solid progress that had been achieved, he said that the combination of a wider and collaborative public/private leadership is generating con dence in the ability to deliver for the Greater Birmingham area. Looking forward, the Lunar Society could play a useful role as a politically-neutral forum for debating the merits of devolution (a real transfer of power from Whitehall) versus delegation (transfers with strings), new forms of governance such as Combined Authorities and wider collaborations like the ‘Midlands Engine’. Two leaves from the Qu’ran manuscript held by Birmingham University’s Cadbury Research Library attracted worldwide interest recently when carbon dating showed them to be part of the earliest known copy of the holy book of Islam. In March, members were privileged to enjoy a private viewing enhanced by an expert commentary. In April we hosted a Royal Visit and lunch at Soho House, when HRH the Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque commemorating 250 years since Matthew Boulton moved in, marking the beginning of the original Lunar Society. The same evening saw the return for the third year of the King’s Men (the adult choral scholars of King’s College, Cambridge), for a concert at St Mary’s, Moseley. A paying audience of over 160 raised money both for the Society and Ammalife, which supports maternal health in poorer countries. The Society Continuing a theme of recent years, the Treasurer’s report for 2015/6 makes clear that event income has not been enough to make up for the continuing decline in membership numbers. This is not sustainable: changes will be necessary and the last section of this Review presents an outline of the Executive’s proposals for meeting the challenge. Members will be aware of continuing problems with the website, which are impeding communication with members at this critical juncture. The Executive has taken urgent steps to restore and improve both appearance and functionality that will see the introduction of a new, easier- to-navigate and explore website. Looking ahead to 2016/17 Programme for 2016/17 By the time of the AGM the June dinner discussion on the European Referendum had taken place. This was our response to the widely-felt need to cast light on the economic arguments being mounted by both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ camps. Our commitment to political neutrality does not mean we must avoid politically-controversial matters (very little that is important is not), but that we must avoid giving a political platform to one side. John Fender introduced a discussion with a survey of the economic issues from his standpoint as Professor of Macroeconomics at Birmingham University, initiating lively contributions from all points of view. Few can have left without food for thought, which is as good a de nition of the Society’s aim as any. Major forthcoming events include the inaugural Sir Adrian Cadbury Lecture, to be given by Sir Vincent Cable on 29 September at Aston University. We felt that an annual event in his name would be a tting way of commemorating his contribution to Birmingham, business and the Lunar Society (he was Vice Chairman of the re-founded Society in its early years, and a holder of the Lunar Society Medal). In keeping with Sir Adrian’s interests, the Lecture will focus on the governance of businesses and their relationship to society (locally and nationally). Other aspects of business in Birmingham are planned to be covered by Lord Willetts, guest speaker at the 2016 Annual Dinner, to be held on 23 November. The original purpose of the Dinner was to provide a counter-part to the Chancellor’s Guildhall speech to the City of London. Lord Willetts was Minister of State for Universities and Science from 2010 to 2015, at a time of radical change in Higher Education, and he has been described as the Conservative Party’s leading intellectual. The 2016 Lunar Medal will also be presented at the Annual Dinner: we intend to announce the nominees at the AGM. Will Hutton accepted our invitation to give the 2016 Boulton & Watt lecture, focusing on the fraught relationship between the need for innovation in business, the capacity of the nancial system to nance it, and
Euro Debate 2016
EUROPE: UNTANGLING THE ECONOMIC ISSUES Lunar Society Dinner Discussion held at Edgbaston Priory Club, 8 June 2016 John Fender, Professor of Macroeconomics at Birmingham University, introduced the topic with a high-level review of the economic issues involved in the decision to remain in or to leave the European Union – to be decided by a referendum on 23 June. He spoke to an audience of around 60 Lunar Society members and guests at the start of the dinner, points and questions were gathered up during the meal and used to structure a lively discussion as the meal came to an end. While Prof Fender’s introduction is (with his permission) summarised, the discussion was conducted under Chatham House Rules, and views are not attributed to individuals. John Fender’s Introduction The UK pays a net sum of £8.5 bn per annum for EU membership (about £130 per citizen – similar to Lunar Society membership). So what do we get for the money, and what would we lose by leaving? John Fender’s introduction focused primarily on trade, but commented on issues of sovereignty, immigration and regulation. Importance of trade Ricardo showed 200 years ago how trade between two countries could benefit both, through exploiting their comparative advantages. More recent work has suggested that trade may be beneficial through enabling countries to enjoy the economies of larger-scale production, and improve their own productivity through competition. The importance of trade to prosperity has been a fundamental plank of economic theory ever since, and a central role of the EU has been to exploit this to the benefit of its members. It aims to do so by: Providing tariff-free trade between its 28 member states Harmonising rules and regulations so as to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade Negotiating preferential trade agreements with other countries (53 at present, with more in the pipeline) Trade implications of leaving: Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty provides for a 2-year period of negotiation of the terms on which a country can withdraw following its deciding that it wishes to leave.. But it is unlikely that we would emerge from this two-year period with a fully fledged trade deal. More likely we would emerge with an interim arrangement, and would then need to negotiate a more satisfactory trade deal over the following few years. While the EU trade surplus with the UK may motivate a deal, we would lose our influence on the EU’s trade rules whatever the outcome. There are many conflicting interests and the process of negotiation is inherently lengthy and difficult. Even when the final deal is reached, its terms and coverage may be less than it is now. Another point is that after we formally left the EU after the conclusion of the initial two-year negotiation period, we would no longer participate in the preferential trade deals the EU has with other countries. There might well be reversion to World Trade Organisation rules in the period before a trade deal is reached with the EU. The UK would undoubtedly seek bilateral agreements with individual countries, outside the EU, but there would almost certainly be a long period during which the UK would have far fewer trade agreements with other countries than it would if it remained a member of the EU. There would be further complications in UK trade with the EU because certificates of origin and customs inspections would probably be required. Uncertainty and transitional costs would be additional complications. Sovereignty, immigration and regulation Membership of EU involves a loss of sovereignty as UK cannot set its own tariffs on imports, agree trade deals with other countries, set VAT rates below 15% or prevent EU citizens from working here (etc.). However, many other areas of policy and taxation are entirely at UK discretion, and the UK also has a fair amount of influence on the EU through the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament (and has been good at getting its way). UK citizens benefit from the reciprocal freedoms to live, work and access public services elsewhere. While EU regulation has high political salience, few businesses have substantive complaints (even of the Working Time Directive, generally seen as the most intrusive), while workers and consumers generally benefit. Environmental regulation must often be supranational to be effective. The fundamental issue for consideration is whether the benefits outweigh the costs. As context Prof Fender pointed out that since joining EU in 1973, the UK per capita real GDP has grown by 103%, , which is more than the US, Germany or France, while New Zealand (which lost the benefit of Commonwealth Preference at the same time) has done much worse. Discussion The Chairman suggested five headings to structure the discussion (Trade, Finance, Labour markets, Society, and Environment), and also invited comment on the relative importance of the economic issues (and economists’ views on them). About 30 questions were submitted, nearly half concerning trade and closely allied topics of finance and labour. The rest were split evenly (five each) between social/environmental matters, the relative importance of the economy to the referendum decision and other issues. This is followed in the summary which follows, which brings together the points and questions raised with Prof Fender’s responses (we ran out of time before all questions had been raised, but the gist of all those submitted is reported). Trade finance and labour markets Trade deals with EU enjoyed by Switzerland and Norway, required payment into EU funds, adherence to EU regulations and free movement of labour. However Prof Fender confirmed that while EU has generally insisted on free movement of labour, free trade does not in principle require this. UK share of global clinical trials went from 12% in 2004 to 1% now. While this has been attributed the negative effect of EU regulations, this could not be confirmed or denied. Similarly with a figure of £30bn pa regulatory costs without a baseline for such comparisons. A number of questioners suggested that the interests of
NHS Dinner Discussion
CURRENT ISSUES FACING THE NHS: LUNAR SOCIETY DINNER DISCUSSION, 14 SEPT 2016 Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, Chair of University Hospitals Birmingham and Heart of England Foundation NHS Trusts (UHB and HEFT) spoke to an audience of 35 Lunar Society members and guests at the start of the dinner, points and questions were gathered up during the meal and used to structure a lively discussion as the meal came to an end. While Jacqui Smith’s introduction is (with her permission) summarised, the discussion was conducted under Chatham House Rules, so views are not attributed to individuals. Jacqui Smith’s Introduction UHB and HEFT have a combined annual budget of about £1.5 bn, and are major components of the city’s healthcare and its economy. Since its foundation in 1945, the central principle of the NHS has been provision of healthcare on the basis of need, and this has long been celebrated as a matter of national pride. But pride, nostalgia and gratitude are not enough: the widening gap between demands and resources means we need to take serious thought about how to sustain the NHS in future. Funding the NHS – recent history and current challenges In 2000 the Labour Government pledged to increase healthcare resources to the EU average as % of GDP. Though not quite reaching this level there were increases up to 2009, since when it has stalled leaving a widening gap with needs because of the combination of an ageing population and more sophisticated and expensive treatments. In spite of this, according to the US-based Commonwealth Fund the NHS does well in international comparisons of overall outcomes and efficiency. Charging for services incurs high collection costs, and would be a radical break with the NHS principle of ‘free at the point of use’. There is a clear need to consider other ways of achieving improvements, such as: greater involvement of patients in their own care (eg through apps to monitor their condition remotely); better targeting of drugs through genetic profiling, plus better understanding of links between diet and health (but ethical issues about access to personal data remain to be resolved in both cases); helping people to remain healthy through better-informed lifestyle choices; These kinds of change would need a clear demonstration of safeguards and benefits, and engagement and discussion to secure broadly-based consent. Health and social care The health/social care split is a major problem because of differences in principles, standards and institutions. The Commonwealth Foundation contrast good UK performance on healthcare with our unhealthy lives: 20% smoke, 1/3 drink too much, 2/3 overweight or obese, and poor mental health; Locally, more Birmingham babies die prematurely, and health improvements are slower than nationally Obesity requires a much bolder strategy than has been proposed nationally. Devolution is potentially a big opportunity for progress, not just on this, but on a wider range of public health and health integration issues. Discussion Initial questions focused on Post-its prepared during dinner, but quickly widened out into more general discussion. This summary brings together the points and questions raised with Jacqui’s responses. Staff, recruitment and training: the initial focus was on the connections between training, morale and recruitment. Budget pressures combined with Brexit and the proposed junior doctors’ contract have brought these issues to the fore. Greater use of systems that by-pass staff (eg diagnostic systems, robotics) might help reduce unit costs, but it would require brave politicians to tackle the medical ‘guilds’. Contrary to received wisdom, time spent by doctors on research is generally good for their patients. Recruitment and retention of staff is central to quality: in this connection staff perceptions are as important as reality, hence the significance of Brexit. An apprenticeship levy might be regarded as a tax on training, but could offer a recognised route into more healthcare occupations and professions, alongside academic pathways. Australia abandoned their ‘shambolic’ scheme, suggesting that an apprenticeship scheme needs to be well-structured, but the NHS should consider apprenticeship pathways to degree level qualifications. Birmingham is a very young city, with up to 1/3 of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs). This is implicated in poor health which is becomes a further barrier to attainment. Pathways to higher levels may also be blocked by over-rigid standards which become barriers. Some Trusts find it very difficult to recruit staff, forcing excessive dependence on expensive agency staff. While targets have been set to limit this response, it arises because of sector wide shortages in training provision, which successive governments have not addressed at national level. Funding health and social care: there was general agreement that health and social care need to be better aligned, but less on how increasing needs should be funded. There needs to be much clearer recognition of the relationships between the budgets for NHS, Public Health England (PHE) and Health Education England (HEE): cuts to PHE and HEE inhibit strategic approaches to a financially sustainable NHS. A radical approach to the problem of funding elderly social care would be to tap rising house values by earmarking funds from a lower inheritance tax threshold for a ‘National Care Service’. The effect would be to pool risks and benefits across social groups, which at present are very unevenly borne. While almost all would prefer to die at home if at all possible, 50% of deaths are in hospitals and only 5% in hospices. There is a rationale for hospices to take more of the strain (where home is not feasible), and receive more NHS support. Spending on chaperones was queried as an odd priority, but it was pointed out that this was insurance against unjustified complaints which can have catastrophic (and costly) impacts on professionals. In New Zealand medical compensation is limited to fixed amounts for particular conditions. This has encouraged a culture of openness in reporting incidents, and less money going to lawyers. In Australia GP-supervised Health Care Homes help keep chronically
Sir Adrian Cadbury Lecture 2016
Vince Cable: Cadbury Lecture 2016: Socially Responsible Business and Corporate Governance Reform Introduction The Cadbury tradition is being celebrated here and I vividly recall that on my last outing with the Lunar Society Sir Adrian was on the front row. I would like to pay tribute to his work and his considerable legacy. My own appreciation of that tradition started rather earlier with Bournville cocoa and Cadbury Milk Tray though I confess to divided loyalties. One of my earliest recollections is of the deliciously sweet smell of chocolate manufactured in Terry’s 200 yards from my first childhood home. My mother worked on the production line when she left school at 15; my father started his working life on the shop floor, across the city in Rowntrees; and my uncle, who broke through the glass ceiling into management, ran the box making plant. My diet was generously supplemented by chocolate ‘waste’ and my spiritual diet was greatly improved when I went as a teenager to the Quaker Meeting House, where there was also an ample supply of attractive young women as well as a lot of Rowntrees. That world has gone, not just because I have grown up and grown away but because the great Quaker companies, which specialised in ethical business, have largely disappeared. Terry’s was acquired by Kraft which closed my mother’s old production line and moved it to Poland. Rowntrees has been acquired by Nestle. Cadbury was subject to a hostile takeover from Kraft, an episode which still reverberates. A few of those Quaker companies survive, notably Clarke’s Shoes. But others surrendered their ownership and values and have seen their reputation trashed. Barclays, for example, enjoyed a period of notoriety during and after the financial crisis from which it has barely recovered. The question we face is whether the values which these companies represented- profitable, well-run, businesses combined with integrity and long term commitment to the work force and communities- are simply incompatible with the current Anglo- Saxon model of shareholder capitalism. This lecture series is a good place to explore that question. There is undoubtedly an appetite for ‘responsible business’ – though that rather bland phrase can mean very different things. The financial crisis in 2008/09 produced a wave of revulsion not just against greed and excess but the impact of these on society when market panic and financial collapse lead to serious damage to the real economy. But there is a wider malaise in which the boundaries of legal business are stretched close to breaking point or beyond, and enforcement sanctions are seen to be weak and ineffectual. In my term of office, we had the saga of enquiries into the conduct of RBS and Lloyds/HBOS directors none of whom have been sanctioned (though a small number of lower level operatives have gone to jail following the Libor scandal and there is a trial at present on the Reading /HBOS case). There was the investigation into the so called ‘gang of four’ at Longbridge which led to no meaningful penalties. And more recently there has been the Comet closure with a similar result. There is, moreover, apparently legal business behaviour which is cynical and anti- social; the most recent examples being that of Sir Philip Green and the companies exposed as engaged in large-scale, systematic, tax avoidance. And, then, there is behaviour which is perfectly legal and may be incentivised by markets and regulatory systems but is potentially harmful if we consider the long- term effects and not just the immediate. I would put a lot of M&A activity in that box including recent take- overs, as with ARM. Yet there is little consensus of how to proceed. I recall, in my first few months as Business Secretary, attacking ‘irresponsible capitalism’ in banking in particular and acquiring the epithets ‘Communist’ and ‘anti-business Business Secretary’ in some newspapers. Ed Miliband went down the same path though it did him little good. Now Theresa May has adopted similar rhetoric especially on executive pay. The issue she faces, as I did, is how to translate an instinct for reform into concrete measures which work but do not undermine the wealth creating capacity of business. I will address three questions in particular: can we further reform cooperate governance particularly in the emotive and politically sensitive area of executive pay? Are we doing enough to encourage new models of business organisation – in the social sector or based on best practice in other countries – which appear to work better? And can we further reform capital and equity markets, and particularly the market for corporate control, in a way that encourages long term decision making in business? Corporate Governance Reform In response to past abuse there has been a succession of reforms under different governments: new insolvency legislation, Companies Act reform redefining directors’ duties (which, under the 2005 Act, are far more wide-ranging than many directors or the public appear to realise), the Cadbury Code on corporate governance and Greenbury (then Walker) on executive pay. Recent and proposed changes to strengthen the system centre on three areas: transparency and information; shareholder responsibility for executive pay; and employee representation. On the first, I oversaw: improvements in narrative reporting; the requirement to publish a simple number to summarise complex remuneration packages; disclosure of top salaries in banks; and disclosure of information which is of interest not just to shareholders but a wider group of stake holders. The last of these included introducing an open register of beneficial ownership, payments to governments of oil and other resource rich states and transactions within supply chains where ‘modern slavery’ may be involved. The Prime Minster now wishes to increase transparency specifically in respect of executive pay by publishing pay ratios between top and median pay. I have drawn attention to a problem which emerged when my officials considered the idea: that it might embarrass the wrong people. Investment banks like Goldman Sachs and companies which outsource labour intensive work overseas look much more responsible than widely
Inspiring Minds: Gisela Stuart
‘Inspiring Minds’ Lunar Society Breakfast event, with Gisela Stuart MP ‘Challenges for Britain following Brexit’, BCU, 4 November 2016 Gisela’s presentation Tactically the need to rewrite the rules pre-dates Brexit, and Euro and migration crises require them to be rewritten anyway. Win/lose referendum doesn’t answer question HOW to ‘take back control’ of borders, laws, etc. Unlike Scotland (where SNP did lay out detailed independence proposals), there was no plan for desired outcome (on either side), and there is no ‘tribe’ to take responsibility for implementation of the result. On Right acceptance of new realities of power (new PM within 1 week of 23 June); meanwhile On Left ‘Life of Brian’ response – ‘Don’t mention the Referendum’; ‘what did EU ever do for us?’, etc The crucial (irreconcilable?) difference is the clash between economic liberalism and social cohesion: need to ‘soak up extremes’ (excesses of globalisation vs national protectionism?) Leavers and Remainers must now get together to write the new rules (see ‘Change Britain’ leaflet by Robert Salisbury and Maurice Glasman: proposes to start by repeal of European Communities Act). Project must be to get the right deal: Need to go through legislation that will be repealed to check for key battlegrounds (eg workers rights, trading standards). Parliamentary votes on each to hold politicians feet to the fire: no-one is to be trusted Labour heartlands will be lost unless the party fights for the ‘right things’. Focus of Party activity is no longer ‘getting out the vote’ at elections, but engaging in political persuasion in between. Need to argue for steering a course between bureaucratic tyranny of over-regulation and mob rule of post-truth identity politics. Discussion Student Union – students voted remain; accept result (but not Amber Rudd’s anti EU nationals rhetoric) Risk to businesses of losing skilled employees returning to Poland (etc); need to continue collaboration in fields like climate change, industrial innovation, or find alternatives to EU quickly. ‘Pause button’ may not be helpful: extended period of uncertainty ’bleeding to death’. NB role of NFU in seeking continuity in terms of substitutes for ERDF money (concentrated in areas that voted out) Metal stockholder (400 jobs) – family firm, so can take 25 yr view but risk to confidence from uncertainty is very serious. Need to understand whether WTO environment would avoid serious disruption. EU colleagues warn that national governments could make this worse with a ‘punishment mission’. 2 years uncertainty too long – should join EEA as interim position. GS response: EEA stepping stone on way in to EU, not out. Risk of voters’ revolt if basic in/out decision not implemented. Imperative to start the process by triggering Article 50. Alan Wenban-Smith 5 December 2016
Annual Dinner – Lord Willetts
‘UNDERSTANDING BRITAIN POST BREXIT’ LUNAR SOCIETY ANNUAL DINNER, 23 NOV 2016 Lord (David) Willetts, Chairman of the Resolution Foundation, and former Minister of State in the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills addressed an audience of about 130 Lunar Society members and guests at the Annual Dinner. The date of the Dinner coincided with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, necessitating Lord Willetts’ early return to London, so he spoke before the dinner and responded to questions before the main course. While his introduction is (with his permission) summarised below, the subsequent discussion was conducted under Chatham House Rules, so views are not attributed to individuals. Introduction: meeting the challenges Having been born and brought up in Birmingham, David Willetts said he was keenly aware of the challenges we face. These predate Brexit and may affect the city’s ability to respond. For example, economic activity: The proportion of the population in employment (61%) is below the national level (71%) and the lowest of all the English city regions; The employment rate is even lower amongst Black and Ethnic Minorities (52% in Birmingham compared with 56% nationally), implying less success in absorbing such groups into the economy. Similar contrasts are found in productivity. When Andrew Adonis spoke to the Lunar Society in 2011, he proposed three measures: HS2 to improve national connectivity; Elected Mayors to re-boot local governance; and Academies to raise standards in schools. These are now works in progress. David Willetts proposed three further sets of actions, centred on the jobs market: Excluded groups: do more to engage: especially Asian women, because catching up is deliverable. Need to link mosques, English language skills, subsidising first jobs. There is 20 years’ experience on each of these, so absorb best practice. Middle skilled jobs: exploit local advantage arising from location (HS2, Airport) and concentration of transport, handling and logistics activities (high tech warehousing). Create academies for skills needed. Top skilled jobs: Birmingham has concentration of top Universities (Birmingham, Aston, BCU, Met). Attracts young, but must do more to keep them. The ‘Launch Pad’ initiative in N’hants/Oxon funded 20 SMEs with £100,000 seedcorn funds: why not roll out here? Industrial Strategy is back! Discussion UK’s Nobel record shows how the science base is critically dependent on bringing together the brightest minds from all over Europe. How was this to be maintained in the face of Brexit? DW agreed that this is a threat to UK’s world-class Universities, and immigration policies need to recognise this. There are lots of SMEs, but brain drain of talented young continues any way. How can this be tackled? DW responded that the problem is bridging the gap so that SMEs become more likely to employ graduates. One successful approach is to connect the capabilities of Universities with needs of SMEs: vouchers for bespoke research on materials was tested in WM and found to improve familiarity both ways. Education is an important way of building international relationships, but will not happen if students can’t get visas. What advice would DW give PM? DW response – same as to former Home Secretary! Education is an export industry which requires overseas students. We need migrants to settle and live as well, but very few students are long-term settlers, and should be recognised as a different question. What is Government going to do to exploit the potential of the NHS as a seedbed for science-based healthcare products? DW responded that NHS is has a huge advantage over USA arising from universality of health records from birth. Nationally, lack of public trust is the main obstacle to exploitation, but Birmingham is big and diverse enough to make it feasible and worthwhile to tackle this locally. Innovation tends to be confused with R&D. Innovative science-based industries clustering in West Coast USA is the result of innovation that exploits existing R&D. What should UK do to encourage this? DW response: too much UK R&D is inside Universities. In Germany the Fraunhofer Institutes provide a locus for R&D that individual firms could not afford, but which becomes possible.by pooling resources and public support. City should make a bold bid for business- friendly, collaborative R&D outside Universities. Should Birmingham Universities rediscover their roots in trades, rather than aping Oxbridge? DW agreed that the education system to serve the whole spectrum from vocational training to advanced research. How will the Black Country benefit from resources like HS2 and Airports? DW responded that local infrastructure would be crucial to spreading the benefit more widely Report by Alan Wenban-Smith, Chairman 15 February 2017
Boulton and Watt Lecture – Lucideon
Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to Stoke – the centre of the universe! – The universe of invention, innovation and materials transformation. For over 250 years, Stoke-on-Trent has led the way in transforming materials – and translating them to make, or help make, products. Some examples: Flint to change our local red clay to enable the manufacture of creamware (1720 JohnAstby) Coal to energy, in order to power the kilns of our great pottery and clay industries Coal to energy in order to power our steel industry (sadly demised!)Wedgwood backed his friend Brindley in having the canal structure developed – canals to transport raw materials and take products to market – an innovation which cut transport costs by 90%! – Indeed, Wedgwood was so involved he cut the first sod of the Trent and Mersey Canal on 16th July 1766. Many of you will know our great city for these developments – and know how Josiah Wedgwood played a key role in the development of the ceramics industry – I am sure Tristram would be able to regale us all with even more fascinating detail. Wedgwood himself manipulated, mainly by experimentation – some 3,000 materials to produce Portland Blue Pewter, to create a process that is remarkably similar today. He was admitted to the Royal Society in 1783, following that invention. How many of you know that he was also the inventor of a technique for the indirect measurement of temperature – which is key to energy and process management? – That technique was “Pyrometry”. This city and the region have continued to develop and create new materials and processes since Wedgwood’s initiatives. I am honoured to lead Lucideon (Formerly British Ceramic Research) – which continues to carry the flag of materials and process invention, innovation and commercialisation. Those of you who visit Lucideon later, will hear about and see some of the world leading technologies such as Field Enhanced Sintering and Inorganic Controlled Release – being developed and commercialised at our Penkhull facilities. Invention – on its own, is not enough. This country of ours has always been inventive – but increasingly over the last 100 years, we have as a nation, stopped translating those inventions into products. This must change. We know it. The Royal Society knows it – and I believe the Government has got our message. I hope they will support the AMRICC (Applied Materials Research and Innovation Commercialisation Company) initiative here in Stoke. Initiated and supported by Lucideon and the City Council, AMRICC is designed to translate technologies into products and process – at factory, not just laboratory scale. Supported by Imperial College London, Manchester University and the Sir Henry Royce Institute, the centre will also produce the so, so important “commercial technocrats” of the future for UK industry. This centre will have local, national and international scale and impact. I have one more point before I close, a quote shared with me recently – one that I think is so pertinent to the Lunar Society, Lucideon, and the needs of our country. I think it is pertinent because as I see senior executives of companies around the world, I am often asked one question – but with very different emphasis. That question is “Are we the first with this technology Tony?” In the UK, it is spoken with trepidation. In the USA, it’s a badge of pride – to be the first mover. The quote was: “The Light bulb was not the result of continuous improvement of the candle” … I do hope British industry will reflect on that point. Thank you.
Food Security Dinner Discussion
‘FOOD SECURITY’: LUNAR SOCIETY DISCUSSION DINNER, 15 FEBRUARY 2017 Food Security for a city like Birmingham was the subject of the third in our series of discussion dinners held at the Edgbaston Priory Club. Reflecting the practices of the original Lunar Society, Kate Cooper, Chair of the Birmingham Food Council, introduced the topic before dinner, initiating table discussions over dinner. This was followed by a Question and Answer session, guided by Alan Wenban-Smith, Chairman of the Lunar Society. Climate change and food security The Lunar Society has played an active role in the discussion of climate change in the city and region over last decade and more, most notably following the 2006 Annual Lecture by Sir John Lawton FRS (Chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution), and the subsequent Discussion Dinner led by him and involving leaders of business and local government. This resulted in early engagement and sign-up, and action which is continuing to bear fruit across the West Midlands. Kate was a prime mover on that occasion, and the Society has since run several events relating to climate change, particularly in the fields of transport and energy generation. The topic of food in this context represents an important new departure. Kate’s introductory presentation is summarised below and is also available as a blog post on the Birmingham Food Council website. The subsequent discussion was conducted under Chatham House Rules, so views are not attributed to individuals, except (with his permission) for a contribution by Darryl Thomson, Head of Safety at Mitchells & Butlers, because of the significance of the source as well as the content. Kate’s introduction Public policy on food tends to be considered bottom-up, from a personal level: to improve our health, tackle obesity and reduce the environmental impact of ‘food miles’ by changing our diets, cooking from scratch, and ‘growing our own’. This misses some very big points: Modern cities were only able to grow to their present scale because road, rail and canals freed them from depending on their immediate rural hinterlands. Cities are now incapable of growing more than a tiny fraction of their food needs, and the availability of food from all over the world has radically changed our dietary habits and preferences (see Carolyn Steele’s Hungry City). The need to preserve food on its journey from primary production means more processing before it gets to the shops, with major impacts on natural resources such as water (see Tony Allan’s Virtual Water). Each step is a profit opportunity in a long value chain, incentivising further industrial processing, and food processing is now the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. In Birmingham we spend £3.4bn pa on food and drink (including eating out), which is almost the same as health costs related to obesity and alcohol (£2.6 bn and £0.45bn respectively), both associated with eating highly processed food. The volume of food consumed by a city of a million people requires a modern ‘just-in-time’ logistics system to deliver. One effect is that even small disruptions can precipitate a crisis (eg the fuel depot blockade in 2001 and the threatened tanker drivers’ strike in 2012). Global food production methods rely increasingly on unsustainable demands on the basic resources of energy, soil and water, so large scale disruptions are becoming increasingly probable.Kate’s challenge to us was to think of means of tackling these issues at the scale they demand, rather than taking refuge in comforting myths about responding at a personal level. She left the questions posed in her blog for us to consider over our dinner. After dinner, Darryl Thomson reinforced Kate’s tough messages from the perspective of one of Birmingham’s major national food companies (M&B has national turnover of £2.1bn pa, in eating out rather than food retailing): M&B increasingly sourcing its own supplies (eg beef – and will do more following Brexit). Own use is steaks from ‘back end’ of cattle, but developing outlets for ‘front end’ and whole carcase. Pub meals are ‘comfort food’ and so tend to be relatively high in salt and fat. Reductions need to be gradual or consumers go elsewhere, and regulation is crucial to avoid starting a race to the bottom.Discussion The discussion following circulated around three possible categories of response to the issues raised by Kate and Darryl: Taxation/pricing, Regulation, and Persuasion. Although purely ‘personal’ approaches are not commensurate with the scale of the problem, all of these responses are aimed (directly or indirectly) at changes in behaviour. Taxation/pricing: It was noted that although VAT-charged products had been subject to taxation since WW2 (Purchase Tax before EC entry), this did not appear to have inhibited their increasing market share. KC suggested this was because the level of taxation on relatively cheap items is not enough to influence behaviour (20% is a few pennies on a bag of crisps). VAT rating is a proxy measure for foods of little nutritional value (we pay VAT on crisps but not on potatoes). While taxation alone has not worked, KC suggested that labelling of VAT-rated foods might, as the ‘traffic light’ system of food labelling does work. Taxation at levels similar to cigarettes might work, but would be highly politically contentious. However, experience in other fields (eg DfT research on road pricing) suggests public opinion and behaviour on tax/price is capable of being influenced by concerns about children/grandchildren.Regulation: Salt is a good example: in bread salt content has been reduced from 15% to 9% over 15 years without provoking a backlash. Sugar is a bad example: sugar levy proposed for 2018 will fall on manufacturers. The levy can be avoided by reformulation to reduce sugar, but market share will be lost to small unregulated suppliers. In addition, research suggests that our physiological response to artificial sweeteners means that the morbidities associated with poor diet remain. Possible ways of avoiding these responses would be to require new market entrants to have prior approval for their products before they could open,
Inspiring Minds: Paul Kehoe
‘A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN AIRPORT CEO’ – PAUL KEHOE, BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT LUNAR SOCIETY INQUIRING MINDS BREAKFAST, 7 MARCH 2017, 7.30-9.00 am Paul Kehoe, Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport, spoke to an audience of about 20 Lunar Society members and guests over breakfast at The Alchemist on Colmore Row. This was followed by a discussion session, compered by Alan Wenban-Smith, Chairman of the Lunar Society. Introduction The context Paul has been CEO at Birmingham Airport (BHX) for 8 years. He started just a year after BA pulled out, but (realising an ambition) BA is about to return this year with flights to continental Europe. Meanwhile, passenger numbers have grown from 9m to 12m pa (after dipping to 8m in 2009). Now 50m airlines fly from BHX, serving 150 destinations directly (and 350 indirectly). This contributes in major ways to WM economy: 750 work directly for BHX and 8,000 on the site, supporting ~25,000 other jobs around WM. With JLR, NEC and others co-locating could be described as an ‘Aerotropolis’. The challenges Challenges arising from building work to cope with growth spurts, reducing user satisfaction from 95 to 90%. Sheer range of airlines compared with (say) Luton and aircraft, even with Heathrow requires great adaptability. Closeness to Heathrow has constrained BHX growth, especially for trans-Atlantic flights because cannot compete for range of destinations and frequency of flights. Manchester is sufficiently distant to be less affected by this. However, Heathrow Runway 3 10 years off, and much could happen in between. HS2 has the effect of moving B’ham 100km closer to London, changing perceptions. The politics B’ham should take advantage of its geography, both in terms of proximity to a world city, and as centre of an urban area with 4.5 m population. We are in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ – close enough to enjoy connectivity, but not so close as to suffer excessive location costs. Capitalising on this will require collaborative leadership from the members of the Combined Authority. Crucial that whoever is the elected Mayor has the mandate to secure this local collaboration and to realise further devolution of powers and resources from Whitehall. The Lunar Society should use its influence to help bring this about. Discussion: A lively discussion followed, with the following points being raised and responded to by Paul Responding to a query about how Brexit might impact on the Airport, Paul emphasised the benefits that UK had enjoyed as result of EU ‘Open Skies’ policies, particularly the diversification into low fares operations (RyanAir, EasyJet, etc). He regarded these as embedded and essentially irreversible, though could well affect airline organisational structures (Dublin-based RyanAir and BA as member of a Madrid-based conglomerate may not be much affected, but Flybe might be). Responding to a question about the future of trans-Atlantic flights from Birmingham, Paul pointed to the possible growth of alternatives to the big carriers operating out of Heathrow. Small airlines operations like Icelandic already serve smaller US cities like Portland via Reykjavik, and this could well increase, with Birmingham well-placed to be a player. In response to query about the way in which public expenditures on Heathrow infrastructure in connection with Runway 3 would increase its dominance, Paul commented that because of inherited landing rights Heathrow is effectively a BA hub more than it is a UK hub. He contrasted this with the more equal relationship in Germany between Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf, the result of a more devolved national pattern of governance (plus the post-War isolation and division of Berlin). Looking to the longer term it is arguable that Heathrow (and to lesser extent Birmingham) airports are too close to major residential areas. Paul suggested that the increased sensitivity to air quality issues following the VW test scandal could change public acceptance of airports in such locations. However, he noted that all the WM Mayoral candidates had supported Birmingham airport as a key economic driver. In response to a query whether Brexit would produce difficulties and delays arising from more onerous visa requirements, Paul thought that visas downloaded onto smart phones could well be the future. At 9.00 am Alan thanked Paul for his presentation, which had given us all food for thought – and action. Report by Alan Wenban-Smith, 7 March 2017
Housing Dinner Discussion
The fourth of our discussion dinners held at Edgbaston Priory Club over the last year focused on housing. It was led by Richard Best, the cross-bench peer who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People; and who sponsored the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Reflecting the practices of the original Lunar Society, he introduced the topic before dinner, initiating table discussions over dinner, and after dinner responded to issues raised by guests, in a Q&A chaired by Alan Wenban-Smith (Chairman of the Lunar Society). Introducing the issue The price of homes has risen faster than incomes over the last decade, and this has been accompanied by declining rates of new building. Affordability, especially for newly-forming households, has become a national political issue. The Chairman stressed the Lunar Society’s role as a neutral forum for discussion of such issues: the Society aims to bring together people with knowledge, interest and ideas, and to encourage debate, but does not itself take positions or offer a political platform. To inform debate, the attached graphics showed the historical distribution of tenure, output of new homes by tenure since WW2, and official projections of households to 2039. Lord Best’s introduction Richard Best welcomed the fact that housing features significantly in the party platforms for the election to be held on 8 June 2017, both in manifestos and elsewhere, reflecting acceptance of its real importance across the spectrum. Most attention is paid to increasing the output of new homes, but while a lot of catching up is necessary it will take a long time for that to make much difference to the problem of affordability. In the meantime, we must focus on preventing matters getting even worse, by making better use of the homes we already have. Lord Best commented on examples of action under both headings. Under the heading of prevention, he drew attention to the following: Prevent homelessness becoming a consequence of personal housing crises. The Homelessness Reduction Act (signed into law just before the election was called) provides a 2-month stay before evictions. It requires Councils to use the time to draw up a personal intervention plan (as the best Councils, like Lambeth, already do), rather than wait for the bailiffs and only then deal with the problem. The Act provides £61m for staffing. Economic and industrial measures which encourage jobs growth in places which make better use of existing homes, including transport links which improve access between homes and work. Household projections suggest up to 250,000 more each year. The three main factors driving this are increased life expectancy (nearly 20 years since WW2 = an extra generation), immigration (though immigrants are often using/sharing unwanted accommodation), and new household formation through natural population increase and the subdivision of households following family breakdown. Implications include: The private market has been 100-150,000 pa since recovery from WW2. Until 1980 the gap was filled mainly by Council housing, but Housing Associations (HAs) have not approached such numbers (Figure 2). Party manifestos all propose to build more, but private housebuilding cannot bridge the gap, because to be affordable prices would have to fall, making profitable development impossible. The picture is complicated by changes in the tenure of the existing stock of homes (Figure 1). Private renting has grown from 9% to 18% since 2000 as private landlords compete for owner-occupied stock, and now account for 5m homes. Council housing has lost share both to former tenants (under Right to Buy) and to Housing Associations (half their increase has come from stock transfer from Councils). Some implications are: The growth in private renting through Buy to Rent has not added to stock, many of the 1.9m mainly small landlords lack the skills and resources to maintain their properties to good standards. The current direction of policy would reduce the number of landlords (to an estimated 1.3 m) in order to secure higher standards in the sector. A few Councils (Birmingham is a good example) are continuing to use their land and financial resources – not least in partnership with housebuilders and housing associations – to maintain a supply of new homes. Large scale Build to Rent is a real possibility, as a good return is feasible and pension funds seek long-term income flow needed to pay pensions. Discussion Issues raised in the course of the discussion included the following (under Chatham House rules questions are not attributed, but with his agreement Lord Best’s (RB) responses are). What could be done to better align the various property tax regimes (eg Council Tax, Stamp Duty, Capital Gains Tax on second homes). RB: Extending Council tax bands and revaluation would make sense but may be unpopular, while surcharges on empty overseas buyers may be popular but difficult to administer. Stamp Duty holiday for a limited period would help motivate downsizing; a CGT holiday would enable struggling landlords to sell up. While large scale Build to Rent might add to the stock, would the rents be affordable to low income families? RB: Affordable rents for low income families would be likely to continue to require subsidy: without this will only be a middle market niche. Even in London, there is a limit to how much could be provided in this way. HAs can borrow at lower rates than housebuilders so should be able to offer lower rents, but gap between market and Housing Benefit cap (currently £60/wk in London and £35/wk B’ham) is making renting to lowest income groups increasingly difficult. International comparisons suggest Govt would need to pay Housing Benefits nearer market rents until there is a more adequate supply to bring prices down. There will be a continuing need for subsidised housing in some form. What are the implications of tax relief on Buy to Rent mortgages no longer being available at the higher rate – will this not reduce the incentive to invest? RB: the intention of the measure is to limit
Inspiring Minds: Colin Diamond
The third of our Inspiring Minds breakfasts featured Colin Diamond CBE, executive director of education at Birmingham City Council as the guest speaker. Colin has worked in education leadership roles for over 30 years. He has been a teacher, youth worker and child psychotherapist in inner- London. He has also worked as a local authority SEND adviser, Director of Education, Director of Children’s Services, OfSTED inspector and associate lecturer at three universities. He was DCSF South West Director and then moved to DfE, where he headed up the Department’s education advisers for academies and free schools and then took on responsibility for the performance of open academies. His arrival in Birmingham was billed as a The Secret Successes of Birmingham’s Schools Three Years on from Trojan Horse’. Colin gave us the background to Trojan Horse and how perceptions of Birmingham’s education system and facilities – both within the city and wider afield – were negative, causing difficulties for city children, school staff and local communities. Three years later, Birmingham school children are tracking, or only just below, the national average and, in some cases, are slightly above the national average across a range of assessed criteria. The city is top or in second place of the core cities in GCSE results and amongst the best in the country when it comes to A level results. These figures are despite the fact that Birmingham has twice the national average of deprivation and the highest level of pupil mobility in the country. One of the reasons for this dramatic improvement is, according to Colin Diamond, the fact that Birmingham has a ‘huge pool of exemplary leaders’ to motivate its 205,000 pupils and 447 schools, including nurseries and that Birmingham has a strong city identity, which it values and wishes to preserve. He believes that the fact there has not been a rise in hate crimes in Birmingham schools since the Bataclan attack in Paris in 2015, which goes against the trend in several other key cities in England, is because local policies are being successful in the encouragement of young people to grow up together, unite and socialise through a wide range of activities including music and sport. Music provision, a £6m service, was described as the city’s ‘jewel in the crown’. The following discussion included the possible expansion of grammar schools within the education system, training young people for work rather than higher education to meet the needs of future employers, how micro management of the assessment process for six and seven year olds may not be desirable or useful and whether provision of free school meals was a good use of public money. It was an informative, engaging and entertaining talk and discussion, highlighting the achievements of Birmingham schools, teachers and pupils and illustrating the successes now seen and the desire to move onwards and upwards to benefit forthcoming generations. Government troubleshooter, sent to Birmingham to oversee school improvements in the wake of Trojan Horse and the title of his presentation to the Lunar Society was ‘
The Lunar Society 2017 Annual Dinner
On Wednesday, 8th November, The Lunar Society hosted members and guests at the Edgbaston Stadium with The Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg as guest speaker. Nick spoke about artificial intelligence and machine learning and the impact on politics and society, and also touched on the subject of his new book –‘How To Stop Brexit and Make Britain Great Again’. The Society’s Chair, The Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith, introduced the evening’s events and touched on how, if the original Lunar men were around today, their focus would have been on some of the technological preoccupations of today, as well as the economic, ethical, social and political opportunities and challenges of the digital age and the technology that accompanies it. Jacqui suggested also that the Lunar men would not have underestimated the challenges of Brexit for their research, trade and our place in the world. They would recognise that we face a profound challenge in our international role that will impact us for many generations to come. Jacqui introduced her old parliamentary colleague, Nick Clegg, to speak. Nick was previously the leader of the Liberal Democrats and deputy prime minister in the first post-war coalition government from 2010-2015. Nick began by acknowledging that while the link between AI and Brexit might otherwise be tenuous, the two issues are big generational shifts in how we organise our society. He likened them in some ways to mirror images of each other. Artificial intelligence, or the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – is all about how we shape our future. Brexit, he said, is something decided on based on a view of or hankering for our past. People are prone to overstate the disruption AI will bring, and understate that which Brexit will bring. Both of them could be spectacularly mishandled by governments. AI – or more accurately, ‘machine learning’ – involves algorithms that can develop on their own. Nick cited the work carried out by Google DeepMind in teaching computers to play games. The idea that machines can teach themselves sets this apart as a technological revolution – but it impinges not on what we can do with our hands, but on how we think. An example of an all pervasive application of artificial intelligence is one that is used to compose music. He prompted the audience – what if the creative process is not unique to human beings? The effect of this particular ‘revolution’ on work is different because all revolutions of the past have displaced blue-collar manual labour. This is the first technological revolution that will have impact on white collar work – for example, clinical diagnosis by an algorithm. When it comes to artificial intelligence, Nick was emphatic that he doesn’t share the ‘apocalyptic vision’ of the supposed ‘march of robots’. Instead, he pointed out that there is no evidence of this yet – so far, this technological revolution is creating other forms of work. As people and as societies, we are infinitely adaptable. In some of the most automated economies, employment is at its highest level ever. Nick set out how he hopes to become a public advocate of what international and domestic governments need to do in order to ensure we get the best out of artificial intelligence and avoid the worst. This includes ethical and regulatory considerations, along with the ever-crucial management of data. Alongside his overwhelmingly positive attitude towards the AI revolution, Nick contrasted his pessimistic views about Brexit. His view is that there is no example of any other society as sophisticated as ours in the democratic world that has taken such a radical decision about our future against the stated wishes of those who will inhabit that future – namely, the young. Nick voiced his opinion that is was wrong and ‘democratically unsustainable’ that the 70% of 16-24 year-olds who voted to remain in the European Union have largely been ignored. Nick called it an ‘extreme’ and ‘uncompromising’ interpretation of a finely decided decision. His view was that Theresa May could instead have sought a spirit of compromise in her duty to follow the instruction of the people, having acknowledged that she is prime minister of a deeply divided country, largely the young and the old. She could have stated that we as a nation would seek to leave, but also to retain the core advantages of economic integration of European Union. Nick also took issue with the ‘utopianism’ that was presented to the people to make the case for Brexit (for example the supposed £350m for the NHS), calling it a ‘complete fiction’, arguing that while there might be a place for utopianism in religion and culture, it is not a sensible basis on which to take decisions about the future of our country. So, what to do? When dealing with complex and controversial issues such as artificial intelligence and Brexit, Nick emphasised the importance of not rushing, or making decisions in a panic. There is a great need, he said, to take the time to work out what is right for our country. When it comes to AI, we just need the space and time to do this. His hope is that the almost hysterical pessimism about the tech sector and Silicon Valley doesn’t topple into rejection of new technology. On Brexit – currently underway is some rushed and panicked decision-making to meet deadline at end of March 2019. Instead, it would be wise to play for time in the coming months – and we should also try and seek consensus. The ideal would be the two sides reaching out to each other to achieve a new accommodation on the part of the EU that gives something to both sides. Nick stated his personal belief that there remains a deal to be done where the UK remains part of the single market, but would enjoy greater liberty about how to interpret rules on freedom of movement. The Lunar men were part of the British tradition of Enlightenment, and they believe in science and progress with a
Boulton and Watt Lecture – Will Hutton
“Recapturing what drives Innovation – time for a 21st century Lunar Society” So what are the questions of innovation for the present and the future? Says Jacqui Smith “The Enlightened Economy” – why did the Industrial Revolution happen when it did and with the vigour it did? Invention is driven by the interplay between thinkers and makers and being an open society all over Europe. Also that there were institutions which were created to incubate this process – eg Royal Society, coffee houses, and Lunar Society is mentioned. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Enlightened-Economy- Economic-History-1700-1850/dp/0300189516 SO Unless the enlightenment spark is rekindled the country is in desperate trouble. The political system is broken, economy is weak and society is under intense pressure. Reconstruction will be founded on enlightenment values. The EU will a pivot on which that turns – Brexit an intensification of decline. BUT – what about the emergence of the libertarian capture of media and global business? And Business Schools in the US? Enlightenment values under siege Eg Kant, Hume, Montesquieu, Voltaire , Rousseau, Smith – values on evidence, debate and discussion, objectivity and impartiality, independence of the rule of law, scepticism about religion and ritual, democratic legitimate government. All in peril Beliefs more important than evidence We have had enough of experts Weaponise the media Absolutist religious faith Distrusted strangers Weak government Blood, tribe ad nation are only compasses an social glue Overt manipulation of discussion to privatise public realm. Return of the PUBLIC GOOD versus the PFI model? SO – we have anti-enlightenment Mistrust of collective action and belief in markets Globalisation promotes inequality within countries Democracies fare worse than autocracies. Easy populism “post-truth” The power of MONEY? The new religion for what? General Purpose Technologies (GPC) 9000bc/1400ad – pants and animals domestication, wheel, smelting, writing, use of bronze, iron & steel, water wheel 1400/1750 – 3 misted ships, printing 1750/1900 – steam engine, factory system, railway, iron ships, communications 1900/2000 – combustion engine, electricity, motor vehicle, airplane, mass production, computer, lean production, internet, biotechnology 21st century – mobile phone, nanotechnologies, fusion energy, advanced materials, carbon sequestration, space, nitrogen cycle, water, health informatics, customised medicine, etc Digitalisation as a meta GPC Intangible assets is now much bigger than tangibles assets Challenge 2 – de-purposed enterprise Great companies have a “north star” of purpose to promote human betterment But instead today’s corporations need to please a myopic market with distorted view of shareholder primacy. Most acute in UK “ownerless corporations” – fragmented ownership Hostile to innovation Challenge 3 – China Growth model needs wholesale reform Leninist corporatism no longer possible Excessive debt Extreme precariousness of banking system What does this mean for Birmingham and its love affair with Chinese capital? Will’s view is that China will crash in next 5 years Challenge 4 – Brexit and Europe! Ait was an anti-enlightenment shock The manner in which the case was made – “anti-expert” etc Challenge 5 – USA and Trump America First lives Insist on HIS “facts” Method in his “madness” – BUT – libertarianism?? Challenge 6 – Inequality Income and spatial inequality in UK Wealth inequality s stunning due to global asset price boom – and ease of money movement. Artificial intelligence and impact on work Welfare states under pressure Decline of “craft” and disappearance of career? SO – what form of global tax regimes? Is the issue one of human betterment for all? Is this the 21st century enlightenment? Challenge 7 – Intellectual Ayn Rand Too much faith in neo liberal model BUT Restore the heart of Keynesian economics – radical uncertainty and differential speed of financial market and real economy adjustment Markets need trusted architectures and trust Society needs social contracts – its a 2 way flow – contribution principle is key – the Beveridge contract Workers need to know there are prospects of flourishing Well designed taxation to finance public betterment (spending) – not as a burden What should a 21st Century Lunar Society do? Reboot the idea of “publicness” Embrace open innovation and the new Enlightenment capitalism – reframe the company Recasting the regulatory, financial and ownership systems Workers as members of organisations with voice Similarly for social contract, public institutions and democracy, digital/AI revolution Open Innovation as driver of “deep change” – “open” universities? The purposeful (enlightenment) company Prospects? We could experience serious recession in 2018/19? Then decades of below trend growth? Brexit will cause traumatic transition House prices are far too high How much will this prompt intellectual awareness? But will our libertarian media allow it? Spillovers into music, film, social media, literature,? Experimentation with new companies, new unions, new forms of finance, new forms of mutuality New civic institutions Do we need a “Diamond Commission” on wealth and inequality? Role of social media? It is both a silo but also a “movement” – and encourage enlightenment Will it require a cataclysm impact to change? Austerity will it end? If hard Brexit then we will crash. There will be a crisis. Impact on the UK banking system capital base. So it could be a provocation to rethink our constitutional situation – law, finance, governance How do we transition companies into a post-Brexit world? The optimistic position I 2035 – could be most populous country in UK, most innovative, scale of compnay formation, but it is going to hard Brexit and will toxify the Tory party. A new kind of politics will emerge and will be rebuilt around 21st century principles I outlined.
Inspiring Minds: David Hardman
David Hardman, Chief Executive of Innovation Birmingham, spoke to an audience of about 20 Lunar Society members and guests over breakfast at The Alchemist on Colmore Row. This was followed by a discussion session, compered by Alan Wenban-Smith. Introduction The context In his recent Boulton & Watt Lecture Will Hutton warned that the ‘North Star’ of purpose is the hallmark of great companies; but that UK company law prioritises the pursuit of shareholder value. This has led to ‘ownerless corporations’ lacking a sense of direction and inter-company relationships based on a network of contracts rather than vision. He had flagged the significance of innovation and digitalisation to Birmingham’s future, in particular how creating IP is overtaking ‘making kit’ as the key economic activity. As CEO of what is now Innovation Birmingham (previously Aston Science Park), David’s first job had been to prevent its pre-emption by businesses that paid the rent but were not innovative. Places must have a reason to be where they are, and Birmingham’s industrial past no longer provides that. ‘Self- interested altruism’ is a key to creating the new competencies and skills needed for the future. To ‘catalyse action’ on this would be consistent with the Lunar Society’s mission, and a return to its enlightenment roots. The challenges Governments have focused on the generation of ideas in Universities, but there is a 10-15 year gap before products appear in the marketplace. Innovation is about filling this gap; it is private businesses that are best at this (eg the JLR supply chain). Birmingham’s public image is dominated by public sector bad news, rather than business good news: eg the Binding Site employs 500 in biotech and SCC is the largest private sector IT company in Europe. Cities have the advantages of scale, variety and concentration of people and businesses, so easy communications should drive faster change (James Burke ‘Connections’ (1972)). Modern Birmingham does not play to its size: o Its potential is fragmented by silos (eg BU’s Research Park focus on life sciences and Innovation Birmingham on digital – but not communicating effectively). o Communication to support innovation requires effort, but digitalisation should make this easier. Positive stories about successes could make a real contribution. o Lots of innovators, but far fewer entrepreneurs (compared with original LS, or with modern Cambridge). Birmingham has a high rate of start-ups (14,000 pa), but as is the case across the UK only 20% actually employ people (and many represent disguised unemployment). Artificial Intelligence (AI) will blur sectors (car computer on wheels), displace much present employment, and change the role of place and communications. This is a greater risk than Brexit (eg it is likely to make the assumptions behind much property development obsolete). 65% of children at school now will do jobs that don’t exist today. Education must equip young people with higher level competencies, enabling them utlilise their innate digital capabilities). Future financial sector growth is limited, so Midlands Engine should prioritise apprenticeships in the competencies needed for ‘making stuff’. The role of self-interested altruism Digital is a democratising tool. Public sector dominates the communications spaces and institutions of Birmingham. A business and technology leaders’ ‘room’ is needed to bring together (eg) inventors and funders, policy-makers and facilitators, champions and communicators, and requires them to act in spirit of self-interested altruism. The original LS set an example in 18th Century, followed by Chamberlain, Cadburys and others in 19th and 20th. Where are today’s self-interested altruists? Who would we put on the plinth on Broad Street to stand alongside Boulton, Watt and Murdoch? Could a Lunar Society 2.0 help overcome Birmingham’s limitations, and promote real growth in the city’s knowledge economy? Discussion: A lively discussion followed, with the following points being raised and responded to by David: How could a culture of innovation be developed in Birmingham? DH thought the key was spaces like those in Silicon Valley where there is potential for millionaires to meet innovators, see their ideas and put money into new businesses. But equally need a culture of candour, to kill off bad ideas. Why it is so difficult to scale up even a successful venture? DH agreed: banks are not the source of such early growth funding. The need is for venture capital, not loan funding. Maybe need a levy on AI; not in a Luddite spirit, but to create such a fund, and also to support creative alternatives to conventional work more widely. Why has Manchester been more successful than Birmingham in creative/innovative businesses? DH suggested (a) far enough from London to be independent; (b) stable leadership at city-region level; (c) messaging – better at selling themselves. Were people trying to take their money out too quickly? DH pointed to the evidence that investors frequently force the pace by easing out innovators/founders, and UK company law does not prevent this (would the sale of ARM have been allowed in USA?). Why were universities and businesses not better at talking across sector boundaries? DH responded that while individual academics understand this need, Universities as institutions do not. Peer-to-peer business links often work much better, even when in competition, because of the benefits of collaboration are potentially much greater than the risk, subject to agreement about IP protection. Should Birmingham develop its own Cloud to keep IP in Birmingham? DH responded that there was already a software business – ProBrand – offering appropriate SAS, which might help meet some needs. David expressed his willingness to host a visit to Innovation Birmingham to take the discussion forward. Close At 9.00 am Alan thanked David for his presentation, which had given us all food for thought – and action. He would circulate a note, and those present agreed to append a list of their names/contacts for following up. Report by Alan Wenban-Smith, 15 October 2017