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Speaker

Lord David Blunkett Rt Hon

Chair of Heathrow Skills Taskforce

Biography

Blind since birth and describing not being able to see as simply ‘an inconvenience’, David Blunkett became one of very few blind MPs to reach the front bench and Cabinet. He chaired the Labour Party nationally and managed education and employment in Tony Blair’s first government.

David Blunkett was elected as the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside in 1987 which he still represents to this day. However his political career began in local government as a member of Sheffield City Council where he worked for eighteen years, seven of those years as leader of the council.

In Parliament David led Labour’s assault on the poll tax as Opposition Local Government Spokesman. Promoted to the Shadow Cabinet in 1992 he took on, in turn, responsibility for health, education and then education and employment.

Following the 1997 Labour election victory, David became Secretary of State for Education and Employment. There he oversaw massive improvements in the basic standards of literacy and numeracy, substantial class size reductions and the introduction of tuition fees. With Labour returned in 2001, David became Home Secretary, and concentrated on fighting terrorism, crime and anti-social behaviour, and managing immigration and asylum. David resigned as Home Secretary in December 2004 and then took a leading role in fighting Labour’s 3rd term election campaign in spring 2005.

From May to November 2005 he was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions where he set a clear vision for reform of the welfare state and established a nationwide debate to find a long-term solution to pensions challenges.

Heathrow announced today the appointment of the Rt Hon, the Lord Blunkett as Chair of the airport’s new Heathrow Skills Taskforce. During his distinguished political career, Lord Blunkett held the Cabinet posts responsible for Education, for Employment and for Work and Pensions and so brings extensive experience that will help ensure Heathrow provides further support at all levels of education, from local primary schools to the place of work, if expansion of the airport takes place.

The Taskforce will ensure there’s a clear plan to provide the skills required to build and operate an expanded Heathrow. Its recommendations will maximise the employment benefits of this, and other private sector infrastructure investments, which are all the more important in these uncertain economic times. The Taskforce will work with the Heathrow supply chain to ensure the skills required are developed across the UK during the third runway’s construction phase, ensuring a legacy for future infrastructure projects. It will also make certain that young people in the local community have the skills necessary to build careers at an expanded Heathrow. This will include ensuring the right teaching, opportunities for employment, training and career progression that will allow local people to fulfil their potential, and ensuring that Heathrow becomes a role model for social mobility and diversity.

The Taskforce will begin its work as soon as the Government grants approval for Heathrow expansion, and will sit for 18 months. It will be comprised of 12 members with expertise in employability, education and skills, and young people. The Taskforce will be advised by a group of 15 representatives from education organisations, to ensure their recommendations are consistent with existing curriculums and programmes.

The appointment of Lord Blunkett comes as the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce publishes its report “Construction Pipeline Skills Analysis: Heathrow Airport Expansion.” One of the recommendations of today’s report is for Heathrow to engage early with its supply chain, training providers, schools and other agencies to prepare for the large increase in workforce requirements beyond 2020. To ensure the benefits of expansion are felt throughout the country, the Taskforce has been asked to explore a skills strategy focussed around regional procurement hubs that will identify the unique sector strengths of each region and ensure the airport’s procurement strategy is tailored to complement them.