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Stewart Iain Iain Stewart stood for Parliament in Milton Keynes in both 2001 and 2005 before being successfully elected at his third attempt at this year's general election in the slightly-redrawn Milton Keynes South constituency.

In his maiden speech yesterday, apart from revealing that he was baptised by Gordon Brown's father, he took the opportunity during a debate on building a high-skilled economy to highlight how Milton Keynes is leading the way in promoting flexibility in the education system:

"Many hundreds of thousands of lives have been transformed by the Open University, and it has long-embodied the vital principle of lifelong learning, reskilling people as their careers evolve and giving a second chance to those who have, for whatever reason, missed out on a more traditional form of higher education. The new vice-chancellor of the Open University, Martin Bean, is making an excellent start in preparing and updating the university to meet the ever-evolving challenges that lie ahead. His appointment is significant, because as a former senior director of Microsoft, his move from a high-end private company to the world of education illustrates the vital links that must exist between the two if the UK is to sustain a high-knowledge economy.

"Milton Keynes is home to another pioneering model of higher-level learning that I believe will play a major part in the skilling of our economy—University Centre Milton Keynes, under the wise leadership of Professor Keith Straughan. When fully established, this exciting new concept will enable young people to access top-quality learning close to home and integrated with their learning at work. It is a model of partnership working and came about as a result of demand from the local community, local employers, civic partners and the voluntary and community sector."

"I have long believed that to unlock the full potential of people in the UK, we need to break down some of the barriers that sometimes exist between higher and further education, and the needs of skilled employers. To ensure that the UK can beat both our traditional economic competitors and the fast-rising challenge from emerging economies, we need much greater flexibility in our education system, and in that Milton Keynes is leading the way."

Jonathan Isaby

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