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April 15, 2015

General Election 2015: 10 tech take-aways from the Lib Dems Manifesto

From electric cars to tidal power with a digital bill of rights in the making.

By Joao Lima

The Liberal Democrats have aligned with their coalition partner the Conservatives by mentioning the word technology exactly 16 times in their election manifesto.

The party promises to grow a high-skill, low-carbon economy by supporting education, training, infrastructure, innovation and technology.

The manifesto vows to "double innovation spend in our economy, making the UK a world leader in advanced manufacturing, clean technology and digital industries".

The Liberal Democrats did not restrict their view only to the UK, and will be supporting free media and an open internet around the world, "championing the free flow of information".

It said it will be open to ambitious entrepreneurs and thinkers from overseas that want to help the country to thrive in advanced manufacturing, science, creative, digital and green industries.

CBR looked at the main ten Liberal Democrat tech pledges announced by party leader Nick Clegg.

1. Digital Bill of Rights

A digital bill of rights that will enshrine the principle that everyone has the right to control their own personal data, and that everyone should be able to view, correct, and (where appropriate and proportionate) delete their personal data, wherever it is held.

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The Data Protection Act will change to include custodial sentences for egregious breaches of the same act.

A ban on any public body from collecting, storing or processing personal data without statutory authority, and "require any such legislation to be regularly reviewed".

"Public authorities should only invade an individual’s privacy where there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or where it is otherwise necessary and proportionate to do so in the public interest, and with appropriate oversight by the courts," the manifesto said..

2. Tech Hubs

A doubling of research spending across the economy.

"We will continue to ringfence the science budget and ensure that, by 2020, both capital and revenue spending have increased at least in line with inflation," the manifesto said.

3. Smart Grid

It will support investment in energy storage and smart grid technology.

The party wants to set a legally binding decarbonisation target range for 2030 for the power sector of 50-100g of CO2 per kWh, with an indicative target of 60% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

It will also "continue to back new entrants to the energy market, smart meters and faster switching to promote proper competition, aiming for at least 30% of the household market to be supplied by competitors to the ‘Big 6’ by 2020".

4. Broadband

99.99% coverage is the aim of the party to complete the rollout of high-speed broadband, and to reach almost every household in the UK as well as small businesses in both rural and urban areas.

5. Businesses

A set of supporting tools for start-ups and companies looking to bring innovative technologies to the UK.

6. Education

After a survey conducted last December by YouGov for IEEE revealed that fewer 18 to 34-year-olds think the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at UK and US primary and secondary schools is relevant it wants to promote the take up of STEM subjects in schools, retain coding on the National Curriculum and encourage entrepreneurship at all levels.

7. Digital Government

The party wants to maintain and develop the Government Digital Service, and the principle of Digital by Default in public services, pressing ahead with plans to extend this to local government.

8. Justice

It said that in this Parliament "we have had to make significant savings from the Legal Aid budget, but in the next Parliament our priority for delivering efficiency in the Ministry of Justice should be prison and court reform, using technology and innovation to reduce costs".

9. Transports

The manifesto pledges to support the expansion of smart ticketing systems like the ones used in London, taking the UK further into contactless payments and other technologies to improve travels.

10. Privacy

The main goal for the next five years if a Lib Dem government makes it to Downing Street is to pass a Digital Bill of Rights, "to define and enshrine the digital rights of the citizen".

The party wants to safeguard the essential freedom of the internet and back net neutrality, the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all lawful content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.

The Snooper’s Charter will receive strong opposition from within the party as it said it will say no to the Communications Data Bill.

"We blocked the draft Communications Data Bill and would do so again," it said.

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