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April 14, 2015

General Election 2015: 7 tech take-aways from Labour’s Manifesto

Find out what a Labour Government would mean for the tech industry.

By Alexander Sword

Labour leader Ed Miliband presented ‘Britain can be better: The Labour Party Manifesto 2015’ at a press conference in Manchester on Monday. CBR has rounded up the most pertinent policies pertaining to the technology industry.

1. Government efficiency and devolution

A Labour Government would "use digital technology to create a more responsive, devolved, and less costly system of government." In particular, this could involve a higher level of citizen engagement with government as part of "reforming our public services." The manifesto claims "people will be able to feed back on services quickly and simply, making sure their voices are heard, stimulating improvement and saving on the costs of service failure."

2. Funding science and innovation

The manifesto claims that "scientific discovery and technological innovation will drive economic advancement this century". Labour will "introduce a new long-term funding policy framework for science and innovation, providing the stability and continuity that our companies and research institutes need to succeed." Although where this funding might go is not specified, the party mentions "robotics, genetics, 3D printing and Big Data" as areas that could be a particular focus.

3. Broadband

Labour’s Chris Bryant, Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, recently described the the current Government’s ‘SuperFast’ broadband rollout as ‘SuperSlow broadband.’ However, Labour appears to see nothing wrong with the scheme in principle, as the manifesto claims that "all parts of the country" will gain "affordable, high speed broadband" by the end of its term in office. This will involve working with regulators and the private sector, but Labour insists that its approach will compensate for "market failure."

4. Spreading knowledge clusters

Labour recognises the potential of university partnerships with the tech industry, producing "high-tech clusters" that are helping regional economies by producing "hundreds of companies creating thousands of jobs". The party promises to support this approach, emphasising that it would place a particular focus on knowledge clusters outside the South East, perhaps as part of the stated desire to "unleash the potential of our city and country regions…" to increase prosperity elsewhere.

5. Data privacy

Anyone who hoped Labour might take a strong stance for citizens’ data privacy rights might be somewhat disappointed. Aside from a passing reference to "safeguards that protect people’s privacy," Labour claims there is a need to "update our investigative laws to keep up with changing technology", which could see them taking a leaf out of David Cameron’s book and arguing for government access to encrypted message services such as Whatsapp. Fans of Edward Snowden might also find something to sniff at in the pledge to "strengthen the oversight of our intelligence agencies".

6. Education, education, education

The manifesto deals extensively with education, pledging new teacher qualifications and to abolish free schools. In terms of the tech sector and schools, it doesn’t specify whether any new focus will be placed on STEM skills or subjects. However, the party claims it will "support community-based campaigns to reduce the proportion of citizens unable to use the internet and help those who need it to get the skills to make the most of digital technology."

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7. Tech tax practices

Although the manifesto makes no specific mention of tech companies, focusing instead on the more unpopular hedge funds, Chancellor George Osborne’s diverted profits tax wasn’t nicknamed the Google Tax for nothing. Tech companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google have regularly been berated in the media for the accounting practices they utilise to avoid (not evade) tax. Labour’s manifesto pledges to close tax loopholes in the party’s first Finance Bill; notably, they will "seek international agreement to make country-by-country reporting information publicly available."

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