Looking past the pomp and ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament, the prospects outlined in the Queen’s Speech for this year’s legislative programme are good for technology.
Whilst fixing the economy remains at the top of the Conservatives’ priorities, computing is set to influence some of the most important pieces of legislation that the government will be working on throughout the next parliament.
This in mind. CBR spoke to Antony Walker, deputy CEO of the trade group techUK, to gauge the likely industry reaction to the Queen’s Speech.
1. Cities and Devolution Bill
One of the key slogans to emerge from the election campaign was chancellor George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse, intended to recall North England’s previous history as a centre of industry.
To bring this about the government will devolve more power to cities under elected mayors, with Greater Manchester first to receive such treatment. Such a move is interesting for technology because of the potential for greater investment in smart cities.
"With an increased focus on the devolution of powers to cities and building a Northern Powerhouse, there is now a major opportunity to create world leading smart cities right across the UK," Walker said. "We’re looking for real ambition here."
2. Investigatory Powers Bill
Greater surveillance powers for the police and secret service has been championed by the home secretary Teresa May throughout the course of the last parliament, with previous plans drawn up under the Communications Data Bill – better known as the Snooper’s Charter.
The Queen’s Speech confirmed that the similar Investigatory Powers Bill would replace it, with the intention to "maintain the ability of intelligence agencies and law enforcement to target the online communications of terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals".
Commenting on the bill, Walker said: "We encourage the government to consult in detail with the industry to ensure a clear legal framework that provides trust and clarity for the public and for businesses providing communications services. It matters that we get the detail right."
3. Immigration Bill
The skills shortage in technology has been a defining theme for the industry over the past couple for years, a fact not helped hostile rhetoric from both Labour and Conservatives, as well as increased measures to discourage migrants from within and without the EU to move to the UK.
This parliament’s legislative programme appears to be going in this direction, with the Conservatives promising to tackle illegal migration and make it an offence to hire talent from abroad without first advertising the vacancy in the UK.
"Tech start-ups in particular can struggle to find the experienced and talented individuals they need quickly to help them drive growth and create jobs here in the UK," Walker said. "The industry will be looking for practical detail, with questions on the visa levy model to fund new apprenticeships."
4. Enterprise Bill
Though the Enterprise Bill is intended to benefit all small businesses by cutting red tape by at least £10bn, tech start-ups in the likes of Old Street in London are likely to be among the most appreciative beneficiaries of the prospective act.
As well as cutting back on regulations the government is also hoping to set up a Small Business Conciliation Service, which will help settle disputes between small and large companies, and improve business rates, a tax paid on the use of buildings for non-domestic purposes.
"The UK is already the best place in Europe to start and grow a business and real reduction in red tape will cement that leadership position," Walker said. "However, tech SMEs will be also be looking for policy proposals that make it easier for them to do business with government."