Before Labour officially launched its manifesto today, the party had already promised to provide every UK household with free, full-fibre broadband, with the policy dividing both industry and the general public. While Labour’s manifesto isn’t as tech-heavy as the Liberal Democrats’, it does set out a number of pledges related to IT that would impact businesses and
Before Labour officially launched its manifesto today, the party had already promised to provide every UK household with free, full-fibre broadband, with the policy dividing both industry and the general public.
While Labour’s manifesto isn’t as tech-heavy as the Liberal Democrats’, it does set out a number of pledges related to IT that would impact businesses and consumers should they get elected.
We’ve outlined the key tech-related policies in the Labour manifesto.
Investment in green technologies
The climate crisis takes centre stage in the Labour manifesto. The party has put forward its proposals for a Green Industrial Revolution, highlighting the importance of investment in new, green technologies.
Labour claims that targeted science, research and innovation will be crucial to tackling the climate crisis and have pledged to create an “innovation nation” that spends three percent of GDP on research and development by 2030.
The manifesto also promises to ensure that new technologies invented in the UK are also engineered, manufactured and exported from the country, placing “British innovation at the heart of procurement” and strengthening supply chains.
Labour also plans to stop the UK being left behind by the electric car revolution by investing in three new battery-making “gigafactories” and four metal reprocessing plants that will reprocess the cobalt and rare earth minerals used in batteries.
Labour is widely regarded as the party of the NHS. It is therefore unsurprising that the party is pledging to make significant investments in healthtech, including funding for “modern AI, cyber technology and state-of-the-art medical equipment” in hospital rebuilds.
The manifesto also promises to ensure that “NHS data is not exploited by international technology and pharmaceutical corporations”.
Google has recently been criticised for “Project Nightingale”, a scheme that has seen the company gain access to a trove of patient data in the US without the clear consent of the patients. With Labour already making a campaign talking point out of a potential post-Brexit UK/US trade deal, this policy appears to be a stark warning to big tech and big pharma companies that the NHS is not for sale.
Cybersecurity got a brief mention in the 2017 Labour manifesto, and the 2019 edition strengthens the pledges put forward two years ago.
With the party having suffered two attempted cyberattacks already during this year’s election cycle, Labour’s manifesto points out that “every aspect of our lives, from the NHS to our nuclear facilities, from transport systems to communications networks is vulnerable”.
Labour has pledged to review the role and remit of the National Cyber Security Centre, floating the possibility that the national body could be given powers to issue warnings to private and public sector organisations and designate risk.
It says in the manifesto: “The party also wants to strengthen the response the National Crime Agency can have to cases of economic cybercrime and fraud and upskill the police force so they have the capacity and ability to adequately combat online crime.”
The party will also review the work of the National Crime Agency to find ways to strengthen its ability to respond to all economic cybercrime and fraud, and will upskill the police force so they have the capacity and ability to adequately combat online crime.
Labour has also pledged to better protect children online by imposing fines on companies that fail on online abuse and empowering the public with a Charter of Digital Rights.
Free full-fibre broadband
The centrepiece of Labour’s digital strategy is the party’s pledge to provide every UK home with free, full-fibre broadband by 2030.
One of the criticisms levelled at Labour when the policy was first unveiled was how the party planned to pay for this policy. The manifesto claims that the taxation of multinationals, including tech giants, will pay for the operating costs of the public full-fibre network. However, unlike the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto, it doesn’t expand on how the party plans to increase taxation of big tech companies or explain whether additional regulations will need to be introduced in order to do so.
For those who didn’t read the details surrounding the proposed nationalisation of BT, the manifesto states that a Labour government would “establish British Broadband, with two arms: British Digital Infrastructure (BDI) and the British Broadband Service (BBS)”.
By bringing these parts of BT into public ownership, Labour claims that BDI will roll out the remaining necessary infrastructure of the full-fibre network, whilst BBS will coordinate the delivery of services, starting with communities which are currently the worst served by existing broadband networks.
The party claims the nationalisation scheme will come with a job guarantee for existing BT and Openreach workers and will help to tackle regional inequality and improve quality of life.
A snap YouGov poll found that six in 10 people support the policy of free broadband for all, but only half of that figure approve of the means by which it would be provided. Supporters argue that the state would offer greater access to broadband and could supply the connectivity as efficiently as the private sector, while critics claim that the lack of competition would reduce the quality of the service.
Dave Weinstein, CSO at cybersecurity firm Claroty, said that there would still be fundamental security issues with the underlying infrastructure.
“Nationalising broadband would require significant upgrades to the existing infrastructure, which is predominantly running on copper versus fiber. Upgrades of this scale always present supply chain risks, but introducing new technology could markedly enhance the security of country’s networks,” he said.
“If the plan eventually expands beyond BT, it would be important to set universal security standards across the board. Of course privacy is also a consideration whenever a country nationalises communication infrastructure on this scale.”