The Conservative Party has this weekend launched its manifesto, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson pitching that his party is the one to “get Brexit done”. However, as an aside from the continuing Brexit drama, the Tory manifesto also makes a number of technology commitments.
The manifesto states that the UK is world leading in 21st-century technologies and that there are parts of the country that are more productive and innovative than anywhere else in Europe. The Tories claim that they will invest in British people by giving them the tools and training to “flourish in the economy of the 21st century”.
The UK is heading towards a general election on 12th December this year, with the hope it can end the Brexit deadlock in Parliament. However, both the Tories and the Labour Party have made a number of other promises to the public they were to win power next month.
For example, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently set out his plans to create a new ‘British Broadband public service’, which will see BT Openreach brought into public ownership and offer free full-fibre broadband for all.
Whilst there is nothing as bold in Boris Johnson’s manifesto, there are a number of tech - or tech related - commitments that are worth highlighting. These include:
The government of the moment has already created a new central technology unit, dubbed NHSX, which is hoping to change the way things are done across the health service. However, the manifesto also promises:
We will use frontline technology to improve patients’ experience, provide flexible working for clinicians, and help save lives. We will also hold an annual health technology summit.
The Tories are also committing to £1 billion of extra funding every year for more social care staff and better infrastructure, technology and facilities.
If Boris Johnson walks into Number 10 on the 13th December, the Tories are also planning to “crack down on online crimes”. They will create a new national cyber crime force and “empower the police to safely use new technologies like biometrics and artificial intelligence, along with the use of DNA”.
The manifesto also commits to creating a world-class National Crime Laboratory.
This is where the Tories place a lot of emphasis - technical skills and immigration. There is clearly a huge concern across a number of industries about getting access to talent, once the UK leaves the EU. The Conservative Party claims that the UK will continue to be able to attract skills from abroad and will combine this with a domestic upskilling agenda.
Some promises in the manifesto include:
Actively recruiting leaders in their field to come to the UK. The small number of the best technology and science graduates from the top universities in the world and those who win top scientific prizes will be offered fast-track entry to the UK.
Create a new National Skills Fund worth £3 billion over the next Parliament. This fund will provide matching funding for individuals and SMEs for high-quality education and training. A proportion will be reserved for further strategic investment in skills, and we will consult widely on the overall design.
The National Skills Fund will aim to help transform the lives of people who have not got onto the work ladder and lack qualifications, as well as people who are keen to return to work from, say, raising a family, or switch from one career to another.
A promise to invest almost £2 billion to upgrade the entire further education college estate. This is in addition to 20 Institutes of Technology, which connect high-quality teaching in science, technology, engineering and maths to business and industry.
There are some other vague commitments in the manifesto that don’t come with a lot of details, but are worth highlighting. These include:
With plans in the pipeline for a new runway at Heathrow Airport, the Conservatives say that they will use new air traffic control technology to cut the time aircraft spend waiting to land, reducing delays, noise nuisance and pollution. They claim that they will “build on Britain’s pioneering work in electric and low-carbon flight”.
The Tories promise to bring full fibre and gigabit- capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025.
On R&D tax credits, the Conservative manifesto promises to increase the tax credit rate to 13 per cent and review the definition of R&D so that important investments in cloud computing and data, which boost productivity and innovation, are also incentivised.
The manifesto also states that the Tories will “invest in world-class computing and health data systems” that can aid research, such as the genetic sequencing carried out at the UK Biobank, Genomics England and the new Accelerating the Detection of Disease project, which has the potential to transform diagnosis and treatment.