News Analysis

Election 2010: The main parties' technology policies

All three parties have pushed technology-related issues up the agenda for 2010's General Election. Here's our round-up of the main policies.

Conservatives

The Conservatives have published a Technology Manifesto which contains pledges to:

  • Continue Labour's plan to open up public data, saying they will create a "right to government data" under which the public can request and receive government datasets.
  • Extend 100mbps broadband across most of the population.
  • Publish online every item of central government and quango spending over £25,000 - or £500 in local government - including every contract in full. Information on the salaries of local officials and senior civil servants will also be published.
  • Create more opportunities for smaller businesses by breaking big IT projects up into smaller components which they can bid for.
  • Create a small IT development team in government that can develop low-cost IT applications in-house and advise on the procurement of large projects.

The Tories also say they will encourage departments to use open source software, and work on the assumption that projects should not cost more than £100m. A Conservative government would also publish all Gateway reviews. In the past, the party has also pledged to scrap the child database Contactpoint and ID cards.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats want to scrap ID cards, the Contactpoint child database, and the next generation of biometric passports. The party also says, "Better government IT procurement, investigating the potential of different approaches such as cloud computing and open source software, will bring long-term savings."

It wants to create thousands of jobs by investing in green technology and infrastructure.

And it wants to tackle the way IT is taught in schools by enhancing interaction between teachers and the IT industry "to facilitate the exchange of ideas, challenges and innovation".

The Liberal Democrats are not supporting the Digital Economy Bill, which advocates disconnecting people from the internet if they download copyright material. "While we support much of what is in the bill, we strongly believe that the issue of site-blocking should not be proceeded with as it stands, as the complexities of the issue require proper consultation and detailed parliamentary scrutiny, both of which are impossible in the wash-up process at the end of parliament. Therefore we are opposed to the bill in its present form," the party says.

Labour

Labour's well-publicised Digital Britain pledge is to provide universal access to broadband at 2mbps by 2012. The party wants to introduce a levy on fixed telephone lines of 50p a month to establish a national fund to increase coverage, which should reach £1bn over seven years. It also wants 90% of the population to have access to next-generation broadband coverage by 2017.

Labour also says it will "liberalise the mobile phone spectrum" to enhance 3G coverage and make it faster to browse the web on mobile phones.

And it says, "Britain's video games industry is among the best and most creative in the world. To further back the industry, we will put in place a tax relief following consultation on design, subject to state aid approval from the European Commission."

Labour says it wants to reduce paperwork for businesses and is developing a single online process for incorporating and registering a company. This should be delivered by April 2011. It is also working on digital facilities at the Land Registry to make it easier to register commercial property.

There are plans to recruit 20,000 extra undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, and an Innovation Investment Fund will be directed at low-carbon, digital, life sciences and advanced manufacturing businesses.


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