Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has launched the party’s 2017 general election manifesto, pledging a £250bn fund for infrastructure upgrades, including broadband.
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The manifesto, entitled For the many, not the few, highlights the need for continuing to grow the UK’s digital economy.
While the document does not include a specific digital section, it makes several promises relating to digital and technology.
This includes a £250bn infrastructure fund to upgrade the country’s economy. The investment would be covered by a proposed national investment bank, set up by Labour, aiming to “fill existing gaps in lending by private banks, particularly to small businesses, and by providing patient, long-term finance to R&D-intensive investments”, as seen in the recent leaked draft version of the manifesto.
“Our country and its people have been held back by a lack of investment in the backbone of a modern economy – the infrastructure of transport, communications and energy systems,” the manifesto said.
As well as pledging to renationalise the railways and promising “uninterrupted 5G coverage on those”, Labour will also extend the controversial HS2 project into Scotland and build a Crossrail for the north.
The document, which is very similar to the draft version, also pledges to protect small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through creating a network of regional trade and investment champions “to promote the export and investment interests of businesses across the country, and we will include regional representation on overseas trade missions”.
“Labour is committed to growing the digital economy and ensuring that trade agreements do not impede cross-border data flows, whilst maintaining strong data protection rules to protect personal privacy,” the manifesto said.
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Labour also promised continued access to the single market post-Brexit, something the tech industry has been hoping for.
Speaking at the launch, Corbyn said as the country prepares to leave the European Union, “only Labour will negotiate a deal that preserves jobs and access to the single market, preserves rights and does not plunge our country into a race to the bottom”.
As previously reported, Labour also plans to appoint a digital ambassador whose role will be to liaise with tech companies to promote Britain “as an attractive place for investment and provide support for startups to scale up to become world-class digital businesses”.
Corbyn also pledged to help SMEs by “declaring war on late payments”, ensuring businesses providing or bidding on services to government must pay their own suppliers within 30 days.
As already seen in the draft manifesto, which slammed the Conservatives for only pledging 10Mbps broadband, Labour promises to deliver 30Mbps superfast broadband to all household in Britain by 2022, as well as free public Wi-Fi on public transport and in city centres - and to plan for even faster broadband services thereafter.
“On day one we will instruct the National Infrastructure Commission to report on how to roll out ultrafast 300Mbps across the country in the next decade,” the manifesto said.
The manifesto also criticised the Conservative government for failing to invest in broadband and public services for rural communities.
“Rural infrastructure and industry has been neglected. Labour will invest in broadband, housing and transport to create jobs and ensure that the nation’s prosperity is felt beyond our large towns and cities,” the manifesto said.
“Labour’s national investment plans include coastal protections, better flood management and the broadband and 4G extensions that will underpin the future success of rural small businesses.”
Other pledges include a £1bn cultural capital fund which aims to upgrade cultural and creative industries to “be ready for the digital age”.
The fund will be available for a five-year period and will be run by the Arts Council.
“We recognise the serious concern about the ‘value gap’ between producers of creative content and the digital services that profit from its use, and we will work with all sides to review the way that innovators and artists are rewarded for their work in the digital age,” the manifesto said.
Labour also promised to extend the use of technology in court, and using technology and innovation to champion sustainable farming, food and fishing.