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No change for tech in Boris Johnson’s new government – yet

Nicky Morgan remains in charge of digital policies as DCMS secretary, despite quitting as an MP before the General Election

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that Nicky Morgan will remain in charge of the UK’s digital economy policies – for now at least.

Morgan quit as an MP before the General Election, having been secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) since July, when Johnson took over from Theresa May as PM.

But Johnson has now ennobled Morgan, giving her a seat in the House of Lords so that she can remain part of his cabinet. However, there is much speculation that Morgan’s is a short-term appointment in advance of a more wide-ranging reshuffle, expected to take place once the UK has left the European Union on 31 January 2020.

At DCMS, Morgan is responsible for policy around broadband, telecoms, 5G, internet regulation, online harms, digital skills, artificial intelligence and digital identity.

It seems likely that her team will remain in place for now also, which means that former technology journalist Matt Warman remains as minister for digital and broadband.

In an article for Computer Weekly before the election, Warman said that a Conservative majority government would carry out “a programme of investment in education, infrastructure and technology, to create a high-wage, high-skill, low-tax economy”.

“We want to train up hundreds of thousands more highly skilled apprentices, in areas like coding. There will also be opportunities for apprentices in big new infrastructure projects – hospitals, schools, transport projects and our multibillion-pound fibre and 5G programme,” said Warman.

“We must ensure that children are leaving school better equipped to deal with the new world of computing, automation and technology. We have made significant progress, but there is more to do to level up the skills of the entire nation.”

Like all the major political parties, the Conservatives’ election manifesto emphasised their commitment to supporting the tech and digital sectors should they gain power.

The Tory manifesto was supportive of entrepreneurs, saying that “from decarbonisation to expanding the frontiers of artificial intelligence, they are tackling some of the great challenges of our time. We want to be a nation of startups, and of successful scaleups”.

The Conservatives said they would increase the tax credit rate to 13% and review the definition of research and development (R&D), so that investments in cloud computing and data, which they claim boost productivity and innovation, are incentivised too.

Their stated aim was to increase R&D spend to 2.4% of GDP, with a focus “on areas where the UK can generate a commanding lead in the industries of the future – life sciences, clean energy, space, design, computing, robotics and artificial intelligence”.

The party also promised to accelerate the roll-out of full-fibre broadband, with Boris Johnson offering £5bn of government funding. During his Tory leadership campaign, Johnson said he would deliver this by 2025, ahead of the previous target of 2033.

Later, during the Queen’s Speech for the PM’s short-lived pre-election administration, he rowed back from that commitment, saying instead that gigabit broadband would be delivered “as soon as possible”. The 2025 date was then re-introduced in the manifesto.

Read more about the Conservatives’ digital policies

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