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Plans for superfast broadband and digital ambassador in leaked Labour manifesto

The leaked draft of the Labour Party’s election manifesto promises to deliver superfast broadband by 2022 and appoint a digital ambassador to fly the flag for Britain post-Brexit

The Labour Party’s 2017 draft election manifesto sets out plans for infrastructure investment, better connectivity and boosting the economy through the growth of digital.

The 20,000 word document, which was leaked overnight, is thought to be a draft version of the party’s election manifesto, which is due to be officially approved at a Labour Party meeting on 11 May 2017.

It highlights plans for a “10-year national investment” to upgrade the country’s economy through building “world-leading digital, transport and energy infrastructure across the country”, better 4G coverage and improve scale-up of tech small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The manifesto promises to deliver 30mbps “universal superfast broadband availability” to all households in Britain by 2022.

“Few things are more crucial to businesses and our economy than a fast and reliable internet connection, but 3 million households and businesses have been left incapacitated by slow internet,” the draft said.

“The Conservative commitment to just 10mbps will see the 400,000 small businesses and nearly two million homes left with substandard broadband well into the next decade.”

The manifesto also sets out plans to appoint a digital ambassador to liaise with technology companies to promote investment and support “startups to scale world-class digital businesses”.

“The UK lags behind other countries in the extent to which our companies scale-up, with research suggesting that many of our companies have stagnant growth despite their best aspirations,” the manifesto said.

“By one estimate, if expanding small businesses were boosted by just 1%, they could generate 238,000 new jobs within three years and an extra £38bn for the economy. Our digital ambassador will help to ensure businesses are ready to grow and prosper in the digital age.”

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The Labour manifesto also promised to improve 4G coverage, expand free public Wi-Fi on public transport and in city centres, as well as uninterrupted 5G coverage in urban areas, roads and railways.

“In December, the National Infrastructure Commission ranked the UK 54th in the world for 4G coverage and said the average user could get a signal ‘barely half the time’. That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce,” it said.

In 2016, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched his digital manifesto, which promised to invest in developing the network at a cost of up to £25bn as part of a £500bn infrastructure investment.

The investment would be covered by a proposed national investment bank, set up by Labour and “financed with an injection of initial public capital which will be leveraged using additional private sector finance to give £250bn of lending power over the next decade”.

“The bank will fill existing gaps in lending by private banks, particularly to small businesses, and by providing patient, long-term finance to higher-risk, R&D-intensive investments,” the draft manifesto said. This also includes a devolved Scottish national bank under Scottish control.

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