The Labour Party has published its 2019 manifesto, outlining the party’s policies ahead of the general election.
The National Health Service, environment and Brexit are key topics.
But the Labour manifesto mentions a range of technology issues, from plans to “overhaul” the UK’s cybersecurity approach to holding “monopolistic” tech giants to account.
Labour’s plan to roll out free full-fibre broadband by 2030 was announced last week. The manifesto goes into a bit more detail, explaining that it will establish two arms under the newly created British Broadband.
The first, British Digital Infrastructure, will “roll out the remaining 90-92%” of the full-fibre network and “acquire necessary access rights to existing assets”.
The second, British Broadband Service, will “coordinate the delivery of free broadband in tranches as the full-fibre network is rolled out”.
Labour said it will bring the “broadband-relevant parts of BT into public ownership” and guarantee workers keep their jobs.
Paying for it: Labour says it will tax multinationals, including tech giants, to pay for the “operating costs”. It estimates operating costs will be “£579m in cash terms”.
Labour cites the National Infrastructure Commission’s estimate that full-fibre will save £5.1bn per year, putting the total cost at £6.9bn over a thirty-year period. It adds that it has “allowed a further £1,200m in 2023-24” to “err on the side of caution”.
Tech giants and online
Labour has long singled out tech giants for not paying their fair share of tax. While the manifesto doesn’t go into specific detail, it says it will “take action to address the monopolistic hold the tech giants have on advertising revenues and will support vital local newspapers and media outlets”.
It also says it will “enforce a legal duty of care” on companies to protect children online. Part of this would involve imposing fines on “companies that fail on online abuse”. It will also create a “Charter of Digital Rights”, but no further detail is given on this.
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Labour highlights the importance of robust cybersecurity to defend against attacks on nuclear facilities, transport and communications. It says it will “overhaul” the country’s approach to cybersecurity, creating a co-ordinating minister and conduct “regular reviews of cyber-readiness”.
Labour also plans to “review the role and remit” of the National Cyber Security Centre, the government agency that provides advice and support on avoiding cyberattacks. This could see the NCSC given powers as an auditing body for the public and private sector on cyber risk.
It will also review the National Crime Agency in a bid to “strengthen the response to all types of economic crime” such as fraud. Police services would also be given the “capacity and skills” to combat online crime, supported by a “national strategy on cybercrime and fraud”.
In what could be viewed as policies aimed at ride-hailing services such as Uber, Labour says it will “reform taxi and private hire services, including a review of licensing authority jurisdictions”.
Labour said it would set “national minimum standards of safety and accessibility” and “update regulations to keep pace with technological change and to close loopholes to ensure a level playing field”.
Part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution involves accelerating the shift to electric vehicles and ending sales of combustion engine cars by 2030. It said it will “invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and in electric community car clubs”.
Labour added that it will “remove the five-year surcharge on electric vehicles with a list price of over £40,000 purchase[d] in 2020-21 and 2021-22”, although it has not provided clarification as to which surcharge this is in referral to.
Paying for it: Labour has an approximate cost of £165m in 2023-24 for removing the surcharge. It makes a “rough assumption” on how many electric vehicles would need to be sold by 2030 to reach 100% electric. It “generously assumes” that half are fleet vehicles and 60% cost over £40,000.
As part of Labour’s Green Industrial revolution, it plans to build 7,000 new offshore wind turbines, 2,000 onshore wind turbines, “enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches” and add “new nuclear power”.
It will also “trial and expand” tidal energy. Labour said it will roll out technologies such as “heat pumps, solar hot water and hydrogen” as part of a “zero-carbon homes standard for all new homes”.
Labour will immediately and permanently ban fracking and intends to take public ownership of energy and water systems.
It plans to dedicate 3% of GDP on research and development for tackling climate change and pollution and launch a “Climate Apprenticeship programme” to help employers “develop the skills needed to lead the world in clean energy”.
Paying for it: Labour says it will introduce a “windfall tax on oil companies” to “help cover the costs”. It says this will raise £11bn. For the Climate Apprenticeship, employers will be “expected to allocate 25% of the funds in their Apprenticeship Levy accounts”.
Labour said it will invest more in “modern AI, cyber technology and state-of-the-art medical equipment”. This will include MRI and CT scanners.
It said it would add extra data protections for NHS and patient data and “ensure” NHS data is not “exploited by international technology and pharmaceutical corporations”.
Labour also plans to add more solar panels on hospitals and “transition” medical vehicles to electric and hybrid alternatives.
Paying for it: Labour doesn’t break down costings for these specific technology investments, but they would fall under its extra NHS spending – to rise 4.3% in real terms each year. In its costing document, Labour says the Department of Health and Social Care budget will be “£178bn in 2023-24” and that “capital budget increases are covered by Labour’s Social Transformation Fund”.
Tech in the workplace
A rather obscure line states that Labour will introduce “a legal right to collective consultation on the implementation of new technology in workplaces”, but does not expand on this policy.
Technology not mentioned in the Labour manifesto
There was no mention of some of the emerging technologies in the Labour manifesto, such as 5G, blockchain, cryptocurrency and quantum computing.