Commenting on the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, techUK deputy CEO, Antony Walker, said:
“Today’s Spring Statement is inevitably overshadowed by Brexit. The broadly positive economic growth reported, cannot outweigh the fact that the UK risks a chaotic exit from the EU in just in 16 days’ time, which the Chancellor rightly made clear would have very negative consequences for our economy.
“There were some welcome announcements, particularly around new funding for supercomputing and the UK’s approach to immigration and positive words about the need to drive productivity growth. But the Government risks creating the impression that it regards tech as something that needs to be tackled rather than championed. At a time when digital firms and investors already face huge uncertainties due to Brexit, pressing ahead with a raft of new, untested and unilateral measures, like the Digital Services Tax, risks undermining confidence. The Government will need to work hard over the coming months to show that it can strike the right balance if it wants to be regarded as the best regulated digital economy in the world.”
On the Furman Review:
Our full response to the announcement of the Furman review can be found here.
Commenting on the Chancellor’s response to the review, Antony added:
“We look forward to working with the Chancellor to explore Jason Furman’s recommendations. Above all, as the review recognises, it is crucial that we protect the benefits to both businesses and consumers of being open and welcoming to digital firms. That means making a careful and fully informed assessment of the benefits and risks of issues like opening-up data sets. It also means accepting that the UK cannot act in isolation on these global issues. Challenges in a highly international market such as tech can only be addressed through proper global cooperation.”
On review by the CMA into digital advertising market:
“techUK and our members will closely engage in this review into the market. Many businesses across the economy depend upon a well-functioning online advertising market. Any intervention must be carefully thought through and targeted. Most importantly, the CMA must ensure it has the necessary technical experts available to conduct a review. This will require staff who truly understand the complexities of the adtech market and the role these platforms play in the wider digital ecosystem.”
On the announcement of funding for new supercomputing, technology:
“If the UK is to stay at the cutting edge of innovation, we need to address our digital capacity and tech needs. The announcement of £79 million to support the Archer 2 supercomputer in Edinburgh will help fill the supercomputing gap that techUK has previously highlighted to Government. Alongside funding for genomics and laser technology, these are targeted pots of money that will help grow clusters and support UK innovation.”
On approach to productivity:
“The Chancellor is right that the UK desperately needs to address its productivity gap. Doing so requires serious support for digital adoption across our economy. Whatever happens with Brexit, every business must utilise the tech tools available to compete in a global economy.
“We are happy that the Government will continue its support for the Making Tax Digital Agenda, which is a critical part of this challenge. However, a more ambitious approach, with necessary levels for Government support and investment, will be needed when the Government announces the result of its Long Tail Productivity Review. It is good that the Government is now fully focused on the issue of productivity but there is much more that will need to be done to address this long-term challenge.
On the relationship of the UK with the European Investment Fund:
“The European Investment Fund is a vital source of funding for the Venture Capital that powers the UK tech sector. While we recognise the commitment the Government has made to replacing EIF money through the British Business Bank, the loss of the EIF would have a damaging impact on UK Venture Capital.
“It was therefore worrying to hear the Chancellor's language around the European Investment Bank and the EIF change in the statement. He has been a strong champion of continued participation in these institutions, but today talked about “when” we leave the EIB rather than “if” we do so. We strongly urge the Government to explore every avenue for maintaining participation in these vital funding streams.”
On the comprehensive spending review:
“The announcement of plans for a full Spending Review to be published this Autumn is welcome. It will be vital that the CSR recognises the urgent need for generational transformation to keep pace with a digitising world. Digital must be put at the heart of every Department’s spending plans and spending on digital transformation in vital areas of public sector, such as health, education and policing must be significant and properly ring fenced. We cannot continue to see money intended to prepare for future challenges used to plug holes in existing budgets.
On skills and talent:
“techUK is pleased that the Government is taking real action to make the UK an attractive destination for tech talent. We fully support the announcement that PhD-level roles will be eliminated completely from visa caps. A business-friendly immigration system is crucial if the tech sector is to continue to grow and drive the UK’s economy in a post-Brexit world.
“Building the UK’s own talent-base is a must and apprenticeships are at the heart of that. The Chancellor’s announcement that Government will bring forward reforms to the apprenticeship levy to help small businesses take on apprentices is positive. However, as the National Audit Office’s report revealed, take up of levy funds remains depressingly low. Further reform is vital to make apprenticeships work for all.”