Party Manifestos: What do they mean for the tech sector?

Last week saw the Conservatives, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats all publish their manifestos. With this in mind, we wanted to focus on what each will mean for the technology sector and have summarised each below.  

Earlier this year, techUK published our Seven Tech Priorities paper, which built on our foundational UK Tech Plan published in 2023, setting our asks for what the next Government should look to achieve in the early stages of their premiership. By doing this, they can seize the benefits of technological innovation for the UK population, the economy, society, and the planet.  

Labour

Labour’s manifesto, published on Thursday 13 June, featured the most mentions of tech and included various tech-focussed policies, including reforms to the planning act to accommodate greater investment into data centres. It’s worth noting that although technology isn’t one of Labour’s five key missions, it can be seen to run horizontally through all of the commitments. In the Manifesto, they suggest that technology is not just a means to grow the economy and improve productivity, but it is also a vehicle to solve some of the societal challenges that the UK faces – including the NHS, the cost-of-living crisis and increased energy insecurity. 

One commitment in the Labour Manifesto to making DSIT the “Digital Centre for Government” – essentially turning DSIT into an economic and delivery department, instead of the policy-centric Department that it is today. On tech regulation, Labour has pledged to create a Regulatory Innovation Office to help update current regulation, speed-up approval times, and help coordinate cross-cutting regulation. On AI regulation specifically, Labour have promised to introduced binding regulation on companies developing frontier models. In relation to R&D and innovation, Labour have committed to putting R&D funding cycles on a 10-year footing and have promised to simplify the government procurement processes to support innovation. The Party has also promised to work with startups and university spinouts to ensure that they have the capital needed to scale.  

In relation to fixing the NHS, Labour have noted that they will use AI to speed up diagnostic services and improve accuracy, made a commitment to transform the NHS App, and digitise the Red Book record of children’s health. Labour’s life sciences plan will include the development of an NHS innovation and adoption strategy as well as a plan for procurement to get products into the NHS alongside new incentive structures to drive innovation. Creating the Regulatory Innovation Office will allow for faster regulatory approval for medicines and new medical technologies. More broadly on public services, there is a commitment to create a National Data Library to bring together existing research programmes and help deliver data-driven public services.  

On their commitments to making the UK a clean energy superpower and kickstarting economic growth, the Labour Party has promised to invest £1.5bn in new gigafactories, £1bn in carbon capture technologies, £500mn to support green hydrogen manufacturers. Labour has stated they will update national planning policy to ensure it is easier to build laboratories, digital infrastructure, and gigafactories. AI will have a specific sector plan in Labour’s modern Industrial Strategy. There is a commitment to Labour will make a renewed push to fulfil the ambition of full gigabit and national 5G coverage by 2030. Furthermore, Labour has pledged to negotiate standalone sector trade deals including digital agreements, to boost services exports while supporting the fintech sector through supporting new technology like Open Banking and Open Finance.  

To break down the barriers to opportunity, Labour have committed to reforming the Apprenticeships Levy and create a flexible Growth and Skills Levy. Moreover, Labour have committed to reform the curriculum to provide ‘modern education’. At London Tech Week, Shadow DSIT Secretary of State Peter Kyle noted that Labour would work with the Good Things Foundation to help people on low incomes facing digital exclusion by donating old government IT equipment. 

In terms of reducing crime, Labour have committed to banning sexually explicit deepfake content created by AI, hold online companies who flout rules around selling dangerous knives through sanctions. The Party mentions that the Police must utilise technology to keep pace with modern threats and have committed to working with policing bodies to standardise approaches to procurement, IT, professional standards and training while investing in digital forensics. On fraud, Labour have committed to work on an expanded fraud strategy to tackle online, public sector, and serious fraud, while working with tech firms to stop fraudsters getting access to their platforms. Regarding online safety, Labour have also committed to build on the Online Safety Act, expediting the provisions, exploring further measures to augment online safety, and giving coroners greater power to access information held by tech firms after a child’s death. 

Of these policies, techUK has specifically called for seven of them, namely:  

  1. Taking a more industrial strategy approach to AI 

  1. Reforming planning rules to better support the construction of new digital infrastructure, with Data Centres specifically named 

  1. Improving the regulatory system with more Government oversight and a focus on growth through the new Regulatory Innovation Office 

  1. Improving data sharing across the economy and public services 

  1. Skills reforms including curriculum updates and the reform of the apprenticeship levy 

  1. Strengthening DSIT into an economic and delivery department in addition to its policy role 

  1. Seek to negotiate standalone sector deals, such as digital, or mutual recognition agreements, to promote UK services exports 

Conservative 

The Conservative Party manifesto, released on Tuesday 11 June, doubles down on some of the successes the current Government has had when it comes to the tech sector, such as supporting UK equities through the implementation of the Mansion House reforms and investment into compute and advanced manufacturing. For the Conservatives, there is a clear focus on boosting innovation and using tech to improve NHS productivity and cost-efficiency across public services. Additionally, the Party has pledged to double digital and AI expertise across the civil service and take advantage of emerging technologies to improve public services.  

For example, the manifesto commits to improving the NHS by integrating advanced technologies and using technology to speed-up processes. They propose removing bureaucratic obstacles to the use of new medicines by eliminating the NHS Budget Impact Test and aligning NHS England's cost-effectiveness thresholds with those of NICE. Additionally, a new medtech pathway will be introduced to quickly adopt cost-effective medical technologies, including AI, throughout the NHS. The manifesto includes rolling out new digital health checks to 250,000 people each year to help prevent strokes and heart attacks. A significant investment of £3.4 billion will be made in new technology to transform NHS operations for both staff and patients, aiming to increase NHS productivity by 1.9% annually from 2025-26, unlocking £35 billion in cumulative savings by the end of the decade. This transformation includes making the NHS App the main access point for services, using AI to free up frontline staff, replacing outdated computers, digitising processes through the Federated Data Platform, and funding technology to speed up MRI and CT scan readings. 

Regarding innovation, the Conservative manifesto pledges to increase public spending on Research and Development (R&D) to £22 billion annually, up from £20 billion currently allocated. The party pledges to maintain the current R&D tax reliefs regime, highlighting recent reforms worth £280 million that aim to simplify and expand these reliefs, particularly benefiting SMEs. Additionally, there is a commitment to invest £1.5 billion in large-scale compute clusters and to deliver the Advanced Manufacturing Plan, which includes a £4.5 billion investment to boost strategic and tangible sectors of the economy such as automotive, aerospace, life sciences, and clean energy. Fertiliser and vertical farming technologies are priority areas highlighted for further R&D funding too. While there would be £1.1bn invested into the Green Industries Growth Accelerator to support manufacturing and boost the UK’s energy transition. The manifesto underscores support for the UK's nine specialist Catapults, with a planned distribution of £1.6 billion in funding across the UK by 2028, as a means to further bridge academia and industry.  

On the economy, the Conservatives have pledged to improve access to finance for SMEs via expanding Open Finance and creating Regional Mutual Banks, as well as investing into new telecommunications technologies to achieve broadband targets in hard-to-reach areas.  

In relation to online safety, the Conservatives have stated that they would ban mobile phones in schools and consult with other countries who are considering wider parental controls on children’s access to social media with the aim of introducing further measures. The Conservatives are also committing to giving tax-free bonuses of up to £30,000 over 5 years to new teachers in priority areas including STEM and technical subjects from September. 

A new Defence Innovation Agency will allocate at least 5% of the defence budget to R&D, with an extra 2% to commercialise these developments, speeding up investments in new weapon systems.  

On policing and crime, the Conservative manifesto also commits to giving police officers access to technologies including facial recognition to identify criminals. The Conservatives are looking to build on their efforts to counter fraud by banning SIM farms to prevent bulk messages and banning cold calls on financial products. 

Liberal Democrats 

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto, published on 10 June, also makes several mentions of technology, with clear pointers to the importance of tech in growing the economy, particularly through investing in clean technologies as a means to both tackle the climate crisis but also as a growth lever. There are repeated references to tackling online safety, data privacy concerns, and the impact of social media on mental health. The Liberal Democrats have stated that they will support a stable business environment with smarter regulation, investments in skills, infrastructure and R&D, and in return expect the private sector to invest in skills, promote equality and good governance, while supporting local communities.   

In relation to tech-specific policies, like Labour, the Lib Dems have committed to developing an industrial strategy that incentivises companies to invest in new technologies, as well as promotes the UK as a world leader in “ethical, inclusive” AI. There is also a commitment to join the European Innovation Council and for 3% of GDP to be invested in R&D, rising to 3.5% by 2034. There is also a commitment to create a cross-sectoral regulatory framework for AI which promotes innovation while creating certainty for those working in the AI ecosystem, establishing transparency and accountability in AI systems for the public sector, and which ensures personal data and AI is unbiased, transparent and accurate while respecting privacy. On the international regulatory arena, there is a commitment to negotiating for the UK to join the UK-EU TTC to work on global AI regulation. The manifesto pledges to ensuring digital products need to provide a short, clear vision of their terms and conditions including in relation to data and privacy.  

Regarding wider economy commitments, the Lib Dems have pledged to give a bigger role to the British Business Bank to perform a greater role in the economy, to ensure that viable SMEs and scaleups can access to public and private capital, especially in the clean tech space.  

Additionally, the Lib Dems have committed to replacing the apprenticeship levy with skills and training levy, while promising Lifelong Skills Grants for adults to spend on education and training throughout their lives.  

On public services and health and social care, the Lib Dems noted the importance of making the most of technology to empower parents, carers and disabled people to enter the job market, promising a digital strategy to enable care users to live “tech-enabled lives”. In schools, the Lib Dems would put a mental health professional in every primary and secondary school, funded by increasing the Digital Services Tax while also committing to a UK-wide digital literacy target.  

In relation to crime, the Lib Dem’s have committed to investing in officers, training and technology to tackle modern slavery and trafficking.  

Scottish National Party

Throughout their manifesto, there is very little focus from the SNP on topics such as technology and wider economic management compared to the other parties’ commitments. Instead, Scottish independence is, naturally, the fundamental pledge on offer, and therefore the Manifesto leans into describing the opportunities posed by an independent Scotland. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the objectives from the SNP differ to other parties in that their objective is not to govern the UK, but instead to win a majority of Scottish seats as part of their campaign for another referendum for Scotland on independence, as well as to combat potential losses to the Scottish Labour Party. 

On technology, the SNP have committed to prioritising research and investment in AI, citing the need to ensure it supports public services in an open, ethical and transparent way. There is also a pledge to support the full enactment of the Online Safety Act, protecting children online and ensuring that technology companies are held accountable for harmful content on their platforms. They have also committed to introducing a statutory social tariff across energy, broadband and mobile charges.   

On economic pledges, they have committed to removing VAT from on-street electric vehicle charging. The manifesto also called for the UK Government to scrap fiscal rules and in turn replace them with ones that allow for greater investment in renewing infrastructure and services. The SNP would also pressure a UK Government to introduce three-year detailed spending plans to ensure detailed planning and long-term clarity for devolved administrations around budgets.  

Other commitments included a boost to NHS spending by an additional £10bn per year, ensuring fair funding flows to devolved nations based on climate investment from each of the nations and regions, the devolution of employment rights and introducing a single status of “workers” to strengthen protections for those that the SNP believe are on “unfair contracts”

To read more of our General Election coverage, check out our General Election Hub here.


Daniel Clarke

Daniel Clarke

Policy Manager for International Policy and Trade, techUK

Alice Campbell

Alice Campbell

Head of Public Affairs, techUK


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