Labour business breakfast sets out the Party’s thinking on digital and tech

Labour's views on how digital will shape the economy's future

I attended a Digital and Tech Manifesto briefing at Labour HQ yesterday. Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary, and a team of frontbenchers from across departments talked about the work they have been doing to weave digital issues across all their policies going into next year’s Manifesto.

Earlier this year Chuka Umunna and Harriet Harman created a cross-departmental steering group headed by Iain Wright and Helen Goodman to co-ordinate work on digital from the shadow BIS, DCMS, Cabinet Office and Home Office teams.  Yesterday's tech meeting covered education policy, support for tax breaks, opening up new markets, and public service reform. 

Ukie board member Roy Stackhouse, Managing Director for UK and ROI of Activision Blizzard, spoke at the event to highlight the importance of the games industry and the potential it offers for growth and jobs in the UK. 

Some important policy areas for the games industry were discussed:

  • Shadow Schools Minister Kevin Brennan said that Labour support the new coding curriculum, as fought for by the Ukie member-funded Next Gen Skills campaign, and that it would be kept in place by a Labour government after the election. But he said that the UK should be going much further in making digital learning central to the classroom, and to the way in which teachers teach.
  • A future Labour government would keep Video Games Tax Relief going. It was Labour who had first introduced the tax relief in government, before the 2010 election, they pointed out.
  • Shadow Industry Minister Iain Wright talked of the need for government to be ready to offer targeted support to make sure that the opportunities created by global digital markets can be seized by British companies.  He also set out Labour’s call for a British Investment Bank to improve access to finance and, importantly, offered his early support to the proposals in the recent “Scale Up Report” by Sherry Coutu CBE on how to help British start-ups achieve a global scale.
  • Europe was a theme throughout the discussion, with access to this large market and the new Commission’s ideas about a Digital Single Market a focus. 
  • Chris Bryant, the recently-appointed Shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport, highlighted the vital importance of protecting the UK’s prime position in the creative industries, particularly through keeping a strong copyright regime.  He also stressed the importance of spreading good broadband access around the country, again opening the new digital world to everyone in society.
  • Chi Onwurah, from the Shadow Cabinet Office team, discussed the Digital Government report she published recently. Increasing digital inclusion was one of the key themes, which again reveals the need to improve digital skills across all age groups.

In Ukie's view the Shadow Labour team has confirmed that digital change will be important part of Labour's narrative around business and the economy.  We will keep doing all we can to show them how the games industry, with its creativity and technological expertise, can play an important role in this agenda.