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General election: Key Liberal Democrats manifesto tech policies

Lib Dems tech
Image credit: Amani A / Shutterstock

Extra support for regional SME investment, an increased Digital Services Tax and a transparent AI framework are among the tech policies announced by the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dems released its 2024 manifesto on Monday, ahead of the general election on 4 July.

Here are the key tech policies from the Lib Dem manifesto the industry should know about.

Regional investment

The UK’s third-largest party called for greater focus on encouraging investment into regional business and tech by expanding the British Business Bank (BBB).

BBB is a state-owned development bank that invests in SMEs. Though not limited to startups outside London and the South East, BBB has launched several regional development programmes such as the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and the Midlands Engine Investment Fund.

The Lib Dem manifesto said the party would give BBB a more “central role in the economy” and “champion investment in the Northern Powerhouse, Western Gateway and Midlands Engine”.

The manifesto adds that the Lib Dems will “power scaleup companies, especially outside of London and the South East, using innovative ways of ‘crowding-in’ private sector investment”.

Skills gap

A lack of digital skills in the British workforce has consistently been cited by experts as a barrier for economic growth.

Addressing the gap, the Lib Dems have pledged to invest in education and training to increase the availability of apprenticeships and encourage businesses to invest in digital technology training.

The party said it would create a Lifelong Skills Grant for adults to spend on upskilling and expand the availability of high-demand vocational degrees.

International collaboration

The party also intend to bolster collaboration with Europe and the US in an effort to increase support for science, innovation and skills.

The Lib Dems said it will continue to participate in Horizon Europe – an EU tech development scheme – and join the European Innovation Council, which sits within Horizon Europe and is focused on commercialising breakthrough innovations in Europe.

The UK rejoined Horizon Europe last year after a three-year absence due to the Brexit referendum.

AI framework

The party said it would create a “clear, workable and well-resourced cross-sectoral regulatory framework” for AI.

The specifics of the framework were not laid out, however, the party said it would prioritise “transparency and accountability for AI systems in the public sector” and privacy protection for personal data in AI models.

The Lib Dems also said it would “negotiate the UK’s participation in the Trade and Technology Council with the US and the EU” to ensure Britain plays a leading role in international regulatory discussions.

R&D

Supporting research and development (R&D) is a top demand of government from the tech industry.

The Lib Dems highlighted investment into R&D as another of its economic policies, with the aim of reaching 3% of total GDP to be invested in developing new technologies by 2030, rising to 3.5% by 2034.

The previous government target was 2.4% of GDP being invested in R&D by 2027.

Digital tax

In an effort to raise funds for these ambitious investment goals, the Lib Dems have also called to increase the Digital Services Tax.

The tax was introduced in 2020 targeting search engines, social media and online marketplaces. The Lib Dem manifesto promised to increase the rate from 2% to 6%.

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