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Conservative manifesto launch: All the tech pledges unveiled

Superfast broadband, bye-bye ID cards and no more big IT contracts
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Written by Nick Heath on

Superfast broadband, bye-bye ID cards and no more big IT contracts

The Conservative Party yesterday unveiled its manifesto and revealed its plans for UK technology if elected to government.

As with the Labour manifesto, released on Monday, the key technology issues revolve around broadband and IT spending cuts, with the Tories aiming to save money by axing Labour's flagship ID cards scheme.

Many of the proposals were already revealed in the Conservative Technology Manifesto, released last month, and in silicon.com's special reports on Conservative technology plans earlier this year.

The Conservative manifesto proposals are:

Broadband

According to the manifesto, a Conservative government would be keen to see the creation of a superfast broadband network.

While the manifesto gives no projected speeds for such a network or timetable for its rollout, the party has previously committed to a network capable of 100Mbps download and upload speeds.

Telecoms companies would be expected to pay for the creation of a fibre optic network capable of delivering superfast broadband speeds themselves, with the Conservative government helping telcos to fund its installation by forcing BT to let other telecom providers lay fibre optic cable in its pipes and underground ducts.

Where it would not be commercially viable for the private sector to roll out the network, such as in rural locations where there would not be enough users to make a broadband service profitable, the Conservatives would fund the rollout using money taken from the BBC licence fee.

The money, thought to total about £120m each year, would come from the part of the licence fee set aside to fund the transition from analogue to digital TV in the UK and so would not be available until after the transition is complete in 2012.

The Tories have previously said this money would be available as either a loan or on a match-funding basis.

The Conservatives would ditch Labour's plans to introduce a £6 annual tax on fixed landlines as a way of funding the superfast broadband rollout.

conservative party poster

The Conservative Party's poster to promote the launch of its manifesto for the 2010 general election
(Image credit: The Conservative Party)

Government IT projects and databases

The manifesto reiterates Conservative pledges to cancel the £5bn ID cards scheme and the ContactPoint child protection database.

It also says people wrongly accused of a "minor crime" whose DNA profiles are stored on the National DNA Database would be able to get their details automatically removed. However, the Conservatives support people's DNA profiles being retained on the database for five years if they were arrested for, but not convicted of, serious crimes, such as a sexual or violent offences.

All existing prisoners and people who have been convicted of a serious offence would also have their DNA profiles held on the database. At present only people convicted of an offence after the database was created in 1995 have their details stored.

A Conservative government would also curtail surveillance powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to prevent local councils from monitoring people's phone calls, emails and web browsing habits in connection with "trivial mistakes". The Conservatives object to the use of Ripa powers to investigate matters such as dog fouling.


Cuts and savings

The manifesto states that cuts to IT would play a role in allowing government spending in 2010 to be reduced by £12bn year-on-year.

IT savings would be achieved by freezing any major new tech projects planned by the previous Labour government.

Upon its election a Conservative government would also begin immediate negotiations with government suppliers to reduce the cost of public sector contracts.

To reduce waste on IT projects a Conservative administration would introduce a number of measures including giving the government CIO more power to oversee government IT projects; changing the way that IT software, hardware and services are procured; and appointing senior private sector figures to departmental boards.

Government departments and bodies would also have to give open source software equal consideration when purchasing new software packages.

More small business suppliers

The value of government IT contracts would be reduced in size. The Conservatives have previously said they would introduce a presumption against IT contracts worth more than £100m.

By cutting the size of public sector tech deals, the Tories hope small businesses can afford to bid to provide government IT contracts.

Currently there are only a handful of contractors who can afford to supply major projects such as the £12.7bn National Programme for IT or £5bn ID cards scheme.

The manifesto says smaller contracts would be possible if new computer systems are designed so they are interoperable and able to work together.

The administrative cost of bidding for government contracts would also be reduced with the aim that one quarter of government "research and procurement" contracts would be delivered by small and medium-sized businesses.

Opening up access to data

Under the manifesto, items of government spending worth more than £25,000 would be published in full online.

The names and salaries of all civil servants earning more than a starting salary of £82,900 would be published online.

All procurement tender documents for government contracts worth more than £10,000 would be published on the Supply2Gov website.

Civil servants would be required to publish details of their expense claims and meetings with lobbyists online.

Members of the public would be able to comment online on draft legislation as it passes through Parliament.

The national privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office, would be given greater powers to penalise any public body that mismanages data.

Any measures to share data between government departments would be subject to scrutiny by Parliament to ensure they are proportional and necessary.

A free online database of recent exam papers and how they were marked would be published online.

Full details of the cost and scope of British aid projects would be published on the Department for International Development website.

Central government job vacancies would be published online.


NHS

Patients would be able to choose who has access to their medical records and how and where electronic medical records are stored.

The performance of health trusts and healthcare providers would be published online to allow the public to compare their performance. Data would be published about topics such as cancer survival rates and the number of infections acquired within hospitals.

Skills and research

Scientific research would receive guaranteed long-term funding to provide a more consistent level of financing for R&D.

Research and development tax credits would be targeted towards helping high-tech companies, small businesses and start-ups.

The teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects would be given a "better focus" in schools. In the Conservative Technology Manifesto, the Tories said top Stem graduates will be encouraged to become teachers through incentives such as paying off their student loans and more attractive salaries.

Technical academies will be established in at least 12 cities across England. The academies would be aimed at developing vocational and technical skills that meet the needs of business.

david cameron

Conservative Party leader David Cameron on the campaign trail
(Photo credit: The Conservative Party)

Online piracy

The manifesto says a Conservative government would create an "attractive tax environment for intellectual property".

Last month shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told silicon.com that the Conservatives back copyright pirates facing the ultimate threat of being disconnected from the internet.

Smart grids and smart meters

A Conservative government would create a smart grid that would take energy readings from smart meters installed in people's homes and send them automatically to power companies.

The grid would allow electricity providers to match the amount of energy they supply with consumer demand, and make it easier to use renewable power generation to produce electricity.

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