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Election 2001: Political parties show their IT stripes

Are criticisms of a lack of understanding of IT among the main political parties founded? ZDNet talked to the politicians and examined their manifestos to find out

With the UK general election campaign in full swing, the three main political parties have come under criticism for not fully understand the importance of technology and the issues that surround it. Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have all outlined their policies on IT. Labour argues that through prudent economic management and incentives the UK already offers good opportunities for technology companies, and it believes that additional investment in further and higher education will address the growing skills shortage. Labour has also promised to push through a directive to remove barriers to e-commerce across Europe and said it will invest heavily in research for future technologies. The Conservative party said it also recognises the need for improved education to bridge the skills gap and added, rather vaguely, that 'freeing up' schools and universities will allow greater flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of technology. It also promised reduced industry regulation and tax breaks for technology entrepreneurs. Amid accusations of bandwagon jumping, the Conservatives promised to scrap the controversial IR35 tax on contractors. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act -­ which stipulates the conditions under which firms must give government agencies access to their online systems ­-- will also come under scrutiny and may be amended to reduce the cost to businesses of compliance. The Liberal Democrats said they would take a balanced approach to regulation of technology, with some national controls but increased industry self-regulation. The party said many IT issues are global and cannot be tackled on a domestic level. It believes that international e-trade could render national currencies and money markets obsolete, and so should mainly be dealt with through international agreements with the involvement of the EU. The Liberal Democrats say Labour's IT strategy is not working
Thu 24 May 2001 Liberal Democrat IT spokesman Richard Allan says that even if Labour does win the election, his party will push for more action on broadband rollout, mobile phone masts and government IT procurement Tory manifesto embraces freedom of the Net
Tue 22 May 2001 The shadow technology minister Alan Duncan explains the Conservative Party's proposal for a laissez-faire approach towards regulating the Internet space Labour u-turns on broadband promises
Fri 18 May 2001 Labour has condensed its broadband strategy into one sentence in its manifesto for the forthcoming general election, leaving experts questioning its commitment to high-speed Internet services Take me to ZDNet Enterprise Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum. Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.