A Deeper Dive Into The Queen's Speech
Take a look at what the Bills in the Queen's Speech mean for the UK's digital economy.
As expected, Brexit is at the heart of the new Government’s legislative agenda. But there are a range of other Bills and proposals that will be of critical importance to UK tech.
As we suggested in our piece directly after the General Election, online safety and counter-terrorism feature prominently, and indeed the Prime Minister opened her speech in the House of Commons this afternoon with remarks on wiping out extremism.
Our Head of Public Affairs, Tom Morrison-Bell, takes a look at the various Bills and what they mean for UK tech.
The Repeal Bill
The Repeal Bill will be crucial in creating the regulatory framework required to give businesses confidence post-Brexit. The Government will need to work closely with industry to make sure the technical changes made by Parliament are appropriate for the digital economy. During the passage of the Repeal Bill, Parliament must also address the issue of future divergence of UK and EU rules. These risk creating barriers to trade and cooperation which is why techUK believes the Government should consider a mechanism to ensure any divergence of law deliberate, and not simply a result of ‘regulatory drift’.
Creating a new customs process for the UK post-Brexit will take time. techUK supports a transition period long enough to ensure a soft landing as we leave the EU. This includes maintaining membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union for an interim period after March 2019. Avoiding a crash landing from Brexit will require a long runway. The Customs Bill should offer welcome clarity on the Government’s plans for a post-Brexit customs arrangement. It will be important that measures such as new VAT regimes operate in a way that do not create non-tariff barriers to trade, particularly for smaller tech businesses. Tech manufacturers and consumers benefit from a single set of pan-EU regulations it will be important to understand exactly where and why substantial and complex rules on chemicals, recycling, eco-design and CE marking diverge.
The Government’s plan for an Immigration Bill is welcome, but further detail will be needed on what a new EU immigration system looks like. The tech sector can be at the heart of delivering a smart, data-driven migration system that delivers control by responding to the UK’s labour needs in real-time. The result of the referendum made clear that the public want more national control over immigration, but this does not mean they support undermining access to talent for the most dynamic parts of our economy such as tech.
Data Protection Bill
It is vital we ensure the UK has a modern data protection regime which is fit for the 21st Century. This Bill will be a vital step in ensuring the UK fully implements the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by May 25 2018. Alongside plans for GDPR implementation, the Government must ensure a secure and robust legal framework is in place for the continued and unhindered transfer of personal data between the UK and the EU post-Brexit. To achieve this, the UK must be in the best shape possible to secure an adequacy agreement. Implementing GDPR in full is a key step in the right direction.
The Digital Charter looks like it will be a wraparound for the range of online safety issues, from bullying to radicalisation. The Government will need to take care to balance the social and economic aspects of the Charter if it wants to deliver its ambition to make the UK the best place for tech businesses. Any new obligations placed on businesses should be proportionate and focused on practical solutions that address real problems. Government should listen to the experiences of businesses and support the conditions that make the UK Europe’s leading digital economy.
The sector is absolutely on the same side as Government in recognising the critical importance of tackling online extremism. Internet companies are working together on this, sharing technologies and best practice. But there is little homogeneity between internet companies - they offer different products to different audiences - meaning there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach here. Collaboration, cooperation and trust between Government and industry are key to creating a safe and secure digital world.
Increasing opportunities for international trade is at the heart of the Government’s positive post-Brexit vision and will be vital to creating a vibrant economy. The Bill must work hand-in-glove with Government proposals on immigration, skills and customs to ensure that the UK’s most dynamic companies continue to invest in the UK.
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill
The measures in this Bill look set to revive the proposals in the Modern Transport Bill which was not completed in the last Parliament. It is positive to see the Government pressing ahead with its ambitious plan to make the UK the best place to develop autonomous vehicle technologies. A permissive regulatory regime is critical to realising this ambition.
Space Industry Bill
The UK space industry regularly punches above its weight and has been growing by 8% a year. Supporting this dynamic part of our economy is critical to building a future where the UK has its own launch facilities and is recognised as a global centre of excellence. The Bill will ensure that the regulations, surrounding our world leading position in construction of small satellites are fit for the future. This will aid the creation of new ‘constellations’ comprising thousands of small satellites, and a far wider range of commercial actives in space.
Smart Meter Bill
Smart Meters are an essential building block of a smarter and more flexible energy system. They are vital to both our future energy needs and for empowering consumers. The proposed Bill recommits the Government to offering smart meters to every household and business by 2020 while introducing additional technical safeguards for the efficient rollout and maintenance of the smart meter infrastructure.
Schools and technical education
techUK welcomes the Government’s focus on giving people the tools they need for the high-skilled, high-wage, jobs of the future. Its commitment to radical reform of technical education is of huge importance to the future of our economy. There is no issue more pressing than providing the next generation with the skills they need to thrive in a digital world.
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