The Labour party has finally unveiled its manifesto - the last of the three main parties to do so. And ehat does "Ambitions for Britain" have to say about the IT industry and the Internet?
The launch didn't exactly run smoothly - it was held in Birmingham and so Labour provided a Webcast for the event. Following the tradition of Webcasts, it was nigh on impossible to access and when we did finally get through, the quality was poor.
Then the manifesto was posted on the Labour Web site - but only in pdf format and after a wait of 30 minutes. The manifesto itself is a sure sign that Labour is in government and expects to continue. It is huge and covers just about every available topic in great detail. Fortunately this means Labour has more to say about IT and the Internet.
But what you gain in quantity, you lose in specifics. Labour talks a lot about projects it has already set in motion, and adds very little in terms of new pledges. This is what it has to say:
- A digital nation The UK requires a competitive environment, effective regulation and continued investment to build a digital infrastructure. Universal access is vital to effective markets. All government services will be online by 2005 and it will work to ensure that broadband is accessible in all parts of the UK. All the regulators will be merged into super-regulator Ofcom. Note no specific pledges
- IT learning centres They will set up 6,000 IT learning centres to meet the skills shortage.
- Schools "It is vital that every child leaves school able to make use of the new technologies." It reiterates its £1.8 billion plan over six years to equip schools with PCs etc. It will also "pioneer" Curriculum Online, which will make teaching materials available over the Web. Will look at an IT leasing scheme - the same idea was mooted by the LibDems. PCs will be subsidised for teachers
- Libraries All libraries to be online by 2002. "Culture Online" will give access to national collections
- Unemployment training Labour's "New Deal" scheme will focus on building IT skills
- Porn Labour will "take measures to tackle the problem of child pornography on the Internet"
- Local government E-procurement systems will be encouraged and "demanding targets" have been set
As you can see, not exactly inspiring or solid, but then as Labour is most likely to waltz back into government, it doesn't feel much need to stick its neck out. It does give five main pledges for the election, and these are:
- Mortgages as low as possible, low inflation and sound public finances
- 10,000 extra teachers and higher standards in secondary schools
- 20,000 extra nurses and 10,000 extra doctors in a reformed NHS
- 6,000 extra recruits to raise police numbers to their highest ever level
- Pensioners' winter fuel payment retained, minimum wage rising to £4.20
And that is it. ®