Government IT record ‘patchy’, say Lib Dems

The importance of the ‘information revolution’ for politicians should not just be seen in terms of immediate domestic policies but also recognised as a driver for change in political systems more generally.

We do need to have a sound domestic framework to encourage our own information industry. Any government is going to talk this up as a key part of the UK economy and the current Prime Minister has been no exception. The Government’s actual record has been more patchy.

There is very little evidence that the ‘joined-up thinking’ that the Government has been so keen to talk about is actually working in this critical area.

On the contrary, we are still seeing conflict between the objectives of different Government departments, most notably between the Home Office and the Department of Trade and Industry over the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Effective cross-departmental work in government is one of the priorities for the Liberal Democrats.

There has also been a reluctance to recognise the weakness of domestic governments in legislating on information technology matters.

This is a truly international business that is more mobile than anything we have seen before. It does require some regulation in order to guarantee the rights of its participants. But these rights must increasingly be enforced through industry self-regulation and international agreements.

In many cases, they simply cannot be enforced in the domestic courts of one country. The European Union context is a major element in developing such international agreements. The Liberal Democrats are committed to an outward-looking, internationalist approach that we believe would best enable us to further our agenda in this area.

Finally, good government must have a long-term vision as well as dealing with today’s problems. The ongoing development of online trading using credit cards in a world where national borders count for little may render current debates about currencies and money markets obsolete before they are even concluded.

Major services like education and health are only starting to feel the impact of new technology. And governments everywhere can no longer effectively control their citizens’ access to information. The Liberal Democrats welcome new technology and want to see the UK Government realise its full potential.

  • This article first appeared in Computing and on

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