MP for Windsor
Working Hard For You
Let’s Embrace Encryption, Not Ban It!

With the publication of new Investigatory Powers legislation due this week, Adam Afriyie MP, a former technology entrepreneur and Chair of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has said that a crackdown on encryption technology would be economically irresponsible and ultimately futile.

In an article, published on the Telegraph Online, Adam Afriyie writes:

“The Government is rightly concerned about the risks of digital encryption technology, in the same way that it was concerned about invisible ink, encoded letters and faxes in the past. If there is substance to rumours of a crackdown on encryption in the publication of new Investigatory Powers legislation, it would be as mistaken as it would be ineffective.

It’s time to close our innovation gap in science and technology

Who contributes the most to science? The UK does, according to the latest Good Country Index. But while we publish world-leading research and win Nobel prizes, we sadly haven’t always been able to take economic advantage of that research excellence.

Closing this ‘innovation gap’ must be a priority for the Government as I argue in The Huffington Post today. We must make sure our young people are learning technical skills at school and that our tax system is competitive for science and technology companies.

Read the article on The Huffington Post

UK Space is a winner, says Adam Afriyie MP

Two hundred years ago Britain was at its industrial peak, producing nearly 10 per cent of the world’s GDP. Down at the docks you’d see longshoremen loading up ships with British-made goods from dawn till dusk. Those days are finished say some people – but I’m more optimistic.

Last year, the UK’s space sector grew at a whopping 7.5 per cent and added more than £9bn to UK GDP, eye-watering figures in this economic climate. Of this income, a good wedge came from exporting space goods to other countries. This shows that in our modern age, Britain is still good at making things, and making things that the rest of the world wants to buy.

The space sector continues to grow because it plays to our strengths. This country has some of the best and brightest scientists who, with the help of the Technology Strategy Board and their Catapult centres, have been able to capture and commercialise their expertise. The industry has also benefited from buyers in fast-growing developing countries who lack the technical know-how to build satellites themselves.

But we cannot rest on our laurels; we must continue to work hard. We must continue to make sure that our policies are well matched with industry. For example, the UK space sector is dominated by SMEs who can become strangled by regulation. Sadly, right now, if you’re a new space start-up, you need to complete long, technical forms to get a space export license or to bid for funding – these can be extremely time consuming and costly to fill in.

One company, who was interviewed for a new report released by the Science and Technology Committee, said that they had to invest a significant amount of time and money in form-filling to get off the ground. The Government must make it a priority to strip back this legislation.

At the same time the Government must resist a proposal to turn the European Space Agency (ESA) into an EU agency. This would be catastrophic. The ESA is an effective intergovernmental body; it must not be ripped up and restructured. If it works, don’t fix it. Not only is this proposal opposed by the ESA, the Science and Technology Committee and most of the industry, but it’s not at all clear how this would even work: Norway and Switzerland are members of the ESA but don’t belong to the EU.

UK space is working. The Government just needs to makes sure they keep everything well oiled, and use its purchasing power to drive innovation in the sector.

Whenever cynics say: ‘Britain can’t make things anymore’, I point to our space industry; to the hundreds of SMEs in that sector and say: ‘What about these people?’

I believe the UK space sector will help Britain become a great trading nation once again. UK space really is a winner.

Adam Afriyie is MP for Windsor and Chairman of the Parliamentary Space Committee

 

This is what a hi-tech, prosperous and Conservative Britain could look like

The year is 2020.  The UK has enjoyed five years of economic prosperity and stability with a wholly Conservative government.  We are heading back to the top of global economic tables for competitiveness, employment and public sector productivity.  International businesses and investors recognise the UK as “the place to be”.  Britain is recognised as the world’s leading hi-tech nation.  Almost everyone has a tangible stake in the economy by holding shares and bonds in family businesses, mutuals and social enterprises.  Above all people are planning confidently for their future.

The vision I have set out with my colleagues in the 2020 Agenda for Transformation is optimistic, hopeful, and eminently achievable.  Policies are the tools of the trade which politicians must use to realise their longer term purposes and objectives: what kind of future do we want, and how do we get there?  It is all too easy for politicians to speak about policies without first defining a vision of the future.

It is vital that Britain knows what a Conservative country looks like.  This publication by Conservative MPs defines a vision of Britain founded on fearless optimism and sound Conservative values – and it sets out the steps to achieve that vision by presenting nothing less than a framework for the 2015 Conservative manifesto.

As co-chairs of the Economic Commission, George Freeman MP and I want to see thriving clusters in aerospace, biosciences, advanced manufacturing and digital technologies spread across the country.  To do so, we need an economic culture that embraces innovation at every level because innovation is the central driver of jobs, productivity and competitiveness in an increasingly globalised economy.  An innovation economy is one in which Britain is:

  1. Globally competitive: SMEs thrive and UK big businesses lead the world, whilst international corporations compete to base their HQs in Britain.
  2. An enterprising nation with flexible employment: tax is low and simple to administrate, and businesses are easy to set up.  Businesses compete for employees, with improving terms and conditions in the absence of major legislation.
  3. A ‘participatory economy’ where everyone has a direct stake in the economy: people own shares in businesses and mutuals, and hold stakes in cooperatives and public services.
  4. Crammed full of high-tech, high-value businesses: the UK is a global hub for science, technology and engineering.  It is the first choice world-wide for registering and exploiting intellectual property.
  5. Known to have the most productive public sector in the world: the public sector landscape is a rich mix of organisations from public bodies, mutuals and cooperatives to private trusts, businesses and investors.  Services improve year on year as these organisations compete with one another.
  6. Completely connected: people are employed and run their own businesses in their spare time.  Public services are easily selected through online apps.

The Coalition Government came together in the national interest to fix the economic mess left by the previous administration.  It has not been easy, and significant progress has been made.  Yet a managerialist approach to government will not win a Conservative majority in 2015.  The biggest challenge Conservatives now face is to set out a cogent and convincing vision of what Britain will look like after a Conservative victory in 2015.  My colleagues and I will be shaping these themes over the coming months, before setting out policies in more detail to be at the forefront of the next manifesto.

It will take nothing less than a clear and distinctive vision of the future to achieve a Conservative majority in 2015 following this unusual period of Coalition.

 

Ideas to boost innovation

From Peel to Thatcher, the concepts of science and innovation have been integral to Conservative attitudes. Indeed, as a respected research scientist, Margaret Thatcher was the embodiment of science in office.

If science is about building on acquired knowledge to inform decisions for the future – a fundamentally Conservative notion – then innovation is its perfect partner.  Innovation, as an evolutionary process, has always been a mainstay of Conservative thought.  By invoking the past to make sense of the present, science and innovation blend the most appealing aspects of the traditionalist and progressive traditions of the party, and offer a convincing route to increasing the nation’s prosperity.

Conservatives are natural innovators

Adaptation is the key to survival.  To innovate goes with the grain of human nature.  Conservatives take this outlook a step further.  We believe that people should be free to adopt new practices, rather than have ‘grand ideas’ imposed upon them by self-appointed elites in smoke-filled back rooms.  We understand the intrinsic risks of radical change, but we recognise that to stand still or retreat into the past would be equally destructive.

But what is innovation?  It is more than scientific discovery.  Innovation is about the introduction of new products, services and ways of doing things that will improve our quality of life.

The Government’s role in innovation

If government is to allow innovation to flourish in wider society, it must first introduce innovative approaches to the process of government.  It must adopt a two-track mindset: first, to incorporate innovative practices in the public sector and, second, to establish an environment in which innovation can thrive in the private sector.

At the second anniversary of the Conservative-led Coalition notable progress has been made, but the direction of travel has sometimes been muddled.  The Prime Minister has set out his vision for a more dynamic British society with bigger people and a small state, but Coalition politics naturally gets in the way of putting that vision fully into practice.  Radical and destabilising reform of the Lords is not a priority for hard-working families and job-seekers.  It will not create the jobs and prosperity that an innovative and wholly Conservative Government can bring.  It is time to reaffirm our progressive Conservative values in the modern world, not shy from them.

Open Data

Francis Maude’s efforts to embed open data as an operating principle of government will drive economic growth and improve public services.  Now could be the time for all new government IT systems to publish datasets for commercial use as the default position.

Intellectual Property

The Hargreaves review gives the Coalition has an opportunity to deliver an intellectual property framework that promotes innovation and growth.  I believe that it is also now time to give the Intellectual Property Office a new duty to market the publicly registered intellectual property in its care.

Broadband

The Government is committed to delivering the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015.  Given the state of the public finances, we cannot rely on government spending alone.  Innovation holds the key to delivering our goal.  When today’s satellites can beam high-speed internet access to every region of Britain, we must not inadvertently restrict the use of such innovative technologies that can bring instant access to remote areas.

Removing barriers to work

When I chaired the Conservative Deregulation Task Force in 2008, we sought to stimulate innovation and growth by removing unhelpful regulations.  Progress has been made – despite stiff resistance from LibDems – but there is a long way to go.  Now is the time to re-double our efforts to release private sector innovation, particularly in the area of employment law.

The pace of innovation will determine Britain’s place in the world.  We must not only embrace innovation but actively remove the obstacles to it.  The solutions to our current challenges will not come from the stranglehold of state bureaucracy and top-down control, but from placing our trust in the spirit of innovation.

But let’s be honest: even good governments are inherently bad at innovation.  We need an economy with a bigger and more vibrant private sector.  The Prime Minister has made some progress, but it is time to renew our efforts in the next Conservative manifesto.

Traditionalist or moderniser, innovation is in the Conservative DNA.  Only by restating our core Conservative values can we secure the jobs and economic growth our country requires.