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Conservatives promises 'digital charter' for the UK

The Conservative Party has pledged to develop a new "digital charter" for the UK if it is re-elected in the general election on 8 June.22 May 2017

In its election manifesto, the party said the UK needs a "rules-based framework in which … new technologies can create prosperity and growth". 

"A Conservative government will develop a digital charter, working with industry and charities to establish a new framework that balances freedom with protection for users, and offers opportunities alongside obligations for businesses and platforms," according to the manifesto. "This charter has two fundamental aims: that we will make Britain the best place to start and run a digital business; and that we will make Britain the safest place in the world to be online." 

Regulations underpinning the digital charter will "ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by [the] principles [of the rule of law, privacy and security]," according to the manifesto. A "sanctions regime" will also be established "to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law", it said.

The manifesto set out the Conservative Party's plans to "provide gigaspeed connectivity to as many businesses and homes as possible", and to upgrade rail and road infrastructure with mobile phone and broadband technology. 

It said: "By 2022 we will extend mobile coverage further to 95% geographic coverage of the UK. By the same date, all major roads and main line trains will enjoy full and uninterrupted mobile phone signal, alongside guaranteed Wi-Fi internet service on all such trains." 

The Conservatives also said "the majority of the population" would have access to 5G services "by 2027".

The Conservatives also confirmed that it will not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson inquiry, which would have investigated links between the press and the police. It also announced that it would repeal legislation which has been lying dormant that it said, if enacted, would "force media organisations to become members of a flawed regulatory system or risk having to pay the legal costs of both sides in libel and privacy cases, even if they win". 

On privacy, the Conservatives said major social media platforms will be required to "delete information held about [users] at the age of 18".

The National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care will also be put "on a statutory footing to ensure data security standards are properly enforced" in the sector, it said.

Under a Conservative government, businesses will also be given a right "to insist on a digital signature" when concluding contracts, as well as "the right to digital cancellation of contracts".

The manifesto also contained the party's plans on digital health.

It said: "We will empower patients, giving them a greater role in their own treatment and use technology to put care at their convenience. In addition to the digital tools patients already have, we will give patients, via digital means or over the phone, the ability to book appointments, contact the 111 service, order repeat prescriptions, and access and update aspects of their care records, as well as control how their personal data is used. We will continue to expand the number of NHS approved apps that can help monitor care and provide support for physical and mental health conditions."