The party manifestos: Implications for data and statistics

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Now that the party manifestos for the 2017 General Election have been published, we can compare what plans the different parties have regarding data and statistics.

The science budget

The UK currently spends 1.7 per cent of its GDP on research. The Conservative manifesto commits to spending 2.4 per cent of GDP within ten years, ‘with a longer-term goal of three per cent’ (p19).

Labour have set a target of three per cent of UK GDP to be spent on research and development by 2030 (p14).

The Liberal Democrats have also made a commitment to invest in science and R&D. They promise a ‘long-term goal’ to ‘double innovation and research spending across the economy’ (p41) and say they will ‘campaign against any reduction in investment in UK universities’ (p11).

Inflation measures

Labour proposes to move from using the Retail Prices Indexes to the Consumer Prices Index in the calculation of business rate increases (p18), while reviewing ‘the entire business rates system in the longer run’.

Immigration statistics

The Conservative manifesto states that ‘overseas students will remain in the immigration statistics – in line with international definitions – and within scope of the government’s policy to reduce annual net migration’ (p54). By contrast, Labour specifically states that international students will not be included in immigration numbers (p29). The Liberal Democrats also state that students will be removed from official migration statistics (pg 77).

Data sharing and ethics

The Conservative Party says it will develop a digital charter (p77) underpinned by a legal framework for data and the digital economy and help develop an international legal framework in this area.

The party also proposes creating a Data Use and Ethics Commission to advise regulators and parliament on the nature of data use and how best to prevent its abuse. ‘The Commission will help us to develop the principles and rules that will give people confidence that their data is being handled properly. Alongside this commission, we will bring forward a new data protection law,’ the manifesto notes (p79)

A specific data sharing project put forward in the Conservative manifesto is ‘Digital land’ (p82), which aims to combine data from  HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey and other sources in order to ‘digitise the planning process’ and ‘create a comprehensive geospatial data body within government.’

Another specific project mentioned is to expand Verify, a platform that allows people to identify themselves on all government online services. A strategy to reduce personal data duplication across government was also proposed (p81).

Regarding health data, the Conservative manifesto said that GPs would be expected to share data and that patients would be able to ‘access and update aspects of their care records, as well as control how their personal data is used.’ (p67-69)

Other proposals included publishing operational performance data of all public-facing services for open comparison as a matter of course – helping the public to hold their local services to account (p81), and compelling companies with more than 250 employees to publish more data on the pay gap between men and women (p56).

The Labour manifesto says it will commit to ensure cross-border data flows are a key part of the Brexit negotiations and future trade deals ‘whilst maintaining strong data protection rules to protect personal privacy’ (p31).

Labour also calls for a new Digital Ambassador ‘to liaise with technology companies to promote Britain as an attractive place for investment and provide support for start-ups to scale up’ (p15).

The SNP says it will continue to support its eight Innovation Centres, ‘to assist the commercialisation of world-class research in big data, digital health, industrial biotechnology, sensor technology, construction, stratified medicine, aquaculture and oil and gas.’ It also says it will ‘call on the UK government to stay part of the European Medicines Agency so that access to vital drugs is maintained, and so that we can continue to participate in Europe-wide clinical trials and data sharing’ (p17).


The Conservatives have pledged to ‘introduce new funding arrangements so we can open a specialist maths school in every major city in England’ (p53).

Labour said it would seek to stay part of Horizon 2020 (p25) and other programmes that welcome research staff to the UK, as well as the Erasmus scheme that allows students to study in other universities across Europe. The SNP makes a similar commitment (p18).

The Liberal Democrats have put forward the establishment of an independent Education Standards Authority to pilot, phase in and resource future policy changes (p27). The Liberal Democrats (p10) and SNP (p18) also aim to protect Erasmus and other-EU funded student schemes.

Read the party manifestos (PDF) for the four largest parties in the 2017 election here:

Conservative Party manifesto

Labour Party manifesto

Liberal Democrats’ manifesto

Scottish National Party’s manifesto

Have we missed anything important? Let us know if there are other important proposals affecting data and/or statistics in the party manifestos.

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