Digital economy must be shaped by government strategy, say MPs

18 Jul 16

MPs have called on the government to provide a clear strategy for the development of the digital economy following the Brexit vote in order to protect this fast-growing sector.

In a report looking at the impact of services such as Uber and Airbnb, the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee highlighted that the British economy has the highest percentage of gross domestic product attributed to digital activities in Europe.

Digital industries grew two-and-a-half times as fast as the economy as a whole between 2003 and 2013m according to the report, and the committee said that the government must provide clarity on regulation following the voter to leave the European Union in order for this to continue.

Regulation of firms like Uber and Airbnb should be clarified in a forthcoming digital strategy to promote productivity, innovation and customer choice and protection, while also safeguarding workers and ensuring fairness.

“Britain’s digital economy is a success story that makes a huge contribution to the country’s competitiveness and wealth-creation capacity and the committee recognises the government’s support in this area,” committee chair Iain Wright said.

“We look forward to publication of the digital strategy and urge the government to set out how it plans to build on Britain’s digital success post-Brexit. This includes urgently addressing the concerns of tech companies who rely on the single market and high-skilled migrants from the EU.”

Wright stated that digital advances have brought considerable benefits to consumers but they have also pushed at the limits of current regulation. Airbnb providers are not bound by the health and safety regulations of hotels, for example.

“The government needs to clarify regulation to ensure fair competition while enabling digital businesses to thrive and grow to the benefit of consumers and the UK economy,” he added.

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