London’s technology scene is booming. To get an understanding of the scale of this growth, just consider that investment in the sector was ten times higher in 2015 than it was in 2010, with over $2bn (£1.4bn) of venture capital invested in the city last year.
Half of this came from the UK, with 29 per cent coming from the US and the rest from countries such as Israel, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Politicians love to champion the technology sector, particularly the startup scene that is so vibrant and successful in London. Mayor Boris Johnson has said “it is no surprise to see that London’s tech companies are attracting record levels of investment” as he praised the capital’s “world-class talent pool and culture of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit”.
However, a powerful group of MPs is warning that a new bill could take the shine off the mayor’s sentiment.
The so-called Snooper’s Charter (otherwise known as the Investigatory Powers Bill) will require tech firms to retain detailed records of customer data and communication activity.
The aim is to give the police and intelligence agencies access to information in the event that they require it, but MPs on the Science and Technology Committee say the Bill is far too vague, leading to “widespread doubts over the definition, not to mention the definability, of a number of terms”.
If implemented in its current form, the burden on tech businesses could put UK firms at a commercial disadvantage. Industry group Tech UK warns that without significant reform, the Bill could undermine the reputation of companies that have to comply with it.
While tech firms do battle over data and privacy with one hand, they’re having to fight daft new immigration proposals with the other.
A recent idea from the government’s Migration Advisory Committee would see an annual fee of £1,000 introduced for each non-EU migrant hired. This could prove devastating to young, nimble tech firms in London who need to recruit talent from across the world.
If politicians want to carry on championing the tech sector, they need to wake up to the potential damage caused by their constant interference. The attractiveness and competitiveness of London is not guaranteed. If firms are forced out of the country you can bet that investment, and capital, will go with them.