December 6, 2022

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Labour reshuffle expands shadow ministerial team on digital, technology and innovation policy

The Labour Party’s reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet has expanded its team covering digital and tech policy, to match the government’s new set-up.

Previously, Labour’s policies on most issues around digital, data, technology, science and innovation were the responsibility of Chi Onwurah, an engineer and former head of telecoms technology at Ofcom, who had been the party’s main expert on tech-related areas since she became an MP in 2010.

Onwurah has now joined the team led by Jonathan Reynolds, shadow secretary of state for business and industrial strategy, with the remit of shadow minister for science, research and digital.

Reynolds shadows Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.

Government responsibility for Onwurah’s new area lies with George Freeman as minister for science, research and innovation, a brief that also includes policy responsibility for intellectual property, space, technology strategy and security, and life sciences, plus the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) and running the Office for AI jointly with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Onwurah is a member of Computer Weekly’s Women in Technology Hall of Fame, in recognition of her lifetime contribution to the industry.

She has relinquished policy coverage for issues owned by DCMS, which are now taken up by Chris Elmore as shadow minister for media, data and digital infrastructure, and Alex Davies-Jones as shadow minister for tech, gambling and the digital economy.

Elmore will shadow Julia Lopez, minister of state for media, data and digital infrastructure, on issues in telecoms and digital infrastructure, data policy and reform, cyber security and digital identity, and media and creative industries.

Davies-Jones will shadow Chris Philp, minister for tech and the digital economy, covering digital and tech policy, online safety, international strategy, gambling and lotteries, and legislation.

Neither Elmore nor Davies-Jones has any apparent background in technology.

According to his personal website, Elmore worked in a number of roles in further education, office management and public affairs before being elected as MP for Ogmore in 2016, although he does chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media.

Davies-Jones was a youth representative for the Labour Party, the Co-operative Party and trade union Unite, as well as a former researcher in the House of Commons and the National Assembly for Wales. She was a communications and press officer for Wales and the West Midlands at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors from 2013 to 2015, before becoming MP for Pontypridd in 2019.

On the government side, Lopez was previously a junior minister in the Cabinet Office, where she was responsible for the Government Digital Service. Philp is a former McKinsey consultant and founder of a company that trained HGV drivers.

The government overhauled its entire digital, data and technology team during prime minister Boris Johnson’s most recent Cabinet reshuffle in September.

At DCMS, John Whittingdale, formerly minister for media and data, was removed from his post, along with digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman, who was responsible for policy on broadband, mobile networks and digital identity. Caroline Dinenage, who was appointed minister of state for digital and culture at DCMS on 13 February 2020 in an earlier reshuffle, was also sacked.

At Cabinet level, Nadine Dorries took over from Oliver Dowden as secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport. She will now be shadowed by Labour’s Lucy Powell.

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