Autumn Statement 2022: techlaw elements

November 21, 2022

The Chancellor has issued his Autumn Statement. The aspects that are likely to be of most interest to tech lawyers are set out below:

Online Sales Tax (OST) – Following consultation, the government has decided not to introduce an OST, an idea put forward by certain stakeholders in the context of Business Rates reform. The government’s decision reflects concerns raised about an OST’s complexity and the risk of creating unintended distortion or unfair outcomes between different business models. A response to the OST consultation will be published shortly.

The government says that competition is fundamental for growth and productivity. The government will bring forward the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill in the third Parliamentary session to provide the Competition and Markets Authority with new powers to promote and tackle anti-competitive practice in digital markets. It says that “opening these markets to greater competition will encourage new challenger firms, spur innovation, and provide consumers with higher quality products and greater choice.”

The government is committed to reforming retained EU law. As part of this programme, the government will move rapidly to review retained EU law in key growth industries – including digital technology, life sciences, green industries, financial services, and advanced manufacturing – to identify changes that can be made over the next year which have the greatest potential to unlock growth. The government will also task the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and National Technology Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, to bring together the best minds to advise how the UK can better regulate emerging technologies, enabling their rapid and safe introduction.

The government also remains committed to supporting digital infrastructure investment through Project Gigabit, with an ambition to reach at least 85% gigabit-capable broadband coverage by 2025 and nationwide coverage by 2030. This aims to ensure that every corner of the UK can access fast and reliable gigabit-capable broadband, to drive economic growth and productivity.

The government will also provide funding for the Advanced Technology Research Centre. It will provide up to £10 million of support, subject to business case, to work collaboratively with the Welsh government to deliver a defence-focussed Centre of Excellence Site in Wales, to include high security laboratory space, training and skills infrastructure.

It will also refocus the Investment Zones programme. The government will use this programme to catalyse a limited number of the highest potential knowledge-intensive growth clusters, including through leveraging local research strengths.

Public spending on R&D will increase to £20 billion a year by 2024-25, and funding for the UK’s nine Catapults will increase by 35% compared to the last 5-year funding cycle. This £1.6 billion investment will allow Catapults to continue to support innovation and commercialisation by providing access to facilities, skills and equipment across the UK. This includes the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Wales, the Digital Catapult centre in Northern Ireland and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult centre in Scotland.

The government will help more small and medium sized manufacturing firms boost their productivity through advanced digital technology by extending the Made Smarter Adoption programme to the East Midlands (it is already in place in certain other areas).

The government is committed to ensuring cutting-edge innovative firms have access to finance to invest and grow. As previously announced, the government is increasing the generosity and availability of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and Company Share Option Plan. The government remains supportive of the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Venture Capital Trusts and sees the value of extending them in the future. The government will also continue to champion institutional investment into innovation so that UK savers can benefit form the growth of high potential businesses.

From April 2025, electric cars, vans and motorcycles will begin to pay vehicle excise duty in the same way as petrol and diesel vehicles. This aims to ensure that all road suers begin to pay a fair tax contribution as the take up of electronic vehicles continues to accelerate. The government will legislate for this measure in the Autumn Finance Bill 2022.