New DCMS secretary of state Jeremy Wright's limited record in tech

We look into the new secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Jeremy Wright's limited record in technology and digital to date


Jeremy Wright has replaced Matt Hancock as the new secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), but the minister lacks experience in the technology sector and has thus far failed to prove he has a passion for digital.

The department he heads is responsible for all digital economy policy and last year added data policy and governance to its remit. Wright's limited track record in technology has raised concerns in the sector over his qualifications for the job.

© Flickr/Warwick Department of Economics
© Flickr/Warwick Department of Economics

Over the course of Wright's 13 years in parliament he has shown little appetite for issues concerning technology. His most recent comments regarded the challenges of analysing large quantities of digital material when disclosing information from Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) cases, which Wright oversaw during his four years as attorney general.

The only other time he uttered the word digital in parliament was to express support for the government's digital-by-default strategy in March 2013, when Wright was parliamentary undersecretary of state for justice.

"We want the digital-by-default agenda to be put at the heart of the ministry's operations, and for creative ways to embody and implement the principles of civil service reform to be found," he said at the time.

Wright's written answers to parliamentary questions shine more light on his ideas about ICT. They include explaining that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) could reduce "costs associated with printing and ensures that staff always have access to the latest version of any policy" and several comments on how technology was helping to reduce the use of mobile phones in prisons.

"A range of technology has been rolled out to prisons to strengthen searching and security, including portable mobile phone signal detectors, Body Orifice Security Scanners (BOSS chairs), high sensitivity metal detecting wands and short range portable mobile phone blockers," Wright wrote in May 2014.

Wright has also shown support for new generation GPS tags, which he believed had "hugely greater potential" than radio frequency tags.

"They will help us to enforce more effectively various provisions of community orders and conditions of licence," Wright wrote in November 2013. "We have only to imagine the potential of GPS tags to enforce both curfews and exclusion zones to see what they might be able to do. We seek to take full advantage of that new technology."

Wright was also involved in the ICT vendor management strategy at the Crown Prosecution Service, and explained the strategy in response to a question over an electronic tagging contract with Buddi.

"We will work with a preferred bidder to try to ensure that our needs are met and that we can reach agreement in delivering what will be impressive new technology to help us keep better track of offenders," he wrote. "If we cannot reach agreement with a preferred bidder, we must move on to another provider, and that is what is happening here."

Replacing Matt Hancock

Prime minister Theresa May picked Wright to replace Matt Hancock, who spent two years at DCMS before his recent appointment as health secretary as a result of the turmoil created by David Davis and Boris Johnson's shock resignations.

Julian David, CEO of technology trade association techUK welcomed Wright and praised the work done by his predecessor.

"TechUK is very sorry to see Matt Hancock move on from the digital portfolio," said David. "As minister for digital, then as secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt has been a staunch supporter of the UK's tech sector both in government and in other domestic and international fora. 

"His move to lead the work of the Department for Health and Social Care is a clear recognition of the passion, determination and drive we have seen him show at DCMS. All of us here at techUK now look forward to working with Jeremy Wright and digital minister Margot James to continue to build on the success of our industry.

"As we navigate our exit from the European Union and build a 'global Britain', it will be crucial to have a voice at the centre of government that understands the role the tech sector has to play not just in creating a prosperous economy but in finding solutions to society's most pressing challenges. In Jeremy Wright I am sure we will have an ally and a friend as we continue to build the UK digital economy."

Critics, mostly in the press, have pointed out that Wright hasn't tweeted since 2015. However he does maintain an active Facebook account, where he announced the appointment.

"Very excited to be starting a new job this morning as Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, a department whose work has a huge impact on our heritage, the things we enjoy now and on our national future," he posted.

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