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Artificial Intelligence Technologies: Regulation

Volume 732: debated on Wednesday 3 May 2023

Artificial intelligence plays a vital role in our economy and society, from helping doctors to identify cancers faster to powering smart devices and driverless cars. We recognise the need to act not only to unlock the opportunities but to address the potential risks of this technology. Our White Paper articulates what the responsible development and use of AI should look like, supporting innovation while protecting people so that businesses, consumers and the wider economy can all benefit.

When advances in medical technology—around genetic engineering, for example—raise sensitive issues, we have debates on medical ethics, we adapt legislation and we put in place robust regulation and oversight. The explosion in AI potentially poses the same level of moral dilemma and is open to criminal use for fraud or impersonation and by malign players such as the Chinese Government, for example. As leaders in AI, what should the UK be doing to balance safety with opportunity and innovation?

I recognise the profound experience from which my hon. Friend speaks. We also recognise that many technologies can pose a risk when in the wrong hands. The UK is a global leader in AI, with a strategic advantage that places us at the forefront of these developments. Through UK leadership—at the OECD, the G7, the Council of Europe and more—we are promoting our vision for a global ecosystem that balances innovation and the use of AI, underpinned by our shared values of freedom, fairness and democracy. Our approach will be proportionate, pro-innovative and adaptable. Meanwhile, the integrated review refresh recognises the challenges that are posed by China.

With elections under way and a general election due next year, people are rightly concerned about the fake videos, images and audio being created by artificial intelligence. Can the Secretary of State confirm to the House what actions her Department is taking to protect the integrity of our democratic processes in that context?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s involvement, and I look forward to debating these issues with him and others across the House. I can understand his concerns and the anxiety that sits behind his question. We have a fully developed regime of electoral law that already accounts for election offences such as false statements by candidates, but in addition to the existing regulations we are setting out an approach on AI that will look to regulators in different sectors to apply the correct guidance. We will also add a central co-ordinating function that will be able to seek out risks and deal with them flexibly, appropriately and proportionately.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box. We can get a lot done in 10 weeks, in my experience, and I am sure she will do so.

At its best, Britain has been highly influential in setting international standards that combine confidence with security. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me and the hon. Member for Bristol North West (Darren Jones), the Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, that the UK should now seize the initiative and set out an international approach to standards in AI, so we can gain all the benefits that come from AI while making sure we do not suffer the harms attendant on it?

The short answer is yes. I welcome my right hon. Friend’s expertise, experience and encouragement as I begin my role. He is right that the UK has a global leadership position, and we rank in the global top three in many aspects of this question and others throughout science and technology. We will therefore seek a leadership role so any regulation of AI that may be needed reflects our values and strikes the correct balance.

One area in which our global leadership is a reality, not just rhetoric, is the creative industries. What assurance can the Government give to our music makers, writers and others that AI will be properly regulated to make sure their creative content is protected, and so we can maintain our global leadership?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point, which comes from his deep expertise in music and the creative industries more generally. I look forward to my conversations with the industry on this very subject this afternoon. The UK has world-leading copyright and intellectual property protections, and we know how important they are for the continued success of the creative industries. We want to maintain them, and they will therefore be a focus as we take this work forward.