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Topical Questions

Volume 734: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2023

I have been playing an active part in London Tech Week talking to Britain’s boldest businesses. We have launched our £1 billion strategy to support our semiconductor sector. We have launched our cutting-edge life sciences sector package. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell) who we recently appointed as our rural connectivity champion. May I also update the House in relation to our international leadership that I have been chairing the global forum on technology at the OECD?

Copyright protections are fundamental to the success of the UK’s world-leading creative industries. However, creatives are routinely seeing their content being used to train artificial intelligence platforms without giving their permission and without receiving payment. Does the Secretary of State believe that AI developers’ ingestion of creative content that is protected by copyright without obtaining a licence is infringement under UK law?

The hon. Lady raises an important matter, on which my Department and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are working closely together. Can I draw her attention to information that I know my right hon. and learned Friend the Culture Secretary will be bringing forward shortly? I reassure the hon. Lady that intellectual property is at the heart of our approach to support the creative industries in this country.

T7. The data Bill’s smart data clauses give us a chance to duplicate Britain’s global lead in open banking in other sectors of the economy, too, but developers cannot start work until they know which sectors will be enabled and in what order. Will my right hon. Friend release an implementation timetable immediately, showing which industries will introduce what and when, to unlock the tidal wave of investment that is waiting to get started and so that we do not get leapfrogged by international rivals? (905403)

First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he has done to promote the use of smart data across the economy. The Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) is working with Departments, regulators and industry to agree common principles for future smart data schemes in different sectors. Individual Departments will set out when and how they will use the powers, following appropriate consultation and impact assessments.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the Prime Minister that her AI White Paper is now defunct? Also, the data Bill does not even mention AI. The Online Safety Bill is hardly an advert for speedy action and the semiconductor strategy was slammed by an expert as “quite frankly flaccid”. Does she accept that to show international leadership, the Government need to get their act together at home?

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out this week at London Tech Week, we will be leading at home and overseas and leading change in our public services. That is the right approach. It is pro-innovation. We will capture those benefits for British businesses and British citizens, and I think that the Opposition could do an awful lot better than what they have just presented.

On 30 December 2020, during the pandemic, the then Prime Minister met the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford and promised £150 million in funding for the university’s pandemic sciences institute. In evidence to the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee this morning, the institute’s director Sir Peter Horby said that not a penny of that money has been received. Will the Secretary of State meet me to see how we can unblock that so that this vital work continues?

T3. This London Tech Week, I pay tribute to King’s Maths School in my constituency, which provides tutoring for 16 to 19-year-olds. The Government promised £300 million for mathematical research in 2020, but now, despite that, they are abandoning the commitment. When does the Minister expect Britain to stay competitive and when can the Government guarantee that funding? (905399)

As the Prime Minister has made clear, we are putting maths at the heart of our curriculum. I am ensuring that maths is properly funded to our research ecosystem. I will happily meet the hon. Member and talk to her about it.

Britain is rightly regarded as a technological and science superpower, but the foundations of our science and technology are technicians and their work and contribution. What more can my hon. Friend do to give them more recognition, more status and, even, more funding to carry on the work they do?

My hon. Friend has a formidable reputation himself in championing, and from having worked in, that area. We are increasing investment in further education and skills by £3.8 billion over the course of this Parliament, because we need technicians to access high-quality training.