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Written Statements

Volume 745: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2024

Written Statements

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Cabinet Office

Digital Economy Act 2017: Debt and Fraud Powers Statutory Review

I am pleased to announce that the report of the review of the Digital Economy Act (DEA) 2017 Debt and Fraud Powers is to be laid before (i) Parliament, (ii) the Scottish Parliament, (iii) the Welsh Parliament, and (iv) the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Debt and Fraud Powers, as contained in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 respectively, allow specified public authorities to disclose information for the purpose of managing and reducing debt owed to a public authority or to the Crown and combating fraud against the public sector.

These powers must be reviewed as soon as reasonably practicable three years following their coming into force in 2018, for the purpose of deciding whether they should be retained, amended or repealed. As part of this review I am required to publish and arrange for the laying of a report on the review before (i) Parliament, (ii) the Scottish Parliament, (iii) the Welsh Parliament, and (iv) the Northern Ireland Assembly. The report is to be published on www.gov.uk.

The report highlights significant progress that public bodies have made in reducing debt and combating fraud. Since September 2018, data sharing using the DEA has saved the public purse a minimum of £137 million in combating fraud and recovering debt, with £132 million having been fully audited and checked for veracity for fraud and £5 million in recovered debt. The powers have been used by 17 Departments and Executive Agencies and 70 local authorities, resulting in over 100 data sharing pilots that are registered on www.gov.uk. This review shows the effectiveness of this legislation, and how it can lead to strong, measurable outcomes.

There is of course more to be done which is why, based on the evidence provided in this report, I am pleased to announce that I will be retaining the powers in their current form.

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Health and Social Care

Children and Young People Cancer Taskforce

With World Cancer Day this week, I want to take this opportunity to affirm to the House this Government’s commitment to delivering the best cancer services for everyone across England.

I am pleased to inform the House that I am launching a Children and Young People Cancer Taskforce dedicated to tackling those cancers that affect our children and young people. This is part of our commitment to delivering world-leading cancer services—and our mission to save lives.

Although children’s and young people’s cancers make up a small proportion of overall cancer diagnoses, cancers are one of the biggest causes of death in children and young people. While survival is improving, with childhood cancer survival rates in the UK having more than doubled since the 1970s, more invasive cancers have lower survival rates, and the long-term impacts of cancer and of treatment can cause challenges for decades.

In this House we have heard about the devastating impact cancer has on children and young people, and the life-changing impact on their families. I express my gratitude to the families who, despite unimaginable grief, have shared their stories with both Houses, campaigning in the hope that no more families will have to suffer. I commend all the hon. Members who have shone a light on these stories and I welcome their support for this new initiative.

This taskforce represents an opportunity to take dedicated action working across organisations to unify and drive progress. It offers us the chance to meaningfully change how we detect, treat and care for children and young people with cancer.

Through this taskforce, I will be inviting experts to discuss how to improve treatment, detection and research into children’s and young people’s cancers. I am delighted to announce that my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Dame Caroline Dinenage) has been appointed as chair of the taskforce, given her campaigning on childhood cancer, her reputation as an exceptional parliamentarian, and her knowledge, experience and dedication.

Areas of focus for the taskforce will include:

Genomic testing and treatment—to ensure all children get timely access to high quality personalised treatments.

Detection and diagnosis—to ensure earlier diagnosis to give children and young people the best chance to beat cancer.

Research and innovation—to explore children’s access to clinical trials, gain greater access to data, target our research funding, and encourage consideration of innovative solutions.

It is important to recognise the excellent work already under way in children’s and young people’s cancers. Rather than seeking to replicate this work, the taskforce is intended to be a unifying force, identifying various projects under way across organisations: including health, science, research, charity and international sectors. It will forge connections, strengthen collaboration, and drive progress in tackling children’s and young people’s cancers.

Following a period of planning and engagement, the taskforce will meet from springtime onwards. Its work will feed into, and align with, the major conditions strategy. I will update the House on its progress in due course.

I will of course keep the House updated on wider progress on cancer. We are improving cancer survival and earlier diagnosis, in part thanks to innovations like lung health checks targeting those at greatest risk of developing lung cancer, with checks mostly carried out in supermarket car parks and other community spaces—reaching those who might not normally come forward. We are also supporting initiatives such as Prostate Cancer UK’s TRANSFORM trial, announced on International Men’s Day, which aims to address some of the inequalities that exist in prostate cancer diagnosis today, and aims to save thousands of men each year.

With this new taskforce, and these ongoing innovations and initiatives, I can assure the House we are taking every step in our mission to improve cancer outcomes.

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Home Department

Uddin Inquiry: Terms of Reference

On 9 November 2023, the Government announced the establishment of a statutory inquiry, to investigate the death of Mr Jalal Uddin in Rochdale, greater Manchester.

A copy of the terms of reference for the inquiry was placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

An inaccuracy has since been identified in the terms of reference and, in line with the Inquiries Act 2005, the chair of the inquiry, His Honour Edward Thomas Henry Teague KC, Chief Coroner of England and Wales, has been consulted about amending the terms of reference to correct the inaccuracy.

The amendment does not materially affect the operation or the remit of the inquiry.

In order to comply with section 6(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005, I will place a copy of the amended terms of reference in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Science, Innovation and Technology

AI Regulation White Paper: Consultation Response

Today, the Government are publishing our response to the consultation on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Regulation White Paper: “A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation”.

The world is on the cusp of an extraordinary new era driven by advances in AI, which presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the British people to revolutionise our economy and transform public services for the better and to deliver real, tangible, long-term results for our country. The UK AI market is predicted to grow to over $1 trillion (USD) by 2035—unlocking everything from new skills and jobs to once unimaginable lifesaving treatments for cruel diseases like cancer and dementia. That is why I have made it my ambition for the UK to become the international standard bearer for the safe development and deployment of AI.

We have been working hard to make that ambition a reality, and our plan is working. Last year, we hosted the world’s first AI safety summit, bringing industry, academia and civil society together with 28 leading AI nations and the EU to agree the Bletchley declaration, thereby establishing a shared understanding of the opportunities and risks posed by frontier AI.

We were also the first Government in the world to formally publish our assessment of the capabilities and risks presented by advanced AI; and to bring together a powerful consortium of experts into our AI Safety Institute, committed to advancing AI safety in the public interest.

With the publication of our AI Regulation White Paper in March, we set out our initial steps to develop a pro-innovation AI regulatory framework. Instead of designing a complex new regulatory system from scratch, the White Paper proposed five key principles for existing UK regulators to follow and a central function to ensure the regime is coherent and streamlined and to identify regulatory gaps or confusing overlaps. Our approach must be agile so it can respond to the unprecedented speed of development, while also remaining robust enough in each sector to address the key concerns around potential societal harms, misuse risks and autonomy risk.

This common sense, pragmatic approach has been welcomed and endorsed both by the companies at the frontier of AI development and leading AI safety experts. Google DeepMind, Microsoft, OpenAI and Anthropic all supported the UK’s approach, as did Britain’s budding AI start-up scene, and many leading voices in academia and civil society such as the Centre for Long-Term Resilience and the Centre for the Governance of AI.

Next steps on establishing the rules for governing AI

Since we published the White Paper, we have moved quickly to implement the regulatory framework. We are pleased that a number of regulators have already taken steps in line with our framework such as the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Competition and Markets Authority.

We have taken steps to establish the central function to drive coherence in our regulatory approach across Government, starting by recruiting a new multidisciplinary team to conduct cross-sector assessment and monitoring to guard against existing and emerging risks in AI.

Further to this, we are strengthening the team working on AI within the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology across the newly established AI policy directorate and the AI Safety Institute. In recognition of the fact that AI has become central to the wider work of DSIT and Government, we will no longer maintain the branding of a separate “Office for AI”. Similarly, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) is changing its name to the Responsible Technology Adoption Unit to more accurately reflect its mission. The name highlights the directorate’s role in developing tools and techniques that enable responsible adoption of AI in the private and public sectors, in support of DSIT’s central mission.

In September we also announced the AI and digital hub—a pilot scheme for a brand-new advisory service run by expert regulators in the Digital Regulation Co-operation Forum. It will be laser-focused on helping companies get to grips with AI regulations so they can spend less time form-filling and more time getting their cutting-edge products from the lab on to the market and into British people’s lives.

Building on the feedback from the consultation, we are now focused on ensuring that regulators are prepared to face the new challenges and opportunities that AI can bring to their domains. This consultation response presents a plan to do just that. It sets out how we are building the right institutions and expertise to ensure that our regulation of AI keeps pace with the most pressing risks and can unlock the transformative benefits these technologies can offer.

To drive forward our plans to make Britain the safest and most innovative place to develop and deploy AI in the world, the consultation response announces over £100 million to support AI innovation and regulation. This includes a £10 million package to boost regulators’ AI capabilities, helping them develop practical tools to build the foundations of their AI expertise and ability to address risks in their domain.

We are also announcing a new commitment by UK Research and Innovation that future investments in AI research will be leveraged to support regulator skills and expertise. Further to this, we are announcing a nearly £90 million boost for AI research, including £80 million through the launch of nine new research hubs across the UK and a £9 million partnership with the US on responsible AI as part of our international science partnership fund. These hubs are based in locations across the country and will enable AI to evolve and tackle complex problems across applications, from healthcare treatments to power-efficient electronics.

In addition, we are announcing £2 million of Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding to support research that will help to define responsible AI across sectors such as education, policing and creative industries.

In the coming months, we will formalise our regulator co-ordination activities by establishing a steering committee with Government representatives and key regulators. We will also be conducting targeted consultations on our cross-sectoral risk register and monitoring and evaluation framework from spring to make sure our approach is evidence-based and effective.

We are also taking steps to improve the transparency of this work, which is key to building public trust. To this end, we are also calling on regulators to publicly set out their approaches to AI in their domains by April 2024 to increase industry confidence and ensure the UK public can see how we are addressing the potential risks and benefits of AI across the economy.

Adapting to the challenges posed by highly capable general-purpose AI systems

The challenges posed by AI technologies will ultimately require legislative action across jurisdictions, once understanding of risk has matured. However, legislating too soon could stifle innovation, place undue burdens on businesses, and shackle us from being able to fully realise the enormous benefits AI technologies can bring. Furthermore, our principles-based approach has the benefit of being agile and adaptable, allowing us to keep pace with this fast-moving technology.

That is why we established the AI Safety Institute (AISI) to conduct safety evaluations on advanced AI systems, drive foundational safety research, and lead a global coalition of AI safety initiatives. These insights will ensure the UK responds effectively and proportionately to potential frontier risks.

Beyond this, the AISI has built a partnership network of over 20 leading organisations, allowing AISI to act as a hub, galvanising safety work in companies and academia; Professor Yoshua Bengio, as chair, is leading the UK’s international scientific report on advanced AI safety, which brings together 30 countries, including the EU and UN; and the AISI is continuing its regular engagement with leading AI companies that signed up to the Bletchley declaration.

In the consultation response, we build on our pro-innovation framework and pro-safety actions by setting out our early thinking on future targeted, binding requirements on the developers of highly capable general-purpose AI systems. The consultation response also sets out the key questions and considerations we will be exploring with experts and international partners as we continue to develop our approach to the regulation of the most advanced AI systems.

Driving the global conversation on AI governance

Building on the historic agreements reached at the AI safety summit, today we also set out our broader plans regarding how the UK will continue to drive the global debate on the governance of AI.

Beyond our work through the AI Safety Institute, this includes taking a leading role in multilateral AI initiatives such as the G7, OECD and the UN, and deepening bilateral relationships building on the success of agreements with the US, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore.

This response paper is another step forward for the UK’s ambitions to lead in the safe development and deployment of AI. The full text of the White Paper consultation response can be found on gov.uk.

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Work and Pensions

Automatic Enrolment: Earnings Trigger and Qualifying Earnings Band Review 2024/25 and Alternative Qu

Automatic enrolment (AE) into workplace pensions has been a great success to date. Since 2012 over 11 million people have been enrolled into a pension and over 2.3 million employers have met their automatic enrolment duties. Since the introduction of AE, total annual pension saving by eligible employees has increased by nearly £29 billion in real terms. The Government remain committed to building on this achievement and to transforming retirement prospects for millions of workers.

The main focus of this year’s annual review of the AE earnings trigger and lower and upper earnings limits of the qualifying earnings band (the AE thresholds) has been to ensure the continued stability of the policy in light of prevailing economic factors. We want to ensure that our approach continues to enable individuals, for whom it makes economic sense, to save towards their pensions while ensuring affordability for employers and taxpayers. The review has concluded that all AE thresholds for 2024-25 will be maintained at their 2023-24 levels. This is consistent with our ambitions to build a stronger, more inclusive savings culture that enables people to have greater financial security in retirement.

The 2024-25 annual thresholds

The automatic enrolment earnings trigger will remain at £10,000.

The lower earnings limit of the qualifying earnings band will remain at £6,240.

The upper earnings limit of the qualifying earnings band will remain at £50,270.

The alternative quality requirement triennial review

In accordance with the statutory timetable, we have also conducted a review of the regulations that introduced the alternative quality requirements for pension schemes being used for automatic enrolment into workplace pensions.

This review concluded that the alternative quality requirements for UK defined-benefit schemes set out in regulations, made under section 23A(1) of the Pensions Act 2008, should continue to remain in place without changes at this time.

The review also concluded that the tests set out in section 28(2A) of the Pensions Act 2008 continue to be satisfied.

The analysis supporting the thresholds review and the Government response to the call for evidence for the alternative quality requirements reviews will be published and copies placed in the Library of the House. They will both be available on the www.gov.uk website, following publication.

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