A Labour government will strengthen AI regulation

13/06/2024 | Politico

Speaking at the London Tech Week conference on Tuesday, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer announced that a Labour government would implement stronger regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) in a departure from the UK government's current "pro-innovation" approach. 

Highlighting the need for an overarching regulatory framework, Starmer expressed concerns about the potential risks and impact of AI, while acknowledging its transformative potential. 

"We are nowhere near where we need to be on the question of regulation," Starmer said. He went on to add that the sector would welcome greater certainty that regulation would provide.

For months now, Labour has been developing a tech policy paper led by Shadow Digital Secretary Lucy Powell, which is currently under review by Starmer's office. Members of the party's shadow Cabinet are also scheduled to meet at Google's offices in London before meeting executives from the company for a further discussion on AI.

Details revealed in the Labour Party's 2024 general election manifesto published on Thursday include its plans to kickstart economic growth. On the topic of AI, the manifesto states: 

"We will ensure our industrial strategy supports the development of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector, removes planning barriers to new datacentres. And we will create a National Data Library to bring together existing research programmes and help deliver data-driven public services, whilst maintaining strong safeguards and ensuring all of the public benefit." 

"Regulators are currently ill-equipped to deal with the dramatic development of new technologies, which often cut across traditional industries and sectors. Labour will create a new Regulatory Innovation Office, bringing together existing functions across government. This office will help regulators update regulation, speed up approval timelines, and co-ordinate issues that span existing boundaries. Labour will ensure the safe development and use of AI models by introducing binding regulation on the handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models and by banning the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes."

The detail and wording are similar to those proposed by the centre-left think tank the Tony Blair Institute (TBI), which published a new report on Tuesday. The report, titled A New National Purpose: AI Promises a World-Leading Future of Britain, indicates that "If the country does not up its game quickly, there is a risk of never catching up, as well as losing the chance and ability to sculpt both the technology's future and its governance." 

The recommendations contained within the report include creating a "national laboratory" focusing on AI research and safety connected to a UK and international regulator. Accessing the computational power to achieve this will be granted through a "tiered-access approach" in which the greater the levels of compute access come with "additional requirements to demonstrate responsible use." Furthermore, the report suggests the UK should build " AI-era infrastructure, including compute capacity and remodelling data, as a public asset with the creation of highly valuable, public-good data sets." 

This latest report follows a paper published in May in which the TBI called for the creation of a trust to oversee the sharing of anonymised patient data with trusted researchers.

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Kier Starmer

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