AI Regulation In The UK: Will The Next Government Introduce AI Legislation?

The current government's approach to AI regulation draws on non-binding, cross-sectoral principles. These were to be enforced by sectoral and cross-sectoral...
UK Technology
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Approach to AI regulation under the current government

The current government's approach to AI regulation draws on non-binding, cross-sectoral principles. These were to be enforced by sectoral and cross-sectoral regulators using their existing legislative powers. There were no immediate plans to introduce legislation on AI.

Indications on possible AI policy under the next government – legislation for the most powerful AI models?

Both the incumbent, Conservative government and Labour's shadow cabinet have indicated some support for legislation imposing obligations on the most powerful AI models.

The current government confirmed in its White Paper response in February that binding measures would be likely to be required in the future for "highly capable general-purpose AI". It would not "rush to regulate" at that stage, because "introducing binding measures too soon, even if highly targeted, could fail to effectively address risks, quickly become out of date, or stifle innovation".

Since then, however, the Financial Times reported that the government was beginning to craft legislation imposing obligations on the most sophisticated models, though the scope and release date of the proposed legislation was uncertain.

In terms of Labour's position, MLex reported that Labour's Bill Esterton, Shadow Minister for Roads, recently commented that Labour wanted to adopt regulation "for the small group of companies developing the most powerful AI models."

And indeed, the cross- party House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee took the view in its final report of the last Parliamentary session that "The next Government should stand ready to introduce new AI-specific legislation, should an approach based on regulatory activity, existing legislation and voluntary commitments by leading developers prove insufficient to address current and potential future harms associated with the technology."

Proposals from outside government – Lord Holmes' private member's bill

A private member's Artificial Intelligence (Regulation) Bill, beginning in the House of Lords, had reached the House of Commons before parliament was prorogued. However, as the Bill had not passed when Parliament was dissolved, it will not progress.

Lord Chris Holmes, who submitted the Bill, has indicated he intends to resubmit it in the next parliamentary session.

Likely areas of continuity – regulators will continue to play a key role

Regulators will continue play a key role in enforcement and providing guidance, whichever policy direction the next government chooses to take. The Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum members the Competition and Markets Authority, Financial Conduct Authority, and Information Commissioner's Office, and Ofcom are likely to continue to play a leading role, with other sectoral and cross-sectoral regulators providing influential input within their remits. Regulators' recent updates on their strategic approaches to AI are likely to continue to be informative for organisations, regardless of whether or when we see legislation on AI from the next government.

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