March 1, 2021
In December 2020 the House of Lords Liaison Committee published a report, “AI in the UK: No Room for Complacency”, which examined the progress made by the Government in the implementation of the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence in its 2018 report: “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”
The main conclusions of the Lords Liaison Committee’s report were that Government needs to better coordinate AI policy and the use of data and technology by national and local government. Further, it found, there was now a clear consensus that ethical AI is the only sustainable way forward. The Government should now move from deciding what the ethics are, to how to instil them in the development and deployment of AI systems.
The Government has now published its response to the Lords Liaison Committee’s report. Key points include:
- on public understanding of AI and the use of personal data, the Government highlights the work by the Open Data Institute and the AI Council, which recently published its “AI Roadmap”, making recommendations around improving access to data; the Government has also completed initial research to develop its evidence base on the barriers to data availability and the opportunities and rationale for government intervention, which is due to be published shortly;
- in relation to ethics, the Government says that, building on the existing work on algorithmic and data ethics, the Government Digital Service will explore the development of an appropriate and eﬀective mechanism to deliver more transparency on the use of algorithmic assisted decision making within the public sector in collaboration with the leading organisations in the ﬁeld; the Government notes that the Centre for Data Ethics recently published a report on Bias in Algorithmic Decision Making, which focused on the use of algorithms in signiﬁcant decisions about individuals and identified a number of recommendations; the Government will respond to these recommendations in due course;
- on regulation, the Government says that the Oﬃce for AI, the CDEI, the ICO and other regulators now sit on a larger Regulators and AI working group comprising 32 regulators and other organisations; this forum will be used to discuss how to take forward the recommendations made in the report, forming a special sub-group chaired by the ICO with active membership from the CDEI, Oﬃce for AI, Alan Turing Institute, and key regulators; they will identify gaps, consider training needs and make recommendations; the Government also points to its work on online harms and says it is pressing ahead with legislation to establish a new online harms regulatory framework;
- on the reports recommendation that an AI Cabinet Committee be established whose terms of reference include the strategic direction of Government AI policy and the use of data and technology by national and local government, the Government says that the responsibility for AI policy is split across Government departments so that the beneﬁts of AI can be realised across wider government and agencies; the Government is currently considering the AI Council’s Roadmap recommendation for a national written strategy on AI; it will not commission and approve a five-year strategy for AI as recommended by the report;
- the Government will not take up the report’s recommendation of appointing a “Chief Data Officer” and points instead to the new appointments of three senior Digital, Data and Technology leaders; this new leadership, which officially took office in February 2021, is reviewing the Government’s overall digital and data programme;
- on autonomous weapons, the report recommends aligning the UK’s definition of such weapons with international partners as a priority; the Government agrees, but says it is “challenging”; the MOD is preparing to publish a new Defence AI Strategy and will continue to review deﬁnitions as part of ongoing policy development in this area; and
- the Government says that attracting and retaining top international talent in the field of AI is “of paramount importance”.
In its covering letter to the Lords Liaison Committee, the Government agrees with the report that it needs to focus on establishing the right arrangements between institutions, across Government and the public sector, between regulators, and with academia and industry, to ensure that momentum gained over the past few years is not lost.
Overall, the Government hopes that the Committee is “reassured by this response”. To access the response in full, click here.