Insights Private members’ bill to regulate AI receives second reading


A private members’ bill proposing measures to regulate artificial intelligence has received its second reading in the House of Lords.

The Artificial Intelligence (Regulation) Bill was introduced last year by Lord Holmes of Richmond and stands in contrast to the Government’s ‘pro-innovation framework’ that was announced in its White Paper last year (and on which we commented here). Under the Government’s proposals, the five principles that will guide and inform the responsible development and use of AI will not be put on a statutory footing initially, on the basis that “new rigid and onerous legislative requirements on businesses could hold back AI innovation and reduce our ability to respond quickly and in a proportionate way to future technological advances”. Equally, there no plans to establish a new regulator. Instead, existing regulators will be expected to implement the principles, while the Government provides a ‘central support function’ to ensure effective coordination and collaboration across the various regulators.

Lord Holmes’ Bill is different: it proposes the establishment of a new, central ‘AI Authority’. As Lord Holmes explained, the AI Authority would “look across” all existing regulators and legislation to assess their ability to address the opportunities and challenges posed by AI. The AI Authority would have principles that are not too dissimilar to those outlined by the Government, but they would be on a statutory footing. It would also collaborate with relevant regulators to construct regulatory sandboxes for AI.

The Bill also includes provisions for the establishment of ‘AI responsible officers’ within those businesses that develop, deploy or use AI, to ensure that use of the technology is “safe, ethical, unbiased, and non-discriminatory”. In addition, there are provisions to ensure that those involved in training AI supply the AI Authority with a record of all third-party data and IP used in the training, and provide assurances that they have complied with all applicable IP laws. The AI Authority would also be responsible for implementing a programme of long-term public engagement about the risks and opportunities presented by AI.

Addressing concerns that his proposals would introduce a “do-it-all, huge, cumbersome regulator” Lord Holmes insisted that what he envisaged would be “agile”, and the right size to drive innovation and inward investment.

Those in the chamber were generally supportive of Lord Holmes’ proposals, drawing attention to the steps being taken in other jurisdictions to regulate AI, with former Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas stating that “it seems to me that the fundamental flaw in what the Government is doing is leaving the current regulatory system in place. We cannot afford to do that. We need to face the new industrial revolution with a new form of regulation”.

However, Viscount Camrose, the Minister for AI and Intellectual Property, expressed reservations about the Bill, stating that the advantage of the Government’s approach is that “regulators can act now on AI within their own remits” and warned that “legislating too soon could easily result in measures that are ineffective against the risks, are disproportionate, or quickly become out of date”.

The Bill, which can be read here, will now move to Committee Stage.