Table of contents
- 1. What bills are being carried over? skip to link
- 2. What government policies may be subject to legislation this session? skip to link
1. What bills are being carried over?
1.1 Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill
The Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 8 March 2023 and completed its committee stage on 23 May 2023. It is currently awaiting its report stage in the House of Commons and is the subject of a carry-over motion.
The bill would update and simplify the UK’s data protection framework “with a view to reducing burdens on organisations while maintaining high data protection standards”.
The bill’s provisions include:
- providing organisations with greater flexibility on how to comply with certain aspects of data protection legislation
- reforming the regulator, the information commissioner; this would include the office’s governance structure, duties and enforcement powers
- establishing a framework for the provision of digital verification services in the UK “to secure the reliability of those services and to enable digital identities and attributes to be used with the same confidence as paper documents”
At the bill’s second reading in the House of Commons, Lucy Powell, then shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said that data was increasingly seen as “the most prized asset and fundamental to the digital age” but argued that the bill “fails to meet that moment”. She said that the bill did not rise to the challenges of recent developments, including AI chatbots and image generators, asserting that “instead, it tweaks around the edges of GDPR [the UK General Data Protection Regulation], making an already dense set of privacy rules even more complex”. Lucy Powell said that Labour did not disagree with the bill’s aims but said it had serious questions about whether the bill would be able to achieve them in practice.
For further information, see the House of Commons Library’s briefings on the bill:
- House of Commons Library, ‘The Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill 2022–23’, 28 March 2023
- House of Commons Library, ‘The Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill: Commons stages’, 9 June 2023
2. What government policies may be subject to legislation this session?
2.1 Artificial intelligence
In its March 2023 white paper, ‘A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation’ (updated 4 July 2023), the government said it does not initially intend to introduce new legislation regulating artificial intelligence (AI) because of the potential impact on businesses. However, it said it would continue to monitor the regulatory framework. It said its approach:
[…] relies on collaboration between government, regulators and business. Initially, we do not intend to introduce new legislation. By rushing to legislate too early, we would risk placing undue burdens on businesses. But alongside empowering regulators to take a lead, we are also setting expectations. Our new monitoring functions will provide a real-time assessment of how the regulatory framework is performing so that we can be confident that it is proportionate.
The government reiterated this position in a debate on AI in the House of Lords in July 2023. Viscount Camrose, minister for AI and intellectual property, said the government’s approach was designed to work with other legislation:
It is important to note that the proposals put forward in the white paper work in tandem with legislation currently going through Parliament, such as the Online Safety Bill and the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill. We were clear that the AI regulation white paper is a first step in addressing the risks and opportunities presented by AI. We will review and adapt our approach in response to the fast pace of this technology. We are unafraid to take further steps if needed to ensure safe and responsible AI innovation.
The Online Safety Act was passed at the end of the 2022–23 session and received royal assent on 26 October 2023.
In answer to a question about working with other jurisdictions on the regulation on AI, such as the EU, the government said there was an “essential need for interoperability of AI given the way that AI is produced across so many jurisdictions”. The government highlighted a number of ways in which it was addressing this issue:
In addition to the global safety summit next week [to be held at Bletchley Park, see below for further information], we continue our very deep engagement with a huge range of multilateral groups. These include the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development], the Council of Europe, the GPAI [Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence], the UN, various standards development groups, the G20 and the G7, along with a range of bilateral groups, including —just signed this year—the Atlantic declaration with the US and the Hiroshima accord with Japan.
The government’s AI white paper followed the publication of its ‘National AI strategy’ in September 2021. This set out its 10-year plan on AI around three high-level aims:
- invest and plan for the long-term needs of the AI ecosystem to continue our leadership as a science and AI superpower
- support the transition to an AI-enabled economy, capturing the benefits of innovation in the UK, and ensuring AI benefits all sectors and regions
- ensure the UK gets the national and international governance of AI technologies right to encourage innovation, investment, and protect the public and our fundamental values
Noting that across the world countries and regions were beginning to draft rules for AI, the white paper said that the UK “needs to act quickly to continue to lead the international conversation on AI governance and demonstrate the value of our pragmatic, proportionate regulatory approach”.
The white paper said that the government recognised both the rewards and the risks of AI. It argued the UK should seek to capitalise on the benefits of these technologies but also “not overlook the new risks that may arise from their use, nor the unease that the complexity of AI technologies can produce in the wider public”. The paper added “we already know that some uses of AI could damage our physical and mental health, infringe on the privacy of individuals and undermine human rights”. The white paper said that responding to risk and building public trust were important drivers for regulation, but that clear and consistent regulation could also support business investment and build confidence in innovation.
Consequently, it said that the government would put in place a new framework to bring “clarity and coherence” to the AI regulatory landscape, which would help harness AI’s ability to drive growth and prosperity and increase public trust in its use and application. In taking a “deliberately agile and iterative approach”, the government said that its framework was “designed to build the evidence base so that we can learn from experience and continuously adapt to develop the best possible regulatory regime”.
The white paper said that the government’s framework is underpinned by five principles to “guide and inform the responsible development and use of AI in all sectors of the economy”. These principles are:
- safety, security and robustness
- appropriate transparency and explainability
- accountability and governance
- contestability and redress
The government said that these principles would not initially be put on a statutory footing. However, the white paper also added that “following this initial period of implementation” the government anticipated introducing a statutory duty on regulators requiring them to have due regard to these principles.
The white paper also said that the government had identified several central support functions required to make sure that the overall framework offered a “proportionate but effective” response to risk while promoting innovation across the regulatory landscape. These included monitoring and evaluation of the overall regulatory framework’s effectiveness and assessing and monitoring risks across the economy arising from AI. The white paper said this would not entail the creation of a new AI regulator.
The government ran a consultation on the white paper which closed on 21 June 2023. The consultation sought feedback on the government’s proposals, including:
- our revised cross-sectoral principles, including safety and transparency
- a statutory duty requiring regulators to have due regard to the cross-sectoral principles
- new central functions that focus on coherence across the regulatory landscape, cross-sectoral risk, and monitoring and evaluation
- additional education and awareness support for consumers, businesses, and regulators
- the allocation of legal responsibility for AI throughout the value chain
- approaches to the regulation of foundation models
- an AI regulatory sandbox
The government has not yet published its response to the consultation.
To support its aims, the government has created a new taskforce to replace the AI Council which previously supported policymaking in this area. The taskforce is led by technology entrepreneur Ian Hogarth. It has been given £100mn to develop a British generative AI model akin to ChatGPT to be used in the health service and elsewhere. Ian Hogarth has been one of the voices warning about the potential misuse of AI.
House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee report
On 31 August 2023, the House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee published a report entitled ‘The governance of artificial intelligence: Interim report’.
On the subject of legislation the committee expressed concern that the electoral cycle could mean that any legislation on AI may not be in place until late 2025, if no legislation is brought forward in the November 2023 King’s Speech:
The government is yet to confirm whether AI-specific legislation will be included in the upcoming King’s Speech in November. This new session of Parliament will be the last opportunity before the general election for the UK to legislate on the governance of AI. Following the election it is unlikely that new legislation could be enacted until late 2025—more than two years from now and nearly three years from the publication of the white paper.
The committee argued that the government’s comment about introducing a statutory duty for regulators to have due regard to the white paper’s five principles “suggests that there should be a tightly-focussed AI bill in the new session of Parliament”. The committee said:
Our view is that this would help, not hinder, the prime minister’s ambition to position the UK as an AI governance leader. We see a danger that if the UK does not bring in any new statutory regulation for three years it risks the government’s good intentions being left behind by other legislation—like the EU AI Act—that could become the de facto standard and be hard to displace.
The government has not yet responded to the committee’s report.
Artificial intelligence: Global safety summit
On 4 September 2023, the UK government set out its ambitions for a forthcoming AI summit to be held on 1 and 2 November 2023 at Bletchley Park. It had announced plans to host the summit earlier in the year.
The government intends that the AI safety summit will bring together key countries, as well as leading technology organisations, academia and civil society to inform rapid national and international action at the frontier of AI development. The summit will focus on risks created or significantly exacerbated by the most powerful AI systems, particularly those associated with the potentially dangerous capabilities of these systems.
The government has published a discussion paper on the capabilities and risks of frontier AI ahead of the summit.
On 26 October 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made a speech on AI at the Royal Society in London. Mr Sunak said that he believed technologies like AI “will bring a transformation as far-reaching as the industrial revolution, the coming of electricity, or the birth of the internet”. However, he also said that AI would bring new dangers and new fears. He said the UK’s answer was “not to rush to regulate”. Mr Sunak described this as a “point of principle” and that the UK believed in innovation “so we will always have a presumption to encourage it, not stifle it”. He asked the question “and in any case, how can we write laws that make sense for something we don’t yet fully understand?”. Instead, he said the UK’s approach was to build “world-leading” capability to evaluate and understand the safety of AI within government. He asserted that the UK was doing more to keep people safe than other countries.
In the speech, Mr Sunak also announced the establishment of what he described as the world’s first AI safety institute. The institute would examine new models of AI and explore their risks “from social harms like bias and misinformation, through to the most extreme risks of all”.
Mr Sunak said that the UK would work with other countries, civil society and AI companies, and the global AI safety summit was part of this approach. At the summit, Mr Sunak said that he intended to propose the establishment of a global expert panel, to be nominated by the countries and organisations in attendance. This panel would publish a ‘state of AI science report’.
The House of Lords has appointed an AI in Weapon Systems Committee to consider the use of AI in weapon systems.
For further information on AI, see the following Lords Library briefings:
- House of Lords Library, ‘Artificial intelligence: Development, risks and regulation’, 18 July 2023
- House of Lords Library, ‘Artificial intelligence policy in the UK: Liaison Committee report’, 17 May 2022
2.2 Online pornography regulation review
On 3 July 2023, the government announced a review of the regulation of online pornography in the UK. It said it would investigate any gaps in UK regulation that “allows exploitation or abuse to take place online, as well as identifying barriers to enforcing criminal law”. The government has said that the work was separate to, but builds on, the Online Safety Bill “which will hold social media companies and pornography services accountable for ensuring children cannot view pornography, with a new higher standard on the age verification or age estimation tools they must use”.
For further discussion of the review, see the House of Lords Library briefing, ‘King’s Speech 2023: Crime and justice’ (1 November 2023).
2.3 Private telecoms networks
On 5 July 2023, the government launched a public call for information on the uses and security of private telecoms networks in the UK.
The government noted that private networks were different to public networks and provided bespoke services to closed user groups. It said that the call for information would help it to decide if any government intervention in this area was required:
The call for information will help the government develop its understanding of the private telecoms market, including the technologies being deployed, the sectors using these networks, and the security measures taken to protect them. This information will be used to determine if any government intervention is required to promote the security and resilience of private telecoms networks.
The consultation closed on 13 September 2023. At the time of writing the government is analysing the feedback it has received.
2.4 Reviewing the broadband universal service obligation
On 2 October 2023, the government launched a consultation on whether changes are required to the broadband universal service obligation (USO) to ensure that it stays up to date with the current technical standards.
The USO was launched in March 2020 and provides premises with the right to request broadband services of at least 10 megabits per second download speed and 1 megabit per second upload speed, subject to certain eligibility criteria.
The consultation closes on 27 November 2023 and the government has said it would conduct a further consultation on specific changes were it to move ahead with any changes to the broadband USO, including any legislative changes that may be needed:
The government recognises that some of the areas that are discussed within this document currently sit within the competence of Ofcom under the Communications Act  and associated legislation. Should the government move ahead with any changes to the broadband USO, including to the areas that Ofcom is currently responsible for, a further consultation would be forthcoming to provide further information on the specific nature of the changes, including what legislative changes, or otherwise, would be needed to affect these amendments.
For example, in the consultation document’s section on industry delivery, the government said it would consider whether legislative changes were required:
Any feedback received as a result of the consultation will be considered to make the best judgement on the next steps for the USO including whether any legislative changes are required, and how it interacts with other government policy considerations including policy for both project gigabit and very hard to reach premises.
The government is also conducting a consultation on improving broadband for very hard to reach premises. This also closes on 27 November 2023. The government has said it believes that intervention is needed for very hard to reach premises because of the importance of digital connectivity:
Good digital connectivity will play an essential role in levelling up our rural communities. Improved broadband helps businesses and households unlock their ambition, increase productivity, and expand opportunities for flexible working, online education, and leisure activities.
The consultation document set out 11 evaluation criteria to “frame our assessment of a potential policy option’s viability to deliver an improved broadband connection to very hard to reach premises”. Criteria 7 is assessing any legislative requirements:
We propose to assess policies based upon whether primary or secondary legislation may be needed to secure its successful implementation, and where possible, any challenges that this might present.
- Explanatory notes to the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill, para 1. Return to text
- As above, para 4. Return to text
- HC Hansard, 17 April 2023, col 73. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Office for Artificial Intelligence, ‘A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation’, 29 March 2023. Return to text
- HL Hansard, 24 July 2023, col 66. Return to text
- HL Hansard, 24 October 2023, col 501. Return to text
- As above. For further discussion on different approaches to AI regulation, see: House of Lords Library, ‘Artificial intelligence: Development, risks and regulation’, 18 July 2023, section 5. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Office for Artificial Intelligence, ‘AI regulation: A pro-innovation approach—policy proposals’, 29 March 2023. Return to text
- As above. Return to text
- HM Government, ‘AI council’, accessed 25 October 2023. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Prime Minister’s Office, ‘Initial £100 million for expert taskforce to help UK build and adopt next generation of safe AI’, 24 April 2023. Return to text
- Ian Hogarth, ‘We must slow down the race to god-like AI’, Financial Times (£), 13 April 2023. Return to text
- House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, ‘The governance of artificial intelligence: Interim report’, 31 August 2023, HC 1769 of session 2022–23, p 30. Return to text
- As above. Return to text
- As above. For further information on the EU’s proposed approach to AI regulation, see: House of Lords Library, ‘Artificial intelligence: Development, risks and regulation’, 18 July 2023, section 5.1. On 24 October 2023, the Guardian reported that the EU was close to agreement on its AI Act: Lisa O’Carroll, ‘EU ‘in touching distance’ of world’s first laws regulating artificial intelligence’, Guardian, 24 October 2023. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, ‘AI safety summit: Introduction’, updated 11 October 2023. Return to text
- Prime Minister’s Office, ‘UK to host first global summit on artificial intelligence’, 7 June 2023. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, ‘Frontier AI: Capabilities and risks—discussion paper’, 25 October 2023. Return to text
- Prime Minister’s Office, ‘Prime Minister’s speech on AI: 26 October 2023’, 26 October 2023. Return to text
- House of Lords AI in Weapon Systems Committee, ‘AI in Weapon Systems Committee’, accessed 26 October 2023. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Ministry of Justice, ‘Pornography review launched to ensure strongest safeguards’, 3 July 2023. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, ‘Government issues call for information on use of private telecoms’, 5 July 2023. Return to text
- As above. Return to text
- As above. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, ‘Private telecommunications networks: Call for information’, 5 July 2023. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, ‘Reviewing the broadband universal service obligation’, 2 October 2023. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, ‘Digital connectivity: Consultation on reviewing the broadband universal service obligation’, October 2023, p 17. Return to text
- As above, p 73. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, ‘Improving broadband for very hard to reach premises’, 2 October 2023. Return to text
- Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, ‘Digital connectivity: Consultation on improving broadband for very hard to reach premises’, October 2023, p 24. Return to text
- As above, p 40. Return to text
- As above, p 42. Return to text