On 6 February 2024, the Government published its response to the March 2023 consultation on a pro-innovation approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI) regulation. The consultation response sets out a summary of the evidence the Government received along with its formal response and next steps for the AI regulation framework.
The consultation sought views on the Government’s proposals for implementing a proportionate and pro-innovation framework for regulating AI, as set out in an AI regulation white paper published at the same time. This included revised cross-sectoral principles to guide safe and responsible AI innovation and proposals for a new central function within government to coordinate, oversee, and evaluate the regulatory framework for AI.
The Ministerial foreword to the consultation response, written by Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, notes that the response paper is “another clear, decisive step forward” for the UK’s ambitions to lead in safe AI and to confirm its position as a science and technology superpower by the end of the decade.
In the response paper, the Government states that the UK is leading the world in responding to the challenges presented by AI, and that the UK’s approach to preparing for such a future is “firmly pro-innovation”. It highlights the importance of ensuring AI’s trustworthiness and public adoption through a strong pro-safety approach in order to realise the benefits of these technologies. The paper comes as the Government announces over £100 million to help realise new AI innovations and support regulators’ technical capabilities.
The Government explains that its proposed regulatory framework builds on the existing strengths of the UK’s thriving AI industry and expert regulatory ecosystem, focusing on ensuring that regulators are prepared to face the new challenges and opportunities that AI can bring to their domains. It is announcing several new initiatives aimed at making the UK an even better place to build and use AI, including the allocation of £10 million to jumpstart regulators’ AI capabilities, a commitment by UK Research and Innovation that future investments in AI will be leveraged to support regulator skills and expertise, and a £9 million partnership with the US on responsible AI as part of the International Science Partnerships Fund.
The response paper also outlines the Government’s regulatory framework, and the importance of achieving cohesion across the landscape.
The proposed regulatory framework
In the response paper, the Government confirms its plans to introduce 5 cross-sectoral principles for existing regulators to interpret and apply within their remits in order to drive safe, responsible AI innovation:
- Safety, security and robustness.
- Appropriate transparency and explainability.
- Accountability and governance.
- Contestability and redress.
These cross-sectoral principles will be combined with a context-specific framework, international leadership and collaboration, and voluntary measures on developers, with the aim of allowing regulation to keep pace with rapid and uncertain advances in AI. More specifically, other aspects of the regulatory framework that were outlined in the consultation paper and are discussed further in the response paper include:
- 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 response paper notes that the Government is continuing to work closely with regulators to develop the regulatory framework for AI, ensure coherent implementation, and build regulator capability. It has published initial guidance to regulators alongside the response paper, on how to apply the cross-sector AI principles within their existing remits, and will update this guidance over time to ensure it reflects developments in the regime and in technological advances in AI. The Government plans to establish a steering committee by spring 2024 to support and guide the activity of the central regulator coordination function.
The Government also flags that the challenges posed by AI technologies will ultimately require legislative action in every country once understanding of risk has matured. The response paper therefore sets out the Government’s early thinking, and the questions it will need to consider, for the next stage of its regulatory approach. It intends to consult on its plan for monitoring and evaluating the regulatory framework in 2024.
The Government is asking several regulators to publish an update outlining their strategic approach to AI by 30 April 2024. Furthermore, the upcoming months will see the Government formally establish activities to support regulator capabilities and coordination, including a new steering committee with Government and regulator representatives to support coordination across the AI governance landscape. The Government will conduct targeted consultations on its cross-economy AI risk register and plan to assess the regulatory framework, as well as continuing its work to address “the key issues of today” and continuing to lead international conversations on AI governance across a range of fora and initiatives in the lead up to the next AI Safety Summits.