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Labour promises to get tougher on AI safety



Labour promises to get tougher on AI safety

A Labour government would tighten up regulations surrounding artificial intelligence, its shadow minister for science, innovation and technology told London Tech Week on Wednesday.

Peter Kyle said his party would keep the AI Safety Institute but “put it on a statutory footing”.

“At the moment, there’s a voluntary code regulating AI, particularly frontier AI,” he said. “We would legislate to require the frontier AI labs to release their safety data. That’s to make sure we legislate the standards that are already in the voluntary code.

“We don’t seek to disrupt the voluntary code, but we will certainly will make sure [the standards] are maintained and that any new entrants into the market will know that there’s a legislative foundation that must be adhered to.”

Mr Kyle added that a Labour administration would put the UK’s technology sector centre stage in a quest to boost economic growth.

If voted into power next month, Labour would place technology “at the heart of our missions and unblock the tech barriers to restart the engine of our economy”, he said.

Speaking to hundreds of tech entrepreneurs, chief executives and investors at London’s Olympia exhibition centre, Mr Kyle added that Labour wanted to “build and sustain the most dynamic technological environment for our country”.

The rival Conservative party’s election manifesto includes a pledge to increase research and development spending by £2 billon, a new fund to invest in female entrepreneurs, and investments in areas of advanced manufacturing.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak led an AI Safety Summit last year, welcoming senior leaders to Bletchley Park to discuss international priorities for the next five years.

“I believe there will be nothing more transformative to the futures of our children and grandchildren than technological advances like AI,” Mr Sunak said before the summit.

The Conservatives claim they will put more money in AI, should they win the upcoming election, by investing “over £1.5 billion in large-scale compute clusters”.

The party said the money would create the “raw processing power” necessary to “take advantage of the potential of AI”.

That £1.5 billion had already been announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his autumn statement last year.

Fuelling economic growth

Meanwhile, Mr Kyle confirmed that a Labour government would retain the DSIT (Department of Science, Innovation and Technology) to “harness the power of science and technology, to fuel economic growth and transform our public services”.

Mr Kyle said Labour would provide stability through 10-year funding budgets

“Crucially, DSIT will work on boosting adoption of digital technology, including AI, by business across the economy,” he said.

Mr Kyle highlighted a scenario put forward by the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) towards the end of last year, which imagined the widespread adoption of AI in the British economy and concluded that if it were to happen, productivity would be boosted by 0.5 per cent, or £75 billion by the fifth year.

“It is staggering for me that the government saw this potential and simply left it on the table.

“So, don’t underestimate the scale of ambition we have for your country and your sector,” he added.

What Mr Kyle did not do was place many figures on Labour’s plans. He spoke of creating a new National Data Library, but said nothing of the cost.

When the chips are down

He also declined to announce any new funding for the current government’s semiconductor plan, which is set to receive £1 billion over the next five years.

While the plan focuses on the design of computer chips, it is dwarfed by the $52.7 billion of US chip subsidies and €43 billion ($47 billion) of proposed EU investment.

When it was announced a year ago, the government’s semiconductor plan was met with considerable scepticism from the likes of Simon Thomas, chief executive and founder of graphene maker Paragraf, who described the £1 billion as little more than a “rounding error”.

Nonetheless, Mr Kyle told London Tech Week a future Labour government would “turbocharge” the sector by stepping out the way to allow large technology companies to build critical infrastructure like data centres in the UK.

At the moment, the government only adds planning delays and a lack of strategy and support, he said.

“Why isn’t government the third partner, instead of the most significant barrier?”

Updated: June 12, 2024, 4:01 PM

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