The House of Commons Science and Technology Commons Select Committee have launched an inquiry into the 'Governance of artificial intelligence (AI)'.  As the Committee's website says, 'Inquiries allow committees to consider oral and written evidence on a particular topic [and] usually result in the publication of a report.'  That report will be of interest, in part, because the Committee will examine the UK government's White Paper expected later this year on proposals to regulate AI in the UK (we summarised the UK Policy and consultation here, and our response to that consultation here).

Why has the Inquiry been launched?

The Committee seeks evidence on 

  • the current governance of AI;
  • whether the Government’s proposed approach is the right one; and
  • how their plans compare with other countries.

Ultimately, the Committee 'exists to ensure that Government policies and decision-making are based on solid scientific evidence and advice.'  This is important because the Committee recognises the benefits and risks of AI:

Used to spot patterns in large datasets, make predictions, and automate processes, AI’s role in the UK economy and society is growing. However, there are concerns around its use. MPs will examine the potential impacts of biased algorithms in the public and private sectors. A lack of transparency on how AI is applied and how automated decisions can be challenged will also be investigated.

The Inquiry's timing is highly relevant.  Along with the UK's White Paper it will come at a time of further progress in potential and actual AI regulation, including:

Call for evidence

The Inquiry has opened a consultation on the following questions:

  • How effective is current governance of AI in the UK?
    • What are the current strengths and weaknesses of current arrangements, including for research?
  • What measures could make the use of AI more transparent and explainable to the public?
  • How should decisions involving AI be reviewed and scrutinised in both public and private sectors?
    • Are current options for challenging the use of AI adequate and, if not, how can they be improved?
  • How should the use of AI be regulated, and which body or bodies should provide regulatory oversight?
  • To what extent is the legal framework for the use of AI, especially in making decisions, fit for purpose?
    • Is more legislation or better guidance required?
  • What lessons, if any, can the UK learn from other countries on AI governance?

Next steps

Consultation written submissions are due by 25 November 2022.  We can then expect the Inquiry to:

  • consider those written submissions; 
  • hear oral evidence;
  • produce a report on their findings.

We do not know how long the above will take.  By way of a loose comparison, the Committee's inquiry into 'UK Science, Research and Technology Capability and Influence in Global Disease Outbreaks' was launched on 20 March 2020 and produced its first report on 8 January 2021.  In due course, the government may then respond to the report.

If you would like to discuss how current or future regulations impact what you do with AI, please contact Tom Whittaker or Brian Wong.