The Committee looks at the significance of EU proposals and decides whether to clear the document from scrutiny or withhold clearance and ask questions of the Government. The Committee also has the power to recommend documents for debate.
The Committee is now looking at documents in the light of the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU. Issues are explored in greater detail in report chapters and, where appropriate, in the summaries below. The Committee notes that in the current week the following issues and questions have arisen in documents or in correspondence with Ministers:
Residues of pharmaceutical products may enter the environment during manufacture, use and disposal. The resulting pollution caused by some pharmaceuticals is an emerging problem, with evidence of risks to the environment and, potentially, to human health. The Committee was disappointed with the Minister’s initial analysis of the Commission’s proposed strategic approach to tackling the issue. She has responded with substantially more detail, accepting the Committee’s contention that EU policy in this area, including amendments to EU water quality legislation, could be relevant to the UK in the future. This could be a particular issue for the Irish border, including under a “no-deal” Brexit. She expects any future relationship agreement with the EU to contain a reciprocal non-regression commitment (a commitment to at least maintain current environmental standards) and also acknowledges the need to take forward national policy in this area in parallel with EU work. At the UK level, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs plans to develop a national plan to manage risks from pharmaceuticals in the environment. The Committee welcomes the information provided by the Minister.
Cleared; drawn to the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee
The European Commission has adopted and is steadily progressing the implementation of its Coordinated Action Plan for Artificial Intelligence (AI) The Action Plan proposed loose coordination of national approaches as opposed to EU-level regulation, alongside increased investment (through Horizon Europe and Digital Europe) and the ongoing development of a Common European Data Space. The Minister (Margot James MP) was supportive of the proposed Guidelines and did not raise any concerns regarding the Action Plan.
The Commission also adopted Ethical Guidelines developed by the AI High-level Expert Group in April 2019 and launched a piloting phase which will last until the end of the year, before the guidelines are revised. The guidelines highlight trust as a prerequisite to ensure a human-centric approach to the development of AI. The Minister welcomes “the rights-based approach proposed in the guidelines as a more practical way to define the ethical challenges surrounding the deployment of AI”.
The implications of EU exit for AI in the UK primarily relate to the extent of UK participation in the Horizon Europe and Digital Europe programmes, and also the variable implications of non-participation in the EU’s various data-related frameworks. As for many sectors, access to skills will also be a key issue. If the EU were to adopt a more integrated approach to regulating AI in the future, the UK would have to choose between alignment and divergence.
As the two Communications are not legislative proposals, and further Communications on the implementation of the Action Plan will be forthcoming in the near future, which the Committee will have the opportunity to scrutinise, the Committee cleared the documents from scrutiny.
Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: Artificial Intelligence [Commission Communications (C)]
Committee on Exiting the European Union: Plurilateral negotiations on electronic commerce in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) [Proposed Decision (C)]
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee: Artificial Intelligence [Commission Communications (C)]
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee: Pharmaceuticals in the environment [Commission Communication (C)]
Environmental Audit Committee: Pharmaceuticals in the environment [Commission Communication (C)]
Foreign Affairs Committee: Enlargement of the European Union: status of candidate countries in 2019 [Commission Communication (C)]
Health and Social Care Committee: Pharmaceuticals in the environment [Commission Communication (C)]
International Trade Committee: Plurilateral negotiations on electronic commerce in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) [Proposed Decision (C)]
Published: 2 July 2019