AI in the UK: No Room for Complacency Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.In this report we examine the progress which has been made by the Government in the implementation of the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence in their report AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?1

A new procedure

2.Each session the House appoints a number of special inquiry committees—usually four—to inquire into a particular topic and to report to the House by the end of the session. The Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence was one of those appointed in the first year of the session 2017–19. Such special inquiry committees are not sessional committees, continuing from one session to the next; they are set up to report on a particular topic, and cease to exist once they have agreed their report. There is therefore no specialist committee able to continue the work of monitoring implementation by the Government and others of the recommendations they make.

3.In the past the Liaison Committee has carried out this task by correspondence with Ministers, and we have done so in the case of the report of this Select Committee.2 However the Liaison Committee has not in the past followed up special inquiry reports with oral evidence sessions. One of the reasons is that its members do not necessarily have the specialist knowledge and expertise in the subject of the inquiry which members of the Select Committee have acquired in the course of their inquiry. In its report Review of House of Lords Investigative and Scrutiny Committees: towards a new thematic committee structure,3 the Liaison Committee accordingly recommended that at an appropriate time after the publication of a report the Chair of a former Select Committee could make the case for the Liaison Committee to co-opt some of the members of the former Committee to hold a small number of oral evidence sessions to follow up the recommendations.

4.This is the first occasion on which this new procedure has been utilised. Our initial view is that this is a successful development, and a useful new tool for ensuring that special inquiry committees can pursue their goals even after they have technically been dissolved. We look forward to using this procedure in the case of other committees when time allows.

The Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence

5.The Select Committee was appointed by the House on 29 June 2017 with the remit “to consider the economic, ethical and social implications of advances in artificial intelligence”.4 Its report, published on 16 April 2018, made a large number of recommendations, mainly addressed to the Government. The Government responded to these recommendations in June 2018,5 and the report and response were debated in the House on 19 November 2018.6 Lord McFall of Alcluith, the Senior Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Liaison Committee, wrote to the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation on 30 January 2020 with a number of questions.7 We received a very full reply on 14 August 2020.8

6.Lord Clement-Jones, who was Chair of the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, wrote to Lord McFall on 11 February 2020 making the case for evidence sessions to be held on the AI Committee’s report. At a meeting on 26 February 2020 the Liaison Committee accepted this,9 and evidence sessions were arranged for March. They had to be postponed, but eventually took place on 14 October 2020, when five members of the former Select Committee joined the Liaison Committee to hear evidence from nine witnesses over three sessions. The names of the members are recorded in Appendix 1, and those of the witnesses in Appendix 2. We are most grateful to them all.

7.In this report we analyse the evidence that we received, and make further recommendations to the Government for action. We look forward to receiving the Government’s response.


1 Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, AI in the UK: ready, willing and able? (Session 2017–19, HL Paper 100)

2 See para 5

4 HL Deb, 29 June 2017, cols 562–563

5 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Government response to House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Select Committee’s report on ‘AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?’, CM 9645, 28 June 2018: https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/Artificial-Intelligence/AI-Government-Response2.pdf [accessed 9 December 2020]

6 HL Deb, 19 November 2018, cols 12–63

7 Letter from the Senior Deputy Speaker to the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation on the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, 30 January 2020: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/62/documents/704/default/

8 Letter from the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation to the Senior Deputy Speaker on the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, 14 August 2020: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/2604/documents/26039/default/

9 Liaison Committee, ‘26 February – Decisions document’: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/423/documents/1580/default/




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