AI and Diplomacy

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – in the House of Commons at on 13 June 2023.

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Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth

What recent assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of artificial intelligence on diplomacy.

Photo of Paul Holmes Paul Holmes Conservative, Eastleigh

What recent assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of artificial intelligence on diplomacy.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

What recent assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of artificial intelligence on diplomacy.

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Artificial intelligence can bring huge economic and social benefits for the UK and our global partners. We are working with key partners to embrace the opportunities of AI, as well as seeking global co-operation on managing the risks. AI will present significant new opportunities to revolutionise how the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office operates, and how it delivers impactful diplomatic and development outcomes across the globe.

Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth

Since I delivered my speech written by AI in the House in December, we have moved on to the fourth iteration of ChatGPT, which wrote it. Advancements are happening at such pace that we need to build a regulatory framework to prevent a similar situation to the one that we find ourselves in with the internet: 20 years on, we are trying to police it. What is my right hon. Friend doing to pull the world together around a globally agreed framework on AI?

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I did not have the pleasure of hearing my hon. Friend’s ChatGPT-written speech, but I shall definitely look it up and see just how good it was. On 7 June, the Prime Minister, who was in the USA with President Biden, announced plans for the UK to launch the first global AI safety summit, so that we can do exactly what my hon. Friend says: try to tackle the challenge of agreeing safety measures, in order to evaluate and monitor the most significant risks from AI. The FCDO will engage with key international partners to deliver the Prime Minister’s ambition for the summit.

Photo of Paul Holmes Paul Holmes Conservative, Eastleigh

It was good to see the Prime Minister visit Washington last week to continue building our relationship with the United States, so that it is the strongest it can be. Will the Minister outline how we will work with the United States to ensure that the AI summit that was agreed to can be a success under UK leadership?

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The Prime Minister and President Biden agreed that the UK and US would take a co-ordinated approach to the opportunities and challenges of the emerging tech that we see around us, such as AI. The UK welcomes early support from the US on the global summit on AI safety, which we will lead. We will work very closely with the US, and of course other international partners, to ensure that we deliver an important step forward on this issue.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

AI represents a massive opportunity across a number of sectors, including in the diplomatic sphere, but we must recognise that there are risks. Specifically, what is the Foreign Office doing to counter the potential efforts in this space of Russia and China, which may use artificial intelligence to undermine British interests overseas?

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Global co-operation will be vital to ensure that AI technologies and the rules governing their use are developed in the right way, and are aligned with our values of openness and freedom. The FCDO is working with departments across the UK’s national security ecosystem, including the National Cyber Security Centre, to ensure that we contribute to and benefit from advances in AI, while making sure that we increase our resilience against, and reduce the risk from, any threats that we face. We hope to have as many leading nations as possible involved in the AI summit.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

The opportunities of AI are global, but so are the threats. It is obvious that significant co-ordination and co-operation in scientific research will be essential. In that context, could the Minister explain how cutting ourselves off from the world’s biggest scientific research programme helps the United Kingdom?

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The hon. Gentleman is right: we absolutely all see the huge potential of AI, but we must not be complacent about the risks. That is why the UK, in leading the AI summit and bringing together all parties from around the world, will ensure that we establish world-leading governance and regulation, so that we can take the opportunities while ensuring public safety and trust.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Never! Humour aside, may I thank the Minister very much for her response? It has been quite positive. Given that artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on international relations, will she provide reassurance that all AI advances must and will be scrutinised to a greater extent, for the safety of the people in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Mr Speaker, I assume that your reference was to the hon. Member’s great intelligence, because that is what artificial intelligence is demonstrating it can be. It is always a joy to support what he says and answer his questions, and he is exactly right: by working through those international relationships, with the UK driving things and holding that really important leadership role, we want to be able to bring countries together through bilateral engagement, using the many multinational fora out there to really ensure that we are tackling and understanding those threats. We need to provide an environment in which, as AI develops, we can maintain oversight while ensuring that we take advantage of opportunities that will bring economic prosperity. I look at the work that we are doing across the world, and I see how it can assist developing countries to safely leapfrog ahead with technologies in so many ways.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

We have all seen how hybrid warfare has been used against this country and our allies in recent years, and of course AI systems could pose new cyber and information threats as well as providing economic and social opportunities. We have already called on the Government to close gaps in the AI White Paper by introducing proper oversight of models such as GPT-4, and I have raised with Ministers the specific issue of whether access is allowed in the FCDO. I was told that access was not permitted on FCDO corporate systems, but that further guidance was being developed. Has that guidance now been issued, and are FCDO staff currently able to access AI systems on personal devices, for example? What safety protocols are in place?

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

If I may, I will write to the hon. Gentleman, because I do not have the latest information on that issue.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs)

As we have heard, artificial intelligence presents opportunities but also threats, many of which are impossible to quantify at this time. That is as true in AI diplomacy as in anything else, so at the world’s first major AI conference, will the UK Government commit to developing and facilitating AI only with countries that respect human rights and will obey the rules of international law?

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

As we bring the world together at the AI summit in the autumn, we want to have discussions with all our international partners about what the rules of the road need to be. The UK Government are absolutely going to be leading on making sure that the facilitation of AI in every sphere of our lives takes place within a framework that provides safety and gives trust to both our citizens and the rest of the world.