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Queen’s Speech - Debate (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:48 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Digital) 3:48 pm, 9th January 2020

My Lords, since we have just had the 12 days of Christmas, I want to use my five minutes to suggest 12 digital priorities for action by this new Government in the context of the Queen’s Speech—I will do so in shorthand, necessarily.

The first priority is action on online harms and internet safety. Will the Government bring forward a draft Bill for scrutiny, and designate Ofcom as the regulator to ensure the necessary work on codes of practice? Will they commit to bring back age verification for adult sites and widen it to cover social media platforms? Will they comply with the revised AVMS directive?

The second priority is to speed up the broadband rollout. What timescale is envisaged in the pledge to accelerate the rollout out of gigabit-capable broadband? Is it 100% by 2025, as promised by the Prime Minister in his leadership campaign?

The third priority is a moratorium on facial-recognition technology. The Home Office’s own Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group has questioned the accuracy of live facial-recognition technology and noted its potential for biased decision-making. Will the Government agree to a moratorium as a vital first step before regulation?

The fourth priority is the control of algorithmic decision-making. The Government have published a guide to using artificial intelligence in the public sector. What plans do they have to monitor its use and ensure that there is compliance?

The fifth priority is data governance. There is increasing concern about access and security of personal data. Look at the current Travelex case: even sharing by the NHS gives rise to concern. We need to go well beyond the GDPR, with much more control over our personal information through personal data accounts, hubs of all things and data trusts. Will the Government continue to fund work on this by the Open Data Institute, the Alan Turing Institute and others?

The sixth priority is changes to corporate governance. AI can and should contribute positively to a purposeful form of capitalism which is not simply about the pursuit of profit. It is imperative that boards have the right skill sets in order to fulfil their oversight role and take accountability. Will the Government develop corporate governance for the Al age as part of their proposals on company audit and corporate reporting?

The seventh priority is a new approach to employment, skills and retraining. Whatever the scale of disruption by AI to the jobs market, retraining will be a lifelong necessity. What can the Minister tell us about the rollout of the national retraining scheme? How does it relate to the national skills fund? Have the Government considered the idea of personal learning accounts? How will the Government encourage greater diversity in the training and recruitment of AI specialists to minimise bias in training data and decision-making?

The eighth priority is the strengthening of data and digital competition, especially in digital advertising. When is the Government’s response to the Furman report going to emerge? With which regulator will the new digital markets unit sit?

The ninth priority is the adoption of international norms on ethics. What is the Government’s intention going forward with AI principles, such as those developed by the OECD and G20 last year and the potential of AI to help solve the UN’s sustainable development goals?

The 10th priority is the reform of digital taxation. The Government plan to introduce a digital services tax, ensuring that tech giants pay their fair share. Will this support and build on the OECD’s proposals? What are the Government’s intentions in that respect?

The 11th priority is ensuring better digital understanding and media literacy. Do the Government’s plans include teaching on how to use social media responsibly and provide advice and support for parents on how to help their children protect themselves online?

The final priority is a strong digital trade policy. Will the UK put the digital economy at the heart of its trade policy? Crucial areas such as data adequacy, tech skills from overseas, the EU digital services Act, data sovereignty and the US CLOUD Act will all need to be tackled in our trade policy. I hope that many, if not most, of these priorities will also be the Government’s priorities. If they are, they will get support from these Benches.