– in the House of Lords at 11:28 am on 23rd March 2023.
To ask His Majesty’s Government when they intend to introduce legislation on the United Kingdom’s data protection framework.
My Lords, the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill was introduced to Parliament on
I first welcome the Minister to his new role on the Front Bench, particularly given his undoubted expertise. However, I must ask him whether he understands the concerns of many at the proposal to allow NHS data to be uploaded to a data system based on tech from Palantir—of Cambridge Analytica infamy—that will offer inadequate data protection to patients? These concerns have only been increased by the Secretary of State’s claim that one of the purposes of the Bill is to give organisations greater confidence about the circumstances
“in which they can process personal data without consent.”
In other words, the Bill will reduce protection to individuals, not increase it, with one result being that some people will not seek the medical attention that they require.
I thank the noble Lord for his question. My first observation is that Palantir is a very good illustration of some of the new technology providers we are seeing, because the value it was able to provide and demonstrate is very great. However, the perfectly legitimate concerns about data privacy are, none the less, equally great. Any organisation operating in the UK or processing the personal data of people in the UK must comply with our strong and internationally renowned data protection laws, and those laws set out robust penalties for those who do not, including, as necessary, Palantir. Lastly, with respect to the Secretary of State’s remarks, the intention is by no means to reduce the requirement for data protection, merely in some cases to make it more straightforward to demonstrate that the requirements are being met.
My Lords, I join in welcoming the noble Viscount to the Dispatch Box in his role as the first Minister for AI and IP—I think it is the first time those two responsibilities have been joined together. I wish him every success. Given that there is a new data protection Bill in the Commons, does he agree that it would be highly damaging to our AI developers if we were to diverge too widely from the EU GDPR and risk access to the datasets on which they rely so heavily?
I thank the noble Lord and pay tribute to his expertise and knowledge in the area, of which I look forward to taking full advantage. The EU adequacy requirements are uppermost in our minds in continuing our ability to maintain the data relationship with it. I note that EU adequacy does not set out any particular legislative requirements to maintain adequacy, judged as it is on outcomes of data protection rather than its specific mechanisms. I am told that there are currently 14 jurisdictions that meet EU adequacy but have different legislative approaches to acquiring it. Our well-founded ambition is to be among them as well.
My Lords, I welcome my noble friend to the Front Bench and declare my technology interest. Does he agree that data is completely pervasive and all around us, that data literacy is critical and should be taught from the kindergarten right through life, and that data privacy is a key element of such data literacy teaching?
I thank my noble friend for his question and pay tribute to his well-known expertise in the area. Public confidence in the huge mass of data and in the changing systems and tools that use it is absolutely key. This goes into AI, cybersecurity and a range of other areas. That is why education for public confidence will be a key part of the Government’s strategy.
My Lords, I suggest that the Minister looks at the EU’s data adequacy decision. It is 52 pages long. The decision is a dynamic one and comes up for renewal on
I thank the noble Lord for his question and his suggestion. We will of course be engaging with the EU throughout, and we are under no illusions as to the importance of maintaining our adequacy arrangements with the EU.
My Lords, I welcome the noble Viscount to his new position. He says that the new Bill should be an opportunity to develop data regulations to put Britain at the forefront of the data revolution. However, instead of setting out a clear regime for the sector, it further complicates what is an overcomplex legislative area. I urge the noble Viscount to work with the Labour Party to ensure that this Bill is what the country needs, rather than just a series of patchwork amendments and more sweeping powers.
I thank the noble Lord for his kind words of welcome. I am absolutely willing to work with the Labour Party. I do not believe there is an ideological divide in approach, but more a pragmatic question of how we get this done. I observe that the overall economic impact of the Bill will contribute £4.7 billion of growth over the next 10 years; it is important to bear that in mind. When we discuss the Bill further, the noble Lord may come to feel that the characterisation of it as patchwork or disorganised is not entirely fair, but I look forward to working with him.
My Lords, I welcome the Minister to his place. The AI regulation policy paper published last July set out a framework for fostering responsible innovation in AI. It included principles such as ensuring AI is secure and operates as designed, is transparent and explainable, and embeds principles of fairness and redress. Given the accelerating LLM models and their rapid inclusion in daily life, can the Minister give the House some idea of how these principles might be included in the upcoming Bill?
The AI regulation White Paper is due for publication next week and my noble friend will see a lot of that detail set out in it. I observe for the time being that the approach is, as far as possible, to maintain sectoral regulation where it is but apply the principles that she mentioned over the top of it. I look forward to working with her on the AI White Paper, which I hope will set her concerns to rest.
My Lords, following up previous questions on adequacy, the Minister will be aware that these are ultimately matters for the European Court of Justice, where any Commission decisions can be challenged—and are often struck down, as the United States has found to its cost. Given the likelihood that any decisions of adequacy in respect of the revised UK law will be challenged, what preparations are the Government making so that they are out there, defending the interests of British business in front of the European Court of Justice in future? That is an easy question for the Minister’s first day out.
I thank the noble Lord and am always very much in favour of easy questions. As the Bill progresses through Parliament, we will indeed be engaging with the EU, as he suggests. I share his view that this is something we have to take extremely seriously and have proper preparation and engagement throughout.
I welcome the Minister to the Front Bench and his new role. In this new role, particularly its AI aspects, can he go across government—particularly into the MoD—to look at the use of AI and weapon systems and how that is moving forward, because there are some worrying areas?
I thank the Lord for his welcome. I should declare that I was previously a member of the Committee on AI and Weapon Systems before taking up my ministerial post. As for the niceties of the machinery of government, I must confess that I do not yet understand them, but I am very happy to write to the noble Lord once I understand more.