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Labour "Left In The Dark" On Global AI Safety Summit

Peter Kyle was promoted to Shadow Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology in September (Alamy)

4 min read

The Shadow Minister for Tech and Digital Economy, Alex Davies-Jones, has accused the government of keeping Labour “in the dark” over plans for the landmark AI Safety Summit, hosted next week at Bletchley Park.

The AI Safety Summit will host delegates from countries from around the world, as well as top tech firms and civil society organisations, with the aim of discussing and understanding the risks posed by frontier AI. 

Writing in The House magazine, the Prime Minister’s representative on AI Matt Clifford said the summit would act as a “platform for urgent international action” and that discussing the risks of AI needed to be a “truly global conversation – one that includes some countries with whom we have profound differences”. 

China is among those countries invited, a move which has been met by some hawkish Conservative MPs who have accused the UK government of “failing to think long term” about threats posed by China. 

However, here in the UK, there are those who feel have been excluded from discussions surrounding the summit – including Labour, the main party of opposition. 

Asked by PoliticsHome whether Labour had been receiving any briefings from the government in the run-up to the summit, shadow minister Davies-Jones replied: “Not at all, from the government. Nothing has been told to us about this. We’re being left in the dark.”

“Ultimately, we are getting our updates from stakeholders within the tech sector, contacts we have in international relationships, academia and civil society, the majority of whom have been excluded from the talks as well,” she said.

“So very little is being shared from it, which has been a problem, because how do we know if this summit is even fit for purpose, we're not getting any information on it.”

In a speech on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority” alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.

Davies-Jones argued that the issues being discussed – particularly around existential risks posed by AI in the future – should not be “party political”.

“They are things that we all need to face, whether that's issues to national security, threat to democracy, the worries on current job protection, education, all of the things that are facing us at the moment, these shouldn't be party political,” she said. 

“These are things we should be coming together on to tackle, like we're doing internationally, like what this AI summit was meant to be achieving? Sadly, that's not what we're seeing in practice.”

Shadow Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Peter Kyle confirmed to PoliticsHome that he and the rest of the opposition frontbench or staff had not been invited to the summit itself, although some shadow ministers will be speaking at a series of independently-organised AI Fringe events.

“I am appearing at a high level fringe event with senior AI figures and policy experts but that’s independently arranged,” Kyle said.

“I’m also meeting many of the attendees in various meetings – most attendees are very keen to be bipartisan and have reached out to me.”

The chief executives of top AI companies OpenAI, Google, Deepmind, and Anthropic, are understood to be attending, as well as numerous other large tech firms. 

US Vice President Kamala Harris and President Emmanuel Macron of France are also expected to attend, but the EU has not yet confirmed whether President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen will attend.

Davies-Jones told PoliticsHome that tech sector contacts had told her they expect that attendance to the summit could be “patchy” and that many were concerned the event was going to be a “damp squib”.

“We are being told that it's very patchy in terms of which countries are actually sending a delegate… at one point, it was described to us that the Prime Minister was begging people to come to his party, because there's been very little appetite or take up from foreign delegations to actually attend,” she said.

“Because again, very little has been briefed on it. Foreign delegates need to be convinced that this is actually worth their time.”

The shadow minister also voiced her concern that the prime minister and the summit would be “very influenced” by big tech rather than “other voices in that space that needs to be heard”.

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