UK Government 2024– All Change at the Top

The recent (July 2024) General Election in the UK may or may not change the rules and boundaries on software and AI in the UK.  The new Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology is Peter Kyle MP.   Mr Kyle had previously been Shadow Minister for Victims and Youth Justice (2020), then Shadow Minister for Schools (2021), Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary (2021) before becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology (2023).  There is no history of direct involvement with governing technology in any of his previous roles outside of politics.

Two Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State have been appointed, neither with any responsibilities yet defined but an outgoing office holder was Viscount Camrose, a Conservative peer, with the title Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for AI and Intellectual Property.  It might be assumed that a new Under Secretary would have a similar responsibility.  Of the two current holders Feryal Clark MP was previously Shadow Minister for Crime Reduction and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch who also has a similar position in the Department for Business and Trade.  Baroness Jones of Whitchurch’s roots are in trade unions.  From 2015 was Labour’s Shadow Environment Minister in the Lords.

There is no obvious computing or technology skill set for any of new officials.  Not that such knowledge is strictly essential as the core running of Government Departments is the role of civil servants and any decisions will be taken under advice from subject experts.  Peter Kyle does have experience in the field from his Shadow role. In June 2024 he promised to tighten AI safety with some form of legislation, suggested that a widespread adoption of AI would boost the UK economy and that Labour would “turbocharge” the sector by stepping out the way to allow large technology companies to build critical infrastructure like data centres in the UK.  The final point would be linked to Labour’s plan to ease UK planning restrictions.

Following the election previous Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has reiterated his call for the UK to embrace digital IDs.  Blair’s plans for ID cards were scrapped in 2010 after 8 years of debate and development.  Speaking on ITV after the election Peter Kyle hinted that some sort of digital identification might be planned although not a full ID card system.

“Right now, the priority when it comes to accessing digital services or online services or services per se is actually about verification.  ID cards conjure images of a universal service that affects everybody online and offline and everywhere else.”

The outgoing Conservative administration published a draft ‘Code of Practice for Software Vendors’ with a call for views period extending until 9 August 2024  which is still live.   The minister overseeing this was Viscount Camrose a Conservative peer and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for AI and Intellectual Property.

This Code of Practice could continue to evolve or be silently buried by the new administration.  In either case the effect would be limited as it aims to support and encourage rather than enforce change.  It is aimed at organisations developing and/or selling software to be sold to businesses and other organisations; this includes IoT device and cloud service suppliers.

The core principles are:

  • Secure design and development: this principle ensures that the product or service is appropriately secure when provided.
  • Build environment security: this principle ensures that the appropriate steps are taken to minimise the risk of build environments becoming compromised and protect the integrity and quality of the software.
  • Secure deployment and maintenance: this principle ensures that the product or service remains secure throughout its lifetime, to minimise the likelihood and impact of vulnerabilities.
  • Communication with customers: this principle ensures that vendor organisations provide sufficient information to customers to enable effective risk and incident management.

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