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Key AI commitments of the major UK political parties

Posted on 18 June 2024

With the general election set for 4 July 2024, the UK's major political parties have unveiled their manifestos, each offering a distinct vision for the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the UK. Whilst some commentators are concerned about this election being the 'deepfake election', for businesses that either provide AI technologies or deploy them within their operations, understanding the respective policy proposals is crucial for strategic planning and compliance. Here's what AI stakeholders can potentially expect given each party's stance on AI development and regulation.

Labour: Regulation of the most powerful AI tools is key

Labour's approach to AI appears to be angled towards the regulation gap, claiming regulators are "ill-equipped" to keep up with rapid innovation and development of new technologies in this space. To combat this, its aim is to introduce thorough and "binding regulation" on the "handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models" to ensure its "safe development", through the incorporation of a new Regulatory Innovation Office.

The role of the Regulatory Innovation Office will be to consolidate existing Government functions to help regulators adapt to new technologies, streamline approval processes and manage cross-sectorial issues. However, there is no further information as to what the proposed 'binding regulation' might look like.

To enable innovation, Labour is committing to adopting an 'industrial strategy' that supports AI development, including the removal of planning barriers for new data centres and the establishment of a National Data Library. This library is intended to centralise research efforts and facilitate data-driven public services, with a strong emphasis on safeguarding public interests. This latter effort bears some similarity to the Conservative Party's ten-year plan to make the UK a global AI super-power, as first introduced in September 2021.

As well as a focus on regulatory oversight, Labour also touches on the ethical concerns around the deployment of AI, particularly commenting on deepfakes by airing its plan to introduce a ban on the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes[NO1] . This was already under consideration by the previous Conservative Government, which had introduced a proposal for a new offence of this nature in the Criminal Justice Bill, but did not proceed once the election was called. It is, therefore, likely that we will see a Labour Government taking a proactive approach to ethical AI development. Finally, Labour plans to lean on AI technologies to boost the level of care that patients accessing the NHS services can receive by doubling the number of AI-enabled scanners to provide more accurate, faster diagnostics. There are, however, no figures provided to indicate the level of investment that Labour would make to meet this aim.

Conservatives: Continued commitments to making the UK a world-leader for AI

It is no surprise that the Conservative Party aims to continue investing in and supporting the use of AI. Rishi Sunak held the world-first AI Summit at Bletchley Park last year and has been eager to place the UK at the forefront of AI innovation on a global scale.

If the electorate returns the Conservatives to Government on 4 July, we can expect a continuation of existing policies, as opposed to the rolling out of any major new ones. However, one of the challenges faced by the previous Conservative Government was how to navigate the difficult path between encouraging innovation in generative AI, such as Large Language Models, whilst also ensuring that the rights of creators are duly respected. Attempts to broker a voluntary code of practice between AI developers and rights holders (involving licensing of protected content) floundered earlier this year, with no agreement reached. Whilst the Conservatives return to the issue in their manifesto, stating that they will "ensure creators are properly protected and remunerated for their work, whilst also making the most of the opportunities of AI and its applications for creativity in the future", the lack of a concrete proposal is potentially telling. 

The Conservatives intend to increase public R&D spending, with a rise to £22 billion per year from £20 billion. This investment includes over £1.5 billion for large-scale compute clusters, essential for AI processing power, and research into its safe and responsible use. The Conservatives also plan to maintain current R&D tax reliefs.

Although no figures have been committed in the manifesto, the Conservatives have committed to doubling digital and AI expertise in the Civil Service to generate a "significant productivity boost", despite also broadly promising to return the Civil Service "pre-pandemic size".

The NHS Productivity Plan, with a commitment to invest £3.4 billion in technology, promises to leverage AI to improve patient care and operational efficiency, with an emphasis on the NHS App as being the "single front door for NHS services". The policy also includes updating outdated tech within the NHS to cut down on the 13 million hours lost by NHS staff to tech issues every year.

Additionally, the creation of a new Defence Innovation Agency would focus on R&D in AI for military applications, possibly opening avenues for defence-related AI innovation and accelerating investments in new weapon systems.

Liberal Democrats: A global outlook

The Liberal Democrats' manifesto is slightly less detailed in terms of its AI commitments. However, there is a clear focus on the regulatory and ethical aspects of AI within the global landscape.

The Liberal Democrats aim to position the UK as a "world leader" in the development and use of 'ethical' AI. Their manifesto calls for a comprehensive cross-sectoral regulatory framework that balances innovation with stability, creating certainty for AI users, developers and investors. It also claims to establish transparency and accountability for AI systems in the public sector and focusses on the requirement for "unbiased, transparent and accurate" use of personal data which "respects the privacy of innocent people".  

A key Liberal Democrat policy is seeking to negotiate the UK's participation in the Trade and Technology Council with the US and the EU, advocating for a leading role in global AI regulation. The intention is that international collaboration could give rise to "common standards for AI risk and impact assessment, testing, monitoring and audit".

However, it is unclear what these changes will mean in practice as the UK already has a seat at the table for global AI regulation and the concepts set out in the manifesto are already a focus of global efforts to develop and innovate in the AI space.

Green Party: A precautionary tale

Whilst recognising the benefits of AI technology, the Greens are proposing a risk-based approach, whereby AI would be regulated on a precautionary basis. They also seek to take inspiration and wish to align a UK regulatory approach with UNESCO and key innovative jurisdictions. However, with each of these jurisdictions adopting different approaches, it is unclear how the Green Party would achieve the level of cohesion that it aspires to. Regulating solely with risk in mind could, of course, lead to a stifling and overly-restrictive legislative framework.

Privacy concerns are also on the list, with the manifesto containing a commitment to ensure that the benefits of the technology are weighed against the impact of the technology on the fundamental rights and freedoms of persons in the UK, a theme which has also featured in the EU's Artificial Intelligence Act.

The impact of AI on the UK workforce is also addressed, in response to public concerns that the widespread adoption of AI tools will lead to a reduction in employment opportunities. The Green Party is pledging to ensure that workers' rights and interests are respected when the use of or adoption of AI tools leads to significant changes in working conditions.

Finally, they pledge to protect the rights of creators, artists, writers and musicians who we have seen become increasingly vocal about the impact of AI technologies on their industries, be it bringing claims (largely in the US) against organisations like OpenAI over unauthorised use of their work to train AI models or arranging protests, such as the SAG-AFTRA and Equity protests in 2023. You can follow these cases on our Generative AI Intellectual Property Cases and Policy Tracker.


As the election approaches, the manifestos highlight differing priorities: Labour's focus on the stability of AI regulation; the Conservatives' emphasis on investment and strategic sectors; and the Liberal Democrats' advocacy for ethical leadership and international cooperation.

One risk of legislating and regulating AI too early is setting rules for a form of technology which is rapidly evolving, and that such regulation or legislation could therefore stifle innovation. However, the success of the EU AI Act is likely to be seen as a driving force. A risk of not legislating at all would be losing control over how we want to legislate in the future, if global approaches veer in an opposite direction. The chosen direction on 4 July will not only shape the UK's AI landscape but also influence the operations of businesses operating in this field.



For a detailed analysis of how these proposed policies might affect your AI-related business activities and for bespoke advice on navigating the post-election landscape, please reach out to our Technology team with AI expertise at Mishcon de Reya LLP.

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