Keir Starmer: UK must ‘fast forward’ on AI regulation

Keir Starmer AI London Tech Week Image credit: London Tech Week

The UK must “fast forward” on AI regulation and ensure everyone benefits from the latest technological advancements, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

Speaking at London Tech Week, Starmer said there is “huge potential” and “incredible opportunities” with AI, but there are also risks around misinformation and threats to some jobs.

Starmer said he is “not attracted to universal basic income” – a model in which every citizen is paid guaranteed income by the government that some see as a solution to AI’s disruptive impact on jobs.

“The advantage here would be for AI to take some of the jobs that AI would be able to do, and for us to make sure that we can train and retrain and reskill the workforce into other areas,” Starmer said. “That’s where I would put my energy.”

The leader of the opposition took aim at the government by claiming that three prime ministers in less than a year has deterred investment in the UK because investors “don’t see the conditions of certainty and stability”.

While he agrees with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak setting up a global AI summit later this year, he believes the UK is “nowhere near where we need to be on the question of [AI] regulation.”

He added: “There’s a bit of piecemeal sector-by-sector regulation in the medical field, legal field, medical field, financial services – but we haven’t got an overarching framework and so we’ve got to get our hands around this.”

The effects of AI are more likely to take place over the next 12 to 18 months rather than five to seven years, he added, highlighting the need to move quickly.

The Labour leader also addressed concerns around companies like semiconductor giant Arm opting to re-list in the US over the UK.

“The problem with startups is that when they scale up, it tends to go elsewhere,” Starmer said. “So we’ve got to capture that problem, which is about access to capital, and create the environment where we can succeed on it.”

He said that “it’s probably wrong” to make R&D funding levels a “competition” with other nations and that a Labour government would instead focus on partnerships with business.

On Monday, Sunak – also speaking at London Tech Week – said he wants to make the UK the “geographical home of global AI safety regulation” amid warnings that the technology could pose a risk to humanity alongside pandemics and nuclear war.

Starmer said he is “more grounded” than the existential threat view of AI, and that most people will be more focused on what it means for job security.

The UKTN team is reporting from London Tech Week throughout the event. Subscribe to the daily newsletter to stay up to date.