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Standards watchdog to hold inquiry on AI and standards in public sector

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has announced a review into artificial intelligence and its impact on standards across the public sector.

The watchdog said the review would examine “whether the existing frameworks and regulations are sufficient to ensure that high standards of conduct are upheld as technologically assisted decision-making is adopted more widely across the public sector”.

The terms of reference for the inquiry can be found here.

Lord Evans, chair of the CSPL, said: “Honesty, integrity, objectivity, openness, leadership, selflessness and accountability were first outlined by Lord Nolan as the standards expected of those who act on the public’s behalf.

“These principles have stood the test of time and are deeply embedded across much of the public sector - from the Civil Service and NHS bodies to local councils and schools. The increasing development and use of data and data-enabled technologies in our public services can potentially bring huge advantages in terms of pace and scale of service delivery, but there are some major ethical and practical challenges about what this means for accountability, objectivity and the other Nolan principles."

Lord Evans added: “As the committee celebrates its 25th year as an advisory body conducting broad reviews of key ethical issues, we want to look at what the future holds for public services and help ensure that high standards of conduct continue to be ‘built in’ to new ways of making decisions on the public’s behalf.

“We are keen to hear from individuals and organisations who are developing policy, systems or safeguards on the use of AI as we gather evidence for this review.”

The CSPL expects to publish its report in the New Year.

The Seven Principles of Public Life (The Nolan Principles):
 Selflessness
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits themselves, their family, or their friends.
 Integrity
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
 Objectivity
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
 Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
 Openness
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
 Honesty
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their
public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
 Leadership
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and examples.