Top Tory can't tell Nick Ferrari where £38million of taxpayer cash will go in car crash interview on AI

1 November 2023, 11:26

Nick Ferrari wants to know why the Deputy PM doesn't know where £38m of taxpayers cash is going

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

During a car crash interview Nick Ferrari told Oliver Dowden he would be "bloody certain" where taxpayers' money was being spent if he was responsible for it.

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The Deputy Prime Minister was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast after the UK pledged £38 million to fund artificial intelligence (AI) projects around the world, starting in Africa.

The Foreign Office said it would aim to contribute towards at least eight AI laboratories at African universities, seeking to help make countries across the continent “influential in the worldwide conversation on AI."

When Nick challenged the top Tory asking where the taxpayers' cash was going to go.

"Which African countries are getting the £38 million?"

"The decision on individual country allocation has not been made yet, some has been made available and the intent is as I described," he replied leading to Nick questioning him again where the money went.

Read more: AI could be used to interfere with 2024 elections, Nick Clegg warns

Read more: UK pledges £38 million for AI projects including labs in Africa

But, Mr Dowden could not answer the question, leaving Nick asking "why don't you know?"

He then continued: "The country is pledging £38million to aid universities in Africa and you don't know where that £38million of my listeners' money (is going). You've no idea which countries it's going to how successful does that look to you?"

Reading from a newspaper, Nick pointed out reports said the money would "fund eight AI laboratories at African universities, so if we know it's going to universities, which are the countries?"

A flustered-sounding Deputy Prime Minister said he would always give a straight answer, but in this case he had to admit "I don't know."

Bemused, Nick pointed out, "If I was DPM and I was handing out £38million worth of voters' money, I'd be bloody certain which countries it was going to in Africa, but that's just me."

The Deputy Prime Minister was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast
The Deputy Prime Minister was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast. Picture: LBC

The conversation comes as the UK hosts the world's first summit on artificial intelligence safety this week, bringing government and industry leaders together at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

The location is significant as it is a key site in the history of computer science development.

The £38 million is part of a larger £80 million collaboration between Britain, Canada and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to boost “safe and responsible” programming, the Foreign Office said.

Unveiled on the first day of the AI Safety Summit, the initiative will include investment in post-graduate AI research skills in Nigeria.

It would aim to contribute towards at least eight AI laboratories at African universities, seeking to help make countries across the continent “influential in the worldwide conversation on AI,” the department said.

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