Ministers announced plans to rebuild just 18 months after the publication of the UK’s National Security and Foreign Policy Plan for 2020, which plans to include a new taskforce to protect Parliament from “the growing threat from hostile states”.
Security Minister Tom Tugendhat warned MPs that Britain had become “more vulnerable” as countries seeking to harm it “leveled the field” by investing time and money in new technology.
Tugendhat said the “next few years are likely to be more challenging than the last”, and that the new task force would try to tackle “the whole range of threats to our democratic institutions” – including attempts to emulate the assassination of MP Jo Cox. David Ames.
But former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith warned that ministers and MPs had become “incredibly lax about any idea of security” and claimed warnings that mobile phones could be bugged were being ignored in government.
He also hit out at Boris Johnson’s administration for not taking a tougher stance against China in the original integrated review, which set out the UK’s strategic security and foreign policy approach and was published in March 2021.
There have also been a number of alleged security breaches by senior ministers, including Johnson meeting an ex-KGB agent without officers at an Italian villa while he was foreign secretary, and Russians hacking former prime minister Liz Truss’s phone.
Tugendhat said that a “new era of global competition” was dawning, and that Britain faced “a sustained and concerted effort to undermine our country and our institutions”, which was “not a simple conflict of arms but a conflict of ideas”.
Adversary states “endanger not only lives but our very way of life”, he told the Commons in a statement on national security.
Tugendhat said he would set up a task force that would report to the National Security Council, introducing new measures in an update of the integrated review.
For the first time since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, the government has confirmed that it will follow through on plans to update key documents.
After a row over the use of Chinese firm Huawei’s technology in national infrastructure and the planned acquisition of a Newport wafer fab by a Chinese-owned microchip maker, Tugendhat indicated that business decisions with national security implications will be taken seriously.
He said that “our economic security guarantees our economic sovereignty just as our democratic security guarantees our freedom”.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Labor would back the new taskforce, but concerns about Johnson and Truss undermined the government’s insistence on a tougher approach to national security.
Pointing to the reappointment of Suella Braverman as home secretary despite her sacking two weeks ago for leaking government documents, Cooper said: “It does not serve democracy if these issues are not seriously considered by the person most in charge. To protect our national security.
She added that her pledge to prioritize the issue “is a far cry from the way successive Cabinet ministers have responded and the lack of seriousness and carelessness and complacency we’ve seen on some of these cybersecurity issues”.