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Cyber-security

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 24th March 2015.

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Photo of Francis Maude Francis Maude The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office 1:50 pm, 24th March 2015

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady for her very warm words at the beginning of her response, which I enormously appreciate. Parting is indeed such sweet sorrow, but there is life beyond.

I am afraid it tailed off a little bit after that. The hon. Lady talked about cuts and the potential for continued funding for cyber-security in the next Parliament. She made the slightly odd suggestion that the trajectory of public spending would be at a level last seen in the 1930s. A little further research shows that the last time this level of spending was seen was in 1999-2000 under a Labour Government.

So far as funding for cyber-security is concerned, that will be dealt with in the context of the spending review that will take place after the election, but I do not know anybody who believes there is any possibility that there will not continue to be very significant funding for cyber-security. We are acknowledged across the world as being in the lead in this area. There is always a danger when one says that of being thought to be complacent. We are not remotely complacent. This is a very fast-moving set of threats and we have to move equally fast to keep up with it. We need to be on the case all the time.

The hon. Lady talked about the resources being devoted to tackling cybercrime. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Karen Bradley who has responsibility for tackling cybercrime is in her place on the Front Bench. She takes this matter immensely seriously. The National Cyber Crime Unit is based in the National Crime Agency. A good proportion of the cyber-security programme is funding for the law enforcement agencies, which do fantastic work. I obviously echo her enthusiastic support for those who work to protect and preserve our national security, and I include in that those in our armed forces active in this field.

The hon. Lady talked about digital inclusion, which she knows the Government take extremely seriously. We support the huge amount of work being done by businesses, particularly Barclays and other companies, on digital activity to enable people currently excluded to be active online, and that will continue to be the case. She also asked about mobile security on mobile devices, which is obviously a serious matter. So far as the Government are concerned, CESG, part of GCHQ, provides good guidance and is reckoned to be world leading on smart devices.

So far as citizens and consumers are concerned, she will be aware of our Cyber Streetwise campaign and Get Safe Online, which are about making sure people know the risks. GCHQ estimates that 80% of successful cyber-attacks could be thwarted or mitigated by basic internet hygiene, and for that awareness is important. I am less concerned about whether SMEs are aware of what the Government are doing; I am more concerned that they are aware of what they need to do, which is to take basic steps on internet hygiene.

There is much more to do, and there will never be any scope for a Government or businesses to rest on their laurels. I found the hon. Lady’s objection that my statement was light on policy slightly startling. Quite rightly, the Government have elevated cyber-security to one of the four tier 1 national security threats, so we take it enormously seriously. At a time when we had to cut public spending, because of the appalling public deficit inherited from the last Government, this was one of the very few areas that we decided was sufficiently important to invest further money in, and we will continue to do that.