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Cyber-specialist Vacancies

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 14th November 2018.

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Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Labour, St Helens North

What estimate he has made of the number of cyber-specialist vacancies across all Departments.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Departments are responsible for ensuring that adequate staffing levels are met. As part of the national cyber-security strategy, we have newly established a Government security profession unit to support Departments in quantifying and managing their cyber-skills gaps and in building career pathways for specialists.

Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Labour, St Helens North

In July, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy criticised the Government for not properly addressing the cyber-security skills and recruitment gap, which it said is of vital importance to Britain’s defence and economy; but today the Minister still cannot tell how many of these specialist role vacancies exist across the Government. When will the Department tasked with upholding cyber-security standards make this tier 1 national security threat a priority?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

The Committee praised what the Government had done, but, as the hon. Gentleman says, it also said that we needed to do more. I do not dissent from that conclusion. Indeed, the Government made that clear in their response to the Committee’s report. It is important that every Department feels ownership of cyber-security; it is not something seen as for the centre only to worry about. The profession framework, which will be outlined in the spring of next year, will run right across the Government and will outline the job families for specialists and the pay, rewards and career progression that they should be able to expect anywhere in the Government. [Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

The Minister was offering a serious and comprehensive reply to which there was a less than attentive audience, which is perhaps a tad discourteous. Let us have some order in the Chamber so that we can hear Mr Nigel Huddleston.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the UK is actually already a world leader in cyber-security, and will the Government continue to commit, through education and training, to ensure that we continue to be so?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I am happy to give my hon. Friend that commitment. I could list a range of programmes that the Government are undertaking with school-age students and tertiary education students to drive up those standards, as well as working with international partners, who look to us for some of the best practice around the world.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

I am very sorry, Mr Speaker—I could not hear you for the hubbub.

One would think that a cyber-attack against such a lovely country as Scotland would be unthinkable. Does the Minister have any feel about how the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament are getting on with cyber-security?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to go into detail, but we do work very seriously and closely with the devolved Governments in both Scotland and Wales and with the Northern Ireland civil service. In my experience, Ministers and senior officials in those Administrations take this challenge very seriously indeed.