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National Security Strategy

Prime Minister written statement – made on 22nd July 2008.

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Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

On 19 March, I published the United Kingdom's first ever national security strategy. It set out how we proposed to address and manage an increasingly diverse but interconnected set of security challenges and some of their underlying factors including climate change, competition for energy, poverty, and globalisation. The aim is to safeguard the nation, its citizens, our prosperity and our way of life, against a constantly changing security environment. I want to update the House on arrangements for support to the National Security Committee and proposals for parliamentary oversight of the delivery of the strategy.

As envisaged in the national security strategy, the Government will be establishing a national security forum. We want to promote a constructive and informed dialogue with experts, stakeholders and the public to understand the security challenges we face and how we need to tackle them. The forum will have a core group of 12 publicly appointed members reflecting the broad range of the subject areas in the national security strategy. It is likely to include people with a range of experience and expertise in these issues; and in addition to this core group we will create a register of up to 100 expert associates who could be called upon to provide advice in specific areas. The purpose of the forum will be to provide expert advice to the National Security Committee (Cabinet Committee on National Security, International Relations and Development (NSID)). It will be invited to focus on the published strategy to inform the annual updates, although it will be able to commission its own research subject to agreement of its programme by NSID.

In advance of setting up the forum as a non-departmental public body, I will be establishing an interim forum in the early Autumn. For the interim forum only, the Government will appoint their members on advice from the Cabinet Office. Though an interim body, it will begin substantive work immediately. The Chair of the interim body will be announced shortly. The national security forum will be supported by a new national security secretariat in the Cabinet Office. Alongside that, a horizon scanning unit will be established which will co-ordinate the security-related horizon scanning currently undertaken in a number of Government Departments, with the intention of giving it an overarching framework and a more coherent output.

It is important that we have the right form of parliamentary oversight of the national security strategy and its delivery. There are already a number of Select Committees, and the Intelligence and Security Committee, who have an interest in the development and implementation of the national security strategy; and any new arrangement should not duplicate their existing scrutiny work. I propose therefore to consult the parliamentary authorities and the Opposition through the usual channels about the establishment and terms of reference of a Joint Committee on the national security strategy comprising the Chairs of the key departmental Select Committees with an interest in national security, and other Members of Parliament and Peers with particular interests or experience.

In March, I said that Government would publish a "national-level risk register setting out our assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different risks that may directly affect the UK". We will be writing shortly to the Chairs of the relevant Select Committees with our national risk register and placing copies in the Library of the House. Its purpose is specifically to give the public information about risks to the UK from natural disasters, accidents and malicious threats over the next five years so that those who wish to can prepare for the consequences. The national risk register will be a key tool in the development of community resilience networks, another national security strategy deliverable, which the Cabinet Office will be taking forward in the coming months and is the next step in improving the UK's resilience.