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Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his questions. May I give him that assurance immediately? The strategy is about defending civil liberties and ensuring
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that we protect people’s liberty to enjoy their lives free of crime and free of the terrorist threat. We have to have a balance between individual liberties and the issues set out in the cyber strategy. I will defend civil liberties and uphold rights, and that balance is extremely important. We will work through those issues as part of our discussions.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the threat that has occurred to date. We are not aware of any major compromise of national security or key systems to date, but that does not mean that we are complacent. We brought forward the strategy precisely to ensure that we put in place mechanisms to monitor potential threats and attacks. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that it is not appropriate for me to go into the number of countries or agencies that might be involved, because I do not want them to know that we know they are involved. However, I assure him that we will balance liberties with national security.

On the cost element, as I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), I hope to report back to the House before early October about what costs are allocated to particular projects.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I share the concern of the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) about the way in which the Government have handled this matter. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if the Minister had made an oral statement. However, my right hon. Friend mentioned organised crime in his answer to the urgent question. The director and the chairman of SOCA gave evidence to the Select Committee on Home Affairs this week, but no mention was made about the urgency of the cyber threat from organised crime. Can the Minister confirm that there have been discussions with the chairman and director of SOCA and that any concerns raised with him have been taken on board?

Mr. Hanson: We have had discussions across government about the implications of the strategy. We are working on crime issues in particular, given my responsibilities, and they are important issues. With regard to the oral statement, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister laid the issues before the House this morning in a written ministerial statement. As I have mentioned, the problem with the breaches arose in relation to the D notice that was issued. Initially, our mistake was that we did not put it under embargo, as we should have. It was later put under embargo, but unfortunately the press published that D notice and made a story around it, without knowing what was in the document, which was published to the House at 10 am today.

Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): The Minister will be aware how critical the counter-terrorism sub-committee has been, despite the slowness of establishing the new operations centre, and, similarly, how concerned we have been at the slowness of establishing the counter-terrorism units in the various regions up and down the United Kingdom. Can he assure us that there will be proper and sensible liaison between the two bodies, with effective sharing of intelligence, and that that will start not next year, but now?

Mr. Hanson: Absolutely. Although I have been in this post for only two weeks and four days, I had a justice background in my previous Department, and I am urgently looking at those issues to ensure that the very
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things that the hon. Gentleman mentions are put in place. We need to ensure not just that Departments and the organisations within them are operating individually in their silos, but that we have co-operation across the board. Today’s cyber strategy is about establishing a unit in GCHQ under effective leadership to look at those issues across government. That is the objective.

Jacqui Smith (Redditch) (Lab): I welcome today’s publication by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of a wide-ranging, cross-government and cross-agency cyber security strategy. Given the significance that the Obama Administration have placed on cyber security, will my right hon. Friend the Minister outline how we will be able to work with our closest security ally to maximise our joint capability and minimise duplication?

Mr. Hanson: I suspect that my right hon. Friend has as much knowledge of the work done to date as my noble Friend Lord West, who was involved in producing today’s document, and I pay tribute to her for that. She makes a vital point. The internet and cyber security do not end at the boundaries of the United Kingdom. They are international and European issues, and ones on which we need to work closely with our allies in the American Administration. I am confident that the new unit will work closely with our colleagues in Washington and that it will have the same objectives, which are to tackle international organised crime, ensure that we are safe and try to prevent terrorist approaches to our cyber system.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): I welcome the Minister’s commitment to civil liberties, but will the national security strategy include the establishment of a national database to maintain records of web page visits, e-mails and VoIP—voice over internet protocol—calls and whether the Government intend to introduce a compulsory register of all mobile phones in the country?

Mr. Hanson: If I may, I would like to come back to the hon. Gentleman on the detail of that point. Let me re-emphasise, however, that the whole purpose of the ethics committee that we are establishing is to look at the liberty issues surrounding internet activity under the cyber strategy. We are working through the detail of how we will do that, but I will certainly respond to the hon. Gentleman after this statement. However, the key thing, which those in all parts of the House need to know, is that the liberty of individuals to enjoy their business, their communities and their private lives on the internet is important to the Government, as is, equally, the ability to ensure that they are not subject to crime, terrorist threats or distraction by people who have alternative methods to hand.

Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): What a great shame it is that the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) has squandered his opportunity to hold the Government to account. Is not the key issue that there is state-sponsored hacking of key UK information networks on an industrial scale and that we have to transform GCHQ into a spy school for geeks who are more cunning than their Chinese counterparts?

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Mr. Hanson: My hon. Friend puts his finger on a key issue. Today’s document is about the protection of the public and the protection of UK interests in the UK. It is about ensuring that we are prepared to assess and examine the threat, that people understand that threat and that people are supported in their businesses, in their private lives and in government to take steps to prevent that threat from arising. The protection of the public is the key element of today’s document. Without wishing to burden the hon. Member for Reigate, let me say that my hon. Friend puts his finger on an issue on which there is, I hope, cross-government and cross-party agreement.

Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): Contrary to the Minister’s statement that the D notice and the information about the individual appointment were the only things in the public domain, on 15 June more details were put into the public domain, both online and in The Guardian, about the statement that the Government would set up an agency. Given the importance of information security and the Cabinet Office’s role in that, will the Minister initiate a leak inquiry into how the information got into the public domain, unless, of course, that is done deliberately by the Government in the next 14 days?

Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. Let me say again that the detail of the announcement has been made public only this morning, in the ministerial statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. My noble Friend Lord West of Spithead has written a letter to Mr. Speaker and the hon. Member for Reigate in confidence to explain the background to the D notice. I have given the House an account of that, and I hope that hon. Members will be satisfied with it.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): For some years I have had the privilege to work with the Information Assurance Advisory Council, which brings together government officials and the private sector on the important issue of information assurance. May I seek an assurance from my right hon. Friend that the new body will reach deep into the private sector and ensure a proper sharing of expertise? After all, the most likely areas for attack are probably in the City of London and other areas where we need proper sharing of our intelligence and the intelligence that the private sector gathers.

Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. In today’s document, which is clear and public, we have established eight work streams. One of the key work streams deals with skills, education, training and capability. The new unit will need to look at those issues and ask where the skills shortages are, where good practice is, which issues it will need to share and develop, and how it can do that in a way that helps businesses in particular, but also the general public and Departments, to protect and maintain the integrity of their cyber networks.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Will the Minister at least take back to his ministerial colleagues in other Departments the message that, whether it is deliberate or inadvertent, when advance news about matters that ought to be announced in this House leaks into the press, Ministers can expect to be summoned straight away to this House to answer urgent questions?

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Mr. Hanson: I think that you have made clear to my ministerial colleagues across the board the regime that you intend to operate, Mr. Speaker. I have no doubt that both my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House and other colleagues will help to support you in that objective.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): Given that Estonia was the first country to experience the devastating effect of a cyber attack, can the Minister say a bit more about how we are working with our European partners, especially the Baltic states, which are probably on the front line of the threat?

Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. One of the key things in the document, in work stream 7, is international engagement. One of the office’s new tasks will be to bring together the UK’s work with that of overseas partners and international organisations. Self-evidently, the European Union is one of the biggest local organisations in which we can get cross-governmental co-operation on some of the issues. That is important, and we will be commissioning working groups to take forward work across the board in the next few weeks and months.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): There is a serious security concern for citizens, because, after all, the Government have shown themselves to be somewhat ineffective in preventing confidential information from falling into the wrong hands.

Further to the point about Estonia, is the Minister aware of the devastating effect of the first organised cyber war ever launched against a country—namely, Estonia—not only on businesses but on private citizens? May I suggest that he recommend that the individuals responsible for developing the strategy here work directly with the Estonian authorities, which have not only experience of what happens when things go wrong but coping strategies to prevent it from happening again? I am sure that that would be useful for my constituents and all constituents across the United Kingdom.

Mr. Hanson: We will certainly look at the experience of Estonia and at how we can learn from it. The hon. Gentleman’s key point is that everyone needs to have confidence in the use of the cyber network. People need to have confidence that their information is not being hacked into or copied, and that it will not be used for criminal or terrorist purposes. The key objective of the document is to ensure that we help to develop that confidence still further.

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Business of the House

12 noon

Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): May I invite the Leader of the House to give us the forthcoming business?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 29 June—Second Reading of the Parliamentary Standards Bill.

Tuesday 30 June—Consideration in Committee of the Parliamentary Standards Bill.

Wednesday 1 July—Consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Parliamentary Standards Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Saving Gateway Accounts Bill.

Thursday 2 July—Estimates [3rd allotted day]. There will be a debate on looked-after children, followed by a debate on road safety. Details will be given in the Official Report.

[The details are as follows: Looked-after Children (3rd Report from the Children, Schools and Families Committee, HC 111 and Government response (4th Special report HC 787, to be published on Monday 29 June); Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010 (Eleventh Report from the Transport Committee, Session 2007-08, HC 460), and the Government’s responses (First and Second Special Reports, Session 2008-09, HC 136 and HC422). ]

At 6 pm, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Friday 3 July—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 6 July will include:

Monday 6 July—Opposition Day [15th allotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced, followed by proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No.2) Bill.

Tuesday 7 July—Remaining stages of the Finance Bill (Day 1).

Wednesday 8 July—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Finance Bill (Day 2).

Thursday 9 July—Topical debate, subject to be announced, followed by a motion to approve the Draft Terrorism Act 2006 (Disapplication of Section 25) Order 2009, followed by a motion to approve the Draft Council Tax Limitation (Maximum Amounts) (England) Order 2009.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 9 July will be:

Thursday 9 July—A debate on the report from the Foreign Affairs Committee entitled “Global Security: Iran”.

Alan Duncan: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business, but the way in which she appears to be presiding over House business at the moment does seem a tad shambolic. Last week, we were informed that the Government would be tabling today’s motions in good time to give the House as much opportunity as possible to look over the proposals. However, nothing appeared on the Order Paper until
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yesterday. Then, on the same day, the Government inexplicably withdrew the motion that would have established a new ad hoc Committee on reforming this House. Will she advise us as to quite what is happening? If, as I suspect, the Government were embarrassed by the gulf between the Prime Minister’s announcement and the proposed remit of the Committee, which was so narrow as to render the whole exercise absurd, why did not the Government simply support the amendments on the Order Paper that would have widened the Committee’s scope and spared the right hon. and learned Lady’s blushes? Or is the real truth that this whole episode was dreamt up in the No. 10 bunker merely to fill a space in a prime ministerial press release? When will the Committee now be established?

On the new Parliamentary Standards Bill, which we will debate in its entirety next week, will the Leader of the House give her guarantee that issues of privilege will not be discussed by the House at the Bill’s Committee stage until the Clerk of the House has given evidence to the Justice Select Committee, as I believe he is scheduled to do on Tuesday?

May we have a statement from the Home Secretary on the status of the Government’s policy on identity cards? Four statutory instruments on ID cards were due to be debated last week, but then The Sunday Times reported—correctly, as it turned out—that they were to be shelved for a month. In view of your important and welcome statement on ministerial statements yesterday, Mr. Speaker, will the right hon. and learned Lady now promise that the Home Secretary will come to Parliament to clarify here what Ministers have been briefing in private—namely, that the Government realise that they are on to a loser and are getting ready to perform yet another major policy U-turn?

Similarly, will the right hon. and learned Lady confirm the mysterious whereabouts of the Postal Services Bill, on which the Business Secretary has staked his reputation and, along with it, the Prime Minister’s career? I have asked about this twice before and have twice received inadequate answers. There are only 16 sitting days left before the summer recess. The Bill’s First Reading was over four weeks ago and, as the right hon. and learned Lady knows, Second Reading would normally follow swiftly behind. Is the Bill going to be delivered from the upper House or has it—as I heard hon. Members saying just a few seconds ago—been permanently lost in the post?

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