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When I chaired the House of Lords Select Committee on Intergovernmental Organisations-an ad-hoc committee-we looked at pandemics and whether we wanted a different process for dealing with a pandemic that came about as a result of a natural cause as opposed to one that came from terrorist causes. The net conclusion was that you needed the same response for dealing with the pandemic, regardless of where it came from. You might have a different strategy for the organisation that spread the pandemic-if that is what has happened-but you needed a similar strategy.
I wish to make two other points in the final minutes allocated to me. First, if I am right about this increasing instability and fragility, we might need to revisit the debate which has exercised me for many years; namely, that concerned with spreading democracy. I am very strongly in favour of that and I think that we all are. However-I say this in the context of the present troubles around the world-in a way the rule of law is now infinitely more important as a first step in order to provide the stability that we need in so many nations.
At Question Time the other day I mentioned the arc of states that runs from the Horn of Africa through the Middle East and Afghanistan and up into central Asia. There are many others as well, but that is a profoundly dangerous area. Given Britain's reputation on the rule of law and the English common law pattern that is so widely spread around the world, we have a real opportunity to improve what we do in helping countries to develop a legal structure. That need not necessarily involve-I emphasise this-imposing our legal standards on a country which has a different culture and a different background. Rather, it could involve helping them to develop structures that have coherence, predictability and apply, as far as possible, to the whole society. That would begin to challenge the concept of corruption, which is a major cause of instability. One of the issues here is that most of these countries recognise that they need the rule of law, mainly because they want the advantages brought by business. Therefore, they want the rule of law, but they are not always willing or able to deliver it. We need to think about that.
The Minister will remember that last year I tabled a Question on cyber warfare. I remain acutely concerned about that, and I know that he is also acutely concerned about it. It was discussed at the G8, and I think that those involved in the Meridian process-I believe that is what it is called-are looking at it. I emphasise that we all appreciate the profound dangers of cyber attacks. Whether states are doing this themselves or
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Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord King, has chosen a vital subject for debate. We are a global power, both in terms of defence and foreign policy. We are constantly assured that everything is being done to enhance our security. In the same week, however, we have been told-as the noble Lord said-that the FCO, which operates extensively abroad, faces, as a result of exchange rate movements, a cut of £100 million, and may have had to reduce its work-in fact, has had to reduce its work-on counterterrorism and on capacity building to help conflict prevention in Africa. It has valuable contacts in danger areas such as the Yemen and Somalia and collects invaluable biometric data through visa-issuing posts overseas, a vital weapon in the fight against terrorism. I hope that the new strategy group will ensure that such an essential source of information and influence should not be cut off by a Treasury ruling.
In any future security strategy, decisions must be made after full consultation with any of those involved in decision-making. In a recent report to which Permanent Secretaries have contributed it is clear that under Tony Blair major policy decisions were made by him within No. 10 and the Cabinet Office, although not by the Cabinet. Those who were to implement the actions were not consulted first.
The Islamist threat is, of course, immediate and continuing. However, we must not forget the strategic threat from China in terms of cyber attack, not only on our defence installations but our economic estate, and from Russia. We are a vulnerable island. Command of the seas and air and the possession of a sea-based deterrent are vital to our economy and survival. There will be difficult choices to be made. The new committee should be able to ensure informed consultation, followed by review by a Cabinet exercising collective responsibility, not a Prime Minister acting alone.
Money is, of course, an issue. The first thing to do must surely be to review and reduce the present vast and complex system of committees and sub-committees which constitutes the Cabinet Office today. It should be possible to take the axe to some of this proliferating undergrowth. But there is a daunting picture of thousands of interlocking units. Some useful things are being done under the present system, but nothing which can justify ignoring the constitutional duty to place decisions where they belong-in Parliament for implementation by ministries. Collective ministerial responsibility needs to be restored and the JIC should meet weekly, as it
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One of the major failures in the system in recent years has been the plethora of ill-thought-out legislation-much of it knee-jerk reactions to the media-and the extensive involvement of, for instance, McKinsey's in the work of the ministries and the Cabinet Office. Our foreign and defence policy should not be decided in the Treasury, still less by the PM alone. It will be for the committee responsible for the national security strategy to play a full part in providing the reorganisation needed to restore effective Cabinet government. It should be better able to operate a national security strategy, once the organs of government work as they should. Of the 27 secretariat groups and units, the most powerful and valuable are probably the Delivery Unit and the Strategy Unit, both now located in the Treasury. This gives the Treasury powers beyond its proper remit. There needs to be more transparency and accountability.
Turning to the defence review, I hope that the committee will recognise that we are an island, a maritime nation. We need to have ships able to operate in the Atlantic and protect our shores, and to deliver troops anywhere in the world. We must be able to deliver Trident and maintain our submarine fleet. Russia has not produced a new fighter bomber without hoping to bring pressure to bear on NATO members with a common border. Again, the deterrent is better than war.
On a different, but none the less important, issue, we need not least to take action to improve numeracy in the schools, to teach physics, chemistry and languages, and to fund defence research in the universities. We shall need graduates with these skills in a modern Army.
It will be for the committee to return us to a government system which is not presidential and is fully accountable. The responsibility to execute policy decisions, and to advise, should return to the ministries. Only then can we proceed to an agreed national security strategy. Power to make strategic and tactical decisions must no longer rest, as it largely does at present, inside the Treasury. The latter has a part to play, but it should not be able to make decisions on defence and foreign affairs. If, by retaining deterrents, we can check potential aggressors, we should also consider reclaiming ownership of the nuclear industry and gas supplies. Moreover, I hope that part of our defence strategy will be to develop our own industrial base. What the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said in the previous debate was encouraging. We are a maritime nation, but we are also merchants. To thrive in those areas will be an important part of defence strategy.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, that part of the problem that we have suffered under the current Government has been the style of government, the constant churning of Ministers, Prime Ministerial dominance over the Cabinet, the downgrading of the Cabinet, and the Government's dominance over
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We were missing a further stage which, in turn, depends upon our view of Britain's place in the world. That is what is lacking in much of our discussions. It is particularly lacking in the Conservatives' national security strategy.
We have a consensus among the parties about the need for a wider definition of national security and for that to be reflected in the way in which Whitehall is organised. However, of the three papers mentioned by the noble Lord, the IPPR paper is by far the most substantial and is the most critical of what one has to call the outdated consensus of British foreign policy.
The paper does not tell us what any of this means or what such a policy would be. What does one do when the definition of objectives is difficult? One proposes a reorganisation of structures. The document does not say anything more about costs. When David Cameron launched it, I asked him how the party would manage it all in the context of sharply reducing costs. He seemed unable to answer.
Last summer, William Hague remarked in a speech that this is not an east-of-Suez moment. This is an east-of-Suez moment which should make us think very hard about what that means for British foreign policy. The old-style image, which we heard about from the noble Baroness, Lady Park, of the UK as a great trading nation standing alone and defending itself properly in a dangerous world-Britain as an exceptional country-is part of what we must re-examine.
We must also re-examine what I call the "white man's burden" view of the world, in which the United States and Europe, through NATO, maintain international order on their own. I rarely agree with anything that I read in the Daily Mail, but Correlli Barnett's article this morning was spot on. We are stuck with the old 1950s myths of British exceptionality, determined to go on overspending to maintain our ability to protect Chinese goods on Korean-built ships going through the Straits of Aden because that is what Britain has always done-just as we went on defending the route to India for 20 years after we gave India independence.
The Liberal Democrat approach is to accept that we are now in a G20 world, not an Atlantic one. A global shift is under way and it is in our interests to
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The drivers of insecurity must also be addressed. One fundamental problem of insecurity for this country and others is that we have, across the Middle East, an unresolved conflict between Israel and the Arab world. We are also supporting a number of regimes, including in Yemen, which are not providing the political, economic and social development that their populations need. Unless we address that, we will face further insecurity following our failure. That is why my party is so much more critical of the US approach to the Middle East conflict than either Labour or the Conservatives. We want to see closer European co-operation with France, the Netherlands, the Nordics, the Balts, the Poles and others: structured co-operation of the sort that the IPPR report suggested. We accept the necessity of international engagement, which means close co-operation within Europol and Eurojust, and all the other things that the noble Lord, Lord West, did not mention when taking through the Borders Bill, but which I am sure he recognises are extremely important.
Lastly, we recognise-my noble friend Lady Hamwee will say more about this-that when we talk about resilience, the trend towards the centralisation and professionalisation of government in this country has been taking us in the wrong direction. Resilience in a crisis means local resilience, with local people being engaged as volunteers, taking responsibility back from the centralised police and government that took it away from local communities. There are many issues here that I will leave my noble friend to cover in more detail.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord King for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject. In my few minutes, I will focus on the single issue of cybersecurity. I am a member of Sub-Committee F of the European Union Committee of this House. We are looking at cybersecurity on an EU-wide basis. I will not run before the committee's conclusions, which will undoubtedly be debated on the Floor of your Lordships' House in due course, but we have picked up some lessons that are relevant to our debate this afternoon. We had interesting evidence sessions, one of which involved the Minister himself. He was extremely frank and helpful, and I place on record my thanks for his contribution.
I will make two broad points. The first concerns the level of public awareness of the prevalence of, and threat from, cybersecurity breaches. I hold up my hand: when we began this inquiry in September, I saw the problem as being primarily one of lonely anoraks in their bedrooms getting their intellectual kicks from breaking and entering the citadels of computing power-places like the Pentagon, the Ministry of Defence and major banks. I saw it as an intellectual rather than a criminal challenge, although clearly some criminal intent was involved. I have had a rude awakening. My
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Secondly, there is a rising prevalence and frequency of attacks. I may be suffering from what advertising men call selective perception: when you want to buy a car, you always see advertisements relating to cars. Perhaps it is because I am on the cybersecurity inquiry that I keep seeing news about it. I see allegations about Indian and Chinese-inspired hacking. I see that the Davos World Economic Forum devoted a session to it a week or so ago. Does the Minister agree that public awareness is on the low side, and that the frequency of attacks is increasing? If he does so agree, I think that we need to look at the punch in the government document, Cyber Security Strategy of the United Kingdom. It is a perfectly worthy document, but it is dull. It is not going to encourage or raise intellectual curiosity or awareness of the problem, and I think that there is a great deal more to be done in that regard.
The scale of attacks and their sophistication are quite staggering. If you go on to Wikipedia-that essential support for a Back-Bench Member of your Lordships' House so far as research is concerned-you will find listed what are called botnets, which are collections of autonomous and automatic software robots. The largest of them is called Srizbi. With 450,000 bots, it is capable of delivering 60 billion spam messages a day and is clearly able to overwhelm any individual computer system. You will see quite frequently cropping up in the list on Wikipedia botnets with a capability of delivering 1 billion to 10 billion spam messages a day. We also have Trojan malware, whereby software is inserted into a person's computer without them knowing about it, and messages which appear to originate from them in fact originate from someone completely different. There are also cyberprivateering and cybermercenaries. Most worrying of all was what one of our experts at Sub-Committee F said. You may think that you have an anti-virus system but, whereas four years ago it would have stopped 80 per cent of the viruses that are around, it now stops less than a third-probably only about 20 per cent. Ways have been found to get round the systems. Certainly John Donne's famous phrase, "No man is an island", applies in the field of cybersecurity.
In the last minute or two available to me, I should like to ask the Minister a couple of specific points. In doing so, I accept that there is no silver bullet-there is no single answer to the problem that we face. The first is the question of our structural response. A good structural response by the United Kingdom requires interface between our Civil Service, cyber experts and regulators. The Civil Service tends to be arts-led and have a very hierarchical structure. Cyber experts are engineering-led and, because it is a fast-moving, predominantly young person's industry, it has very flat organisational structures, if indeed any organisational structures at all. Regulators tend to be law-led with a heavy reliance on process. Is the Minister convinced that we have so far managed to find a way to tie these
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Secondly, I should like to ask him about international standards and international collaboration. Here, I follow the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, and I shall not use up any more time making it again now.
Thirdly, I have two practical suggestions. Would it not be a good idea if it became a requirement for internet service providers to report the number of infected machines? So far, there is no requirement to do so, except on a voluntary basis. I understand that about 2 to 5 per cent of such cases are reported, but that is almost certainly an understatement.
Finally, in order to reduce the level of petty crime at an individual level which collectively can become very large, should there not be some effort to make sure that credit card companies give better and fuller details of the entries on credit card slips? Noble Lords who might challenge a £100 entry might not challenge one for £2.50, but if it happened to be the result of cybercrime and was repeated, collectively it could add up to a very substantial sum.
Baroness Manningham-Buller: My Lords, it is nearly two years since the publication of the first national security strategy for the UK. This debate is overdue and I applaud the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, for tabling it. I also welcome the very recent and extremely belated establishment, with its first meeting next week, of the Joint Committee on this document to monitor what has happened or is to happen as a result of this strategy.
First, I want to welcome the document. Its gestation was quite lengthy, and here I declare an interest, as I and others suggested that it was necessary some time ago. The Government deserve credit for producing it, but no doubt in the course of this debate we shall hear criticism of it. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, in describing it as a policy document, put his finger on one of the points: it is not exactly a strategy. However, it is right to establish the principle of seeking to articulate plainly and coherently the challenges to security faced by this country. I see from their Green Paper that the Opposition also recognise this need and that, if elected, will write a new national security strategy-building, I hope, on some of the strengths in the existing document.
That brings me to repeat a sentiment that I expressed in my maiden speech, and which I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Soley, refer to-that is, the need to seek as far as possible cross-party consensus on the nature of the threats to national security. I think that the opposition undertaking, if elected, to invite the leaders of the main opposition parties to attend the so-called "war Cabinet" is a good one, even if the invitation will not necessarily be accepted. I myself should like to see the invitation extended to participation in the national security council, which I hope may be established. I well recall the noble Lord,
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Of course, I understand that parties will make different decisions on what to do about various threats. That is very understandable, but some consensus on what they are would be worth striving for. The public, who in my experience give unstinting private support to the covert work of my former service-the Security Service-would welcome national security being less of a political football.
Thirdly, I draw attention to the lack of definition of national security. That is not a surprise, it having been the policy of successive Governments to avoid defining it. Definition would be prescriptive given that the threat to it changes and the concept of what it is evolves. In most of my career, and in the career of the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, it was understood to apply narrowly: to defending the United Kingdom from threats of terrorism, espionage, sabotage and attempts through subversion to undermine parliamentary democracy. It was not generally used in relation to wider defence or other issues. At some stage, in the wake of 9/11, its non-existent definition was considerably broadened to include other threats to the country's security: international organised crime, energy supply, pandemics, natural disasters, civil emergencies, with defence also being brought under the same heading. I do not dissent from that but I observe that it happened without deliberate discussion and that there were signs that labelling an issue "national security" was seen in some quarters as a way of attracting funds.
We should recognise, first, that it has happened; secondly, that there are implications for legislation enacted when the earlier-narrower-definition was implicit; thirdly, the real challenges to prioritisation from this document and the danger of lack of focus; and fourthly, the position of the devolved Governments, who have no responsibility for national security, but who have responsibility for some of the subjects covered by the paper.
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