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Cyber-security Partnership

Volume 558: debated on Wednesday 6 February 2013

On 25 January, the Foreign Secretary signed the World Economic Forum’s new set of principles on cyber-resilience. The UK was the first country to join that cyber-security partnership, alongside more than 70 companies and Government bodies across 15 sectors and 25 countries. That is an important step in demonstrating our leadership role on the international stage in combating cyber-threats.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Has she seen the recent report by Lancaster university, which is a centre of excellence in cyber-security and she is more than welcome to visit? The report highlighted the lack of investment by so many small businesses in even the simplest systems to protect their IT systems.

I very much welcome Lancaster university’s report, which I have seen. It does show the university’s place as an academic centre of excellence for cyber-security. That research gives us valuable insights into how business is responding. I understand that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be supporting a further small and medium-sized enterprise conference with Lancaster university. The Government are bringing forward a cross-government cyber-security awareness campaign, which is aimed at SMEs. I ought to quote from the report, because I agree with its statement that small businesses should be able to

“embrace technology and prosper without exposing themselves to unwanted business risks.”

Cyber-security should be a growth area for UK industry. Will my hon. Friend tell the House what she is doing to help promote cyber-security for the UK industrial sector?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about this. When we published the cyber-security strategy we made it clear that there are important opportunities for UK businesses. Our country has long-standing expertise in cyber-security, which makes us well placed to capitalise on the commercial opportunities on offer, both domestically and overseas. I can confirm to him that we have put in place measures to help promote UK products abroad, particularly through setting up a cyber-growth partnership.

If only the Minister’s warm words on international partnerships were matched by her Government’s actions. In October, the Home Secretary announced that the UK would opt out of cross-border co-operation on tackling crime—cybercrime is, of course, predominantly cross-border in nature. Will the Minister confirm that position? Specifically, will we be part of the new European cybercrime centre, or are her Government more obsessed with damaging Europe than strengthening our cyber-security?

First, I welcome the hon. Lady to her place in the Opposition Front-Bench team, although I hope that the Labour party has updated its website, as I do not believe its cyber-skills showed her in her correct place at the time she asked that question. Of course, I can offer my reassurance that the UK Government are doing all they can on tackling cybercrime, where there is much to be done. There is also much to be done in Europe.

In developing the cyber-security strategy, will the Minister consider forming a civilian cyber-security reserve, so that people working in the IT security sector can back-fill those positions that are very specialist and where the work perhaps cannot be carried out by the Ministry of Defence?

My hon. Friend makes correct points about the need to ensure that we have robust skills across both the public and private sectors in respect of cyber-security. There is much to do to build our country’s capability. He will know that the MOD is taking forward the development of a cyber-reserve, and he makes sensible points about a civilian version.