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Volume 570: debated on Monday 4 November 2013

15. What new capabilities the armed forces are investing in to ensure the UK can properly defend itself from cyber-attacks. (900867)

In September, my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary announced the creation of the joint forces cyber group and plans to develop a cyber counter-attack capability. That and other Ministry of Defence measures are part of the £650 million cross-Government investment in cyber that was announced in the strategic defence and security review in 2010.

Does the Minister agree that in addition to strengthening our cyber-defences, we need to deter attacks? What plans does he have to improve UK deterrence in the cyber-domain?

In addition to the more than £600 million to which I referred, a £210 million investment to further bolster our cyber-defences was announced by the Chancellor in a statement to Parliament on 26 June this year. That is a clear indication that cyber will play a role in a national deterrent posture. It is critically important to the country, and that is why we are investing in it.

It is reported that convicted hackers could be recruited to Britain’s cyber-defence force. What assurances can the Minister give that robust and sufficient measures will be in place to ensure that national security will not be compromised as a result?

I can tell the hon. Lady, and indeed the House, that cyber-reserves will be subject to the same stringent vetting process as other members of the Ministry of Defence. Regarding criminal convictions, all applicants seeking to join the regulars or reserves are looked at individually, and a decision is made based on the type of conviction and sentence imposed. No one will be employed as a cyber-reserve if there is evidence that they represent a security risk which means that they cannot pass the vetting process.