On behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister and other members of the National Security Council, I am pleased to present the fourth annual report of progress in implementing the 2010 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review as attached. Copies are also being placed in the Library of the House.
The global context
Over the last year the country has faced a wide range of risks and threats. The Government have taken resolute action and tough decisions in response, sticking to the adaptable approach to national security we adopted in 2010. Islamist extremism, with most lately the emergence of ISIL, is the struggle of our generation; and we are working closely with international partners to tackle this, deploying UK armed forces to combat the emergence of this senseless, barbaric organisation. Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine and conflict in the middle east have created instability and uncertainty. Tensions in east Asia have added to the risks in that region. Sophisticated and targeted cyber attacks continue to cost the UK economy several billion pounds per year; the dangerous and irresponsible leaking of sensitive information by Edward Snowden has had far-reaching consequences. The Ebola virus is wreaking immense damage in west African nations, and posing a potentially devastating threat to others.
The National Security Council (NSC) this Government introduced have transformed the Government’s analysis and decision-making on tackling these challenges. It has continued to meet regularly, bringing together the relevant departments and ensuring that national security issues are seen from both foreign policy and domestic policy perspectives.
At the heart of the national security strategy lies the restoration of our economic strength. After the deepest recession in peacetime history, Britain now has the fastest-growing major advanced economy in the world. But the eurozone remains weak and there are worrying signs of slowing growth in some emerging markets. We have enhanced our engagement with countries of growing economic and strategic importance to the UK, creating 250 new front-line posts in Turkey, India, China, Africa, the Americas and east Asia since 2011. We are helping British companies to identify opportunities and win business in key markets; promoting transparency, a rules-based international economic system and open markets; countering risks to economic stability including threats to growth from energy and resource insecurity; and promoting the UK as a creative, innovative and trustworthy partner and a world-class destination for business, tourism and study.
In defence, the Government have brought the budget under control, allowing us to supply our armed forces with the high-quality equipment they need and properly fund equipment programmes. In July, Her Majesty the Queen formally named the first of two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. In September, I announced that we will bring both into service, ensuring that one will be available at all times. In July, I announced a £1.1 billion investment programme including £800 million for intelligence and surveillance equipment for the armed forces. The Successor Deterrent programme is on track: 2016 will see the delivery of our first production Joint Strike Fighter test and evaluation aircraft enabling the first front-line squadron to become operational by 2019. The first of three Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft was deployed to support operations in Afghanistan this year well ahead of schedule. Along with procurement of 589 multi-role Scout armoured vehicles, nine Voyager aircraft, the A400M Atlas transport aircraft and new Chinook helicopters, these assets will significantly enhance our armed forces’ capabilities.
Alliances and partnerships
In September, the UK hosted the NATO Wales summit, the largest ever gathering of world leaders in the UK. Allies were united in addressing a range of major challenges and reached important conclusions: pledging to provide strong support to help Ukraine improve its own security; on defence spending, leaders agreed publicly for the first time to reverse the trend in declining defence budgets and to continue further work to reform NATO; on countering Islamist extremism; on our future support to Afghanistan; and on supporting our military and their families, signing an armed forces declaration that recognises the contribution that men and women in the armed forces make, and sets out a commitment to support them and their families. All of these were UK priorities. The commitments made will ensure the Alliance is agile, equipped and funded to deliver Allied security with partner countries and organisations. Following on from the Wales NATO summit, the London conference on Afghanistan, held in December, allowed the international community, civil society and wider stakeholders to set out their commitments to Afghanistan’s future.
The armed forces covenant
The Government have continued to strengthen the armed forces covenant and so reinforce the essential bonds of trust and mutual respect between the armed forces and society, ensuring recognition of the sacrifices they make in their critical and often hazardous role. We have used the LIBOR fines to invest in the covenant including establishing a £40 million veterans’ accommodation fund and a £20 million childcare fund; and to invest a further £10 million per annum from 2015-16 for the covenant. From April 2015, widows, widowers and surviving civil partners of all members of the armed forces pension scheme who remarry will retain their pension for life. Following the Sir John Holmes independent review of military medals and policy issues, MOD continues to ensure that all those eligible receive their awards in a timely fashion; and on 21st October 2014, I presented the South Atlantic Medal to personnel who became eligible following extension of the criteria.
Extremism and counter-terrorism
In December 2013, the extremism taskforce recommended a bolder approach to extremism along with related practical measures. Since December 2013, a dedicated police team has taken down more than 46,000 pieces of unlawful content encouraging or glorifying terrorism; and we have strengthened our approach to tackling extremism in our schools, universities and prisons. The Government have worked to dissuade people from travelling to the region of Iraq and Syria, and to intervene when they return. And working closely with international partners to mitigate terrorist threats overseas, the Government have continued to focus on building security and justice capacity overseas to help contain such threats, including through partnerships where UK interests are most at risk.
The Government have also worked to ensure that the police and the security and intelligence agencies continue to have the powers and capabilities they need to tackle all new and existing counter-terrorism threats, whether home grown or international; and that those powers are proportionate and subject to close scrutiny. The increasing threat we face means that we will now make an additional £130 million available over the next two years, including new funding to enhance our ability to monitor and disrupt self-starting terrorists.
We have also introduced the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill to Parliament. The Bill contains important new powers to help fill the gaps in our armoury in tackling the increased threat that we face. The provisions in the Bill will strengthen our counter-terrorism powers to prevent travel; stop suspects returning unless they do so on our terms; relocate individuals within the UK to help break their links with extremist networks; and strengthen our border and aviation security. And in July, Parliament passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act to maintain, where possible, current communications data and interception capabilities.
Instability and conflict overseas
We have adopted an integrated approach to tackling instability and conflict overseas, drawing on skills and capacities across Government in the fields of intelligence, diplomacy, development, defence engagement, trade promotion and stabilisation. Conflict prevention is most likely to succeed when it uses diplomatic efforts with development programmes and defence engagement around a shared integrated strategy. From 2015-16 this will be supported by the new £1 billion conflict, stability and security fund, replacing the current conflict pool. In 2013, the UK became the first G7 country to achieve the target to contribute 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) in official development assistance (ODA). The UK is on track to meet the 2010 commitment to spend 30% of ODA in fragile states by the end of 2014-15.
The national cyber security programme is delivering major improvements to our understanding of, and ability to counter, the rapidly changing nature of cyber threats, supported by £860 million of investment up to 2016. In the past year, the programme has included improving critical national infrastructure resilience; incentives for business to improve cyber security and support for the UK’s cyber security sector; investments in cyber skills and research; police operations to crack down on cyber crime; and international efforts to protect and promote UK interests in cyber space.
Crime and border security threats
The Government have strengthened our national capability to fight serious and organised crime. The National Crime Agency is already making a tangible difference, working closely with police forces, regional organised crime units and international partners. In its first year, it has achieved over 920 disruptions against serious and organised criminals. The Government are providing £37 million of funding to regional organised crime units in 2014-15 to support increased capabilities and capacity. Furthermore, updated co-ordinating bodies along with close and collaborative working across law enforcement agencies are delivering a new strategic approach to tackling border security threats. And use of technology and intelligence to check people and goods remains central.
Resilience and civil emergencies
For civil emergencies, the national resilience capabilities programme is enhancing our ability to manage natural hazards like pandemic infectious disease, severe flooding and extreme weather. In response to last winter's severe weather, we have committed over £565 million in flood recovery support funding. Over 90% of flood and coastal erosion management projects have been completed, and others are planned or under way. The joint emergency services interoperability programme, has enabled over 10,000 priority police, fire and ambulance service personnel to be trained in new guidance and principles, improving the joint response of the emergency services to any major or complex incident. And a new, secure web-based service Resilience Direct is enhancing information-sharing about emergencies among organisations, responders and planners.
The Ebola outbreak in west Africa is a public health crisis requiring an urgent international response. Left unchecked, the disease has the potential to become a serious global threat with economic and security consequences. The UK has so far committed £230 million to tackle Ebola and has been active in generating global support, including a commitment of €1 billion from the EU and a strong statement of support from the G20. Within Sierra Leone, our specialist expertise and military capabilities are working to support the infrastructure and training needed to scale up the response. The Government have also introduced arrangements to screen travellers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia at key UK ports of entry.
The approach to national security that we adopted in 2010 has continued to enable us to address the challenges we have faced this year.