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Cyber Attacks

Volume 631: debated on Thursday 16 November 2017

Protecting the UK from cyber-attack is a tier 1 national securing issue. We are investing £1.9 billion in cyber-security, and this year we opened the National Cyber Security Centre to lead the nation’s efforts.

The Prime Minister has been clear this week that the Russian authorities have been meddling in elections and using social media inappropriately. What extra steps is the Minister taking following those allegations, and has he raised them directly with the Russian authorities?

The Prime Minister has been clear—as she set out on Monday night, with more details provided by the National Cyber Security Centre on Tuesday—that we know what the Russians are doing and we are not going to let them get away with it.

Does the Minister agree that companies such as Facebook and Twitter should respond to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s request to supply any evidence of Russian-backed activity or fake news interfering with British politics to Parliament so that we can scrutinise it?

Yes. This is an incredibly important issue and the Select Committee is taking a lead to ensure that evidence is brought to light. We will of course investigate all the evidence we see and take action where appropriate.

There are now widespread reports of a wave of cyber-attacks, possibly backed by Russia, aimed at subverting our democracy. What conversations has the Minister had with social-media firms about the existence of evidence of Russian interference in the EU referendum and the general election?

We have discussions with social media companies on a whole range of issues, including this one, and we discuss the impact of social media on political campaigning around the world. Of course, we cannot solve an issue such as this without working with the social media companies, because they provide the platforms on which a lot of the communication occurs.

Well, that was a pretty high-level answer. If we are to stop the cyber-attacks on our democracy, it is important that the right agencies have the right powers. The Electoral Commission tells me that it does not have the power to investigate foreign spending in elections. Will the Minister assure us that the Government will co-operate fully with the Mueller inquiry into Russian cyber-attacks on democracy? Will he begin preparations now for an American-style honest ads Act, so that the right agencies have the right powers to stop these cyber-attacks in their tracks?

The right hon. Gentleman makes important points. At this stage we are considering all options and looking at all the evidence. We will say more when it is appropriate.