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National Security

Volume 748: debated on Thursday 25 April 2024

Protecting national security is the Government’s first duty. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced a fully funded plan to increase our defence spending by £75 billion over the next six years. As part of this uplift, we will bring forward a national defence and resilience plan, building on the resilience framework and integrated review to respond to the evolving threats we face. We are bringing our defence and civilian preparations together to reflect the interconnectedness of those threats. The Cabinet Office plays a central role in this endeavour, co-ordinating strategy through Cobra, resilience directorates and the National Security Council.

In the past week, three people in Germany have been arrested on suspicion of spying for China and two have been charged in the UK. This comes on the back of the Intelligence and Security Committee report which concluded that the Government have no strategy or whole-system—whole-Government —approach to deal with this serious threat. When is the Minister going to get a grip on this serious threat to our democracy from China?

I totally disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation. We dealt explicitly with this in both the integrated review and the integrated review refresh, which set out a co-ordinated approach and are clear about the threats we face from hostile states—Russia, North Korea, Iran and indeed China. We are very clear about the threats China poses to our economic security and our democratic institutions, and that is why we have taken a range of actions, including for the first time directly attributing attacks to China and imposing sanctions in respect of them.

With local and national elections on the horizon, it is vital that voters can have full confidence in the integrity of our electoral system. With that in mind, what assessment has the Department made of the risks posed by deepfakes and misinformation in the upcoming elections?

I have considerable concerns about deepfakes being used in the upcoming elections. We have seen hack and leak being used as a tactic by hostile states in previous elections, and we have to take into account deepfake capabilities, particularly enhanced by artificial intelligence. That is why we are developing our strategy through the Defending Democracy Taskforce and undertaking exercises right now to enhance our capabilities. It is, however, a challenge to all citizens not necessarily to take images to be true on first sight, because of adversaries’ enhanced capability.