This is an opportune time to address the national security strategy. It follows very quickly after the publication of a Conservative policy for a national strategy and the appointment in this House and in another place of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. Let us look at the history. Many noble Lords will be familiar with the original announcement by the Prime Minister setting up a ministerial committee in 2007 and the publication of the national security strategy in March 2008, which was followed up in June 2009. Sir David Omand wrote an interesting paper on the implications for the intelligence agencies in February 2009. The noble Lords, Lord Ashdown and Lord Robertson, led a group in the IPPR giving an independent national security strategy and their views on that. It is against that background that I would like to discuss present progress and the actions that need to be taken.
I do not think there could be any dispute in this House about the need for a national security strategy. Not many would challenge the view that this is now a much more dangerous world for our own country and all countries. If I reflect on the time when I had some responsibility for national security as Secretary of State for Defence and when I was chairing the Intelligence and Security Committee, I see that some challenges have taken on much greater significance. Quite clearly, the threat that jihadist suicide bombers now pose throughout the world is much more severe. There are now risks of nuclear proliferation, particularly in one or two less than stable states. There are increased concerns about the growth of poverty, the impact of climate change and concern about food and water security. The risks that they pose for a mass migration of people create new challenges for us as well. Most recently, there have been discussions and concerns about cybersecurity and the increased risk of potential cyberattacks; and energy security, with the interesting activities of the Chinese, who are clearly seeking to secure their supplies without any universal observations as to how that leaves other countries in the future with regard to security of energy supplies for their own people. The most recent events in Haiti draw attention to the profound and enormous risk of natural disasters, and the challenge they pose to national resilience.
Against that background I look at the strategy and consider its progress to date since its first publication. The paper certainly covers a very wide canvas. So wide was the canvas that, when it first came out, the Intelligence and Security Committee reviewed it and wondered whether any benefits would flow from it or it was merely a paper exercise. The Times leader described it as “a damp squib”. Certainly when one looks at it, ranging all the way from terrorism and swine flu to flooding in Tewkesbury, one sees the enormous range of subjects that it covers and the challenges that it would pose in any implementation.
In what is, I hope, a reasonably bipartisan approach to this problem, it is not too unkind to say that it is not the greatest achievement of this Government that they definitely talk the talk, but it is not always clear as to whether that talk is then subsequently implemented. For instance, I noticed that one of the original recommendations was that the Intelligence and Security Committee—my own area of interest—was to be upgraded. That was two years ago; I am not aware that any of that has yet happened. Look at certain other reports that have been directed at this issue, such as that of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. How many of its recommendations, which were accepted in full by the Government, have yet been implemented? I notice that the Financial Times in February 2009 said that:
“Most of the initiatives in Britain's first national security strategy have been delayed, watered down or quietly dropped since Gordon Brown unveiled the document to ‘safeguard the nation’”.
It is against that background that we need to readdress this issue and give added impetus and incentive to it. What is needed here is a strategy that requires, if it is to be effective at all, the involvement of all the relevant elements of government. Perhaps we did not need to the Chilcot inquiry to draw attention to this problem but it shows the limitations of sofa government, which is totally inimical to the real involvement of all the necessary elements in government that must contribute to proper decision-making. I will look at the different elements that must be crucial. I will refer in a moment to the Conservative policy document, which I commend because it re-establishes, under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, the primacy of the Foreign Office. The need for diplomacy is given a much higher priority. I think it was last week that we heard in this Chamber about the abandonment of the overseas price mechanism. I understand that this was a decision imposed on the Foreign Office by the Treasury. The future efforts of the Foreign Office will be dependent on the current exchange rate of the pound. Given recent turbulent times, what an impossible position that presents the Foreign Office with in planning and maintaining effective programmes.
If I look closer to my own experience, the downgrading of the Ministry of Defence is extremely serious. It is not something that is ignored by our forces on the ground. They know the seniority of the Secretary of State for Defence. The Secretary of State for Defence is, effectively, one of the most junior members of the Cabinet; he is junior to the Chancellor. I certainly did not regard myself as junior to the Chancellor when I had the privilege to be in the Cabinet. He was an equal, senior member of the Cabinet. When you are also junior to the Chief Secretary you really are in trouble. When you go on to say that there is a £36 billion black hole, as the House knows very well, in the Ministry of Defence forward procurement programme and overall financial situation, it is not difficult to see how that happened. We have this most unfortunate situation—some of it accidental or not planned—where there is an annual change of the Secretary of State for Defence. I referred to this in the House yesterday. There is no other business in the world, let alone any major government undertaking, that would say, “You will have a new head every year”. What sort of confidence can those in the forces have that they are led by people with real understanding and experience of what they do? That is an elementary point.
My concern is that whatever strategies are produced and whatever plans are made, at the top of what matters is the leadership given. What is the organisation and priority? The co-ordination of the top departments of government of foreign policy, defence planning and capability, home security and resilience, and domestic cohesion needs leadership of a high order and that of the Prime Minister. It also needs, most importantly, to bring in the role that the intelligence agencies can play. Some of the background and experience of the best people could have contributed so much to avoiding some of the challenges that we face. Many of us mourned the sad news in the last week of the death of Sir Percy Craddock. I noticed a quotation of his:
“Good intelligence means looking backwards as well as forwards”.
Learning some of the lessons of the history could have saved us an awful lot of the problems that we face now.
Against that background, I welcome the Conservative proposal for a national security council. I notice that the Prime Minister said that we have it already. However, it is a question of emphasis, priority and recognition from within the government system, as well as from the public, that this is a top council. It is not just another ministerial Cabinet committee, but one that is given the highest importance and chaired by the Prime Minister with the Foreign Secretary as his deputy, and with the Chancellor, the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office, DfID, the Security Minister, the CDS and the agencies represented. I also welcome the proposal that, if we are in conflict, there should be a war Cabinet, with the leaders of the opposition parties invited to attend. That is very important, as is that higher profile at this time.
The national security council must draw up a comprehensive strategy; review the national interests and make proper risk assessments for them; and regularly report on progress. That is the most important aspect. From that flows the need for the strategic defence and security review. Obviously, I welcome yesterday’s announcement that this is to start. It is accompanied, as is everything under the present Government, by that little code word “not until after the election”, but is something that I am confident a Conservative Government—if the Conservative Party is successful—will wish to carry through. They will not only carry it through but undertake that it will be done in future on a quadrennial basis, in the same way that the United States operates. To have left this for 11 years in the changing international situation is extremely undesirable.
The UK is not alone in this situation. We must work with our allies. I was struck that, on the day that the defence Green Paper came out, Robert Gates, the US Defense Secretary, said that the US needs allies and cannot do it alone. Rather more publicity was given to the point that we might work more closely with the French. I welcome that. It is even more important in the military sense now that they are fully involved in the NATO military structure. There are many other countries that we have not worked with previously, particularly in the field of intelligence and security and the fight against terrorism, that can be our allies as well.
We do all this against what will undoubtedly be a very severe limitation on resources. Therefore, we must focus and prioritise. We must be flexible. I again quote Robert Gates. He said yesterday, “The wars we fight are seldom the ones we plan”. I thought that followed up very well the recent statement by my noble friend Lord Carrington, who quoted the statement that he made in 1970 when he became Defence Secretary. He asked the Chief of Defence Staff, “How many conflicts have you been involved in since the last war, and for how many have we been prepared?”. The answers he got were 41 to the first question and one to the second. Any country that has lived through the Falklands conflict, the liberation of Kuwait, the conflict in Bosnia and the involvement in Afghanistan knows that we have added another four for which we were not prepared or did not anticipate that involvement.
The challenges that we face will not decrease. It is a very unstable world. The priority for us all in this House, in Parliament and in government is the security of the United Kingdom and of its citizens. It is from that secure base that we can then make the contribution that I hope we will to making the world a safer place as well. I beg to move.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord King, for introducing this debate and for the way in which he did it because I wish to have two contexts in my mind when I discuss this. One is the defence Statement made in both Houses yesterday, which will continue to influence this debate. The other is the important contribution from the Front Bench yesterday, which is that we need some degree of all-party involvement in these emerging policies. It does not mean that we have to exclude party politics entirely; indeed, you will never be able to do that. However, our security services—I use that phrase in the widest sense—will expect no less of us than that we give very careful thought to the nature of these threats.
The noble Lord, Lord King, said in his opening remarks that we live in a profoundly dangerous world. I am not sure that the world is more dangerous than it was at the time of the stand-off between what was then the Soviet Union and the United States. You think of the Cuban missile crisis. However, what is fundamentally different is the pace of change, the incredible instability around the world, and therefore the increased unpredictability of what is going to happen. At least you knew what the stand-off between the Soviet Union and the United States was about. You could see the structures of them. Now you cannot see those structures any more. The quotation about the number of predictable wars makes that point rather well. Therefore, we have a duty to give very careful thought to this and to look at it in depth.
As regards the national security strategy, I can do no better than echo the words of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, which called it one of the most important innovations that this Government have introduced. I say that particularly of the 2009 updated policy statement, which was an improvement. The noble Lord, Lord King, said, expanding on Conservative policy, that if the Conservatives won the election, they would set up a national security council. I understand that and the arguments he made underlying that. However, I am not sure that what he described is essentially different from what is involved in the 2009 update paper. If I remember rightly, paragraph 8.4 of the conclusions of that paper talks about the Prime Minister chairing the committee which brings all of these together and involves other organisations, individuals and the private sector. There is not a great deal between the parties on this. There might be a slight difference of emphasis, but I do not think that there is an enormous difference.
There are two areas on which I want to spend a bit of time, although there is an enormous area you can cover. In a way, the biggest danger we face—we all know this—is the increasing fragility of so many states and the expansion of non-state actors, the so-called terrorist groups or whatever, who are sometimes linked to ideologies, religion, protest movements or nationalism. There is a whole range of them. Combined with that we face the profound dangers of increasing scientific knowledge, easily available, on the production and use of weapons of mass destruction, however you define them, and it covers a wide range of issues.
When I chaired the House of Lords Select Committee on Intergovernmental Organisations—an ad-hoc committee—we looked at pandemics and whether we wanted a different process for dealing with a pandemic that came about as a result of a natural cause as opposed to one that came from terrorist causes. The net conclusion was that you needed the same response for dealing with the pandemic, regardless of where it came from. You might have a different strategy for the organisation that spread the pandemic—if that is what has happened—but you needed a similar strategy.
I wish to make two other points in the final minutes allocated to me. First, if I am right about this increasing instability and fragility, we might need to revisit the debate which has exercised me for many years; namely, that concerned with spreading democracy. I am very strongly in favour of that and I think that we all are. However—I say this in the context of the present troubles around the world—in a way the rule of law is now infinitely more important as a first step in order to provide the stability that we need in so many nations.
At Question Time the other day I mentioned the arc of states that runs from the Horn of Africa through the Middle East and Afghanistan and up into central Asia. There are many others as well, but that is a profoundly dangerous area. Given Britain’s reputation on the rule of law and the English common law pattern that is so widely spread around the world, we have a real opportunity to improve what we do in helping countries to develop a legal structure. That need not necessarily involve—I emphasise this—imposing our legal standards on a country which has a different culture and a different background. Rather, it could involve helping them to develop structures that have coherence, predictability and apply, as far as possible, to the whole society. That would begin to challenge the concept of corruption, which is a major cause of instability. One of the issues here is that most of these countries recognise that they need the rule of law, mainly because they want the advantages brought by business. Therefore, they want the rule of law, but they are not always willing or able to deliver it. We need to think about that.
The Minister will remember that last year I tabled a Question on cyber warfare. I remain acutely concerned about that, and I know that he is also acutely concerned about it. It was discussed at the G8, and I think that those involved in the Meridian process—I believe that is what it is called—are looking at it. I emphasise that we all appreciate the profound dangers of cyber attacks. Whether states are doing this themselves or are doing it through other organisations is up for discussion. However, it is certainly coming from some states and many other organisations. Although I do not regard this as an answer, I like some of the things that are laid out in the 2009 document. However, I am still not convinced that we would not benefit if we looked for some sort of international agreement such as we have on chemical and biological weapons or nuclear weapons in order to set a standard for ruling out this type of warfare on the part of nation states. You will not stop it altogether, but such a measure might provide the standard we need in order to deal with this.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord King, has chosen a vital subject for debate. We are a global power, both in terms of defence and foreign policy. We are constantly assured that everything is being done to enhance our security. In the same week, however, we have been told—as the noble Lord said—that the FCO, which operates extensively abroad, faces, as a result of exchange rate movements, a cut of £100 million, and may have had to reduce its work—in fact, has had to reduce its work—on counterterrorism and on capacity building to help conflict prevention in Africa. It has valuable contacts in danger areas such as the Yemen and Somalia and collects invaluable biometric data through visa-issuing posts overseas, a vital weapon in the fight against terrorism. I hope that the new strategy group will ensure that such an essential source of information and influence should not be cut off by a Treasury ruling.
In any future security strategy, decisions must be made after full consultation with any of those involved in decision-making. In a recent report to which Permanent Secretaries have contributed it is clear that under Tony Blair major policy decisions were made by him within No. 10 and the Cabinet Office, although not by the Cabinet. Those who were to implement the actions were not consulted first.
The Islamist threat is, of course, immediate and continuing. However, we must not forget the strategic threat from China in terms of cyber attack, not only on our defence installations but our economic estate, and from Russia. We are a vulnerable island. Command of the seas and air and the possession of a sea-based deterrent are vital to our economy and survival. There will be difficult choices to be made. The new committee should be able to ensure informed consultation, followed by review by a Cabinet exercising collective responsibility, not a Prime Minister acting alone.
Money is, of course, an issue. The first thing to do must surely be to review and reduce the present vast and complex system of committees and sub-committees which constitutes the Cabinet Office today. It should be possible to take the axe to some of this proliferating undergrowth. But there is a daunting picture of thousands of interlocking units. Some useful things are being done under the present system, but nothing which can justify ignoring the constitutional duty to place decisions where they belong—in Parliament for implementation by ministries. Collective ministerial responsibility needs to be restored and the JIC should meet weekly, as it used to. Whatever the special contribution of unelected advisers, they should not replace the civil servants who advise ministries and execute policy.
One of the major failures in the system in recent years has been the plethora of ill-thought-out legislation—much of it knee-jerk reactions to the media—and the extensive involvement of, for instance, McKinsey’s in the work of the ministries and the Cabinet Office. Our foreign and defence policy should not be decided in the Treasury, still less by the PM alone. It will be for the committee responsible for the national security strategy to play a full part in providing the reorganisation needed to restore effective Cabinet government. It should be better able to operate a national security strategy, once the organs of government work as they should. Of the 27 secretariat groups and units, the most powerful and valuable are probably the Delivery Unit and the Strategy Unit, both now located in the Treasury. This gives the Treasury powers beyond its proper remit. There needs to be more transparency and accountability.
Turning to the defence review, I hope that the committee will recognise that we are an island, a maritime nation. We need to have ships able to operate in the Atlantic and protect our shores, and to deliver troops anywhere in the world. We must be able to deliver Trident and maintain our submarine fleet. Russia has not produced a new fighter bomber without hoping to bring pressure to bear on NATO members with a common border. Again, the deterrent is better than war.
On a different, but none the less important, issue, we need not least to take action to improve numeracy in the schools, to teach physics, chemistry and languages, and to fund defence research in the universities. We shall need graduates with these skills in a modern Army.
It will be for the committee to return us to a government system which is not presidential and is fully accountable. The responsibility to execute policy decisions, and to advise, should return to the ministries. Only then can we proceed to an agreed national security strategy. Power to make strategic and tactical decisions must no longer rest, as it largely does at present, inside the Treasury. The latter has a part to play, but it should not be able to make decisions on defence and foreign affairs. If, by retaining deterrents, we can check potential aggressors, we should also consider reclaiming ownership of the nuclear industry and gas supplies. Moreover, I hope that part of our defence strategy will be to develop our own industrial base. What the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said in the previous debate was encouraging. We are a maritime nation, but we are also merchants. To thrive in those areas will be an important part of defence strategy.
My Lords, I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, that part of the problem that we have suffered under the current Government has been the style of government, the constant churning of Ministers, Prime Ministerial dominance over the Cabinet, the downgrading of the Cabinet, and the Government’s dominance over Parliament. I remind him, however, that his party is making a strong request that after the next election there should be single-party government, clear Executive dominance of Parliament, and a Prime Minister who will have all the power that Tony Blair had. Perhaps, when the Constitutional Reform Bill hits this House and the Conservative Party wants to strike as much as possible out of it, the noble Lord will remind his party leader of what he has just said.
In yesterday’s Statement, it was announced that the Defence Green Paper would pave the way for a strategic defence review which would be,
“set in the context of the National Security Strategy”.
We were missing a further stage which, in turn, depends upon our view of Britain’s place in the world. That is what is lacking in much of our discussions. It is particularly lacking in the Conservatives’ national security strategy.
We have a consensus among the parties about the need for a wider definition of national security and for that to be reflected in the way in which Whitehall is organised. However, of the three papers mentioned by the noble Lord, the IPPR paper is by far the most substantial and is the most critical of what one has to call the outdated consensus of British foreign policy.
The Conservative paper states that the party is committed to,
“a liberal Conservative attitude to foreign policy which champions an enlightened vision of the national interest,”
which will be,
“a distinctive British foreign policy”.
The paper does not tell us what any of this means or what such a policy would be. What does one do when the definition of objectives is difficult? One proposes a reorganisation of structures. The document does not say anything more about costs. When David Cameron launched it, I asked him how the party would manage it all in the context of sharply reducing costs. He seemed unable to answer.
Last summer, William Hague remarked in a speech that this is not an east-of-Suez moment. This is an east-of-Suez moment which should make us think very hard about what that means for British foreign policy. The old-style image, which we heard about from the noble Baroness, Lady Park, of the UK as a great trading nation standing alone and defending itself properly in a dangerous world—Britain as an exceptional country—is part of what we must re-examine.
We must also re-examine what I call the “white man’s burden” view of the world, in which the United States and Europe, through NATO, maintain international order on their own. I rarely agree with anything that I read in the Daily Mail, but Correlli Barnett’s article this morning was spot on. We are stuck with the old 1950s myths of British exceptionality, determined to go on overspending to maintain our ability to protect Chinese goods on Korean-built ships going through the Straits of Aden because that is what Britain has always done—just as we went on defending the route to India for 20 years after we gave India independence.
The Liberal Democrat approach is to accept that we are now in a G20 world, not an Atlantic one. A global shift is under way and it is in our interests to co-opt other actors into sharing the ability to cope with the various threats that we face. The Indian army is the largest single contributor to UN forces. The Indians and the Chinese must accept that they, too, must share the responsibility for dealing with failing states and with the problem of climate change.
The drivers of insecurity must also be addressed. One fundamental problem of insecurity for this country and others is that we have, across the Middle East, an unresolved conflict between Israel and the Arab world. We are also supporting a number of regimes, including in Yemen, which are not providing the political, economic and social development that their populations need. Unless we address that, we will face further insecurity following our failure. That is why my party is so much more critical of the US approach to the Middle East conflict than either Labour or the Conservatives. We want to see closer European co-operation with France, the Netherlands, the Nordics, the Balts, the Poles and others: structured co-operation of the sort that the IPPR report suggested. We accept the necessity of international engagement, which means close co-operation within Europol and Eurojust, and all the other things that the noble Lord, Lord West, did not mention when taking through the Borders Bill, but which I am sure he recognises are extremely important.
Lastly, we recognise—my noble friend Lady Hamwee will say more about this—that when we talk about resilience, the trend towards the centralisation and professionalisation of government in this country has been taking us in the wrong direction. Resilience in a crisis means local resilience, with local people being engaged as volunteers, taking responsibility back from the centralised police and government that took it away from local communities. There are many issues here that I will leave my noble friend to cover in more detail.
My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord King for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject. In my few minutes, I will focus on the single issue of cybersecurity. I am a member of Sub-Committee F of the European Union Committee of this House. We are looking at cybersecurity on an EU-wide basis. I will not run before the committee's conclusions, which will undoubtedly be debated on the Floor of your Lordships’ House in due course, but we have picked up some lessons that are relevant to our debate this afternoon. We had interesting evidence sessions, one of which involved the Minister himself. He was extremely frank and helpful, and I place on record my thanks for his contribution.
I will make two broad points. The first concerns the level of public awareness of the prevalence of, and threat from, cybersecurity breaches. I hold up my hand: when we began this inquiry in September, I saw the problem as being primarily one of lonely anoraks in their bedrooms getting their intellectual kicks from breaking and entering the citadels of computing power—places like the Pentagon, the Ministry of Defence and major banks. I saw it as an intellectual rather than a criminal challenge, although clearly some criminal intent was involved. I have had a rude awakening. My cosy assumption probably was accurate five years ago, but now everything has changed. Criminals and others are hard at work in cyberspace. However, I suspect that I am typical of the general public in assuming that cyberattacks remain a minority problem, and I believe that we have to do more to raise awareness about them.
Secondly, there is a rising prevalence and frequency of attacks. I may be suffering from what advertising men call selective perception: when you want to buy a car, you always see advertisements relating to cars. Perhaps it is because I am on the cybersecurity inquiry that I keep seeing news about it. I see allegations about Indian and Chinese-inspired hacking. I see that the Davos World Economic Forum devoted a session to it a week or so ago. Does the Minister agree that public awareness is on the low side, and that the frequency of attacks is increasing? If he does so agree, I think that we need to look at the punch in the government document, Cyber Security Strategy of the United Kingdom. It is a perfectly worthy document, but it is dull. It is not going to encourage or raise intellectual curiosity or awareness of the problem, and I think that there is a great deal more to be done in that regard.
The scale of attacks and their sophistication are quite staggering. If you go on to Wikipedia—that essential support for a Back-Bench Member of your Lordships’ House so far as research is concerned—you will find listed what are called botnets, which are collections of autonomous and automatic software robots. The largest of them is called Srizbi. With 450,000 bots, it is capable of delivering 60 billion spam messages a day and is clearly able to overwhelm any individual computer system. You will see quite frequently cropping up in the list on Wikipedia botnets with a capability of delivering 1 billion to 10 billion spam messages a day. We also have Trojan malware, whereby software is inserted into a person’s computer without them knowing about it, and messages which appear to originate from them in fact originate from someone completely different. There are also cyberprivateering and cybermercenaries. Most worrying of all was what one of our experts at Sub-Committee F said. You may think that you have an anti-virus system but, whereas four years ago it would have stopped 80 per cent of the viruses that are around, it now stops less than a third—probably only about 20 per cent. Ways have been found to get round the systems. Certainly John Donne’s famous phrase, “No man is an island”, applies in the field of cybersecurity.
In the last minute or two available to me, I should like to ask the Minister a couple of specific points. In doing so, I accept that there is no silver bullet—there is no single answer to the problem that we face. The first is the question of our structural response. A good structural response by the United Kingdom requires interface between our Civil Service, cyber experts and regulators. The Civil Service tends to be arts-led and have a very hierarchical structure. Cyber experts are engineering-led and, because it is a fast-moving, predominantly young person’s industry, it has very flat organisational structures, if indeed any organisational structures at all. Regulators tend to be law-led with a heavy reliance on process. Is the Minister convinced that we have so far managed to find a way to tie these very different disciplines together in a way that will give us an effective response to the many challenges that lie ahead?
Secondly, I should like to ask him about international standards and international collaboration. Here, I follow the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, and I shall not use up any more time making it again now.
Thirdly, I have two practical suggestions. Would it not be a good idea if it became a requirement for internet service providers to report the number of infected machines? So far, there is no requirement to do so, except on a voluntary basis. I understand that about 2 to 5 per cent of such cases are reported, but that is almost certainly an understatement.
Finally, in order to reduce the level of petty crime at an individual level which collectively can become very large, should there not be some effort to make sure that credit card companies give better and fuller details of the entries on credit card slips? Noble Lords who might challenge a £100 entry might not challenge one for £2.50, but if it happened to be the result of cybercrime and was repeated, collectively it could add up to a very substantial sum.
I fear that this subject will be an increasing part of our future world. I look forward to hearing from the noble Lord how he proposes we meet the challenges.
My Lords, it is nearly two years since the publication of the first national security strategy for the UK. This debate is overdue and I applaud the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, for tabling it. I also welcome the very recent and extremely belated establishment, with its first meeting next week, of the Joint Committee on this document to monitor what has happened or is to happen as a result of this strategy.
First, I want to welcome the document. Its gestation was quite lengthy, and here I declare an interest, as I and others suggested that it was necessary some time ago. The Government deserve credit for producing it, but no doubt in the course of this debate we shall hear criticism of it. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, in describing it as a policy document, put his finger on one of the points: it is not exactly a strategy. However, it is right to establish the principle of seeking to articulate plainly and coherently the challenges to security faced by this country. I see from their Green Paper that the Opposition also recognise this need and that, if elected, will write a new national security strategy—building, I hope, on some of the strengths in the existing document.
That brings me to repeat a sentiment that I expressed in my maiden speech, and which I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Soley, refer to—that is, the need to seek as far as possible cross-party consensus on the nature of the threats to national security. I think that the opposition undertaking, if elected, to invite the leaders of the main opposition parties to attend the so-called “war Cabinet” is a good one, even if the invitation will not necessarily be accepted. I myself should like to see the invitation extended to participation in the national security council, which I hope may be established. I well recall the noble Lord, Lord King, arguing that the Intelligence and Security Committee should be chaired by a Member of the Opposition to demonstrate its non-political approach. Indeed, he chaired that committee during the first years of this Government.
Of course, I understand that parties will make different decisions on what to do about various threats. That is very understandable, but some consensus on what they are would be worth striving for. The public, who in my experience give unstinting private support to the covert work of my former service—the Security Service—would welcome national security being less of a political football.
Thirdly, I draw attention to the lack of definition of national security. That is not a surprise, it having been the policy of successive Governments to avoid defining it. Definition would be prescriptive given that the threat to it changes and the concept of what it is evolves. In most of my career, and in the career of the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, it was understood to apply narrowly: to defending the United Kingdom from threats of terrorism, espionage, sabotage and attempts through subversion to undermine parliamentary democracy. It was not generally used in relation to wider defence or other issues. At some stage, in the wake of 9/11, its non-existent definition was considerably broadened to include other threats to the country’s security: international organised crime, energy supply, pandemics, natural disasters, civil emergencies, with defence also being brought under the same heading. I do not dissent from that but I observe that it happened without deliberate discussion and that there were signs that labelling an issue “national security” was seen in some quarters as a way of attracting funds.
We should recognise, first, that it has happened; secondly, that there are implications for legislation enacted when the earlier—narrower—definition was implicit; thirdly, the real challenges to prioritisation from this document and the danger of lack of focus; and fourthly, the position of the devolved Governments, who have no responsibility for national security, but who have responsibility for some of the subjects covered by the paper.
Finally, I should say a word on cyberthreat. The cosy assumptions of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, were not accurate even five years ago. This is not a new threat although it has increased rapidly and exponentially. The document is misleading in implying that the establishment of the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure in 2007, before I retired from the Security Service, was the first step in defending the UK from cyber attack. This area is covered by acronyms; there are lots of different units and organisations. But extensive work has been going on to protect the UK from this threat for many years, primarily led by GCHQ, my service and others. In the early 1990s it was the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre—another mouthful. Now the Office of Cyber Security has arrived, plus the Cyber Security Operations Centre, and the Opposition, if elected, plan a Cyber JTAC—the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre—the success of which is widely recognised and imitated internationally.
Since my service proposed to Sir David Omand, then the intelligence co-ordinator, that we should establish a JTAC to pool skills and to share the Security Service’s responsibility for assessing terrorist threats with others from different departments and perspectives, I could not object to the establishment of a JTAC for cyberthreats. But, as with the national security strategy itself, the focus should be on what improvements result from these new structures, not the structures and their names themselves.
My Lords, on 12 July, a notorious date to many noble Lords, including a good few of us here today, I was asked down and received lunch from the then Leader of the Opposition on becoming Prime Minister. She asked about my duties in your Lordships’ House. When I said that I was an opposition Whip, she asked what that was. Your Lordships may remember that the Tornado aircraft was first known as the multi-role combat aircraft, so I said that I was an MRCP. The leader said, “I didn’t know that you were a member of the Royal College of Physicians”. I said, “No, multi-role combat Peer”. That applies also to my noble friend Lord King, who introduced the debate. He has done many jobs, but he was quite humble. When I put my name down to speak, I thought that we would be discussing one aspect of what he said—military security. As always, I was a good bit wrong.
Nevertheless, within six years of that interesting talk with the then Leader of the Opposition, I found myself in my first and only ministerial job. I became aware of the enormous range of skills that have been displayed by the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, let alone by my noble friend Lady Park and many others, on intense security within the United Kingdom. I trained for several years as a chartered accountant and I am a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Its great motto, and mine, was “Zero errors. Make no mistake”. That certainly came home heavily to me in my duties, as many noble Lords will know.
Perhaps I may give an example. Sheets of paper used to come across my desk and I had to compare them. There were three sheets of paper and I noticed that an accent on a particular name was wrong. I said, “Look, zero errors. If there is an error here, the lawyers are going to ask how much more we have got wrong”. That brought home to me, a mere amateur, the enormous depth of security and care that must be achieved. It was referred to by my noble friend when he was talking about the cyber effect and all of that. I and anyone else in what I call the retail end of this subject—I am the most humble speaker here today—certainly learnt to read, to speak and, above all, to remember that you will receive only the information that you need to know.
Much happened during my noble friend’s time and mine. Although I received only the information that I needed to know, it did not stop me gleaning much more from other sources. My noble friend was honest in his defence of one aspect of his duties when he said that there was a quick turnover. The four years that he shared with me was about as long as any of the jobs that he has done among his many duties. For my part, it was five and a half years, so both of us must have done something right and perhaps not got too many things wrong.
Will the Minister advise me? I have received in some of my briefing a concept known as CONTEST. I understand that it is an acronym for counterterrorism strategy. There are four aspects to it: prepare, pursue, protect and prevent. The two aspects of prevention and preparation would be up my street and I might be able to take on board part of their discipline. However, I hope that the Minister will be able to elaborate and stress what those entering this arcane and critical world of counterterrorism and security will be able to pursue. Will the Minister write to me or answer me today? I am looking to 2012, and many of us will remember what happened 40 years ago in Munich. Between now and 2012, will the Government please note any security measures that they have for the millions of people who will come to our capital for the Olympic Games?
I thank my noble friend for giving us the chance to debate the subject today and I apologise to him for misreading the Order Paper—perhaps I need new glasses—and thinking that he was going to concentrate on military security. I hope that I have got one or two things right.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, for securing this debate. In a past life, the noble Lord was both Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. If he will forgive me, I would like to, as it were, mimic his career by moving between those two fields, because there are at least some aspects of this issue that can be illuminated by the Northern Irish experience.
One point that is not often made is that, on 9 December 1975, the Daily Telegraph carried out a poll that showed that two-thirds of the British people wanted to get out of Northern Ireland immediately. It is not difficult to see why. Between 1971 and 1975, we lost more British soldiers in Northern Ireland than have been lost thus far in the campaign in Afghanistan. The truth, as all of us in this House know, is that that mood of public opinion was not responded to. Today, I think that the British people would take the view that the decent settlement that we now have in Northern Ireland justified—at least to some degree, if anything ever could—the sacrifice of those young men. We must hope that we will be able say that some day about Afghanistan.
The Northern Ireland story, despite its present difficulties, is, by and large, a success story for our characteristic approach to national security. It is a victory for our typical virtues, as we like to see them: pragmatism, compromise and willingness to include violent extremes if they give up violence. In 2002, the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson—himself an impressive Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—argued that the United States, in pursuing its war on terror, should reflect on how the British fought terrorism, opting to negotiate with the IRA through its political wing rather than to defeat it.
All that I respect and understand, but a serious feature of what might be called the characteristic British approach to national security is perhaps less impressive and requires some comment. That is a strong tendency in discussion of these matters to downplay the role of political ideology and, in particular, the political ideology of those who declare themselves to be the mortal enemies of our state. The Government’s recent documents, the National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom—the 2008 and 2009 versions—reflect that tendency. Reference to ideology—whether we are talking about al-Qaeda or dissident Irish republicans, which are mentioned in those documents—is scant indeed. There is none at all in the first document. The second document, which in some ways is a better and more expansive document, has almost a whole paragraph devoted to the ideology of al-Qaeda, but that is an incredibly scanty reference to what surely is a central question. In fact, the first document is more vivid on how the impact of climate change could be destabilising for the United Kingdom than it is on the ideology of al-Qaeda or dissident republicans.
To take that further, the Statement read in your Lordships’ House on 20 January—the most recent Statement on security and counterterrorism—arising from the Detroit affair was again silent on the matter of ideology. At the very same time, Mike Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center in the Obama Administration, was giving evidence to both congressional and Senate committees. He talked about a scale, scope and depth of radicalisation in the United Kingdom that was not to be found in the United States. I do not want to enter the debate as to where the Detroit bomber was radicalised, but we must surely note that we are avoiding an issue and giving the impression to the world that we are sticking our head in the sand in our documents and statements on these matters.
Why is that important? First, we need to be clear about what we are defending in our way of life. We are not being clear. The recent debate on Britishness, for example, initiated by the Prime Minister, fizzled out. I dare to say that not a single Member of your Lordships’ House is surprised that it did. It is also important to say something else. Although concern for civil liberties, which was very marked in your Lordships’ House in the debate about 42 days, is a crucial and defining feature of the British tradition, we must recall that democracies can and do take exceptional measures to survive certain types of threat and then abandon those exceptional measures when conditions change and permit their abandonment. Annexe A of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s document Could 7/7 Have Been Prevented? shows how very far we are from being any type of surveillance state. We should keep that in mind when we discuss these matters.
Finally, our ideological agnosticism, so characteristic of the British cast of mind, often coupled with a tendency to blame others for causing terrorism, such as reactionary Ulster Protestants, stiff-necked Israelis or George Bush, is both a strength—I admit that it is a strength—and a weakness. We must recall that we have a situation where dissident republicans are now so active in Northern Ireland that, despite the obvious threats of an al-Qaeda link to the United Kingdom, we have had to make a major shift of intelligence resources back to Northern Ireland to deal with the problem there.
This tells us that there may be some problem in our approach, even where we have been largely successful. It may be in part because we have not taken seriously enough the business of delivering a killer blow to pernicious ideologies and have almost stepped away from the question. The Prime Minister’s preface to the national security document states that we no longer face the threat that we faced from fascism or from the Soviet Union and the current threat is not as challenging to the way of life of the United Kingdom. In the sense that no large state, with the possible exception of Iran, is involved in international terrorism, I see the point, but the threat that we face today is stronger if we take, say, women’s rights seriously than the ideological threat from the Soviet Union. It is certainly not less than that threat.
It is essential that we are not shamefaced in defending our values. If we are, we send out a permissive signal to terrorists that they have at least half a point, as significant parts of our metropolitan elite did during the Troubles and, by so doing, merely extended the agonies that unfortunately still continue to plague us.
I, too, congratulate and thank my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater on obtaining this timely and important debate on these extremely wide documents. I find myself following the noble Lord, Lord Bew, not only physically, as it were, but because I want to say comparatively detailed things about Northern Ireland and then about ideology.
Both strategy documents more or less ignore Northern Ireland terrorism. There is one sentence in paragraph 6.26 of the 2009 document, and that is about all. We all hope that the political situation, currently having difficulties, will get back on track, but we must not lose sight of, nor underestimate, the potential for the security situation in the Province to slip back, and that is a worry at present. The section of these documents that emphasises the importance of border controls to anti-terrorist operations seems to ignore the fact that we have a land border as well as airports and seaports. As we all know, the land border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland is completely porous. It was highly porous even when we had half the Army helping to police it, and it is even more so now. Therefore, no systematic checks are possible on that part of our border, however clever the digital system is at airports and seaports.
In these circumstances, it is extraordinary that, for example, the list of countries whose citizens need visas to enter the UK, so that they can be checked and so on for any terrorist affiliations on the way in, is different from the list for those entering the Republic of Ireland. So far, insufficient effort seems to have gone into trying to co-ordinate the two lists. Much closer co-ordination is needed between the laws of the countries within the common travel area if it is to work in the anti-terrorist field, quite apart from anything else.
I also want to talk about ideology and particularly the Islamist side. I have told the House before that my wife's family has a long Christian connection in East Jerusalem; in particular, they have an interest in a hotel and a children's charity. Our Muslim friends all confirm that so-called Islamism is a distortion of true Islamic teaching. Of course, Christianity has many variations that all claim to be the correct version, so we should not be surprised that Islam does too. Islamism has its roots in opposition to western colonialism, when a century or so ago we tried to replace the collapsing Ottoman Empire, particularly in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood started. In its various forms, it has long had difficulty getting to power by election or popular demand. That is why it has turned to terrorism. If we say or do anything to foster the idea that we still want to govern Muslim lands, we give Islamists excellent propaganda ammunition.
As and when Islamists gain strength anywhere, the greatest sufferers are other Muslims. When there is a terrorist incident here, all peace-loving Muslims feel society’s hands and eyes turned suspiciously against them straightaway. It is the same overseas. We should therefore listen carefully to mainstream Muslims who seek to counter the Islamists. I am thinking for instance of the Quilliam foundation, which does excellent work. They urge us to pursue the battle of ideas. We want to be friendly with Muslim nations and to trade with them to mutual advantage; we do not want take over Muslim lands.
The exception to this statement in the West is Israel, which is why building settlements in occupied land, which was discussed in an Oral Question at Question Time today, has a much wider baleful influence than it has even internally in Israel and Palestine. It is a real driver of terrorism all over the Muslim world. I do not mean for a moment that it is the only driver or the original driver of Islamism, but it now plays into the hands of extremists. We must always so conduct ourselves that they have the least convincing arguments for recruiting. That means helping Muslim countries to achieve better living standards, often through the ability to trade. Many of them have excelled at trade for much longer than we have; the Levantine trader is a very old phenomenon. It also means not resorting to excessively repressive measures, such as those which the noble Lord, Lord Bew, discussed just now, that go against our liberal principles and which ultimately create martyrs for their cause. The western way of life is not perfect, but it is the better way and will prove to be ideologically stronger in the end, and we have to fight the case.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord King for initiating this timely debate. The main threats to our national security in the 21st century come from an array of challenges such as nuclear proliferation and energy security. However, terrorism stands out as a tangible threat, as we sadly experienced in July 2005.
On our military involvement in Afghanistan, Members in the other place paid tribute yesterday to the latest servicemen to lose their lives in the region. We have a duty to our citizens and Armed Forces to shoulder the collective task of formulating a robust security strategy for an increasingly dangerous world. We need a comprehensive approach to national security that will call on the expertise of many rather than on the opinions of a select few. Heads of government departments such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the Chancellor should form an integral part of any decision to embark on military action overseas. This was seen to be lacking in the Iraq invasion. The last defence review took place some years ago, and since then we have experienced September 11 in America and 7 July on our own territory. An annual status report should be introduced that will enable decision-makers to determine the progress of existing security policies.
Border security is crucial to enhancing our national security. It is in our best interests to work with our European partners to achieve this aim. We must also strengthen our historic alliance with the United States. We must innovate and update our defence capacity if we are to maintain our military prowess on the world stage. Failure to do so may jeopardise our standing in the UN Security Council. Foreign policy and national security are linked and should be treated as such. The success of our foreign policy will work to promote our national security and interests at home and abroad. We can take the lead, along with our international partners and supranational organisations, to prevent conflicts from occurring. It is especially important that we adopt this method for Commonwealth countries, particularly as we are bound by history. When I spoke on this subject recently in your Lordships’ House, I made that point.
The shared border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has become a hotbed of terrorist strategy and activity. The region is set to account for approximately 75 per cent of investigated terrorism plots in Britain. Closer co-operation with Pakistan and assistance to that country is crucial to our success in Afghanistan and to safeguard our own security. Failure in Afghanistan could have a devastating effect in terms of our national security and stability in the region. History tells us that the war in Afghanistan will be challenging for our servicemen and allies.
Our troops do not have adequate equipment and support in order to fulfil their important tasks. What action is being taken to remedy that unacceptable situation? Furthermore, it is imperative that we build the infrastructure of the country, combat corruption and win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan to stop radicalisation in that area.
The internet has undoubtedly enriched many areas of everyday life. However, it has also heightened the possibility of cyber attacks. Terrorists and extremist groups are using the internet to convey their messages to a worldwide audience at minimal cost and with minimal effort. A successful national security strategy should pay particular attention to this growing threat.
This country has a proud history of promoting democratic values around the world and in our local communities. Although we are in a heightened state of external threats, legislation must not be allowed to compromise our civil liberties. It is important to strike a balance to ensure that no ethnic or socio groups feel as though they have been targeted. We must foster greater integration and tolerance in our communities.
The 7 July terrorist attack in London was an immense tragedy. Most disturbing was the fact that two of the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks were born in Britain. As a Muslim, I totally condemn any form of terrorist or extremist activity. Nearly all Muslims are peace-loving and law-abiding citizens, but I accept that there is a problem with a tiny minority. In regard to suicide bombings, I should like to state categorically that Islam forbids the committal of suicide.
In the Holy Koran it is written:
“Whoever kills a human being then it is as though he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a human life it is as though he had saved all mankind”.
In addition to taking security measures to combat terrorism and extremism, we need to examine fully why some young people undertake these unacceptable activities. At the present time, I feel that we are concentrating more on what I call firefighting. We need to look equally at the root causes of the problems and to undertake remedial actions. To enable us to do this we need the input and participation of the Government, police, security services, local authorities, voluntary bodies and members of the Muslim communities. I add that the media and politicians need to refrain from the use of inflammatory language. We also need to recognise the considerable achievements of the Muslim youth who act as role models. I would like the Minister to comment on what I have said.
I conclude by saying that the question of national security covers a multitude of areas, which is why a narrow approach to the issue will never succeed. Our national and domestic security should be the shared responsibility of many government departments and agencies. Co-operation with our partners in the European Union and other supranational organisations is vital to ensuring that we further our national interests while protecting our national security.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord King, for giving us the opportunity to hold this debate. I am very much an amateur or lay person in this area, but I do not apologise for taking part because in a representative democracy the Executive cannot rely on, “If you knew what I know”. It is entirely obvious that there should be a strategy and tactics, but they are not the same as policy, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, said.
I want to talk about just a few of the attributes of a strategy. It should be owned by all who need to implement it, and they are more than the MoD, the Treasury, central government and the agencies of central government. That raises issues because anything cross-departmental seems to highlight the different cultures of government in their different guises. There are differences in the levels of government and differences from those outside government who need to work as partners—and I have no doubt that the international dimension adds to the problems. Government departments speak different languages from one another and from their agencies such as the police, fire and rescue services, which in turn differ from each other and from local government, as well as from the private sector—which owns so much of the infrastructure that has to be protected—and, indeed, from individual citizens. The most basic requirement of any strategy is that it is joined up, and I agree with the need for political consensus as far as possible in that.
The language is important both in talking the talk, as the noble Lord said, and in walking the walk. To talk of the “war on terror” seems to me in itself to be a concession to the terrorist. I am not sure about the “battle for ideas”. Terrorism as a threat, a crime and a tragedy is not comparable to, say, the Second World War, and on a daily basis road traffic accidents are more deadly, but terrorism causes more anxiety. Perhaps that is because in a fast-moving media age, we watch its results from our own living rooms. We did that on 9/11 and 7/7, on which occasion the ordinary—the bus in Tavistock Square looking at first glance like an open-top tourist bus—had become terrifying. In my view, the media should also be partners in the strategy. You might say that they have only a tactical role, but I think they have more because it is to the media that the public turn.
The strategy should recognise how people may behave in different crisis situations, and I do not know what might be done with our technology in 2010, but certainly in July 2005 the load on the mobile phone networks was immense. That was important because in part they were being used operationally. The load would have been reduced if the media—as a partner in responding—had broadcast, for instance, requests to use landlines or to text. Broadcasters and viewers were hungry for information and footage. A pretty good media centre was set up, but not enough up-to-date footage was available. Old footage was repeated again and again without a timeline, so it was not clear whether the advice being given was up to date, and confusion arose from this. If the media had been in a partnership role, the problem might have been anticipated and avoided.
I said that our language should not play to the terrorists’ agenda, and taking measures without looking at the broader consequences is also a concession to terrorism. Central to all this—as the noble Lords, Lord Bew and Lord Cope, mentioned in particular—is to ensure that we are not led into the erosion of the liberties and freedoms that we seek to protect. To take a deliberately extreme example, it is perhaps superficially attractive to say that the torture of individuals may be for the greatest good of the greatest number but, at a practical level, as we have seen over the centuries, it is a very effective recruiting officer—and at what cost to the liberties of every individual if torture becomes acceptable? We lose the moral high ground and we lose standing in the battle of ideas. The same applies to detention without charge. Internment in Northern Ireland in the 1970s itself triggered violence. Trust between the community and the security services was destroyed and the chance of winning hearts and minds was lost.
Seeing things from the point of view of individuals affects planning. I was a member of the London Assembly part of the Greater London Authority which reviewed what happened on 7/7. Our focus was communications and we expected to concentrate on technical matters. However, our review became as much about the people as the technical. We met passengers from the trains and the bus. This impressed on me not only the extraordinary things that some people are capable of but that strategists and planners have to put themselves in the minds of those affected. The responder’s own response needs the personal dimension.
One example is communications. On that day, the tube passengers caught in carriages which were not bombed were literally in the dark; they did not know whether the train might catch fire, whether to open the doors and so on. Through understanding the difficulties that causes, the problem has been acted on. I dare say some of your Lordships have been on tube trains which have stopped unexpectedly and the driver has immediately made an announcement. Even if it is only to say, “I do not know why we have stopped”, the passengers know they are not abandoned.
Similarly, we are good at setting up emergency centres but do we take into account that most of us are used to looking after ourselves and feel anxious if we cannot take our own decisions? The process for someone at an emergency centre without his normal medication is that a doctor or a nurse dispenses it. However, if you are, say, a diabetic and used to managing your own condition, this is quite disabling.
We all like to be reassured that someone is in charge. I pay tribute to the work of many local authorities which have coped with emergencies. Carl Minns, the leader of Hull, which suffered appalling floods in 2007, said that the council was able to show strong community leadership, providing a voice for the local community and taking the pressure off the emergency services so that they could concentrate on operational matters—and, of course, local knowledge helps to identify those most at risk.
So plan for people; make the processes fit the people, not the other way round. In evidence to the London Assembly, Tim O’Toole, then managing director of London Underground, made this point:
“Invest in your staff, and rely on them. Invest in technology, but do not rely on it”.
I finish by reiterating an earlier point: of course Liberal Democrats want to bring to justice those who threaten or breach our security, but not by becoming what we are fighting. We support measures to make us safer, not less free.
My Lords, I join everyone who has taken part in the debate in thanking my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater for introducing this important debate and for doing so with such cogency. The range of speakers and their contributions have reflected the scope and breadth of the concept we now call national security—a phrase which has relatively recently entered the British bureaucratic vocabulary. The subject is no longer confined—as it was at one time—to diplomats, the Armed Forces and the intelligence community.
The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, asked a pertinent question about what we mean by “national security”. I think she is right to say that in no official document—or, indeed, in any issued by my party—have we attempted a definition. That is part of the difficulty.
Whereas in the Cold War, when we talked much about defence and deterrence, we used to think about security in terms of the functioning of the organs of the state, power and ordered government, we now mean something much broader, which has to do with the capacity of society as a whole to function through emergency. It means a form of daily safety; it has a much larger human element; and it encompasses not just threats of a man-made, traditional kind such as a war but also other things that can constitute such disruption to a society, if they succeed or do damage, that they affect security in a fundamental sense. Very poor societies, if hit by a tsunami, for instance, can travel back so far in their development that their nature is changed. We therefore need to have in mind when we talk about national security a much broader concept. There are no boundaries. It is no longer a question of abroad and at home; it is the interaction of these two. The threats and hazards that we face take place and interact on both sides of national borders.
I think that there is much consensus in the Chamber on what we are confronted by and what we should try to do next about it. We are in the process of making a new institutional framework, about which I shall say more in a minute, in order to cope with it. Despite there being much consensus, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, struck a rather different note in his vision for the future of this country, which was much narrower than what I heard from other parts of the Chamber. We are much stronger as a nation if there is fundamental agreement and broad consensus on what we are trying to do. I hope that this debate and others like it, which I hope will take place, begin the process of teasing out the issues.
Earlier this week, the Home Affairs Select Committee in another place published a report on the Home Office’s response to terrorism. The committee said:
“The structures that are now in place may be suitable for combating the terrorist threat as currently constituted, but we are not confident that government institutions have the desire to constantly adapt to meet ever-changing threats”.
That is an illuminating comment. The committee distinguishes between structures and institutions. It seems broadly to be saying, “The structures are OK, but institutions are falling short”. Considerable progress has been made on confronting the major threat to our country in the past decade or so—terrorism—for which the Government and the agencies should be given credit. On that, the committee is in effect saying that it is satisfied. Institutions, on the other hand, come in for criticism. What I think is being said is that government as a whole, and possibly Parliament as well, are not doing so well in that area—we have heard comments, on which I shall not elaborate, about the phenomenon of sofa government, which it is important not to repeat.
It was against the background of a lack of a really strong institutional framework that three years ago my party said that there needed to be a national security council to provide an integrated and comprehensive approach to national security. The way in which one needs to go about making policy these days is different because of the changed nature of the threats and hazards that we face, and one therefore needs to adapt the structures and institutions of government to meet them. It is fair to say that the Government have gone some way towards adopting these ideas but, as the Home Affairs Committee points out, there is still some way to go. The immediate impression that you get from the committee’s report is that while there has been progress on counterterrorism, as a part of policy it lacks proper integration with other aspects of national security policy—indeed, I would say, with other aspects of CONTEST.
Other noble Lords have outlined very well the nature of the strategic context in which the UK finds itself. I will not go into an exhaustive analysis. The factors that aggravate the causes of insecurity are well known, and noble Lords have spoken about them. They include globalisation, climate change and demographic changes—population tends to be a considerable intensifier of some of the threats that we may face in future—and they are a background to our immediate problems. It is fair to say that the chances of conventional state-on-state conflict are low, although not absolutely to be excluded; we should never forget that the problem of Iran confronts us even now.
The UK, along with others, has to contend with proliferation and, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, the potential and sometimes actual destruction of the supply of essential commodities. The worldwide increase in wealth and wealth generation has put pressure on natural resources in a way that we have not hitherto seen. Alongside the benign side of things like the development of China, we also see challenges from countries such as China, Russia and Iran. Other noble Lords have mentioned some of them; indeed, the cyber threat deserves a debate in its own right since it is a significant issue now and has very many facets.
It is also fair to say that states increasingly use proxies, whether they are organised criminals, terrorists—Iran does this—or insurgent groups. Sometimes, to come back to what noble Lords have been saying, they interfere in the personal computers of ordinary citizens to launch cyber attacks. The non-state actor has emerged as a phenomenon over the past 20 years and is beginning to reach a significant level of offensive capability against ordered society. I fear that the militarily capable non-state actor—a terrible term for these individuals—who is not part of organised authority but is challenging both the power and authority of the ordered state will be a challenge with which we will have to deal for a significant part of this century. Their aim, of course, as many noble Lords have said, is to undermine the principles and freedoms that we are trying to defend.
The terrorist and the organised criminal are soulmates. They help each other to exploit failed or failing states and increase the fragility of states that are not well founded. The convergence of these various actors and the combination of these challenges is one of the reasons why we need to organise our Government to be able to meet them in a similarly combined fashion.
The Government need to adopt and embed a comprehensive all-hazards approach in developing their capabilities and responses. As I hope our Green Paper made clear, we think that we need to clarify the strategic connections between the different risks, focus departmental attention on those connections, identify where cross-departmental working is required and develop a cross-government planning process to ensure joint working.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, rightly said that departments have different cultures, and that is a real barrier to working together. The Government have made some real progress in this area with their notion of the pools. The funding and the pooled effort have shown how difficult it is to get it going and how worthwhile it is when you actually succeed. But this approach needs to be taken a good deal further. I am sorry, I am exceeding my time.
In approaching these challenges, built on a national security approach, the last thing that the Government have to do is to provide real leadership. My noble friend Lord King made that point very powerfully. It is important, and communication by government is also extremely important. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made that point and I agree with her, although I am not sure how easy it is to have the media as a companion in that area.
We need more transparency and more trust in the public. We must allow individuals to participate in their own security and contribute to it. That is an important part of a modern approach to national security. Individuals, communities and businesses can make a very real contribution. Finally, of course, so can minority communities. It is very important that we recognise that there is an ideological challenge and that we face it together. We must face the challenge of radicalisation together as a society because in the end, it lies at the roots of our ability to protect ourselves as a secure nation.
My Lords, I join the rest of the House in extending my grateful thanks to the noble Lord, Lord King, for initiating this timely debate. This is something that I would like to have even more discussion about. One can tell from some of the overruns that noble Lords have a lot to say about it. It is an extremely important subject for a nation.
I am not surprised that the noble Lord raised this, given that he is an ex-TA officer. I worked for him as his head of naval intelligence when he was Secretary of State and, when he was chairing the ISC, I was chief of defence intelligence, so I have worked with him and have known him for a long time. I know his depth of knowledge. I thought that his tour d’horizon of the threats that we face was very pertinent, as other noble Lords said. I also thank all the other noble Lords who spoke. There is a great deal of knowledge here and there were a lot of interesting facts. I am not sure that I will be able to touch on every single comment that was made, but it is important that those comments are laid down in Hansard.
There is no doubt that this debate emphasises how in this House we realise the importance of our national security. I can assure noble Lords that that is also close to my heart and has been ever since I marched up the hill at Dartmouth 45 years ago. It is great that there is a cross-party flavour. At times, there will inevitably be some political aspects—that is the nature of life—but, wherever possible, matters to do with security and defence should ideally be on a cross-party basis. I am pleased that overall our national security strategy seems to have been welcomed, as it is a timely thing.
Before I say something about our national security strategy, I must thank the noble Baroness, Lady Park, who has a great depth of knowledge in this area. She was a FANY in the Second World War. She stressed on a couple of occasions that we are a maritime nation. You can imagine how that warms the cockles of a sailor’s heart. It has been a good week. The Prime Minister said in PMQs yesterday:
“We are committed to the aircraft carriers. The future policy of the Navy is being organised around them, and I hope all parties will support the aircraft carriers”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/2/10; col. 298.]
The first English admiral was created 700 years ago today, so you can see that it has been quite a good week for me.
The national security strategy talks about security for the next generation. It is the updated version of the strategy produced in 2008. We had never had a national security strategy before in this country. The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, said that she had something to do with it and I am pleased about that. I tried to push this in 1993, when I wrote my paper on the need for a grand strategy for the United Kingdom, but sadly we were unable to achieve it until 2008. It is right that we have one now and everyone here believes that that is correct. We are really only talking about tweaks and things.
The update strengthened our national security framework. It updated our assessment of threats and reported progress over the past year in which it has been in place. It set out how we will tackle some of the wide-ranging and evolving challenges to our national security. It has not just been sitting there as a document; it says how we will go about these things. The noble Lord, Lord Bew, said that he felt that the second document was better; I think that it is. It is a living document, but we need to do more. It must be done again and again. We will refine it and it will get better; that is what we must try to do. It provides a comprehensive basis for planning and delivering the first and most important function of government, which we would all agree is protecting our people and way of life. Many things have sprung from it and I will touch on some of them.
We laid out our principles and core values. A number of speakers talked about that, including the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. It is important that I go through those. They were behind our thinking when we prepared the security strategy, ensuring that our work was grounded in the core values of fair play, human rights, openness, accountable government and the rule of law. My noble friend Lord Soley particularly stressed that issue. It is also important that, in countering terrorism and other security threats, we are proportionate in our response and focus on striking the right balance between security, liberty and human rights. Again, a number of speakers touched on that important issue.
Wherever possible, we will tackle security challenges very early. Looking back more than five years, I think that there is no doubt that we were not quick enough to pick up on extremism being fostered in certain areas. We have to tackle such things early. At home we need partnerships at all levels to prevent extremism and to respond to domestic emergencies. A number of speakers have talked about that. Overseas, we must work through multilateral institutions and partnerships. In government we have developed a more integrated approach and will retain strong, balanced and flexible capabilities to address the threats that we have identified. The noble Lord, Lord King, touched on the need for that.
Security for the Next Generation created a national security framework that sets out why threats occur, who or what threatens us and how and where security threats occur. The new aspects of security considered in the framework include the Government’s first cyber security strategy, which I will come back to later, since it is very important and deals with a real threat; a wider assessment of the changing security picture, including our analysis of the security implications of the global economic downturn; and assessment of some of the key characteristics of the UK, such as what is special about it, what makes us different and the implications that these have for our national security priorities. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, touched on whether we address those things; I think that we have. The framework also considered a stronger effort on serious organised crime, because that is crucial and very damaging. It is something that has developed to a very worrying extent. Its roots develop and cross into terrorism and other things. There was a commitment to look at the national security implications of our increasing dependence on space and a commitment to working in partnership with industry to look at maritime security challenges.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, referred to Chinese goods on a Korean ship. I would put it differently: shipping is still focused on London. It earns us £18 billion a year. We are still very reliant on trade. We are the biggest investor in many parts of the world; we are certainly the biggest EU investor. That all makes money for this country. We have a global requirement for a capability to look after that.
The paper stated that international terrorism was the most significant and immediate threat to us. We have seen further attempts to attack the western world, such as Abdulmutallab’s failed bombing over Detroit. We reflect on that. In a sense the strategy falls out of that, although they were back to front initially. CONTEST 2 is recognised as the best counterterrorist strategy in the world. The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, said that it is based on pursue, prevent, protect and prepare, as it was originally. These things merge; they are not distinct stove-pipes. There are cross-cutting measures in there and it is co-ordinated by the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office. I am happy to send the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, a copy of our Olympic and Paralympic security plan so that he can see what is happening.
Ideology was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Bew, and the noble Lord, Lord Cope, in the context of Northern Ireland. More widely, it is part of our “prevent” agenda. We had, I fear, paid lip service to that until about two and half years ago. We have now definitely done a lot more. We have put a huge effort into it. Have some bits of it been absolutely right? No, but this has been going on for two and a half years and is something that we have really focused on. Again, this is something that can improve and that we must grasp. If you look back 10 or 15 years, we did not realise what a threat this was. We did not come to terms with it quickly enough.
We recognise that there was not a lot on Northern Ireland in the paper but, let us face it, I could have produced an immense document just on Northern Ireland. It was quite hard to compress it. However, I assure noble Lords that, in terms of allocation of resources, security forces, personnel and a determination to meet the challenge, we are absolutely there.
It is important to adjust to changing circumstances. Therefore, since the failed Detroit attack, we have announced how we will strengthen our protection against would-be terrorists. We intend to extend the Home Office watch list, using it as a basis for two new lists: a no-fly list and a larger list of those who should be subject to special measures. We are working in partnership with security agencies abroad to improve the sharing of information on individuals of concern. However, we have not stepped from a blank sheet into this; we are tweaking and improving. I am afraid that all the time these terrorists are trying to find ways round and into us to cause damage. They will keep thinking of new things. We are thinking of new things. We look at red teaming in this. How would you try to do that? We always have to try to stop it, but whenever an incident occurs there is always something that you can learn. We must not be, and are not, complacent about it.
It is because we recognise the global nature of the threat that our response must be truly global as regards plots against the UK—our interests originate in various parts of the world. We and our allies are clear that the terrorist threat from al-Qaeda in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, the FATA, remains the most significant security threat to the United Kingdom. The UK military and civilian effort in Afghanistan supports the Afghan people in rebuilding their country, ensuring that it cannot be retaken by the Taliban and cannot again become a base for al-Qaeda, because, at the top-hamper, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are joined at the hip. Further down, at worker-bee level, that is not necessarily the case, but at the top it is. I was commander-in-chief when we invaded Afghanistan. On the initial invasion, we were horrified at the extent of the training camps and the laboratories doing all sorts of nasty work. We must never let that happen again.
The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, mentioned Pakistan. We are working very closely with Pakistan. It is key to that region. I have great concerns about Pakistan. We are working in close partnership with its Government to try to develop the capability to bring terrorists to justice. There was talk of the FCO’s money. About a quarter of the FCO’s counterterrorism funding goes to initiatives in Pakistan—£8.3 million was spent in 2009-10 and a projected £9.5 million will be spent in 2010-11. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, mentioned equipment. I was slightly surprised at that. I assume that he was referring to equipment for the British Army in Afghanistan. The British Army there has never been so well personally equipped. One has to be careful. When you go into a new domain, inevitably your equipment will not be right for it. It takes time to catch up. When I was sunk in the Falklands, my ship was not very capable of defending itself against massed air attacks close to land. That is just a fact of life. If you are in the military, you get on with it—you bloody well do the job—but, sadly, it means that things are suboptimal initially. But that is what has to happen. Now, out in Afghanistan, they have very good personal equipment.
Looking outside the FATA, we also have to recognise that AQ has affiliates, allies, people who are inspired by it, who seek to exploit other areas of weak governance such as the Yemen, Somalia and the Sahel. My noble friend Lord Soley referred to the fragility of some of these states and how we have to keep an eye on them and look after them. These things were identified in our strategy. We identified Yemen in this way. This was not a new shock to us. The Yemen has been at the forefront of an international effort against terrorism. As I say, we have for some time assisted the Government of Yemen. By next year our commitment to Yemen will total some £100 million. We are also increasing our capacity building in Somalia. This is a really difficult place in which to operate. We contributed considerable money to the African Union mission there, but it is a problem. This leads into the aspect of piracy and the ability to tackle it.
We will continue working to tackle the terrorist threat globally through multinational institutions. We do a lot of work through the G20 on the economic downturn. This was emphasised in the defence Green Paper, Adaptability and Partnership, published yesterday. It was presented in this House by the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor. I was very sad to miss that debate, in which excellent questions were raised. I read it in Hansard and I would have liked to be present. The Green Paper makes it very clear that our alliances and partnerships will become increasingly important and that NATO remains the cornerstone of our security.
We are tackling the security challenges of the modern age, such as the growth of cyberspace and the changing threats posed by serious organised crime, which were touched on by my noble friend Lord Soley. That is why we published the UK’s first cybersecurity strategy. The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, is absolutely right. Lots of good work had gone on before. A lot of work was done by CESG in Cheltenham—I am sorry about the initials—and the Security Service. There has been a lot of good work within companies such as BT, with which we have been in dialogue. However, it was not co-ordinated and focused. The answer to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, on whether the number of attacks is increasing is yes. Is public awareness of it low? Yes. I said to the committee that he referred to that this was absolutely the case. We need to be really concerned about this, as we are.
We produced the cyber security strategy and we set up the Office of Cyber Security. I have been all over it like a rash since that happened last summer, putting huge pressure on it. It was unable to ease up for Christmas because we have to do a lot of things. There are whole areas of legality. Can you go back down on to something? How do you get attribution? If someone takes out a power station, which could be done—although we have protected our own—is that an act of war? If you bombed it, it would be, but is it an act of war if it takes place in cyberspace? What will we do in terms of cyber warfare? We have state actors, serious crime actors, criminals who clone and take details of individual bank accounts and hackers who might think that they are funny but actually can do serious damage that costs industry huge amounts of money. Of course, we also have the terrorists, who are very cute. At the moment they use the internet for radicalisation, but they will learn how to do other things. There is a lot that we must achieve. We are in discussions on an international agreement, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Soley, but it is the sort of agreement that is extremely difficult to reach.
In the document, we also recognise the threat from hazards such as natural disasters and accidents. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, touched on the breadth of this and I think that what we have done is appropriate. Yes, we have to work with the public. We produced CONTEST at an unclassified level so that our public could read it. That was jolly difficult; I cannot tell you of the battle that we had in trying to achieve that, but it was a huge success.
Out of our national security strategy we have produced the first ever national risk register, which is unclassified. Local resilience forums around our country are able to look at it, find what all the threats are and work out priorities and preparedness in terms of terrorism, natural hazards or industrial accidents. We have provided the forums with a template where such incidents are likely to happen. That is a huge step forward. This all-hazards approach is a flexible and sound basis for dealing with changing requirements. The Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office works with the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office. There has been talk about how we can hone this. I think that it works quite well. Perhaps we can refine it a little, but it works well, people talk and there is a lot of debate across government.
I turn to how this Government manage these issues. There is all this talk of a national security committee, but we effectively have that already. The Prime Minister, who I have to say is very involved in this, chairs the Ministerial Committee on National Security, International Relations and Development—it is a horrible title and perhaps we should start calling it the NSC. He does listen. Noble Lords suggested that he did not, but I cannot think of any occasion when he has not listened to what I have told him. He takes this seriously. On that committee are the Secretaries of State of all the key departments. I sit on that committee and all the other sub-committees. The Chief of the Defence Staff is normally there, as are the heads of the security agencies and the top security people in the police, if appropriate. We all sit there and these matters are discussed. Then, a series of sub-committees looks at specifics. For example, one sub-committee looks at protective security. It met on Tuesday. I took to it an issue on maritime security and another issue—I am sorry, but I have just remembered that I cannot mention it. Anyway, the committees are looking at these things all the time. I almost fell into that one. I repeat that these things are looked at. Could this be streamlined or made better? I think that probably it could—perhaps we should look at that. However, it works jolly well and that is important.
The committee also asked the National Security Forum to discuss specific issues. This was set up by the Prime Minister. I chair it. It has a group of experts, who are Nobel prize winners and people from the fields of diplomacy, counterterrorism and so on. They all sit down and are terribly difficult to run as a committee because they all have amazing ideas of their own. They are all well connected and we are able, under my chairmanship, to advise the Government. The sort of things that we have given advice on are risks to energy supply, nuclear issues, maritime security, space security, the Green Paper and so on.
I have almost said enough. In conclusion, the importance of the security of our people and country is uppermost in the Government’s mind. I know that it is important to all of us in this Chamber. I believe that this has been demonstrated by the speed with which we have responded to changing threats, demonstrated by the Detroit bombing and other incidents—I found the Home Affairs Select Committee report very surprising and actually wrong in some areas. It has been demonstrated by the huge efforts that our Armed Forces are putting into Afghanistan. It has been demonstrated by the lead that we have shown in bringing the international community together this week to discuss Afghanistan and Yemen. I did not expect much from the Yemen thing, but more came out than we could have hoped for.
In the past two and a half years, we have produced the first United Kingdom national security strategy, with everything that has followed from that. It is something that we can refine. We have produced the first national risk register, informing the public and local resilience forums. We have produced the first cybersecurity strategy—again, a huge amount of work is being done on that. We have produced the first science and technology strategy concerning counterterrorism. We have also produced CONTEST 2, which is recognised as the best counterterrorist strategy in the world. We should be proud of that. I am sure that the Chamber is pleased by that, but we can do more to refine it.
These are important issues that we need to discuss more, because it is important to our nation that we discuss them. We will continue to work with all our partners, because this is about partnership, whether it is at home or abroad, to protect our great nation and its interests, which will enable our wonderful people to go about their daily lives freely, with confidence and, I hope, in a more secure, stable, just and prosperous world. We must now go away to achieve that.
My Lords, I start by thanking the Minister for his reply. He is always an engaging and charming speaker, even if he cannot always remember what he has been doing. He ranged widely in the time available. As he and my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones rightly said, this is an extraordinarily wide-ranging subject. I am very grateful to other noble Lords who spoke. Inevitably, given the time constraints, they had to concentrate on fewer issues.
I am sorry that the Minister missed the Green Paper Statement yesterday. He missed out one bit of the Green Paper in his enthusiasm for naval pursuits. The Green Paper encourages a more purple approach, with an end to inter-service rivalry. I also say that he is not quite right about carriers. We discussed this yesterday. The paragraph after the one in the Statement concerning carriers appears to contradict what the earlier paragraph said. We will wait to see what happens. I also have a warning for the House, from the very good programme that Mr Dan Snow is doing on the Navy, that the ambitions of the Navy have proved very expensive for this country over the years. I had forgotten that it was the ambitions of the Navy that led to the introduction of income tax in this country. We will see how we get on now.
I plead guilty to the charge levelled by the noble Lord, Lord Bew, and my noble friend Lord Cope: the item that I should certainly have raised myself was Northern Ireland. In the circumstances, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, knows well, this is on the list of areas that we cannot ignore. As my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones said, in a line that I was going to accuse her of pinching before I realised that I had never used it, there is no longer home and abroad in the considerations that we face.
When I listen to the Minister, at the end of his cheerful contributions I think, “Thank God it’s all going so well”, but then reality breaks through. No one is in any doubt that we face some really difficult challenges and that some serious mistakes have been made: we have only to look at our present situation in the world. The Strategic Defence Review will be the most difficult that this country has ever had to conduct. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said in referring to whether or not we are east of Suez, we face some really major challenges at this time. All these security issues are interlinked, which will present us with very serious problems. I am very grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.