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Cyber-specialist Vacancies

Volume 649: debated on Wednesday 14 November 2018

Departments are responsible for ensuring that adequate staffing levels are met. As part of the national cyber-security strategy, we have newly established a Government security profession unit to support Departments in quantifying and managing their cyber-skills gaps and in building career pathways for specialists.

In July, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy criticised the Government for not properly addressing the cyber-security skills and recruitment gap, which it said is of vital importance to Britain’s defence and economy; but today the Minister still cannot tell how many of these specialist role vacancies exist across the Government. When will the Department tasked with upholding cyber-security standards make this tier 1 national security threat a priority?

The Committee praised what the Government had done, but, as the hon. Gentleman says, it also said that we needed to do more. I do not dissent from that conclusion. Indeed, the Government made that clear in their response to the Committee’s report. It is important that every Department feels ownership of cyber-security; it is not something seen as for the centre only to worry about. The profession framework, which will be outlined in the spring of next year, will run right across the Government and will outline the job families for specialists and the pay, rewards and career progression that they should be able to expect anywhere in the Government. [Interruption.]

The Minister was offering a serious and comprehensive reply to which there was a less than attentive audience, which is perhaps a tad discourteous. Let us have some order in the Chamber so that we can hear Mr Nigel Huddleston.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the UK is actually already a world leader in cyber-security, and will the Government continue to commit, through education and training, to ensure that we continue to be so?

I am happy to give my hon. Friend that commitment. I could list a range of programmes that the Government are undertaking with school-age students and tertiary education students to drive up those standards, as well as working with international partners, who look to us for some of the best practice around the world.

I call the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone). I thought that the hon. Gentleman wanted to come in on this question. No? It is not obligatory. Speak now or forever hold your peace, man.

I am very sorry, Mr Speaker—I could not hear you for the hubbub.

One would think that a cyber-attack against such a lovely country as Scotland would be unthinkable. Does the Minister have any feel for how the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament are getting on with cyber-security?

The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to go into detail, but we do work very seriously and closely with the devolved Governments in both Scotland and Wales and with the Northern Ireland civil service. In my experience, Ministers and senior officials in those Administrations take this challenge very seriously indeed.