Labour calls for creation of ministry for cyber security

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jo Platt accuses government of failing to provide leadership to fend off cyber risks

The Labour party has pledged to “radically overhaul” cyber security in government and has called for the creation of a dedicated ministry.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jo Platt accused the Conservatives of lacking the cyber security leadership that the government and the public need.

“For a task as critical and vast as the UK’s cyber resilience, we need a strategic centre to coordinate across departments and ensure high standards and shared practices across government departments,” Platt said in a New Statesman article.

“A single minister for cyber security, with the commitment and authority to ensure our public sector is safe and to engage constructively with the private sector to bolster resilience, warrants serious consideration.

“A single minister might work closely with the National Cyber Security Centre but provide the authority and weight of government behind their recommendations to ensure the UK is one of the most prepared and resilient nations in the world.”

Platt is known for her criticism of the government’s cyber security strategy. In the article, she described several Conservative blunders, such as varying cyber security practices across departments and a lack of coherence when it comes to responsibility for that area.

Last month, Platt challenged digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) secretary Jeremy Wright over a leak from the National Security Council about plans to allow Huawei limited access to help build the UK’s new 5G network.

“The decision to allow Huawei’s involvement in building our 5G network raises some extremely serious questions that must be answered if we are to provide the public with concrete assurances about the integrity and safety of the network,” said Platt.

An inquiry into the leak to the Daily Telegraph resulted in the sacking of defence secretary Gavin Williamson earlier this week.

“Huawei is a company known from multiple public reports from our security services to manufacture sub-optimal equipment, often at a lower-than-average cost,” said Platt.

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The shadow minister then asked Wright whether the same equipment would be approved for deployment in the UK.

Responding to Platt, Wright said the DCMS is carrying out a cross-departmental, evidence-based review of the supply chain to ensure the security and diversity of the government supply base, and a final decision is yet to be made on the subject.

“There is a good deal of Huawei equipment already in UK networks, so we are not talking about beginning from a standing start,” said Wright.

“But it reinforces the need to ensure that this review of the supply chain is broadly based – as it is – to ensure that we address the security of the network, regardless of where the equipment comes from.”

On the issue of security and intelligence agencies as a whole, Wright said the government “will take full account” of their advice, adding: “We will continue to take seriously what they tell us.”

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