Ben Wallace MP, Minister of State for Security at the Home Office, has rejected a proposal that called for the appointment of a Cyber Security Minister whose role would be to assemble resources and execute measures needed to defend Britain from cyber threats.
The proposal was floated by a Joint Committee of MPs who reasoned that a Cabinet-rank minister with the exclusive responsibility of maintaining the UK’s cyber security would be better than having multiple ministries having cyber security as part of their overall portfolio.
JPC calls for exclusive cyber security minister
In a recent report that delved on ensuring the security of critical infrastructure industries, the Joint Committee on National Security stated that there is a need for a focused and proactive political leadership “in driving change and ensuring a consistent approach across the many departments and agencies with responsibility for the resilience of CNI to cyber threats”.
“We are concerned that the current complex arrangements for ministerial responsibility mean that day-to-day oversight of cross-government efforts is, in reality, led by officials, with Ministers only occasionally ‘checking in’. This is wholly inadequate to the scale of the task facing the Government, and inappropriate in view of the Government’s own assessment that major cyber attacks are a top-tier national security threat.
“There should be a Cabinet Office Minister designated as cyber security lead who, as in a war situation, has the exclusive task of assembling the resources—in both the public and private sectors—and executing the measures needed to defend against the threat.
“This Minister should therefore be responsible and accountable for the cross-government development and delivery of the National Cyber Security Strategy and Programme, including those elements relating to CNI,” the Committee added.
Wallace not in favour
Responding to the Committee’s proposal, Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace said at the New Statesman’s conference on Cyber Security in Financial Services that MPs “shouldn’t get hung up too much on an individual minister” and that what’s more important is to ensure that the government has all the necessary tools in place to ensure protection against cyber threats.
“As long as I’ve been an MP, there have been lobbies for a tourism minister, a sports minister, a specific cyber minister. Cyber is everywhere so one of the challenges for government is that in every single department cyber is a factor,” he said, adding that the Home Office is the “clear lead on a response to a major cyber incident” and it knows what needs to be done whenever any incident takes place.
Wallace further explained that different ministries have different cyber security tasks such as the Home Office responding to cyber incidents in the UK, the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence ensuring the UK’s offensive cyber capabilities, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport ensuring the development of cyber skills, and the Cabinet Office implementing the national cyber security strategy.
“In some of our closest allies the cyber response is slightly handicapped by different legal authorities that prevent different law enforcement agencies taking a single response. We have a strategic advantage that many countries in Europe and the United States do not have and we should welcome that,” he added.