Chancellor's speech to GCHQ on cyber security

Government Communications Headquarters

November 17
11:04 2015

Thank you.

Before I start my speech, I want to say a few words about the heart-breaking events that unfolded in Paris on Friday evening.

This was an assault not just on the people of France, but on all of us who value freedom and democracy. We stand with the people of France. We know that we must act as one, just as our enemies see us as one.

As David Cameron has said, we will do everything we possibly can to help the French at this moment of national trauma. That includes making available to them the sharpest of our own national capability, which includes the skills and capabilities of GCHQ.

Before the dreadful events of the weekend we had already indicated that we would be increasing substantially the resources we dedicate to countering the terrorist threat posed by ISIL.

The Prime Minister has made clear that across the agencies a further 1,900 staff will be recruited to keep Britain safe from terrorist attack.

This was going to be an important outcome of the Spending Review. What has unfolded in Paris has reminded us all that it is a vital one too.

As the threat develops, we will need to make sure that our capabilities develop to match it. Following what happened to the Metrojet flight from Sharm, the Prime Minister announced that we would be doubling the amount we spent on aviation security.

The answer is not just in more resources, but in ensuring those who keep us safe have the right legal framework, that allows them to do their job while preserving the values and freedoms which we are so determined to defend.

Through the Investigatory Powers Bill, HM Government will make sure that they have the powers they need to access vital intelligence about the intentions and activities of those who wish us harm.

This determination to confront threats against our country is at the heart of what you do here at GCHQ.

To the men and women of GCHQ in this audience the TV cameras today will not show your faces, and the public will never know your names, but let me say this: you are the unsung heroes who never get the recognition you deserve by dint of the sort of work you do, but who day and night keep us safe.

One of the ways you keep us safe is by tracking terrorist groups and collecting the information we need to stop those attacks.

Our intelligence agencies historically disrupt one terrorist plot a year; this year you have prevented seven. Let me thank you on behalf of the British people.

I also want to thank those of you in the audience who are here because you are our partners in keeping Britain safe in cyberspace not just those from GCHQ, but across government, the armed forces, industry, and academia. For this is a shared effort between us.

Earlier this year the Prime Minister asked me to chair the governments committee on cyber, and through that I see the huge collective effort required to keep our country safe from cyber attack; the range of threats we face; and how this will be one of the great challenges of our lifetimes.

As Chancellor I know about the enormous potential for the internet to drive economic growth, but I am also acutely aware of the risk of cyber attack harming our economy and undermining the confidence on which it rests.

And I also know that we cant afford to build strong cyber defences unless they rest on the solid foundations of sound public finances.

Next week I will present the conclusions of the Spending Review that will deliver those solid foundations. We have already reached provisional agreement with four departments, and today I can confirm we have provisionally settled a further seven Whitehall departments:

the Department for Energy and Climate Change

the Department for Work and Pensions

HM Revenue and Customs

the Cabinet Office

And the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland offices

This means that over half of the Whitehall departments have now reached provisional agreements on their resource budgets.

Combined, these departments will on average see a reduction in real terms spending of 24% by 2019-20, contributing to our economic security and enabling us to spend more on key priorities like national security.Ive been very clear that we cannot afford national security without economic security.

But as we have seen in recent months and weeks, there will be no economic security for our country without national security.

Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to cyber.

When I was born the internet was barely two years old. It was the preserve of academics, used to connect dozens rather than billions of users. There werent many who predicted it would transform our world.

Today, the internet has changed our lives in countless ways, and continues to evolve at a pace that would have stunned even its own pioneers. Every part of the way we live is being touched and reshaped by it.

Britain helped create the internet Tim Berners Lee created the World Wide Web, one of a long line of British scientists who have given us an outsized role in shaping our own digital future.

Britain is enriched by the internet. And Britain has embraced the internet a far higher proportion of British retail is done online than in any other country in the world.

Thats an enormous economic and commercial opportunity for our country.

But when the internet was first created, it was built on trust.

That trust, appropriate inside a community of scholars, is not merited in a world with hostile powers, criminals and terrorists.

The internet has made us richer, freer, connected and informed in ways its founders could not have dreamt of. It has also become a vector of attack, espionage, crime and harm.

And thats what I want to talk to you about this morning. For government has a duty to protect the country from cyber attack, and to ensure that the UK can defend itself in cyberspace.

Today I want to set out how we are fulfilling that duty. I will explain how we have invested in Britains cyber security in the past five years, and to set out our plan for the next five.

The national cyber plan I am announcing means investing in defending Britain in a cyber-age. It is a key part the Spending Review I will deliver next week.

For the Review is all about security: economic security, national security and the opportunity that comes to a country that provides that security.

It is right that we choose to invest in our cyber defences even at a time when we must cut other budgets.
For our country, defending our citizens from hostile powers, criminals or terrorists, the internet represents a critical axis of potential vulnerability.

From our banks to our cars, our military to our schools, whatever is online is also a target.

We see from this place every day the malign scope of our adversaries goals, their warped sophistication and their frenetic activity.

The stakes could hardly be higher if our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost.

ISILs murderous brutality has a strong digital element.

At a time when so many others are using the internet to enhance freedom and give expression to liberal values and creativity, they are using it for evil.

Lets be clear

ISIL are already using the internet for hideous propaganda purposes; for radicalisation, for operational planning too.

They have not been able to use it to kill people yet by attacking our infrastructure through cyber attackThey do not yet have that capability. But we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it.

So when we talk about tackling ISIL, that means tackling their cyber threat as well as the threat of their guns, bombs and knives.

It is one of the many cyber threats we are working to defeat.

Getting cyber security right requires new thinking. But certain principles remain true in cyberspace as they are true about security in the physical world.

Citizens need to follow basic rules of keeping themselves safe installing security software, downloading software updates, using strong passwords.

Companies need to protect their own networks, and harden themselves against cyber attack.

The starting point must be that every British company is a target, that every British network will be attacked, and that cyber crime is not something that happens to other people

And government cannot duck its responsibilities. There are certain things that only government can do, in cyberspace just as in the physical world.

Government has a unique ability to aggregate and educate.

Only government can legislate and regulate. Only government can collect secret intelligence.

Government has a duty to protect the country from hostile attack. Government has a duty to protect its citizens and companies from crime.

Only government can defend against the most sophisticated threats, using its sovereign capability. And thats exactly what we will do.

And it is this sovereign capability that brings me here, to GCHQ.

Through my time in office, I have seen for myself the extraordinary quality of this institution; the dedication, integrity and ingenuity of its staff; and the difference it makes protecting our nation.

Coming here, as the first Chancellor to give a speech in GCHQ, I am acutely conscious of the rich history of this still relatively young institution in our islands story.

The father of GCHQ was Winston Churchill.

It was as First Lord of the Admiralty that he established Room 40, and gav

Related Articles


  1. We don't have any comments for this article yet. Why not join in and start a discussion.

Write a Comment

Your name:
Your email:

Post my comment

Recent Comments

Follow Us on Twitter

Share This

Enjoyed this? Why not share it with others if you've found it useful by using one of the tools below: