More security spending unveiled by George Osborne in wake of Paris attacks

National Cyber Centre to open in Cheltenham, George Osborne announces, amid flurry of security spending announcements in the wake of the Paris terror attacks

By Matt Foster

17 Nov 2015

Britain is to double its spending on cybersecurity to £1.9bn by 2020, the chancellor has announced, in the latest spending commitment to follow last week's deadly attacks in Paris.

In a speech at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, George Osborne outlined plans for a new "National Cyber Centre" at the intelligence agency.

While the centre's work will focus mainly on attacks on UK businesses and infrastructure by other states, Osborne also raised the spectre of Islamic State militants – who have claimed responsibility for the Paris terror attacks that left more than 120 people dead – eventually gaining cyber warfare capability.

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"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," he said, adding: "They do not yet have that capability. But we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it." 

Meanwhile, David Cameron used a speech in London on Monday night to announce an increase in the proportion of the UK's aid budget that will be used to support so-called "fragile states".

The government is currently committed to spending 30% of official development assistance in such states, which are defined as being prone to poverty and weak government.

Speaking at the Lord Mayor's banquet, Cameron said the government would now aim to "target at least half" of DFID’s budget on "stabilising and supporting broken and fragile states".

"This will make our aid spending an even more fundamental part of our strategy to keep our country safe," he said. "And it will help to maintain Britain’s position as number one in the world for soft power."

According to the Independent Commission on Aid Impact, the majority of the £3.4bn a year spent in fragile states in 2014-15 was delivered through the Department for International Development (DfID).

Cameron also pledged that the UK's protected defence budget would be used to fund a "£2bn programme of new investments over this parliament" focused on improving the UK's drone and Special Forces capability. The government has already committed to spending 2% of UK GDP on defence until at least 2019-20.

"Proper parliamentary scrutiny"

Earlier on Monday, the prime minister suggested that the government would "look at the timetable" of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, after the UK's former terror watchdog Lord Carlile suggested the surveillance law should be rushed onto the statute book following the Paris attacks.

But home secretary Theresa May appeared to rule out such a move, telling MPs it was"important that this landmark legislation undergoes proper parliamentary scrutiny".

The bill – which aims to completely overhaul the way police and intelligence agencies gather communications data – is currently not expected to become law until 2017.

Britain's security services are meanwhile set for a major increase in staffing at the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

The counter-terrorism policing budget in the UK has been protected since 2010, with that ring-fence set to remain in place at this month's government-wide Spending Review.

But May told the Commons that fresh funding above and beyond the protected amount would be provided to UK agencies to allow them to boost recruitment.

She told MPs: "Through the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we will make new funding available to the security and intelligence agencies to provide for an additional 1,900 officers – an increase of 15% – at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to better respond to the threat we face from international terrorism, cyber-attacks and other global risks."

May said the government’s National Security Council would also put forward a proposal to “more than double” spending on aviation security during the course of the parliament.

According to the Department for Transport – whose Civil Aviation Authority shares responsibility for aviation security with the Home Office and Cabinet Office – the UK currently spends £9m a year on flight security measures.

Border Force – the border control arm of the Home Office – has also stepped up its checks on “people, goods and vehicles entering the UK from the near continent and elsewhere”, May said, with the agency working alongside French authorities to carry out “additional and targeted security checks against passengers and vehicles travelling to France”.

Separately, the Home Office will soon begin interviewing candidates to lead its new Office for Counter-Extremism, a unit responsible for coordinating work on a cross-government strategy to tackle “extremism in all its forms”.

The successful candidate will work at director general level on a salary of between £120,000-£140,000-a-year. According to the Home Office's job advertisement, the new DG will be expected to work closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government, and play “a full part in wider departmental leadership”.

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