Security Minister speech at International Security Expo

Security Minister, Tom Tugendhat, delivered a speech on 26 September 2023 at the International Security Expo, an annual event for security professionals

The Rt Hon Tom Tugendhat MBE VR MP

Thank you very much indeed for the invitation and opportunity to address you  again. This is my second time speaking here. It was a year ago that I was able to immerse myself among some of the most fantastic and innovative companies that the UK and indeed countries around the world are bringing together here.

It’s fantastic as well to see such innovation even in the last twelve months. While many of us have been focused on other security challenges, and in my case of course the death of her late majesty, the Queen, and the coronation of our new King, have dominated many of the security issues I have been particularly focused on.

We’ve also been sadly witnessing Russia’s brutal, illegal, vile and unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

It saddens me that a year on, that war has not only continued  but it has cost many many more lives The UK remains absolutely steadfast in our commitment to the defence of a free and democratic people in Ukraine and their ability to determine their own future, free from Russian aggression.

Russia’s actions have provided us all with a very clear and stark reminder of the delicate nature of global peace and stability. And once again we are being challenged to stand up for those values.

That challenge is one we must meet head on because, although the world is changing some core elements are not. We still have a very fundamental choice between us, the decision to defend our freedom and our democracy, and we are very clear on what side we stand.

But that also means standing with friends and partners. Because our security, the bedrock on which all our freedoms is built doesn’t stand alone and is not set apart from those of NATO, Europe, Five Eyes and indeed many partners around the world.

The defence of our nation, the defence of our national security and of our citizens has been the guiding light of my working life. As many people know I have been a public servant in uniform and out of it for many years focusing entirely on the security of our people and our friends.

So I pay tribute to everyone across government, but particularly those in law enforcement, security and the intelligence community and of course in defence for everything they do in support of our nation.

As you know better than anyone, that mission goes beyond the state. It goes into industry, the private sectors, into academia and into individual ideas and innovations that are happening across the world and across the United Kingdom. So I pay huge tribute to all those in private sector who contribute to our security as well.

The relentless focus on the security of our people, our institutions, our economy and our values does not change.

That is not to say, however, that we can simply continue doing what we have always done.

In fact, that would be a mistake. The threats we face now, not only to life, but to our way of life, are as varied as they have ever been and are continuing to get more so.

The reality is that our adversaries are no longer as easily identifiable as the days when I was training at Sandhurst..

They don’t wear uniforms, they don’t carry flags, they don’t walk around in the open..

The reality is that today’s enemies, sadly are lurking on the internet and in the shadows.

They are using non-state actors, criminal groups and indeed private companies to undermine our security.

That danger comes from entire states and also from lone actors alike.

Now I don’t say this to sound alarmist indeed, what I have seen over the last year has filled me with enormous confidence that the response that many companies here have made against these target, against these threats, and to protect ourselves.

But it is also important we underline a new era of warfare and security we live in.

So, what have we done about it? What have the last 12 months looked like? Well we’ve taken some very significant steps.

I’ve mentioned Russia and Ukraine, and all of the activity to support Ukraine and how we’ve manage security implications for the UK over that time. How we’ve learnt from what we’ve seen there, and made sure that those lessons are embedded.

Closer at home, well, I’ve been working to make sure our apparatus for fighting terrorism is as strong, precise and agile as it needs to be to keep the public safe.

Our counter-terrorism strategy, which many people know, CONTEST, has been in place now for over 20 years.

Over that time, it has been established as, let’s face it, the best approach that we’ve seen around the world. It’s based on the four pillars which many of you will be able to recite by heart: prevent, pursue, protect and prepare. I normally forget one of them.

There is no change to that core framework, but as the public would expect, we are constantly asking ourselves what we need to do to modernise it.

That culminated in the publication this summer of a refreshed version of CONTEST which many of you will have seen, to make sure the UK remains ahead of the enduring and evolving threat we face from terrorism, both here in the UK and to our interests abroad.

This updated strategy describes a need to respond to a domestic terrorist threat which is less predictable and harder to detect and investigate, a persistent and evolving threat from Islamist groups overseas, and an operating environment in which technological advances present both opportunities and risks.

CONTEST sets out how the UK’s counter-terrorism response will remain agile in the face of an evolving threat, integrated so that we can bring the right interventions to bear at the right time to reduce risk, and aligned with our international allies to ensure that we can continue to deliver together.

And I will add that our partnerships with academia, the private sector and industry are critical in this endeavour, not only in supporting our counter-terrorism efforts with technological achievements, but also by injecting a drive for continuous improvement throughout our approach.

Now I mentioned earlier that we have to contend with threats not only to life but to our way of life, and that has perhaps been the most significant element of my work as Security Minister

Over the last 10 or 20 years, terrorism was quite rightly been the focus of my predecessors, the emergence of what we call state actors has now opened up a whole new dimension.

State threats are growing and diversifying as systematic competition intensifies. This can manifest itself in many forms, including espionage; interference; sabotage; physical threats to individuals; and attempts to undermine the rules based international system. Essentially, we are talking about is activity that seeks to undermine our security, our prosperity and our democracy.

So, I’ve placed a huge amount of emphasis on the need to bolster our response to state threats. One of the most important questions we have to ask ourselves when confronting emerging dangers like this is ‘do we have the powers we need’ ‘are our laws up to date’, ‘do we have the tools for the task?’

The truth is we didn’t. And that’s why we brought forward the National Security Act which was made law and the King signed only a few months ago. The Act brings together vital new measures to protect our national security. It overhauls and updates our outdated espionage laws, and creates a whole suite of measures designed to enable our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to deter, detect and disrupt the full range of modern-day state threats.

This is a genuine operational change in our ability to protect ourselves, the state and you as companies from the threat you may be facing to your intellectual property and your ability to provide essential defence.

Fraud is another area where we have sharpened up our response. These crimes pose a significant threat not just to individuals, but also to our collective prosperity and security. Earlier this year, we unveiled a new Fraud Strategy to stop scams at source, to boost protections for the public and strengthen the enforcement.

So that’s a small flavour of the progress we’ve made over the last year. But, as I made clear at the beginning, we cannot afford to be complacent.

That need to be indefatigable in our thirst to learn, to improve our response and to bolster our capabilities was brought home in the starkest possible fashion by the heinous attack at the Manchester Arena only a few years ago.

That atrocity that occurred that night was an act of – call it what it is – an act of absolute, pure evil. While we cannot bring back those whose lives were so brutally cut short, we can do everything possible to prevent more families suffering in the way that the victims and their  loved ones suffered that night.

A huge amount of work has already been undertaken since the attack, not least the Manchester Arena Inquiry itself, which ended in August.

But we must never stop To ensure we learn the lessons, the Home Office has established the Manchester Arena Inquiry Assurance Programme. The assurance programme will work closely with our emergency service partners to oversee the continued delivery of the Manchester Arena Inquiry recommendations now that the Inquiry has closed.

As with all Home Office work, it will be accountable to the Home Affairs Select Committee for its progress, and, crucially, it will also provide a range of engagement events for victims of the Manchester Arena attack. In so doing, the assurance programme will provide updates on recommendation delivery to those most affected by their work.

In May, we published the Terrorism  (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill.

This bill is truly known, correctly, as ‘Martyn’s Law’ because we named it after Martyn Hett, who was killed in the Manchester Arena attack. I’m very pleased to see Figen, Martyn’s mother, here today.

As many of you will know, Figen Murray has campaigned tirelessly for this change in the law. I pay enormous tribute to the work that she has done to make people aware of the changes, some of them incredibly small that we can make to make our communities safer and better prepared. It is no exaggeration to say that without her I would not be discussing this draft legislation today.  She has been a tireless campaigner.

Martyn’s Law will ensure that  there is better preparedness for terrorist attacks in public venues.

Our expert security partners assess that individuals are more likely to take action that can mitigate harm and save lives if they have considered what they would do, and how, before an attack occurring.

Throughout the development of the legislation, I have been extremely conscious of the need for proportionality, balancing the requirements with other pressures facing venues and owners.

That’s why for larger venues and events, we are asking more than in those smaller venues because not only are they more likely to be targets and sadly they are more likely to have more people in. That means that larger venues will need to implement security measures, develop a security plan and provide terrorism protection training to workers.

The duty is not entirely dissimilar to consideration venues will already be giving to health and safety and fire safety.  A suite of guidance, good practice examples and templates will be available to support owners and operators. High quality advice is already available through the online platform ProtectUK, which I know many of you already use and I would advise those who aren’t, please do.

We are also making progress in our mission to tackle state threats. Let me tell you a little bit about some of the other work we’re doing. We passed the National Security Act but that is only just the beginning.

Always a major area of interest to me is the Defending Democracy Taskforce, which I have been asked to lead on behalf of the government.

Through the Taskforce, we are embedding a whole-system approach to protect the UK’s democratic processes, institutions and society and deliver a secure and resilient UK, free from threats of foreign interference.

Looking ahead, we must also continue working to understand the risks and opportunities flowing from technological advancements.

The pace of change has been so rapid and rampant that it can be difficult to keep track. But we must.

I believe the UK should lead the world in shaping the future. Many of you already do that with technology and the ways your companies prepare security.

That’s why I’m also delighted that we will be hosting the AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in November.

The Summit will focus on promoting our wider vision for AI and on safety risks in ‘frontier AI’ to drive coordinated international action.

The United Kingdom government’s overall objective is to ensure the safe and reliable development and use of frontier AI globally.

We recognise that AI presents both a generational challenge and  generational opportunities, and will have lasting impact on humankind in terms of how we live and work, and our security, domestically and internationally.

To keep the UK safe, secure, and prosperous, we must ensure that as the technology evolves, it does so in a safe, responsible, and fair way.

Many organisations outside of national governments, in particular private companies, have been pivotal to the most recent advances in AI. It will therefore be absolutely critical to work with private companies around the world to make sure the safety measures we need are embedded not just government-to-government basis.

It has been my absolute pleasure to join you again today.

Security in 2023, as you all know very well, is about so much more than government, the police and security services.

It’s about all of you, it’s about making sure the entire mission   and buy-in from right across society and that people understand what we’re trying to do to keep our whole community safe. I am really grateful to all of you who, who day in day out, continue to prepare the United Kingdom and our friends and allies to respond.

Thank you very much indeed for your time today. I am very confident that the work you are doing, that we are doing together, is going to keep us safe for many years into the future. The work that you do will also build into our economy a level of resilience and that level of control that means you are able to succeed.

Thank you very much indeed for being here today, it is very nice to see some old friends and indeed many new ones. Thank you very much for inviting me.

Home Office
The Rt Hon Tom Tugendhat MBE VR MP