James Brokenshire – 2017 Speech to British Irish Association Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at the British Irish Association Conference at the University of Cambridge on 8 September 2017.

It’s a great pleasure to address my second British-Irish Association Conference since being appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in July last year and I’d like thank Hugo MacNeill and his team for their kind invitation.

I would also like to pay a special tribute to Francesca Kay who once again has done such a brilliant job in organising the conference and putting together the programme.

As I discovered last year, the BIA Conference really is one of the must-attend events of the year for anyone interested in the affairs of Northern Ireland and relationships between the United Kingdom and Ireland more broadly.

It really is a unique opportunity for politicians, civil servants, journalists, academics, church leaders and people from the business world to come together under the relative safeguard of the Chatham House Rule to exchange views, share ideas and to help shape the political, economic and security agendas.

And in doing that the I believe that the BIA is as relevant today as it was when you were formed in what was, in terms of loss of life, the darkest year of the troubles, 1972, when over 470 people were killed.

At that time, Northern Ireland was in the grip of terrorist campaigns that were to last for around another quarter of a century.

In that year devolved government was suspended and it was to take some 35 years for it to be re-established on anything like a sustainable basis.

As I was reminded the other day there was no irony intended that the legislation providing for the long years of Westminster control was actually called the Northern Ireland Temporary Provisions Act.

Also at that time relations between the UK and Ireland were frequently strained, beset by crises over issues like security and extradition, and often characterised by what was described as megaphone diplomacy across the Irish Sea.

We have, of course, come a tremendously long way since then.

Today, Northern Ireland is a vastly different place from when the BIA was founded.

The post Belfast Agreement generation has grown up without the daily threat of large scale terrorism and the security apparatus that was necessary to counter it.

Until the beginning of this year Northern Ireland had enjoyed ten years of power sharing, the longest period of unbroken devolved government since the 1960s.

Events that years ago would have been unthinkable now take place in Northern Ireland, including this year the final stages of the hugely successful Womens’ Rugby Union World Cup.

Relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and between the United Kingdom and Ireland, are at their strongest ever.

And on that note I would like to extend the warmest welcome to the Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, to Cambridge this evening and to recognise Charlie Flanagan for his outstanding contribution previously in that role. Economically, too, Northern Ireland continues to move forward with solid growth, unemployment significantly down on seven years ago and in the past year levels of employment hitting record levels.

Northern Ireland, which for years against a backdrop of terrorism and instability struggled to attract investment and jobs, is now one of the most popular locations in the UK outside of London for foreign direct investment.

We have some world-beating businesses exporting right across the globe.

And just think how much better we could do if we had an Executive in place and could devolve Corporation Tax powers to enable them to lower it to the same levels south of the border.

All of this paints a picture of a Northern Ireland that would have been unrecognisable a generation or so ago.

And I’m convinced that we have the potential to do even better.

But to achieve that we have to get right what I believe are the three great political challenges we face today.

The need to see a fully functioning, power sharing devolved government at Stormont as set out in the Belfast Agreement and its successors, our support for which remains steadfast.

The need to address legacy issues by implementing in full the proposals in the Stormont House Agreement and reforming the inquest system.

And of course the necessity of making a success of Brexit, to which the UK Government is fully committed.

It’s those these issues that I want largely to speak about this evening.

Getting Stormont back to work

First let me deal with devolution and let me be very clear.

As our manifesto set out at the General Election this year, this Government believes firmly in devolution and the associated political institutions so carefully negotiated in the Belfast Agreement.

Decisions over local services are best taken by local politicians democratically accountable to a local Assembly. And we believe in the closest co-operation between both parts of the island of Ireland and between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

These are the so-called three strands of the Belfast Agreement.

Yet after a ten year uninterrupted run of devolved government from 2007, Northern Ireland has now been without a properly functioning Executive and Assembly for the past nine months.

Throughout that period government has effectively been in the hands of civil servants rather than politicians who are rightly accountable to the public for the decisions they make.

Under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 in the absence of devolved government passing a Budget, civil servants can only spend up to 75 per cent of the previous year’s financial allocations rising to 95 per cent after three months.

I have sought to relieve immediate pressures by intervening to publish ‘indicative’ budget statements in April and July.

But this is only a short term fix.

The longer-term problem is that the fundamental challenges of reform and transformation of critical public services, such as health, education, transport and justice are not taken forward.

Civil servants cannot provide the political direction to tackle these issues.

As a result, public services such as health, education and transport are coming under increasing strain with the people of Northern Ireland suffering as a consequence.

Without devolution other aspects of the Belfast Agreement also cease to function, including North-South bodies and those covering broader relationships such as the British-Irish Council.

And of course without devolution, there is no Northern Ireland Executive to put its views directly on Brexit.

The situation simply is not sustainable and if it is not resolved within a relatively short number of weeks will require greater political decision making from Westminster.

This would have to begin with legislation to give Northern Ireland a Budget.

That is profoundly not where the UK Government, the Irish Government and I believe the Northern Ireland parties want to go.

I cannot overstate this point.

It would be a hugely retrograde step, a massive setback after so many years of progress and hope.

But in the continuing absence of devolution the UK Government retains ultimate responsibility for good governance and political stability in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom and we will not shirk from the necessary measures to deliver that.

At the same time we will need to consider carefully a range of other issues reflecting public concern, including whether it can continue to be justified to pay Assembly members who have not met for several months now.

If things don’t change we are on a glide path to greater and greater UK government intervention.

But we can still change course.

And I have been keen to support the exchanges that have taken place in recent days and which will continue next week.

On Monday I will be holding further bilaterals with the parties.

And for the rest of the week further intensive dialogue between the DUP and Sinn Fein will continue.

You will understand that I am not in a position this evening to give a running commentary on the details of the current discussions.

But the issues remain relatively small in number and are clearly defined.

Both the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and I believe that a resolution is possible and that with political leadership it can be achieved.

But there is still work to do.

For our part the UK and Irish Governments can support and work with the parties towards that end, in accordance with and fully respecting the three stranded approach.

But ultimately we cannot force an agreement.

That has to come from the parties themselves.

So it’s vital that they continue to work together to find a solution to their differences.

And it is my belief that they are committed to doing so in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland. And the time to make progress is now.

Legacy of the past

I also know that we need to make progress on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s divided past.

The current mechanisms for addressing the past and helping victims and survivors simply are not working as they should.

Not least for the victims and survivors of the troubles, whose pain and suffering today is often every bit as raw as it was decades ago.

That is why, at the election, the UK Government restated its support for the full implementation legacy bodies set out in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

They will operate in ways that are fair, balanced, transparent and crucially proportionate and will be fully consistent with the rule of law.

We also reiterated our backing of reforms to the legacy inquest system to ensure that the UK Government complies with its international obligations.

These are clear manifesto commitments and we fully intend to deliver them.

And as the Stormont House Agreement set out we will provide up to £150 million to help fund them.

I’m fully aware that it’s a year since I told this conference that the Government said that the process would benefit from a public phase.

And I deeply regret the fact that it has yet to happen.

Over the past year we have continued detailed work with the parties and with the Irish Government.

And much genuine progress has been made.

Discussions with the parties have been constructive and changes have been made to the detailed structure of the mechanisms.

The structure has been improved as a result of these discussions.

Again, we cannot continue this process indefinitely.

We have also had extensive discussions with victims and survivors. In these meetings, we increasingly hear that victims want us to get on with it – to move debate out from behind closed doors and into a public discussion with the people who will be most affected by how we address the past.

So I intend to be in a position to bring forward a formal consultation as soon as possible.

Making a success of Brexit

The third great political challenge and a key theme of this conference is of course Brexit, and in that context UK-Irish relations.

As a Government our goal is to secure a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, as we leave the European Union.

But let me be clear on this point.

Just as we joined the Common Market in 1973 as one United Kingdom, we will leave the EU in 2019 as one United Kingdom.

And as the Prime Minister has made clear the United Kingdom will be leaving both the single market and the customs union, enabling us to strike new trade deals with the rest of the world.

Throughout, however, we have also been clear that we need to recognise and address the particular circumstances of both Northern Ireland and Ireland.

We might be leaving the EU but we are not turning our backs on our friends and partners in Europe and nowhere is that clearer than with our closest neighbour, Ireland.

The Article 50 letter itself sets out the absolute priority we give to preserving the unique relationship between the UK and Ireland and protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland.

This was reiterated in our manifesto at the General Election and in August, as part of a series of position papers, the Government published its paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland setting out in more detail how we might achieve our objectives.

It makes a series of concrete UK proposals for provisions that should be enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Specifically it proposes that we; affirm the ongoing support of the UK Government and Irish Government, and the European Union, for the peace process; formally recognise that the citizenship rights set out in the Belfast Agreement will continue to be upheld; agree to the continuation of PEACE funding to Northern Ireland and border counties of Ireland; agree text for the Withdrawal Agreement that recognises the ongoing status of the Common Travel Area and associated reciprocal arrangements following the UK’s exit from the EU; agree nine key principles and criteria that could be used to test future models for border arrangements, including the need to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and any physical border infrastructure and agree a common understanding of the principles of North-South and East-West cooperation including key principles for the new energy framework in Northern Ireland and Ireland that highlight the need for the continuation of a single electricity market .

In the Government’s view the publication of this paper marks a real and positive step forward in our negotiations with the EU.

And it outlines serious proposals for tackling one of the most challenging parts of our future relationship.

So far as the negotiations themselves are concerned, the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, updated the House of Commons on Tuesday on the two rounds that took place in July and August.

He was able to report significant and concrete progress the issue of Northern Ireland and Ireland

In August, there were detailed discussions on the basis of the UK position paper.

We agreed to work up shared principles on the common travel area, which in the Government’s view is concrete and welcome progress.

In addition we agreed to carry out important further technical work on cross-border co-operation under the Belfast Agreement.

As both David Davis and Michel Barnier said at last week there has been real progress.

The UK also welcomes the publication of the EU Commission position paper yesterday.

It shows the close alignment between the UK, the Irish Government and the EU on our objectives.

In particular the clear commitment to avoiding physical infrastructure at the border is very welcome.

Of course many commentators are still focused on the detail of how we address the critical issue of avoiding a hard border for the movement of goods.

The UK and EU position papers show that there is alignment on the objectives.

The UK’s overarching approach to this challenge is clear.

We are considering first the nature of the border, its history, and the wishes of people in Northern Ireland and living in border communities.

As the Irish Government have said, technical solutions need to follow from the right political objectives.

The wrong approach is to focus first on existing customs and other regulations and then try to work out the technical solution within those extremely narrow parameters.

That would absolutely not represent the flexible and imaginative approach that the UK, Ireland and the EU all agree is required.

Of course any imaginative approach requires painstaking creative work.

And I make no apology that the initial proposals the UK has put forward are creative and go beyond existing precedents.

For example, as we set out in our paper small traders operating across the invisible border that exists now are often engaged in local trade in local markets.

So the right approach is not to work out how existing template customs rules for ‘third countries’ should apply to those traders, but to protect their trade and livelihoods on both sides of the border.

The technically easier but entirely wrong approach is to say it’s all too difficult and to get to work applying template regulations and customs laws.

Or to say that the UK should simply accept all EU customs and single market laws permanently as the solution.

Or to say that the answer to this issue is to simply create a new border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

None of those approaches would be acceptable to the UK, and none of them is the ‘flexible and imaginative’ approach that the European Council has mandated.

But with the right overall approach to this issue, and the clear commitment that we all have to work on flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border, then I believe that the technical solutions can and should be agreed in a way that can work for the UK, Ireland and the European Union as a whole.

Of course there is a long way to go and nobody pretends this was ever going to be easy but nobody should be in any doubt about the UK Government’s determination to secure a successful outcome.

Conclusion

Next year we will mark the 20th anniversary of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, an Agreement intended to herald a new beginning for relationships in these islands, within Northern Ireland, between Norther Ireland and Ireland and between the United Kingdom and Ireland.

And there is no doubt in my mind that as a consequence of that historic Agreement and its successor’s life for so many people has changed considerably for the better.

The Agreement is the bedrock of the political settlement in Northern Ireland and the political progress we have seen over the past twenty years, which is why it is so vital that through our collective efforts we get it back on track.

For this Government, as our manifesto stated, our commitment to the Belfast Agreement and its successors remains steadfast.

That includes the constitutional provisions they set out the full range of political institutions they establish and those matters relating to rights, culture and identity.

So, in coming days we must grasp the opportunity to make progress.

To re-establish devolved government.

To continue the positive progress which has been made over nearly two decades.

And to build a stronger and more prosperous future for everyone.

James Brokenshire – 2017 Statement on Northern Ireland

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in the House of Commons on 3 July 2017.

With permission I would like to make a statement about the political situation in Northern Ireland.

As the House will recall following the resignation of Martin McGuinness, the then deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in January, an election took place to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 2 March.

Despite intensive discussions in the three weeks following the election the Northern Ireland parties were unable to reach agreement on the formation of a new Executive.

In order to facilitate further discussions between the parties, Parliament passed legislation immediately prior to dissolution extending the period in which an Executive could be formed until 29 June.

Last Thursday, 29 June, I made a statement in Belfast setting out that, while differences remained between the parties, progress had been made and that it was still possible for resolution to be achieved.

I urged the parties to continue focusing their efforts on this, with the full support of the UK Government and, as appropriate, the Irish Government.

In that regard I want to recognise the contribution of the Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, and his predecessor, Charlie Flanagan.

In the past few days, since the passing of the deadline, further progress has continued to be made, including on the most challenging issues such as language, culture and identity.

Gaps remain between the parties, but these are few in number and on a defined group of issues.

The Government remains committed to working with the parties, and the Irish Government, to find a way to close these gaps quickly in order to reach an agreement which will pave the way for the restoration of devolved government.

The Prime Minister has been actively involved following on from her meetings with each of the parties … including speaking to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill on Friday night.

I continue to believe that a deal remains achievable.

And if agreement is reached, I will bring forward legislation to enable an Executive to be formed possibly as early as this week.

But time is short.

It has been six months since a full Executive was in place to represent the people of Northern Ireland.

In that time it has been civil servants, not politicians, who have made decisions on spending.

Without political direction, it has not been possible for strategic decisions to be made about priorities in areas like education and health.

This has created pressures which need to be addressed.

And it has led to understandable concern and uncertainty among businesses and those relying on public services alike.

This hiatus cannot simply continue for much longer.

There is no doubt that the best outcome is for a new Executive to make those strategic decisions in the interests of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland.

It should be for a new Executive to make swift decisions on its Budget to make use of the considerable spending power available to it.

While engagement between the parties continues, and there is a prospect of an agreement this week, it is right that those discussions remain our focus.

At the same time we will not forget our ultimate responsibility as a Government to uphold political stability and good governance in Northern Ireland.

In April, I made a Written Ministerial Statement that sought to provide clarity for those civil servants charged with allocating cash in Northern Ireland, to assist them in the discharge of their responsibilities.

But there remains resource available, including £42m from the Spring Budget and any further budget transfers as may be agreed, which are as yet unallocated.

If we do not see resolution in the coming days, we would need to reflect carefully upon whether further clarity would be required for NI Permanent Secretaries around those resources.

In that situation, we would also need to reflect carefully on how we might allocate the funding made available to address immediate health and education pressures as set out in Monday’s statement on UK Government financial support for Northern Ireland, recognising Northern Ireland’s particular circumstances.

And, if no agreement is reached, legislation in Westminster may then be required to give authority for the expenditure of Northern Ireland departments through an Appropriations Bill.

From my conversations with the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, we have not quite reached that critical point yet.

But that point is coming and the lack of a formal Budget is not something that can be sustained indefinitely.

Similarly, decisions on capital expenditure and infrastructure and public service reforms in key sectors such as the health service cannot be deferred for much longer.

One area on which there is much consensus, however, is on the need for greater transparency around political donations.

In line with the commitment set out in the Conservative Party’s Northern Ireland manifesto at the General Election I can confirm that I intend to bring forward legislation that will provide for the publication of all donations and loans received by Northern Ireland parties on or after 1 July 2017.

Mr Speaker,

All of this reinforces further the importance of the parties coming together and reaching an agreement.

And it sets out, too, some of the hard choices that we face if uncertainty persists.

I am also conscious that, with the deadline now passed, I am under a duty to set a date for a new election. I will continue to keep that duty under review.

But it seems unlikely that would that of itself resolve the current political impasse or the ultimate need for political decision-making, however we proceed.

As the Government for the whole United Kingdom, we will always govern in the interests of all those within the United Kingdom.

And so if resolution were to prove intractable, and an Executive could not be restored, then we would of course be ready to do what is needed to provide that political decision-making in the best interests of Northern Ireland.

But I am clear that the return of inclusive, devolved government by a power-sharing Executive is what would be best for Northern Ireland.

And that will remain our overriding focus in the crucial days ahead.

The UK Government will continue govern in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland by providing political stability and keeping an open and sustained dialogue with the parties and with the Irish Government, in accordance with the well-established three-stranded approach.

I stand ready to do what is necessary to facilitate the quick formation of an Executive once an agreement is reached.

And I commend this statement to the House.

James Brokenshire – 2016 Speech to Washington Chamber of Commerce

jamesbrokenshire

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in Washington DC, United States of America, on 8 September 2016.

It is a great pleasure for me as the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to have the opportunity to share some words with the Washington Chamber of Commerce today.

And I’m very grateful to you for agreeing to host me, and to your Senior Vice President for International Policy, John Murphy, for moderating this session.

This is my first overseas visit since being appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by the new UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, in July. And I was particularly keen to come to the United States which has played such a supportive and important role in Northern Ireland over recent years.

So today, I’d like to say a few words about the current state of affairs in Northern Ireland – including why it is such a great place to do business – and about the impact of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.

Special Relationship

But I should like to underline at the outset the enduring strength of relations between the United Kingdom and the United States.

As President Obama said last year “The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is rooted in our shared values and mutual commitment to global peace, prosperity and security”.

And the reality is that no two countries on earth do more together.

Our relationship has been a bulwark of international peace and security for over seventy years. Economically, the US remains the largest single country for UK exports, while the US is the UK’s largest inward investor. And in 2015 the UK and the US were the two fastest growing economies in the G7. So be in no doubt. The alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States is one of the oldest and strongest in the world.

It’s a force for democracy, peace and security the world over. And we remain deeply committed to ensuring that it both endures and prospers.

Northern Ireland – open for business

One place where successive US administrations and key individuals have helped to move things decisively forward in recent years is in Northern Ireland. And the progress in Northern Ireland is rightly held up as an example of what can be achieved when democracy and dialogue prevail over the alternatives.

Today, Northern Ireland enjoys almost unparalleled political stability with the longest unbroken run of local, devolved government since the 1960s.

The economy continues to grow, with unemployment falling and over 55,000 more people in work since 2010. And in the last year Northern Ireland’s exports to the US have increased by a staggering 74 per cent. Relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland have never been stronger. The overall security situation is unrecognisable from the period of the troubles.

And Northern Ireland is a highly competitive place in which to invest. We have a highly educated, skilled and dedicated workforce. We have two world class universities with strong links to local business and commerce. There are great transport links into the rest of the UK, Ireland, Europe and beyond. Invest Northern Ireland is able to offer imaginative packages to potential investors.

Our operating costs are over 48 per cent lower than London and 14 per cent lower than Dublin. Northern Ireland benefits from the UK having the joint lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20 – 20 per cent today coming down to 17 per cent by 2020.

And the UK Government remains committed to handing corporation tax powers to the local administration which has set itself the goal of bringing the rate down to 12.5 per cent, the same as in the Republic of Ireland. So it’s not surprising that Belfast is one of the leading destinations for foreign direct investment into the UK outside of London.

But don’t just take my word for it. Our greatest ambassadors are the companies that have invested in Northern Ireland.

Like the Executive Vice President of Allstate who said “As a result of investing in Northern Ireland 15 years ago Allstate has saved over a billion dollars”.

Or the Executive Producer of Game of Thrones, filmed largely at the Titanic Studios in Belfast. As he put it “I can’t imagine any other city or any other area where we could have done this show. Anything we throw at Northern Ireland they deliver.”

All of this is why Northern Ireland has attracted almost 900 international investors – companies like Citi, Allen and Overy and the New York Stock – as well as a multitude of companies from the rest of the UK.

My clear message here in the United States today is that Northern Ireland is open for business.

Brexit

And it will continue to be open for business after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Of course I realise that decision has caused some uncertainty, so perhaps I can comment on some of the implications of the referendum in June and say some words both of reassurance and of optimism.

First, the people of the United Kingdom were given a choice in the referendum, and they voted decisively to leave the European Union.

I campaigned for remain, but I am clear that we must and will respect that democratic decision and give effect to it.

And while respecting the views of those parts of the UK that voted to remain, this was a United Kingdom vote. The UK as a whole voted to leave – and it is the whole of the UK that will leave the EU. There is no provision for some parts of the UK being within the EU while other parts are outside.

I am also confident the UK will make a success of life outside the EU. Indeed, I believe it presents us with great opportunities.We will succeed because the UK is a great global trading nation. And we’ll make a success of Brexit because the fundamentals of the UK economy are sound.

As a result of the difficult decisions we have taken since 2010 the UK’s deficit is down by nearly two thirds. As I said earlier along with the US we were the fastest growing G7 economy last year. Employment is at record levels – with an average 1,000 jobs a day created over the past six years.

We continue to attract more foreign direct investment than any other country in Europe. And, according to the World Bank, in 2015 we overtook the United States as the top country in the world for ease of doing business.

So while, yes, leaving the EU will inevitably involve some challenges and as the Prime Minister said at the weekend it will not all be plain sailing, we approach this with optimism and a positive view of what we can achieve for the UK.

Protecting Northern Ireland’s interests

For my part, as Northern Ireland Secretary I want to ensure that the unique interests of Northern Ireland are protected and advanced. This is particularly the case in relation to the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

So let me try and offer these words of re-assurance. The UK Government emphatically does not want to see a return to the borders of the past. And I know that determination is shared by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. The open border and the Common Travel Area have served us well for many years. So we shall be working hard together in our efforts to keep them for people and business.

Support for the Agreements

There have been some suggestions that leaving the EU risks unravelling all the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland in recent years, and that it could fatally undermine the settlement forged by the 1998 Agreement and its successors. I fundamentally reject that argument.

The UK Government remains fully committed to the Agreement and its successors. That includes the political institutions. Those elements of the Agreements that deal with people’s rights and identity. And all the constitutional guarantees – underpinned by the consent principle.

Working in close partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Irish Government and our friends in the United States the UK Government will always do the right thing for Northern Ireland.

Conclusion

In conclusion Brexit will work for the United Kingdom. As a strong, outward looking country we are well placed to forge exciting new trading relationships with existing partners, like the United States, but also with emerging economies.

We are in a strong position to negotiate our own trade agreements and be a positive and powerful voice for free trade. We will forge a new relationship with the EU that works for the UK. And we’ll get out into the world and do business right across the globe.

Outside the EU the United Kingdom will prosper and have a strong and positive future – remaining always a staunch ally of the United States.

Thank you.

James Brokenshire – 2016 Speech to British Irish Association Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at Pembroke College at Oxford University on 9 September 2016.

I am delighted to be here this evening, and to attend my first British-Irish Association Conference as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

So thank you to Hugo McNeill for your kind invitation, and to you and your team at the BIA for the important work you continue to do.

I’d also like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Theresa Villiers, who worked tirelessly over four years as Secretary State, securing both the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements.

Theresa left Northern Ireland in a stronger and more stable place, and we should be very grateful for the job that she did.

I welcome the presence this evening of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

The UK-Irish relationship has never been stronger, and that is something we both need to use to our mutual benefit as the UK negotiates its departure from the European Union.

I feel genuinely honoured and privileged to have been asked by the Prime Minister to serve as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

In all of the previous times I’ve spent in Northern Ireland, I have always been struck by its beauty, its spirit, the warmth of its people and the sheer opportunity and potential it holds.

It is a very special part of the United Kingdom.

And it has been great to get out and about across Northern Ireland over the summer.

Stepping the stones of the Giants Causeway, crossing Lough Erne and surveying the stunning countryside of County Fermanagh, walking the historic walls of Derry / Londonderry, enjoying the experience of the Titanic Centre with family, seeing the catch off the fishing boats in Kilkeel. Appreciating just how good a sixteen year old Bushmills single malt really is.

But even more importantly talking to people. Reflecting on their worries and their anxieties. Listening to their hopes and aspirations. Hearing that sense of just how far Northern Ireland has come over recent years, but also how it needs to progress in the future. What Northern Ireland can be, what Northern Ireland will be in the years ahead.

I am in little doubt that there are few greater responsibilities in government than taking forward the efforts of so many people over recent decades to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland.

But that is precisely the agenda I will to pursue wholeheartedly to the best of my abilities.

Committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors. Working with all parts of the community to see Northern Ireland flourish.

Advancing the clear agenda of the Prime Minister to be a One Nation Government that will work for the whole of the United Kingdom, and for all of its citizens.

UK Exit from the EU

And seeing that we get the best possible deal for Northern Ireland as the UK looks to a future outside of the EU.

And I think it is right that I start with the issue of Brexit.

The people of the United Kingdom were given a choice in the referendum. And they voted decisively to leave the European Union.

I campaigned for remain, but I am clear that we must and will respect that democratic decision and give effect to it.

And while respecting the views of those parts of the UK that voted to remain, this was a United Kingdom vote.

The imperative now is to work together and ensure that we have a positive and successful vision for Northern Ireland – inside the UK, within the closest set of relationships within these islands, but outside the EU.

We have to make the most of the opportunities that our departure from the EU presents.

The UK has always been a great global trading nation and that’s what we’ll continue to be – getting out there and doing business right across the world.

That’s why I have just spent two days in Washington – with the simple message that the UK, and Northern Ireland in particular, is open for business.

And another reason we will make a success of our departure is because the fundamentals of the UK economy are sound.

We’ve reduced the deficit we inherited by nearly two-thirds.

Employment is at record levels, with an average 1,000 jobs a day created over the past six years.

We continue to attract more foreign direct investment than any other country in Europe.

And in Northern Ireland the economy continues to grow with unemployment falling and more than 55,000 people in work since 2010. So while, yes, leaving the EU will inevitably involve some challenges and as the Prime Minister said last weekend it will not all be plain sailing – we approach this with optimism and a positive view of what we can achieve for the UK.

And as we establish a UK negotiating position, the Prime Minister has made clear her desire to engage fully with the devolved administrations, including the Northern Ireland Executive.

We also want to offer reassurance and certainty across a number of key sectors.

Future of EU structural funds

And that’s why the Chancellor announced last month that all European structural and investment funding agreements in the UK signed before this year’s Autumn Statement will be fully funded, even after we have left the EU.

That includes funding agreed under the Peace Four and Interreg programmes.

In addition, we will match the current level of direct payments given to farmers until 2020 – a boost to the agriculture sector which in Northern Ireland is the backbone of the local economy.

As Secretary of State I am also fully committed to ensuring that as we establish our negotiating position the unique interests of Northern Ireland are protected and advanced.

Northern Ireland / Ireland border

This is particularly the case in relation to the border.

So let me try and offer these words of re-assurance.

The UK Government emphatically does not want to see a return to the borders of the past.

The Prime Minister emphasised that on her visit to Stormont and I want to underline that point again this evening. And I know that determination is shared by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

The open border and the Common Travel Area have served us well for decades. So it is a priority to keep them open for people and business.

Perceived risk to the Belfast Agreement

I also want to respond to suggestions that leaving the EU risks unravelling all the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland in recent years, and that it could fatally undermine the settlement forged by the 1998 Agreement and its successors.

I fundamentally reject that argument.

For a start I am confident that all parties in the Assembly support the current political settlement, want it to work and are fully committed to exclusively democratic and peaceful means.

For our part, the UK Government remains fully committed to the Agreement and its successors. That includes the political institutions.

The Assembly, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council will all continue to reflect the unique political relationships throughout these islands.

In addition those elements of the Agreements that deal with people’s rights and identity will be upheld. As will all the constitutional guarantees – underpinned by the abiding principle of consent.

And there remains continued overwhelming support for the current settlement, as the opinion poll this week has shown.

Political stability in Northern Ireland has been hard fought over many decades, and we will not do anything to undermine it. This Government remains determined to do the best for Northern Ireland and for the United Kingdom as a whole.

Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements

And doing the best for Northern Ireland means implementing the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements.

This time last year at the BIA my predecessor effectively launched the second cross party talks process in twelve months.

She did so against a background of impending crisis within the devolved institutions, with a return to direct rule seemed increasingly in prospect.

In addition two murders in Belfast had again thrown the spotlight on the continuing existence of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

After ten weeks of intensive talks the resulting Fresh Start Agreement set out a way forward – to secure implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and to tackle the continuing malign influence of paramilitary groups.

All of this was underpinned by an additional financial commitment by the UK Government which together with the funding in the Stormont House Agreement would give the Executive up to £2.5 billion extra spending power.

And I’m pleased to say that implementation continues to go well.

For our part at Westminster the UK Government is legislating for welfare reform in accordance with the terms set out in the Fresh Start Agreement.

We’ve introduced new measures to encourage fiscal responsibility within the Executive so that it can live within its means.

And we remain committed to the devolution of corporation tax powers in accordance with the conditions on financial stability set out in the Stormont House Agreement.

There are new obligations on Ministers and MLAs to tackle paramilitarism.

And we’ve passed the legislation to establish the new Independent Reporting Commission to promote progress towards ending paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland.

I look forward to signing the Treaty along with Charlie Flanagan shortly that will enable the UK and Irish Governments, along with the Executive, that will enable us to get the new Commission up and running by the end of the year.

Tackling paramilitarism

Along with the strategy being developed by the Executive following the publication of the Fresh Start Panel report I hope that the Commission can play a key role in confronting the scourge of paramilitarism.

Let’s be clear.

Those engaged in what is often described as paramilitary activity serve no political cause.

They commit crime using the cloak of paramiltarism to line their own pockets.

They use intimidation and fear to power and exert influence within their communities.

They hold communities back … deterring investment and jobs and preventing people from moving forward with their lives.

They were never justified in the past, they are not justified today and they should disband.

I recognise that this is easier said than done.

It requires a concerted effort across society.

We need to look at how we prevent young people being drawn into these groups in the first place.

We need to help communities challenge the influence and legitimacy of these groups.

We need look at how we can better support people coming forward to give evidence in paramilitary linked cases.

And we need to ensure that the criminal justice system works to prosecute more of these people and put them behind bars for longer.

So the measures in the Fresh Start Agreement are only a beginning.

And they will rightly be judged on whether they make a difference where it matters – on the ground.

But working with the Executive and the Irish Government I’m determined to make progress.

We cannot tolerate cold blooded murder in alleyways masquerading as justice.

It has to stop – and these groups must be put out of business for good.

There is no doubt that since the Fresh Start Agreement politics has been more stable than for some time – with the new Executive getting on with the job of developing its Programme for Government.

And of course politics is evolving, with the power-sharing structures at Stormont now accommodating a government and an opposition.

I welcome these developments.

In my first public statement as Secretary of State, I said that making progress on the issues of the past would be one of my key priorities.

Legacy of the past and new institutions

In recent weeks I’ve been meeting groups representing victims and survivors as well as individuals who either lost loved ones or were injured during the Troubles.

It has been a profoundly moving and affecting experience.

Hearing their powerful testimony.

Seeing the pain, raw emotion and, frankly, suffering that still persists decades on.

Recognising their desire for information, for answers and in some cases for justice to be done and to be seen to be done.

And being very conscious of their frustration that the current structures aren’t working and the failure to establish the necessary political consensus to bring about change.

They are the ones who suffered the most during the Troubles, and we have an obligation to do what we can to help them.

So I would like to say this.

I believe that the so called legacy bodies set out in the Stormont House Agreement continue to provide the most effective way to make progress on this hugely sensitive but hugely important issue.

Delivering the Stormont House Agreement, including the legacy bodies, and also reforming legacy inquests was a key Northern Ireland manifesto pledge for the Conservative Government at the last election.

It is something to which I am fully committed.

The new bodies will be under obligations to operate in ways that are fair, balanced, impartial and – crucially in my view – proportionate.

They will not provide for any amnesties or immunities from prosecution where an evidential case against individuals can be made.

The Government, the police and all the agencies will also be under obligations to provide full disclosure, without limitation or qualification, to those investigating crimes or misconduct.

The rule of law must be upheld, without fear or favour.

But in the reports that are subsequently published, I am determined to strike the right balance between the obligation to the families to provide comprehensive disclosure, and my fundamental obligation as Secretary of State to protect lives and keep people safe and secure.

Over recent months my department has been fully engaged on work necessary to establish the Historical Investigations Unit, the Independent Commission for Information Retrieval, the Implementation and Reconciliation Group and the Oral History Archive.

The work has been shaped by many meetings with political parties, academics and victims’ groups, and with the Irish Government who also have important obligations in respect of the past.

I now believe the process would benefit from a more public phase. And over the coming weeks I will reflect on what form that might take.

My purpose is to implement fully and faithfully all parts of the Stormont House Agreement, and I believe it is right there should be a public chance to comment on the detail we have developed through our many discussions.

I want the public to have their say and to build confidence in the new bodies so that they can get on with their work from the outset and make a difference for those people we have a duty to help.

I want to have these bodies up and running as quickly as possible.

But the bodies will only work if they can command support and confidence from across the community.

Conclusion

In conclusion.

Brexit, Fresh Start implementation and legacy all represent big challenges.

But working with our key partners the UK Government approaches them positively.

As we seek to build a brighter, prosperous more secure future for Northern Ireland.

And a Northern Ireland that works for everyone.

 

James Brokenshire – 2013 Speech for the Far Right Special Interest Group conference

jamesbrokenshire

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire, the then Minister for Security, on 5 September 2013.

Thank you for the opportunity to address this conference.

It’s a privilege to speak to the people at the front line in reducing extremism in our communities.

Clearly we are here today to discuss our response to the threat posed by far right extremism – and I think that we have assembled in this room some of the best, most experienced people in the field.

Before I begin, I would like to echo the sentiments of the previous speakers and utterly condemn the actions of the so-called defence leagues, their off-shoots and the offensive, anti-Muslim messages they promote.

They are divisive and run contrary to the values of respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

Those values are the essence of our democratic system, and any attack on them is an attack on the basis of our society.

The terrorist threat posed by the far right

However, as you might expect from the Security Minister, I will focus my comments today on the terrorist threat posed by the far right.

As you know, the most significant terrorist threat we face comes from Al Qa’ida, its affiliates and like-minded terrorists.

That’s the ideology most likely to inspire a terrorist attack in Britain today.

But we know from recent events that although the far-right threat may not be on the same scale as Al Qa’ida, their divisive and racist ideology can still have deadly consequences.

This summer we have been shocked and appalled by the murder of Mohammed Saleem and the attacks on Aisha Mosque in Walsall, Wolverhampton Central Mosque and Kanz Ul Iman Masjid in Tipton.

I met with Mr Saleem’s family and representatives of the mosques affected and was deeply moved by their resilience, unity and dignity in the face of terrorism.

I also met with officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and as you know, following their thorough investigation, an individual has now been charged with the attacks.

Alongside the investigation, West Midlands security advisors also visited over two hundred mosques and Islamic centres to provide reassurance and advice on how best ensure that mosques are safe places.

Building on this and existing work, they have developed national guidance on protective security measures for mosques and other places of worship.

This guidance has been sent to all forces so that the advice can be provided across the country.

Even more recently the police have been investigating a fire at a mosque in Harlow, which has now led to a man being questioned about the incident.

But, of course, this summer wasn’t the first time the far right has posed a threat in the UK – in 2010 Ian and Nicky Davison – co-founders of the Aryan Strike Force – were convicted for possessing the poison ricin and for making pipe bombs.

They claimed they had 350 members and their website had tens of thousands of postings, all of them messages of hate.

And this is not just an issue for Britain – in 2011, Anders Breivik conducted the callous murder of 77 people in Oslo and on the island of Utoya.

Most of his victims were children and teenagers.

In Breivik’s manifesto, which he published online before the attack, he identified Islam as the enemy and called for the deportation of all Muslims from Europe.

Al Qa’ida and the far right

Although the threat they pose is very different, Al Qa’ida inspired terrorism and domestic terrorism share a number of similarities.

In both cases there is no single pathway to radicalisation, but the vulnerable people that domestic extremists prey upon can share many of the same characteristics exploited by Al Qa’ida radicalisers.

They both look for the same sense of alienation; the same questions of identity; and the same feelings of anger and injustice.

And once they’ve found these psychological hooks, Al Qa’ida and domestic extremists use ideologies with similar features to justify their perverse violence.

Both groups simplistically divide the world into ‘them’ and ‘us’ – an evil group that is responsible for all of the world’s ills and a persecuted group that includes the person they are targeting for radicalisation.

They ignore complexity and nuance in favour of stereotypes and conspiracy thinking to allow individuals to blame others for their own failures and absolve themselves of responsibility.

They also operate in similar ways.

For example, both make increasing use of the internet to spread hate-filled propaganda which can have a brutalising and dehumanising effect.

We also know that domestic extremism and Al Qa’ida-inspired terrorism can have a “reciprocal radicalisation” effect.

Incidents instigated by one group can ratchet up tensions within the other, and so on back and forth.

Prevent and the Extremism Task Force

Let me be clear everyone has the right to go about their lives freely and without fear and we will not tolerate any form of terrorism and extremism.

That is why we updated our Prevent strategy in 2011 to emphasise that Prevent is about stopping people becoming or supporting all kinds of terrorism.

And that is why the Prime Minister has set up the Extremism Task Force earlier this year.

This group includes all of the cabinet members whose departments have a role to play in challenging extremism and terrorism.

The taskforce has met three times so far, and has re-examined the evidence and government policy in a number of areas.

One of the key conclusions has been that Prevent work must be led at the local level, but with strong enabling support from central government.

The central government response

At the centre we have important levers.

For example, the Home Secretary has the power to ban individuals from entering the country to stir up hatred and provoke violence.

This can be effective, such as when we prevented Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer – the co-founders of the anti-Muslim hate campaign “Stop The Islamization of America” – from speaking at an EDL rally in Woolwich in June.

This country also has one of the strongest legal frameworks in the world to protect communities from hostility, violence and bigotry.

We keep that framework under review to make sure that it remains effective in the face of new and emerging threats.

In March last year we published a cross-government action plan to tackle hate crime, bringing together the work of a wide range of departments and agencies.

The action plan will work to prevent hate crime happening in the first place; increase reporting and victims’ access to support; and improve the operational response to hate crimes.

I think it is important to underline that we need to explore every option to encourage the victims of hate crime to report these crimes to the police so that they can be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

To counter the use of the internet by extremists we are funding the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, a specialist team in the police, who assess online content and seek to remove it when it breaches terrorism legislation and is linked to the UK.

To date over 6,500 items of terrorist material have been taken down.

The local response

But the real difference is being made by local action in local communities.

I know it is coming from the people in this room.

You know your communities.

You live and work in them, and for them, every day.

And it is clear that a huge amount of work is going on to tackle the threat from the far right.

Take Channel, for instance.

About 15% of all the referrals you have made to Channel have been due to concerns that someone may be vulnerable to radicalisation by the far right – that is hundreds of people being protected from being drawn into hate and extremism.

And concerns about the far right are becoming an ever larger part of Channel’s workload.

You are also making great progress in raising awareness of the signs of domestic extremism through the roll out of WRAP and similar products.

Through WRAP alone, you have trained over 44,000 local staff in schools, prisons, social services and the health service to recognise the signs of vulnerability and make referrals to Channel.

Of course Channel is only effective if there are supportive measures in place, and that means everything from mainstream health and social services interventions to mentoring by those specialising in challenging ideologies.

And it is having an impact.

I have also been very impressed by the breadth and variety of the domestic extremist-oriented projects that you are taking forward as part of our Local Delivery programme.

Through the local Prevent coordinators we are funding 18 projects focussed on preventing domestic extremism across England and Wales.

Together, these projects represent a substantial challenge to the extremists and whilst time prevents me from telling you about all of them, I do want to highlight a few of them that I think are doing particularly innovative work.

One project called “One Extreme to the Other” taking place in a number of areas across the country tackles the phenomenon of reciprocal radicalisation through a theatre performance in schools followed by a discussion session.

Thousands of children will have seen these performances and participated in discussions when the project is completed.

Another project seeks to “rewind” racism by deconstructing the very concept of race in schools and colleges that have experienced friction between Muslim and non-Muslim students.

The project aims to reduce extremist support, provide a more stable learning environment in schools and colleges and increase the resilience of our young people.

A third project focuses on frontline staff who have already received basic WRAP training, and provides a deeper understanding of far right extremism, its history, ideology and symbols.

Innovation like this is positive, welcome and necessary.

The Special Interest Group

Indeed, the Special Interest Group itself is an excellent innovation, enabling people to share lessons learned and to take forward joint activity.

Therefore, today is an important opportunity to take this innovation a step further and we should seize it with both hands.

We need to use all the tools available to us – from dialogue and engagement through to stronger powers such as licensing laws and even littering laws.

This might mean working with venues to share our guidance on how to avoid being used for extremist events, using local media to spread positive messages; or bringing prominent local people on board.

How we can make better use of social media and harness the power of the internet to counter those who use it to spread hate.

The key challenge for all of us is to be creative – the extremists take every opportunity to advance their agenda of hate and we need to be just as imaginative in our response.

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to speak.

James Brokenshire – 2013 Speech to ISPA Conference

jamesbrokenshire

Below is the text of the speech made by James Brokenshire to the Internet Service Providers’ Association on 27th November 2013.

Thank you very much for having me here today. I welcome the opportunity to speak to you. The internet continues to be a powerful force in shaping the future UK and global economy, enabling remarkable innovation, collaboration and growth. Internet Service Providers are key players in that. You play a central role in ensuring the cyber security of the UK, so that the UK continues to be an attractive and safe place to do business, and the public are protected from those who use the internet for harmful and criminal purposes. And that will continue to be the case, as we look ahead to the future of the internet and ISPs.

Today, I would like to focus on:

The threat we face from cyber crime

How the government plans to tackle this threat, including through the National Cyber Security Programme, changes in the law enforcement and legal landscape and the new Serious and Organised Crime Strategy

How government and industry can work in partnership to tackle the threat from cyber crime and reduce the vulnerabilities of businesses and individuals online.

I’ll start with the threat.

The National Security Strategy published in 2010 identifies the risk of hostile attacks on UK cyberspace by other states and large scale cyber crime as a ‘Tier One’ priority for UK national security. The risk of a significant increase in the level of organised crime affecting the UK is a ‘Tier Two’ priority.

There are two criminal activities here:

Cyber-dependent crime, which can only be committed using computers or other information communication technology. Examples include the creation and spread of malware for financial gain, hacking to steal personal or industry data, and denial of service attacks to cause reputational damage; and

Cyber-enabled crime, which can be conducted online or offline, but online can take place at unprecedented scale and speed. For example, cyber-enabled card-not-present fraud cost banks an estimated £140.2 million in 2012. In the same year, cyber-enabled banking fraud was estimated to have cost £39.6million.

More research is needed on the overall cost of cyber crime to the UK. So I am establishing a working group of academic experts and research partners to improve these estimates.

But recent law enforcement operations show the challenges we face. The ambition and complexity of these criminal activities was shown in the arrest, in September, of 11 men on suspicion of conspiracy to steal from Santander Bank.

And the scale can be seen in a recent operation, jointly conducted by the National Cyber Crime Unit, FBI, and other partners, which led to the arrest of 11 people for crimes that are estimated to have resulted in losses of over $200 million.

A third example shows how plausible these attacks can be. In November, six people were convicted of conspiracy to defraud after an investigation launched by the Metropolitan Police and concluded by the NCCU. The criminals posted fake job adverts on websites like Gumtree. Respondents were asked to complete an online application form, but the hyperlink downloaded computer malware which recorded the victims’ keystrokes, capturing their financial and personal data. Mobile phone and online chat records showed the group had made more than £300,000 from the fraud.

So How is Government Leading the Strategic Response to this Threat?

The National Cyber Security Strategy, launched in 2011, sets out the government’s approach to increasing the cyber security of the UK. The strategy is supported by the National Cyber Security Programme, through which the government has committed £860 million over five years (from 2011 to 2016) to protect and promote the UK in a digital world.

The Cabinet Office co-ordinates this work. The funding is distributed among government departments and agencies involved in order to help the UK to:

– Tackle cyber crime and be one of the most secure places in the world to do business in cyberspace;

– Be more resilient to cyber attacks and better able to protect our interests in cyberspace; and

– Help shape an open, stable and vibrant cyberspace which the UK public can use safely and that supports open societies.

This activity is complemented by other developments. In October the government launched a strategy to reduce the level of serious and organised crime, including cyber crime. It sets out how we will take action at every opportunity to prevent people getting involved in serious and organised crime; to strengthen our protection against it; to prepare how we respond; and, most importantly, to pursue the criminals, prosecuting them and disrupting their activities.

Prosecuting Cyber Criminals

I would briefly like to focus on law enforcement agencies’ efforts to disrupt and prosecute cyber criminals, and our work to help protect the private sector and the public.

The effort to relentlessly disrupt serious and organised crime and reduce the threat posed to the UK is being led by the National Crime Agency. The NCA’s Intelligence Hub has a single strategic intelligence picture of serious and organised crime threats to the UK, including from cyber crime. This picture of the threat is enabling the law enforcement community better to identify and respond to threats and vulnerabilities.

The NCA has four commands covering: Organised Crime, Border Policing, Economic Crime, and Child Exploitation and Online Protection. The National Cyber Crime Unit supports all four commands as the centre of excellence for tackling cyber crime.

Our work to improve law enforcement’s capability to tackle cyber crime goes beyond the creation of the NCCU. Half of the NCA’s 4,000 officers will be trained in digital investigation skills. We are also providing extra funding through the National Cyber Security Programme so that each Regional Organised Crime Unit will have a dedicated cyber crime unit. And the NCCU will help drive up cyber skills in local forces. Through its partnership with the College of Policing, we aim to train 5,000 police officers and staff by 2015.

I am delighted with the work already undertaken by the NCCU. For example, a young person in London was recently arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into one of the largest cyber attacks ever seen. The NCCU used sophisticated technical skills to preserve evidence and coordinated this arrest with international law enforcement partners as part of a wider investigation.

Tackling Cyber Crime Together

Of course we know that the UK cannot tackle cyber crime on its own. Cyber criminals threaten the UK from locations across the globe. International collaboration is a vital part of the NCA’s approach to cutting crime, including cyber crime. The NCCU is already working closely with a range of international partners, including the European Cyber Crime Centre in Europol.

The FBI recently described their relationship with the NCCU as “the best illustration” of the paradigm shift they have been undergoing in their engagement with law enforcement, industry, and international partners.

The UK has rightly been recognised as a leading player on cyber issues following the London Conference on Cyberspace in November 2011, and I was encouraged by the constructive discussions at the Seoul Conference on Cyberspace last month. In our international engagement, in the EU, and in multilateral fora we have continued to promote the UK’s vision of an open, vibrant and secure cyberspace.

The government has ratified the Budapest Convention, the main international agreement on tackling cyber crime. Our ratification of the Convention signals our willingness to support other countries to tackle this international crime. All countries should put in place appropriate legislation to tackle these crimes, and the Budapest Convention is the best model for this.

We now need to focus less on international treaties and focus our collective efforts on how to improve the practical response to the threat from cyber crime, such as how the UK supports the development of capability in other countries through the Cyber Capacity Building Fund, which was announced by the Foreign Secretary at the Budapest Conference on Cyberspace in October 2012.

Of course, we also need to ensure that the UK has the right legal frameworks in place to effectively investigate and prosecute criminals online. The government is committed to ensuring that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to investigate cyber crimes. We are considering how these capabilities can be delivered, and will put forward proposals as soon as possible.

In addition, we will amend the Computer Misuse Act next year to implement the EU Directive on Attacks Against Information Systems.

The Role of ISPs

I have set out the cyber threat and our strategic, law enforcement and legal response. The final element I would like to talk about today is the role of industry, and particularly ISPs, in helping to improve the UK’s cyber security.

It is vital that we have effective intelligence-sharing relationships so that law enforcement agencies have the full intelligence picture and so that firms can protect their systems. It is important that you continue to report fraud and cyber crimes to Action Fraud, and share intelligence on the threats within industry.

This intelligence-sharing is supported by the Cyber Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) which launched this year. This is a secure environment through which industry can share real-time information on cyber security threats and mitigations. The security services, law enforcement agencies, and government can also share information through the CISP. Over 200 organisations are already participating.

We are also establishing a national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to improve co-ordination of cyber incidents. The CERT will act as a focus point for international sharing of technical information on cyber security. The UK CERT will allow us to bring together strands of our cyber response and simplify our engagement with international partners.

This intelligence-sharing is underpinned by strong relationships. The NCA is building direct relationships with industry. It supports both proactive investigations and a fast-time response to the most serious incidents. It receives intelligence and reports from the private sector. And it produces threat assessments and targeted alerts on emerging threats to help firms reduce their risks and vulnerabilities.

Creation of Cyber Crime Reduction Partnership

I also want my own direct relationships with you. To do this, I have created the Cyber Crime Reduction Partnership with David Willets (the Minister for Universities and Science). This gives me a opportunity to hear the views of ISPA and the other sectors and academics who attend. Mark [Mark Gracey, Chair of ISPA] and Andy Archibald, Interim Head of the NCCU, jointly lead a work stream to improve cooperation between industry and law enforcement agencies. I look forward to our future work in this area.

But this is about more than the government and industry. The public is often the end user of your products and services. Their cyber security vulnerabilities can all too easily become your cyber security vulnerabilities. So we need to improve the public’s awareness of how to stay safe online.

We will shortly be running a large campaign to improve the online safety behaviours of consumers and SMEs. I thank the ISPs who have already pledged their support for the campaign, alongside a growing list of supporters from other sectors including anti-virus software companies, telecommunications firms, and high street banks. I encourage you all to consider how you can also support the campaign.

Tackling Online Child Sexual Exploitation

Another area where you can continue to help protect the public is to support work to tackle online child sexual exploitation. I know that many of you here support the work of the Internet Watch Foundation, and have helped protect children and the wider public by taking action to block indecent images based on the IWF list. As you will be aware, the Prime Minister has called for more action to tackle the availability and sharing of images, and in particular that search engines should take responsibility for ensuring that it is difficult to access illegal images through their services. The search engines have now made changes to their search functions to support this, and National Crime Agency testing of these new measures shows that they have been effective in making it harder to access child abuse images, videos or pathways.

We have also asked search engine providers to work with law enforcement agencies to develop effective deterrence messages for users who try to access child abuse images.

We have been working with industry and CEOP to develop these solutions, and I thank the firms for their support. The objective is to make it more difficult for users to access indecent images of children, whether they do so deliberately or inadvertently.

These changes will help deter the relatively unsophisticated offender, and make it harder for them to access illegal images. To tackle the more sophisticated offender, for example those who use tools such as The Onion Router (TOR), we need to engage with industry and use your skills.

On 9 December the UK Policing Minister and the US Assistant Attorney General will co-chair the first meeting of the taskforce combat online child sexual exploitation crimes. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command of the NCA, the FBI, and Homeland Security Investigations will all be members.

The taskforce will work hand-in-hand with an Industry Solutions Group, which will design technological solutions to these crimes. Joanna Shields, UK Ambassador for Digital Industries, will lead the engagement with this group, building upon the collaborative work already in place. Membership of the Industry Solutions Group will include technical experts from ISPs and representatives from other important online sectors such as search engines; social networks; and data storage, encryption, and antivirus software providers.

I encourage you all to consider how you can support the work of the Taskforce and its Industry Solutions Group.

Messages to Remember

So what messages do I hope you will hold onto as you head into the interesting panel discussions which follow?

We are committed to working closely with industry to reduce the cyber threats we face. We will bring all our law enforcement capabilities to bear in the relentless pursuit of cyber criminals. And we will provide support and information to help you protect yourselves against the cyber threat.

In return, I ask you to share information with law enforcement agencies and with each other so that we can reduce our vulnerabilities. And I ask you to work with us to reduce the public’s vulnerabilities to cyber crime and help protect children from online sexual exploitation.

Today’s conference asks what lies ahead for the internet industry, and I know you will have some very interesting discussions on that. As you consider the exciting future of the internet, I hope you will reflect on the need to build in cyber security from the outset.