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Pauline Neville-Jones: Launch of National Security Green Paper

David has outlined the key problem this country faces – poor government.  This is not new, it is something we have experienced for over ten years.

But at a time when, day after day, the world is increasingly complex, turbulent and uncertain, poor government can actively damage this country’s interests.

The sofa-style of government that became a hallmark of New Labour means that Departments and agencies can be bypassed almost entirely, neglecting their expertise and knowledge.  The Foreign Office is a primary example.

This is also a Government wedded to the structures of the Cold War, as David said.  Departmental silos mean that policies tend to be drawn up in isolation and are not co-ordinated. 

This cannot be right when there is no neat distinction between foreign and domestic policy, and when a greater number of departments and agencies have to work together on the frontline both here and abroad. 

That said, progress has been made in recent years – largely because of learning on the ground.  Our servicemen and women, our diplomats, our security and intelligence staff, our emergency services – all of these people are immensely talented and hugely capable of adapting to the challenges they face.  They have many good ideas.  But too often they have to work against, or are not helped by, the system.

I know this from experience.

When I was the head planner in the FCO in the mid eighties, my staff wrote a paper on Yugoslavia which concluded that the country was ripe for internal breakup and conflict.  We pointed to Bosnia as one of the most sensitive republics.  My civil service bosses dismissed it on the grounds that the Soviet Union would never let it happen.  We put it back in the cupboard.  The Wall fell five years later.

We might have been able to save the international community a great deal of misery if we had taken the danger of bloodshed seriously rather earlier than we did. 

‘Unpredictable’ is often used an excuse for what we fail to foresee.  But it is not a good excuse.  Bosnia, Kosovo, 9/11, 7/7 – all could have been anticipated at least to some extent.

And if we look at the context we find ourselves in today – a fiscal crisis of huge proportions and significant shifts in the global balance of power – it is one in which the UK will find it harder to maintain its influence and advance its interests.  A capacity to anticipate events and look ahead and, by doing so, give ourselves options to avoid conflict and instead secure advantage, is important.  That is why there is such a focus in our National Security Green Paper on building a capacity for preventative activity.

But to undertake preventative activity, we need to develop a capacity for strategic thinking.

That is why we will establish a National Security Council.  This Council will foster a culture of forward thinking and cross Departmental working to achieve common goals. 

It will be underpinned by the all-hazards approach – in other words, an approach which recognises the links between different security challenges.  And one which recognises that security these days is not just about the state, but about the good functioning and well-being of people, society and the economy.

Just think of the looming energy crisis.  Energy underpins every aspect of life, yet Labour have failed to secure reliable contracts and ensure there is enough domestic generating capacity, or construct strategic storage to get us through emergencies.  No wonder prices are going up – and people are rightly worried.

Clearly, in some areas government itself must do more.  David has also spoken about border security and the military contribution to homeland security.  On both of these we have led thinking.

But there must also be a more systematic approach to securing our critical national infrastructure – our energy supplies and grid; our food supplies; our computers.  That is why we are forming a new National Resilience Team.

But as David said, it is not just about new machinery, new methods and a new way of thinking about national security.

Government can provide the best structures possible.  In other words, it can provide the best insurance policy.  But what no government can ever do is provide total security by itself.

David spoke about the importance of trust in government.  This is an important pre-requisite for involving individuals, communities and businesses in building their own security.  Government must be more open about the nature of the threats we as a country face.  That is why we will strengthen the Intelligence and Security Committee.  It is why we will provide advice to the public about what they can do to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

But individuals themselves can make an active contribution. 

The terrorist threat is an example.  The agencies are doing a good job at countering it but ultimately a the battle for ideas is at stake and this takes place within society.  We promote our values abroad, but is that compatible with being an incubator of extremism and an exporter of terrorism?

Strong communities are resilient to terrorism and extremism.  We are one nation and should be proud of our values.  That is why we need a National Integration Strategy which gets people to learn English, promotes democratic value and a sense of a shared history as the context for a shared future. We should bring about conditions in which the majority stands up robustly against the tiny minority of extremists- of whatever hue.

But we achieve just the opposite if we destroy fundamental rights and freedoms in the name of security.  I spend a lot of my time as Shadow Security Minister in the House of Lords trying to ensure that a proportionate balance is struck between security and liberty.  I also think that if we are more open with the public about the challenges we all face, the better will be the balance we shall be able to strike.

Labour have made the mistake of seeking to protect us against each other, instead of creating conditions in which we trust one another.  What has happened to traditional British public spirit?  We need to revive it.  How ludicrous that during the recent bad weather, there was the suggestion that we should not clear the pavements in front of our houses for fear of taking responsibility.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that our society will be freer, safer and more cohesive if we rely less on the state and more on each other.

So in addition to restoring a strategic capacity to government and using our national instruments in a sustainable way, we will place emphasis on the self-reliant society.  That is the approach of a Conservative Government to national security: strategic, sustainable and self-reliant.

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