A new Ministry of Defence policy document contains a series of stark warnings about threats to the UK’s defence sector. The strategy, which outlines plans to boost British defence exports, also highlights the threat from cyber-attacks1 has become much more serious. The 42-page document warns foreign intelligence services are more active than ever in covertly gathering information on Britain’s defence industry.
It claims this might range from technical details of weapons systems to the theft of intellectual property, which will threaten both national security and jobs in the UK. The document reads:
“The theft of information or disruption and damage of cyber infrastructure could compromise critical capabilities and is a direct threat to our national and economic security.
“We expect all suppliers to understand the scale and nature of the threat and implement robust standards to enhance their cyber security.”
It goes on to say all capabilities and companies involved in the supply chain are at risk. The strategy says last year the defence industry had a turnover of around 23 billion pounds, investing in 4,300 apprentices and directly supporting 142-thousand jobs.
The document also pledges to make it easier for smaller firms to get involved in the sector. It says the Ministry of Defence has an aspiration to place a quarter of defence business with small and medium-sized enterprises by 2020. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson says the revamped strategy would ensure the UK’s military and defence capabilities would remain the envy of the world.
However, Kevan Jones – a Labour former defence minister – claims the review fails to recognise the Treasury’s refusal to provide adequate funding to his department for new equipment.
“Multi-billion contracts for P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, Apache replacement helicopters and Army support vehicles have all been bought off the shelf from the US, putting UK jobs in jeopardy.
“By failing to properly invest at home, leading British manufacturing skills could be lost for good.”
On the first anniversary of the Berlin Christmas market attack, authorities in the UK have said the country’s main centres of population are better protected now than at any time in recent years. Extra patrols, including some armed police, have been drafted in over the festive period to help protect crowded places. Sky News visited two of the UK’s biggest Christmas markets, in Birmingham and in Manchester, where the extra security is very visible. In Birmingham city centre, the site of the biggest Christmas market outside Germany, the perimeter has been ringed by concrete bollards and metal gates. The venue attracted around five million people last year . This year, organisers are also reporting huge numbers of visitors.
Image: Barriers are also set up in Birmingham, along with increased police patrols
Superintendent Andy Parsons, from West Midlands Police, is in charge of city centre policing in Birmingham. He said the extra security was aimed at reassuring the public.
“We’ve spent a long time planning the policing operation around the Birmingham Christmas market,” he said. “As a result, there are more officers on duty at key times, some of those officers are armed, others aren’t . The whole purpose is to reassure the public the Christmas market is a safe place to come.”
Superintendent Parsons said that far from being alarmed, members of the public have welcomed the additional security measures. “We’ve had some really positive feedback from the public here,” he said.
Image: The Berlin attack killed 12 people and injured many more
“They recognise the threat environment in which we’re operating and they’ve been really supportive of the policing operation to make the market a safe place this year.” A year ago, terrorist Anis Amri hijacked an articulated lorry and drove it into the main Christmas market in Berlin . Twelve people died and dozens of others were injured. Authorities in the UK have adapted security plans following that attack and others, including those in London and Manchester this year. Detective Chief Superintendent Scott Wilson, national coordinator for Protect and Prepare in the UK, said: “Following the attacks over the summer period, we now have a lot closer working relationship with business, running right up to the opening of the Christmas markets this year.
“We’ve got hostile vehicle mitigation out there . There’s a good police presence at a lot of these events, and we’re working very closely with the civilian security teams to make sure they’re a lot more visible as well.
Image: The Berlin incident was one of a number of recent attacks to use a vehicle to kill
“We’ve seen the tragic events in Berlin this time last year, where people were killed in that Christmas market. “Just last week, we saw that attempted attack on a New York transport hub, so we have to make sure we’re covering all these sectors to make sure people are safe.”
In Manchester city centre, the venue for the North West’s biggest Christmas market, the stalls were packed when Sky News visited. One shopper said he was determined to carry on with Christmas as normal, despite the tragic events in the city over the summer. Another said she was “determined to come out, otherwise the terrorists win”. Authorities said extra security could only do so much and that the public also had to be alert.
But despite the terror threat level remaining at severe, counter terror officials stressed there is no intelligence of a specific threat to the UK over the festive period.
Security preparations for New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York’s Times Square will be altered following a botched suicide bombing in a subway tunnel, the city’s counterterrorism chief has said. Akayed Ullah, 27, has ben charged with terrorism crimes after detonating a pipe bomb in the pedestrian tunnel on Monday. John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said the New York Police Department will carry out an “immediate” and “in-depth” review of the attempted attack. He said: “This is the first time I believe that we have seen an individual with a suicide bomb in mass transit and actually have that bomb function.
“So we’re going to take a hard look at it.”
Image: Attack suspect Akayed Ullah
Plans for security in the New Year will also consider other attacks such as the Las Vegas sniper shooting on 1 October, in which 58 people were killed and more than 500 people wounded, Mr Miller said. An increased police presence will be seen around mass transit and public gatherings, he added. In the short term, that will likely mean more heavily armed and specially trained officers on the streets, as well as more police dogs, bag screenings and checkpoints. Chemicals inside the pipe bomb ignited, but the pipe itself did not explode, officials have said.
Ullah, from Bangladesh, was seriously hurt in the blast during Monday morning rush hour . But the malfunctioning device resulted in only minor injuries for three other people. Acting US attorney Joon Kim said Ullah planned to “murder as many human beings as he could.. . in support of a vicious terrorist cause”. Court papers filed by federal prosecutors claim he told police officers after the blast that “I did it for Islamic State”. He is believed to have begun viewing pro IS material online in 2014 and prosecutors claim he carried out the attack because he was angry over US policy in the Middle East. On the morning of the attack, he posted on his Facebook page1 “Trump you failed to protect your nation”.
He has been charged with providing material support to terrorists and using weapons of mass destruction. Ullah could appear in court on Wednesday via video link.
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Investigators in Bangladesh are questioning his wife, officials told Reuters news agency . The couple have a six-month-old boy.
President Donald Trump claimed the bombing underlined a need for changes to the US imigration system, which he clamed is “lax” and “allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people” into the US.