Minister on trip to Lancashire says new National Cyber Force HQ will combat 'the threats of the future'
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Cabinet office minister Jeremy Quin was speaking after a tour of the BAE Systems plant in Warton, where he was shown the advanced manufacturing processes being used in the development of the next generation of combat aircraft, known as Tempest.
While he lauded the innovation on display at the Fylde site’s so-called ‘Factory of the Future’, he said that the UK also needed to keep a watching brief on “the threats of the future” - in order to be able to deter them.
He told the Lancashire Post it was important to be prepared: “There is no doubt that cyber is an area on which we absolutely need to focus as a nation - and we are.
“You can [imagine] the havoc that could be caused by a hostile actor impacting the computer systems on which we all rely more and more. So the work of the National Cyber Force - and ensuring that we can protect those systems - is absolutely critical.
Mr. Quin, who is also the Paymaster General, likened the defence of modern lines of communication to the historical and ongoing importance of protecting sea lanes. He said that the former “affect how we work day in, day out”.
“And that's why we need to be on top of the game on cyber,” he added.
A former defence procurement minister, Mr. Quin made the trip to Lancashire to speak to some of BAE Systems’ 1,400 North West-based apprentices - and he told the Postthat they were making a vital contribution to the country's future defence capability.
“[BAE] are making certain that they're not only being innovative in the systems they put into their aircraft…and their defences more broadly, but also they're thinking about innovations [in] how they're going to build this stuff.
“Defence is a costly business - you need to do it effectively, efficiently and quickly. And what they're working on with their Factory of the Future - which is a huge use of automation, robotics and digital - is just really positive.
“So not only are they…getting really good apprentices in the business, those apprentices are being trained in ways that will be modern working techniques for the next 10, 20 [and] 30 years. It seems [to be] a revolution in the way we actually produce things, as well as bringing in those new men and women who are going to be leading that challenge in the future,” said Mr. Quin, who was previously a minister for defence procurement.
Back in April, the then defence secretary - and Wyre and Preston North MP- Ben Wallace announced a £656m contract extension for BAE Systems to enable the firm to continue to develop the technology required by Tempest, with the aircraft due to enter service by 2035.
Asked by the Post about the public perception of defence during times of global turbulence, like those witnessed in recent years - and even days - Mr. Quin said that while governments “are always thinking about defence…it's when we see the appalling events that we've seen in Ukraine, and more recently, in the Middle East…[that] it does make people think how lucky we are to live in the UK, but [also] how we must never take our own security for granted”.
He added that there was a strategic and economic importance to the UK in having clusters of defence expertise - like those for which Lancashire is renowned .
“When you have strong market contenders, like BAE systems, they will gather around them SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] with similar resources [and] similar skills.”