UK to double cyber-security funding, push Syria vote post-Paris

17th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Britain vowed Tuesday to double its investment in cyber-security to counter threats including from the Islamic State group following the Paris attacks claimed by IS which killed at least 129 people.

Prime Minister David Cameron also announced he would make a fresh effort to build support for Britain to join air strikes on Syria, saying there was now a "compelling case" for doing so.

Britain has so far stayed out of the strikes on IS group targets in Syria due to opposition from parliament.

But Cameron said he would outline a "comprehensive strategy" to lawmakers soon in the hope of persuading opponents.

At the headquarters of Britain's electronic spy agency GCHQ in southwest England, finance minister George Osborne said funding to tackle cyber warfare and crime would be doubled to £1.9 billion (2.7 billion euros, $2.8 billion) a year by 2020.

Osborne added that, while IS jihadists did not yet have the capability for attacking Britain's infrastructure through the web, "we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it".

"If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost," he said.

GCHQ was tackling twice as many cyber-attacks that posed a threat to national security than it was a year ago, Osborne said.

On Monday, Cameron had announced plans to recruit an extra 1,900 security and intelligence staff to counter the terror threat following the Paris attacks.

- 'A strong vote'? -

Dressed in a black suit and tie after signing a book of condolence for the Paris dead, the prime minister told the House of Commons in a statement on the attacks that he wanted to make a fresh case for a vote on joining air strikes in Syria.

Britain is already taking part in air strikes on Iraq and Cameron's government has long wanted to extend this to Syria.

But it has vowed to make any such decision conditional on parliamentary approval, and would face a tough battle in parliament with pacifist, left-winger Jeremy Corbyn at the helm of the main opposition Labour party.

No vote on the issue has yet been called.

"My firm conviction is that we need to act against ISIL (another term for IS) in Syria. There is a compelling case for doing so," Cameron told the Commons.

"I will set out our comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL, our vision for a more stable and peaceful Middle East. This strategy in my view should include taking the action in Syria I've spoken about."

He added that he hoped that would lead to "a strong vote" on the issue while stopping short of a firm commitment to that.

Cameron's reluctance to proceed without a parliamentary consensus is linked to a scarring defeat his previous government suffered in 2013 over its plan to join international military action against the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons in Syria due to Labour opposition.

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© 2015 AFP

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