Big businesses should reveal cyber attacks, says Labour's defence spokesman

Party will consult on making disclosure of computer hacking a legal requirement

Big businesses could be forced to publicly admit to major cyber attacks from criminal gangs or state-backed terrorist groups, should Labour regain power next year. The party's defence spokesman Vernon Coaker said that he believed it should be "a legal requirement" to disclose these attacks.

Despite cyber crime being a growing threat to UK security – the Cabinet Office estimates it costs the economy £27bn a year – businesses do not have to reveal if their systems have been hacked or compromised. Some executives, particularly those in charge of banks, worry that being so open could scare customers needlessly, as accounts might have remained secure and security protocols proved resilient despite attack.

Mr Coaker admitted that it is "a balance between [needlessly worrying the public] and security". He said that Labour would pour more resources into fighting the hackers. Last year, Adrian Culley, a former Metropolitan Police cyber detective and one-time adviser to Tony Blair's government, warned that the government's £650m budget to fight cyber crime was insufficient.

"One of the things we need to do is consult on whether to make it a legal requirement that people report cyber attacks," said Mr Coaker, 60, who took over the defence brief from Jim Murphy last autumn. "At the moment, there are just voluntary agreements."

Barclays launched an internal investigation in February after a whistle-blower claimed that 25,000 customers' personal data had been stolen. And eight men were arrested last year in connection with a £1.3m theft undertaken through the bank's computer systems.

However, Mr Coaker was uncertain whether government departments should also disclose attacks, even though the hacking of public sector organisations is on the increase. Last week, several Nato websites were hacked in attacks linked to Ukrainian anger at Western interference in Crimea.

Tomorrow, Mr Coaker will outline Labour's position on defence at the Royal United Services Institute, a defence and security think-tank based in Whitehall. He will emphasise an "internationalist" approach, and argue that Labour is as much the "party of defence" as the Conservatives.

The party's former Northern Ireland spokesman admitted that Britain would have to "work with others" in any future military interventions, which is why he will stress "the importance of those alliances" with countries such as the United States and France.

Mr Coaker said that he will also hold a series of conferences and seminars up and down the country, in which he will ask the public to express their views on the future of the armed forces. The first of these will be held in London in June and will also be attended by academics and the military.

"What we've had [in defence] is a lack of strategic debate," argued Mr Coaker. "Let's have a debate and discuss what the strategy will be."

He accused the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, of focusing purely on cutting budgets without thinking about the country's defence needs, citing the example of the cancellation of a Nimrod aircraft programme which arguably left the UK with little air cover.

"It's better to say that this is what we want to do, but here's the budget – and then try to marry the two," Mr Coaker added. "The criticism of Mr Hammond is that he is an accountant. Budgets are important, but what I'd like to bring to the job is an empathy and human warmth and human touch."

One of Mr Hammond's most infamous failures was the collapse of plans to semi-privatise the military-kit buying agency, Defence Equipment and Support, in a "GoCo" (government-owned, contractor-operated) business model. There was a lack of private sector interest in running the £14bn-budget agency which wrecked the plans, but the Ministry of Defence is still looking at more limited reforms, called "DE&S-Plus".

However, Mr Hammond has left it open for future defence secretaries to introduce the GoCo model, despite criticism that handing such a sensitive portion of national security to the private sector could be dangerous.

Labour will table an amendment to the Defence Reform Bill that will compel Parliament to scrutinise the GoCo should a defence secretary decide to go ahead with such a huge revamp of the Bristol-based agency. Mr Coaker said this would ensure a GoCo is "not just nodded through".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ugne, 32, is a Lithuanian bodybuilder
tvThey include a Lithuanian bodybuilder who believes 'cake is a sin' and the Dalai Lama's personal photographer
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon have just launched their new streaming service in the UK
Frankie Boyle
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an est...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative - OTE £55,000

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Why not be in charge of your ow...

Recruitment Genius: Business Operations Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation based in Peac...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £43,000

£20000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful and rapidly gro...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food