UK's new £5bn cyber force HQ to be sited in heart of Lancashire says Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

The Government is to build a new digital warfare centre in the heart of Lancashire, capable of launching “offensive” cyber attacks against hostile powers such as Russia.

Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 10:35 am

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who is MP for Preston North and Wyre, has announced the £5bn project on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

The new National Cyber Force headquarters will be built in Samlesbury, near to the BAE Systems site and in the heart of the so-called “red wall” of traditional Labour seats which the Tories took in the 2019 general election.

It is expected to employ thousands of cyber experts and analysts by 2030.

GCHQ brought prosperity to Cheltenham

The Sunday Telegraph reported today that Boris Johnson is expected to cite it in his keynote speech to the conference as an example of the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.

Mr Wallace compared the impact of the new centre to the location of GCHQ in Cheltenham in the 1950s.

“Cheltenham was a small country town and look what it has done. That’s what we mean by levelling up,” he told the Telegraph.

Mr Wallace said the creation of the new centre – which will be run jointly by GCHQ – would put Britain “at the front” of the countries which are able to mount offensive cyber attacks.

Inside the GCHQ electronic eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham when former Chancellor George Osborne visited in 2015.

“We will be one of the very, very few nations in the world with that scale,” he said.

The Defence Secretary said cyber had become “a new domain in battle” and that it was essential the Britain was able to operate there against potential adversaries.

“Some foreign states are waging cyber warfare on us every single day. And we have a right under international law and among ourselves to defend ourselves. We will defend ourselves from cyber warfare if that warfare is dangerous, corrupting, or damaging,” he said.

“Offensive cyber can do a range of things, including going after paedophiles and their networks, going after terrorism and their networks, and obviously going after hostile states, should we choose to do so where they use capabilities.

The new digital warfare centre at Samlesbury is expected to employ thousands of cyber experts.

“It’s a new front, a new domain in battle. And that’s what we’ve got to be able to do here.”