Outgoing M15 chief says agency work more important than ever during coronavirus
M15 funding could be cut in favor of more money for pandemic planning, although the agency’s work is more important than ever.
The agency’s outgoing chief executive, Sir Andrew Parker, said the coronavirus crisis could force ministers to ‘adjust the dials’ of public spending.
The 58-year-old insisted MI5 was able to continue its work during the lockdown, adding that potential threats to the country were also subject to the restrictions.
The death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed that of terrorist attacks since 2001 and he acknowledged that this could lead to a shift in government thinking in the future.
Outgoing M15 chief executive Sir Andrew Parker said the government could cut the amount of funds given to intelligence agencies in favor of a larger share of the NHS
“I don’t envy elected politicians who have to make these priority decisions about where you place the relative priorities – and therefore taxpayer dollars – between different kinds of risk, between the possibility of a pandemic versus these threats to national security in relation to road safety, ‘Sir Andrew told the BBC.
“These are really tough decisions.
“There is no doubt that after experiencing the worst pandemic in a century, the government is required to think differently about how to configure itself against this risk and adjust the dials accordingly in public spending, I am sure.
“But all of these decisions have yet to be made.”
Sir Andrew said MI5’s work was now vital to preventing terrorist attacks or other incidents that would increase the burden on emergency services.
Sir Andrew says MI5 is more important than ever during the coronavirus pandemic, helping to cope with the crisis by freeing its own medical staff in the NHS
“At this time – perhaps even more than usual – it is vital that the country’s national security mechanism is functioning so that the national emergency in which we now find ourselves is not further complicated or aggravated by others. events, ”he said.
“You’ll understand if I don’t explain exactly how we work – what shape we are in.
“But MI5 works in a number of ways and works flexibly to do our jobs.
“Like many organizations across the country, MI5 is also contributing to efforts to address the crisis on a few other fronts.
“We have reinstated the qualified NHS medical staff that we have.”
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MI5 had also given safety advice on the design and construction of Nightingale’s field hospitals.
Sir Andrew said there was a “different form” of threats MI5 faced during the lockdown.
He said: “Some of the people who concern us most as potential sources of threat in this country are, of course, themselves subject to the lockdown provisions and therefore movement is limited.
“It makes a difference in behavior, but it doesn’t eliminate the threat. There is a lot of work we do to stay on top.
Sir Andrew, who retires this month after having been in charge of MI5 since 2013, will be replaced by service veteran Ken McCallum.
MI5 gave safety advice on the design and construction of Nightingale field hospitals, including Manchester Central Hospital (above)
The outgoing security chief said one of the main changes since joining the service in 1983 has been the changing diversity of the people he employs, especially the end of the ban on recruiting gay men. .
“I don’t remember, other than the specialist linguists we employed, seeing many non-white faces around the organization at the time,” he said.
“In particular, the one that stands in stark contrast today is that if you were gay then, you couldn’t be employed here.
“It was for a historical reason dating back years, decades ago, about vulnerability to blackmail that was completely out of date.”
“It must have caused all kinds of injuries to people and it must be a matter of regret and shame for all of us.”
The number of coronavirus deaths has been reduced to 450 today, the lowest since April 6 and just over half the number of people who died two days ago
Sir Andrew’s replacement Ken McCallum will be the youngest managing director in history when he takes on the top MI5 post next month.
He has spent nearly a quarter of a century working for the security service and is appreciated by his colleagues, approachable, trustworthy and sharp.
In 2018, Mr McCallum took charge of the agency’s response to the attempted assassination of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in a nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
He will take up his post this month when Sir Andrew retires.