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UK security minister steps down

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UK security and counter-terrorism minister Baroness Neville-Jones steps down after a year in the job.

The former chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee is leaving at "her own request" in order to work in the private sector. The peer will retain a role liaising between government and business as special representative to business on cybersecurity while her role in the Home Office will be taken over by Baroness Browning.

Baroness Neville-Jones is credited with establishing cyber-security as a top tier priority for government, as well as establishing the new National Security Council. She secured an extra extra £500m in funding for cybersecurity even during a period of austerity measures elsewhere. The former diplomat came across as a competent administrator, knowledgeable about her brief, in contrast to her gaffe-prone New Labour predecessor Lord West.

In an official statement and resignation letter, the government said Baroness Neville-Jones decided at the start of the year to step down after the local elections.

However media reports suggest a less than perfect working relationship with Home Secretary Theresa May or frustrations at having key decisions made over her head may have been behind the timing of the move, which took political commentators by surprise. Government spin doctors told the BBC that the Baroness was leaving for personal and not political reasons.

Private sector security firm NCC praised her role as an advocate for increased spending on cybersecurity in government.

"Baroness Neville-Jones has gone on record in recognising that cybersecurity is now established as a front-line priority for the government and that serious work is in hand on developing a long-term strategy," said Rob Cotton, chief exec of the NCC Group. "However, we need more urgent action on developing this strategy."

"Online security threats are a huge problem for the country and the international community as a whole. Recent high profile attacks on businesses illustrate the importance of the public and private sectors working together to combat this ever-evolving threat. We need the most experienced people taking proper responsibility for cybersecurity at a government level and hopefully Baroness Neville-Jones' new role is a first step in this," he added. ®

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