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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Minister Defends Government Cyber-Security Practices After Liz Truss Hacking Claims

Liz Truss was reportedly targeted by Russian-linked hackers (Alamy)

4 min read

Conservative MP and government minister Mark Spencer has insisted that ministers are warned against using personal phones for official business after Liz Truss was reportedly targeted by Russian hackers.

The government has been urged to launch an investigation into claims that Liz Truss's personal phone was allegedly hacked during her time as Foreign Secretary.

The Mail on Sunday claimed hackers working on behalf of the Russian government were able to access private messages between Truss and officials from her time at the Foreign Office, including about the Ukraine war.

The claims have sparked calls from Labour and the Liberal Democrats for an official inquiry, with further questions about why a "news blackout" was apparently imposed after the incident was uncovered during the Tory leadership race during the summer.

Speaking on Monday, food minister Spencer defended the government's approach to cyber threats, saying that he did not use his personal phone for official business following warnings from the security services.

"You do get quite a lot of briefing from the security services on what to do, and what not to do, it's quite important to get that right," he told Sky News.

"I don't want to comment too much on it because I don't want to tell the world exactly what that briefing says, but you do get a lot of support when you become a government minister on what is appropriate and inappropriate as a government minister."

Spencer said ministers should be "careful" about their use of personal phones, adding that a "little man in China" could be listening in to personal calls.

"We all talk on personal phones, I ring my wife. Maybe there is some little man in China listening to the conversation between me and my wife, but you've just got to be careful about what information you use on which phone," he said.

The hacking claims put further pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has been criticised for reappointing Suella Braverman as Home Secretary less than a week after she was forced to resign for sending official government documents through her private email account.

But Spencer defended the appointment, saying the Home Secretary had "put her hands up" and apologised for the mistake.

"Often you have politicians on air and you accuse them of never apologising and never saying sorry. She made a mistake and she put her hands up and said I made a mistake and I'm so sorry," he said.

"The prime minister has reappointed her, I think she needs to concentrate now with getting on with her job. She's recruiting police officers, driving down crime, concentrating on burglaries and dealing with this challenge of migrants crossing the Channel."

Braverman has already faced further calls to resign over the treatment of migrants who had crossed the Channel, with claims that she ignored legal warnings that people were being kept in overcrowded conditions for unlawful lengths of time at the Manston processing centre in Kent.

But Spencer insisted the government should be "very proud" of its record of welcoming migrants, adding the Home Secretary should be allowed to "get on" with her job.

"We've got a huge track record of bringing people from other parts of the world, just look at the amount of people we have taken from Ukraine, we should be very proud of that record," he said.

"Those who are coming we have to process as quickly as possible to work out who is a genuine asylum seeker and who can be returned to a safe country that they came from."

But Conservative backbencher Roger Gale said the situation at the Manston processing centre, where there have been reports of a diptheria outbreak among migrants, was "broken".

"There are now 4,000 people in a facility designed for 1,500 and that is wholly unacceptable. The staff are doing a fantastic job, the Home Office staff, the civilian staff, the catering staff, the medics, they are showing compassion and doing the best they can under very difficult circumstances," he said.

"But these circumstances now were a problem made in the Home Office."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claimed Braverman was failing to provide reassurances over the situation because she was still distracted by "questions over her own security breaches".

"We need action from the Home Office over all of these areas but we are not seeing it," she said.

Asked whether Braverman should make a statement in Parliament over the problems, Cooper added: "I think she needs to, this is her job.

"You've got these awful reports...and a lot of that is because the Home Office decision making system has collapsed, they've got huge long delays in the way they are making decisions. We need to have answers on that." 

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