People should stock up on battery-powered radios and torches, as well as candles and first aid kits in order to prepare for power cuts or digital communications going down, the deputy prime minister reportedly said.
According to the Times, Oliver Dowden described the supplies as “analogue capabilities that it makes sense to retain” in a digital age during a visit to Porton Down, the UK’s military laboratory.
Dowden made the visit to coincide with his first annual risk and resilience statement, which he had promised to give last year when launching the government’s UK resilience framework.
As part of the statement, he announced the launch of a national “resilience academy” to help people and businesses prepare for future pandemics, natural disasters and cyber-attacks.
The deputy prime minister announced the plans in the House of Commons, claiming the academy would help the “whole of society” prepare for the risks.
Dowden listed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, cyber-attacks, pandemics, the misuse of artificial intelligence and extreme weather among some of the risks the UK faces.
He said businesses would be offered training to deal with the impact of such threats, while a new website will provide the public with “practical advice” on how to be better prepared for future risks.
He told the Commons: “The government has a role in bringing all actors together and to give them the skills they need. Today, I can announce we are developing a new UK resilience academy that will improve the skills of those groups.
“It will provide a range of learning and training opportunities for the whole of society. For professionals, there will be a curriculum to build skills, knowledge and networks, and a centre for excellence for exercising. For businesses, there will be greater guidance and particularly assistance on threats to critical national infrastructure and cyber.
“And for citizens, there will be a unified government resilience website, which will provide practical advice on how households can prepare as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the simple steps individuals can take to raise their resilience.”
Dowden also said the government would develop a volunteer hub aimed at helping authorities draw on a single pool of volunteers who want to help in future events similar to the Covid pandemic, which he said “demonstrated the overwhelming community spirit” of the UK.
The Labour frontbencher Pat McFadden welcomed the measures but asked what the government was doing to bolster resilience in energy supplies and the “public estate”, as well as in elections.
He said: “Why is it that the government’s new policy is to roll back on the transition mandated by its own legislation for net zero, and prolong a reliance on international fossil fuel markets? For these failures, the British public has paid a heavy price.
“And how will the government increase resilience in the public estate? Schools’ capital budgets cut back under this prime minister’s watch while he was chancellor. School roofs falling in, disrupting children’s education.”
He also pressed ministers to implement recommendations of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, aimed at preventing Russia and other states from interfering with upcoming elections.
McFadden said: “With an election coming some time in the next year, I am sure the secretary of state would agree that we need to do all we can to ensure it is conducted in a free and fair manner.”
The deputy prime minister reminded the Commons that an election could be held in January 2025 at the latest.
Dowden said: “Indeed it is not just in this nation, in many nations around the world next year – or indeed in this nation it could be the year after – elections will happen.
“That is why we have instructed the democracy taskforce to make sure we are fully resilient.”