The government has proposed new powers to scrutinise the purchase of assets, such as infrastructure, which raise national security concerns.
The National Security Investment white paper, published today (24 July) by business secretary of state Greg Clark, proposes the new rules as part of an attempt to create a comprehensive statutory framework of powers to thwart important UK national assets falling into hostile hands.
The paper, which also outlines strengthened national security rules on mergers, contains a warning that foreign intelligence agencies continue to engage in hostile activity against the UK, including attempts to compromise critical national infrastructure and sensitive commercial information.
It proposes that the acquisitions of land, which neighbours or overlooks a national infrastructure site or sensitive government facility, could be called in for a national security assessment.
This will enable the government to scrutinise the national security consequences relating to these purchases.
Certain parts of the national infrastructure will be included in the “core areas” of entities and assets, which the government believes can be used to undermine the UK’s national security.
But it says that, compared to the wider economy, national security risks are more likely to arise in those parts of the national infrastructure not deemed to be in these core areas.
The white paper says the government will publish a statement of policy intent setting out the areas in which it expects national security risks are more likely to occur and setting out the circumstances in which national security risks are expected to arise.
Under its new regime, the government says it will encourage notification of investments and other events that may raise national security concerns. It also reserves the right to undertake a national security assessment of transactions or other events.
The white paper has been published following last year’s green paper on national security and infrastructure investment.
The government argues its strengthened powers are in line with those used by many of the UK’s key allies, such as Australia, Japan, Germany, and the USA.
Clark said: “These proposals will ensure we have the appropriate safeguards to protect our national security whilst ensuring our economy remains unashamedly pro-business and open to high levels of foreign investment in the future.”