Amber Rudd is gone — but what does Sajid Javid as home secretary mean for tech?
Britain was briefly without a home secretary. Amber Rudd has gone, after it became apparent that she knew more about the forced deportation of UK Windrush citizens than she admitted to the House of Commons.
The fact the previous occupant of the Home Office – one “T May” – was the one responsible for the hostile environment policy that led to the scandal means the story will likely run and run, but for now a new home secretary is here. From our perspective, that hopefully means one who accepts that they need to understand encryption before they seek to ban it.
It has now been confirmed that Sajid Javid will take on the role.
Javid has generally been quite a big advocate of technological innovation, saying at The Times CEO Summit: “Berlin and Paris might want to ban Uber. We welcome disruptive technology of that type and others.
“You can either embrace it and try and work with it, or you can push it away. We benefit from promoting new technology because ultimately it’s in the interests of consumers.”
He also backed the government’s plans for porn blocking, a policy that experts are dubious about from a data-security perspective. As our sister site IT Pro reported, Javid defended the plan, arguing: “We need effective controls online that apply to UK and overseas.
“This is about giving children the best start in life; we do not want to prevent adults from accessing legal content but we do want to protect our children from harmful material, so they are free to develop a healthy attitude to sex and relationships.”
These are pretty slim pickings from a technology point of view, but then his previous brief didn’t demand it. What we can take from this is that the new secretary of state is largely loyal to the party, and while the prime minister’s view remains that technology companies need to fight encryption, that’ll likely be Javid’s too – especially when the prime minister in question continues to take such an active interest in her former department.
There are a few reasons why this appointment was tricky. First, the role of home secretary is traditionally a graveyard post, where it’s very easy for things to go wrong on your watch. Theresa May was the exception here, going the distance until she became prime minister – the previous occupants have not been so lucky, and seldom left on their own terms.
There’s also – as ever – the long shadow of Brexit. Politically, May has to manage any cabinet of hers carefully, so as not to change the balance of Leavers and Remainers. Rudd, as a strong Remainer, can be replaced by a Leaver – but only if the Leaver that replaces her is replaced by a Remainer. Javid is a Leaver, and sure enough James Brokenshire – a Remainer – has taken up the role of housing secretary.
It will be interesting to see if Javid adopts a more tech-friendly voice than Rudd in the Home Office, but we’ll likely be waiting a while. The Windrush scandal has a long way to go yet.