Britain’s deputy PM Oliver Dowden has warned the public they should buy candles, torches and battery-powered radios in the event of a crisis cutting power supplies.
The senior Tory cabinet minister said Britons should be more “personally resilient”, as he suggested they were too dependent on devices activated by the internet.
A national “resilience academy” will be launched to help people and businesses prepare for future pandemics, natural disasters and cyber-attacks, Mr Dowden has said.
Rishi Sunak’s deputy announced the plans in the Commons – claiming the new academy will help the “whole of society” prepare for major risks.
Mr Dowden also suggested that people stock up on battery-powered radios and torches, as well as candles and first aid kits to prepare for power cuts or digital communications going down, according to The Times.
In a visit to Porton Down, the UK’s main military laboratory, he described the supplies as “analogue capabilities” that are worth boosting in our digital age.
“The world has changed unrecognisably and our society is highly reliant on digital infrastructure,” he said. “The government needs to ensure that we are resilient in this digital age, ensuring that our structures take this into account, including considering those analogue capabilities that it makes sense to retain.”
Mr 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 will 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.
Mr Dowden made the announcement as part of his first annual risk and resilience statement, which he had promised to give last year when launching the government’s UK resilience framework.
He told the Commons the new resilience website “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”.
Mr Dowden also said the government will develop a new 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 – saying it showed “the overwhelming community spirit” of the UK.
Labour frontbencher Pat McFadden welcomed the measures but asked what the government is 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.
The Labour figure added: “And how will the government increase resilience in the public estate? Schools’ capital budgets cut back under this prime minister’’ 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.
Mr 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.”
Mr Dowden reminded the Commons that an election could be held in January 2025 at the latest. “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,” he added.