Grant Shapps, the Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary, and Michelle Donelan, the Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary, will join Cabinet colleagues from defence, the Home Office and Foreign Office alongside the Prime Minister in the new-look council.
The changes coincide with Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden’s announcement last week that TikTok will be banned from ministers’ and civil servants’ phones due to a “specific risk with government devices”.
A Government source said the TikTok announcement was not directly connected to the changes in the NSC, but the update was to reflect modern challenges, including the ongoing uncertainty over global energy supplies due to the war in Ukraine.
The terms of reference for the council say it will “consider matters relating to national security, foreign policy, defence, trade strategy, international relations, development, resilience and resource security”.
The NSC is the government’s most senior Cabinet committee and meets regularly to discuss threats to the UK, with access to top-level intelligence.
When it was established by David Cameron in 2010, its personnel reflected more conventional threats, covering defence, foreign and home affairs.
Before last week, the ministers attending were the PM as chairman, Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, Mr Dowden and minister for security, Tom Tugendhat.
Mr Shapps and Ms Donelan will now join that line-up. In a report in 2021, the parliamentary national security strategy committee called for the NSC to be reformed to reflect modern challenges.
The MPs and peers criticised the NSC over both its response to the pandemic and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying: “Both issues demonstrate why the UK needs a strong and purposeful NSC in a fast-changing landscape of complex risks, shifting global power and rapid technological innovation. Yet they also exemplify, in different ways, our inquiry’s most negative findings about the ability of the NSC to make and implement strategy and to plan for crises with rigour.”
Darren Jones, who sits on the national security strategy committee as well as chairs the Business and Energy Select Committee, told i: “The National Security Council was set up to provide a space for ministers to think strategically, plan for the long term and ensure that mitigations against national risks are implemented.
“In practice, it has become a space for operational issues. Whilst I welcome the changes, the test is whether ministers use these meetings effectively.”