His stark warning comes after it emerged a number of former RAF, Royal Navy and Army pilots had been training the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
The Ministry of Defence issued a rare security alert following the revelations last October. Around 30 pilots were understood to have been contracted through a South African company after being offered salaries of around £250,000.
The revelation prompted fears that former British pilots were helping the Chinese to understand Western tactics, potentially equipping the People’s Liberation Army with knowledge about shooting down the planes of Britain and its allies.
The MoD has now said former Armed Forces personnel who train foreign militaries can expect to be prosecuted under new offences within the National Security Act, which became law in July.
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Specifically, the act includes an offence of “obtaining or disclosing protected information” and defines “information” as including tactics, techniques and procedures.
The MoD said if pilots were suspected of sharing sensitive information with foreign powers it would pass the details to the police to investigate.
Mr Shapps said: “Anyone found to be acting against the UK’s interests by training our competitors’ militaries can now expect to be pursued and brought to justice.
“The Government has acted decisively following the identification of this threat, and has made rapid changes to legislation to help shut it down.”
The MoD said it believed that the adverse publicity from its security alert was effective in persuading the pilots to reconsider their work and to discourage other former troops from taking part.
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The news comes at a time of heightened concern about Chinese intelligence gathering after it emerged that a parliamentary researcher was arrested for allegedly spying.
In response to a report on China by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, the Government last week acknowledged that “Chinese recruitment schemes have tried to headhunt British and allied nationals in key positions and with sensitive knowledge and experience, including from government, military, industry and wider society”.
The Government insisted that its new legislation would make the UK a “harder operating environment for those acting on behalf of foreign powers against the safety or interests of the UK”.
Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, said: “We face growing threats from foreign states. “In recent years we’ve seen attempts to harm our people, damage our economy and undermine our democracy.
“We’ve also seen attempts from countries such as China to solicit national secrets from former Armed Forces personnel.
“This new Act provides our world class law enforcement and intelligence agencies with new and updated tools to tackle security challenges such as these – and hold those responsible to account.”
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