Selling GCHQ’s expertise is one of the options the government is considering for bridging the gap between the public and private sectors' intelligence capabilities.

Cyber security is high on the government’s agenda, and is regarded as a top threat to the UK’s security. The government believes that the public and private sector needs to co-operate in developing the nation's risk profile and finding the solutions to respond to the risks.

Security minister Baroness Pauline Neville Jones told the Science and Technology Committee that the commercialisation of GCHQ’s services was one of a “number of options” the government was considering.

She said: “There are many ways of tackling the question of whether, for instance, if Cheltenham [where GCHQ is based] were to supply a service to the private sector, how that may be funded and what the financial relationship between that might be.”

Although she declined to elaborate further, Neville Jones said: “It’s a live issue.”

In terms of the government’s cyber security agenda, Neville Jones said that it was important for the government to form a close relationship with the private sector.

“We want to develop our policies in co-operation with the private sector, given that they are key owners and operators, and often themselves suppliers to government,” she said.

She also believed that GCHQ was the “right” organisation to cross the boundaries between the government’s defence and intelligence community and the civilian community.

“We are trying to break that [the boundaries] down. We need information and technique to flow both ways,” she said.

Technology trade body Intellect has also recently published a report called for an effective cyber security partnership between industry and government.