With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the terrorist attacks in Paris, and the threat we face from terrorism in the United Kingdom.
It will take some time for us to learn the full details of the attacks last week, but the basic facts are now clear. Seventeen innocent people were murdered in cold blood, and a number of others were injured. Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who attacked the Jewish supermarket, claimed his actions were carried out in the name of ISIL. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Cherif and Said Kouachi—the two brothers who attacked the office of Charlie Hebdo—were associated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, the same al-Qaeda affiliate that had been in contact with the men who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013.
As the appalling events in Paris were unfolding, this House was debating the Government's Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, and the threat level in the United Kingdom—which is set by the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre—remains at severe. This means that a terrorist attack in our country is highly likely and could occur without warning.
Three serious terrorist plots have been disrupted in recent months alone. Nearly 600 people from this country have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight, around half of them have returned, and there are thousands of people from across Europe who have done the same. As I said during the passage of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill and have said on many, repeated occasions, the Government will do everything they can to keep the public safe.
As soon as the attacks in France took place, the Government increased security at the UK border. Officers from Border Force, the police and other organisations intensified checks on passengers, vehicles and goods entering the UK, and we offered the French Government all assistance necessary, including the full co-operation of our police and security and intelligence agencies.
On Sunday, before I attended the peace rally in Paris, I held talks with my counterparts from Europe, the United States and Canada to discuss what action we can take together. There was firm support from all the countries present for new action to share intelligence, track the movement of terrorists and defeat the ideology that lies behind the threat. It is important that we now deliver on those talks, and my officials, the Security Minister and I will keep up the pace—in particular when it comes to passenger name records—with other European member states.
On Monday, the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary and I held a security meeting with senior officials to review the Paris attacks and the risks to the UK of a similar attack. Of course, we have long had detailed plans for dealing with these kinds of attacks. The House will recall the attacks in Mumbai in 2008 when terrorists armed with assault weapons and explosives took the lives of more than 150 people. Since 2010, and learning the lessons of that attack, we have improved our police firearms capability and the speed of our military response, and we have enhanced protective security where possible through a range of other measures. We have improved joint working between the emergency services to deal specifically with marauding gun attacks. Specialist joint police, ambulance and fire teams are now in place in key areas across England, with equivalents in Scotland and Wales, and they are trained and equipped to manage casualties in the event of that kind of an attack.
The police and other agencies regularly carry out exercises to test the response to a terrorist attack, and these exercises include scenarios that are similar to the events in Paris. We will ensure that future exercises reflect specific elements of the Paris attacks, so we can learn from them and be ready for them should they ever occur in the United Kingdom. In addition, I should tell the House that the police can call on appropriate military assistance when required across the country.
The attacks in Paris were enabled by the availability of assault weapons. Although there are obviously a number of illegal weapons in the UK, we have some of the toughest gun laws in the world, and as a result firearms offences make up only a small proportion of overall recorded crime. The types of firearms used in the attacks in Paris are not unknown in the UK, but they are extremely uncommon. However, as the Prime Minister has said, we must step up our efforts with other countries to crack down on the illegal smuggling of weapons across borders. In particular, the member states of the European Union need to work together to put beyond use the vast numbers of weapons in the countries of the former Yugoslavia and disrupt the supply of weapons from other parts of the world, especially north Africa.
The measures we have taken following events in Paris are in addition to the substantial work that the Government have undertaken, and continue to undertake, to counter the threat from terrorism. Last summer, Parliament approved emergency legislation to prevent the sudden and rapid loss of access to communications data and to provide for the ability to intercept communications where it is necessary and proportionate to do so. Parliament is of course scrutinising the proposals in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill as we speak. This important legislation will strengthen our powers to disrupt the ability of people to travel abroad to fight, and control their ability to return here. It will also enhance our ability to deal with those in the UK who pose a risk. In particular, it will allow the relocation of people subject to terrorism prevention and investigation measures to other parts of the country. In addition, the Prime Minister has announced funding of £130 million over the next two years for the agencies, police and others, on top of the more than £500 million spent on counter-terrorism policing every year.
This Government have done more to confront the ideology that lies behind the threat we face. I have excluded more foreign hate preachers than any Home Secretary before me; we have deported Abu Qatada and extradited Abu Hamza; we have reformed the Prevent strategy so that it tackles non-violent extremism as well as violent extremism; and we have invested more time, resources and money in counter-narrative operations.
We have always been clear that the police and the security agencies must have the capabilities and powers they need to do their job, and following the attacks in Paris the Prime Minister has reiterated that commitment. Unfortunately, when it comes to communications data and the intercept of communications, there is no cross-party consensus and therefore no Parliamentary majority to pass the legislation to give the police and security services the capabilities they need. Let me be absolutely clear: every day that passes without the proposals in the draft Communications Data Bill, the capabilities of the people who keep us safe diminish; and as those capabilities diminish, more people find themselves in danger and—yes—crimes will go unpunished and innocent lives will be put at risk.
This is not, as I have heard it said, “letting the Government snoop on your e-mails”. It is allowing the police and the security services, under a tightly regulated and controlled regime, to find out the who, where, when and how of a communication but not its content, so that they can prove and disprove alibis, identify associations between suspects, and tie suspects and victims to specific locations. It is too soon to say for certain, but it is highly probable that communications data were used in the Paris attacks to locate the suspects and establish the links between the two attacks. Quite simply, if we want the police and the security services to protect the public and save lives, they need this capability.
Last weekend people of all nationalities, faiths and backgrounds came out on to the streets of France and other countries to demonstrate their opposition to terror, and to stand for democracy and freedom. We must stand in solidarity with them, and do all that we can to confront extremism and terrorism in all its forms.
The attacks last week in Paris demonstrated the savagery with which terrorists seek to divide us. The murderous intolerance and the bigotry that they pursue aim to spread fear and also to sow division, which they believe exists—us against them. Paris has not let the terrorists win and we must not do so either.
The French police have been praised for the actions that they took. Charlie Hebdo is being published today. Faiths have united, abhorring the anti-Semitism and grieving for the victims of the attack on the kosher supermarket. Muslims across the world have condemned an attack which is not Islamic and is not in the name of their religion, and the brother of the French Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabet, said, “My brother was killed by people who pretend to be Muslims. They are terrorists. That’s it.” The Leader of the Opposition rightly attended the unity rally in Paris along with the Prime Minister, and on Saturday I joined people in Trafalgar square raising pens in solidarity with the “Je suis Charlie” cause.
In the attack, the terrorists targeted other peaceful religions, they targeted writers, and they targeted those whose job it is to keep us safe. In other words, they targeted both liberty and security, and the response of democratic Governments everywhere to these sorts of attacks must be to defend both. Governments need to keep our people safe so that we can enjoy the very freedoms that our democracy depends on.
Let me turn to the specific issues in the Home Secretary’s statement. I am concerned about the rushed way that she has made this statement today; I did not see it before coming into the House. I hope that she can set out what the reasons were and what has changed in the Home Office’s position this morning that meant that the statement was changed at late notice.
I welcome the action taken by the intelligence agencies and police to support their counterparts in Paris. I think the whole House will want to pay tribute to the work of our security and intelligence services and the counter-terror police, who do so much to keep us safe. It is important that they have the resources they need, and I welcome the resources that the Home Secretary mentioned.
As the Home Secretary said, the Government have going through Parliament right now the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which we have supported and continue to support, and which includes restoring the relocation powers for serious terror suspects that she abolished four years ago and for whose reinstatement we have called. She will know that the agencies have pointed to the ongoing threat in this country posed by the estimated 300 people returning from the conflict in Syria. Have any of those estimated 300 been prosecuted? Can she confirm that none of them is currently subject to terrorism prevention and investigation measures, even though these powers are supposed to be for dangerous suspects whose activity needs to be restricted to keep us safe? Are the Security Service and the police now reviewing all those cases to see whether TPIMs could help, especially with relocation powers restored, or whether there needs to be any further change to the TPIMs powers, which are different from the previous control orders? How many of the estimated 300 have engaged with the Channel programme? Does she agree that we should now make that compulsory for those returning, for which the Bill does not yet provide?
On access to dangerous weapons, the Home Secretary will know that there has been concern about reduced customs and border checks. What action is she taking to increase border checks for dangerous weapons?
The Home Secretary raised the issue of communications data. Technology is changing all the time, and that means that the law needs to keep up, in the capabilities of the agencies to get the vital intelligence we need and in the oversight that we need. In July, Parliament supported emergency legislation to ensure that the agencies and police could maintain vital capabilities. This month, the Commons supported extending those powers to ensure that IP addresses are covered in the same way as telephone numbers. In July, all parties agreed to support a review by David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism, into the powers and the oversight needed to keep up with changing technology.
The Home Secretary referred to the draft Communications Data Bill. That was rejected three years ago by the Joint Committee that the Government established to scrutinise it because, the Committee said, it was too vague, too widely drawn, and put too much power directly in the hands of the Home Secretary. The Committee recommended that the new legislation needed should be drawn up in a far more limited way, and that the Government should provide more evidence and clarity about what they wanted to achieve. Since then, the Home Secretary has not come forward with any revised proposals. She has not come to me to discuss such proposals or put them to Parliament, even though we have said that we were happy to discuss details with her. Given the urgency she says there now is, why did she not come forward with revised proposals after the conclusions of the Joint Committee three years ago?
In July, the Home Secretary was happy to agree to the statutory review by David Anderson, which is due to report before the election. Today she has not mentioned that review. Has she now discarded it, or will she be waiting for its conclusions?
This is an extremely important issue, and the detail—about the powers and capabilities that our intelligence agencies need, as well as about the safeguards and oversight that are also needed—matters. We agree that the police and the agencies need to get the intelligence to keep us safe and that they need updated legislation, and we also need safeguards and stronger oversight to make sure that powers are effectively and appropriately used.
I strongly caution the Home Secretary and the Liberal Democrats against setting up a caricatured argument between them about security on the one hand and liberty on the other, because we need to protect both in our democracy and we need a responsible debate on getting the detail right. The terrorists targeted both writers and police officers on that first day. The editor of Charlie Hebdo had police protection to protect his freedom of speech. That shows the strong link between our security and our liberty in any democracy.
We know that the most important thing to keep us safe in any democracy is making sure that we have the cohesive communities that can prevent hatred from spreading. We have supported extending Prevent by putting it on to a statutory footing. I hope that the Home Secretary will now listen to the concerns we have expressed over some years about more needing to be done to have community-led programmes to tackle the hatred and to challenge the spread of extremism, including through social media, as well as in local communities and organisations. I hope that she will work with local government to that effect. Is she working with the Community Security Trust on tackling anti-Semitism, because we need to tackle all forms of extremism?
Terrorists try to silence us, to cow us and to divide us. Paris has shown, as millions marched and as we stood in solidarity with them, that we will not be silenced, and that we will not give into fear and into division as we defend our democracy. Although some were targeted in Paris, we know that this is about all of us: “Je suis juif”, “Je suis flic”, “Je suis Ahmed” and “Je suis Charlie”.
First, I apologise to the shadow Home Secretary for her late receipt of the statement. I apologised to her privately when we came into the Chamber, but I am happy to reiterate that apology on the Floor of the House.
I join the right hon. Lady in paying tribute to our counter-terrorist police—and, indeed, all our police—and our security and intelligence agencies. We cannot say often enough that these people are working day and night to keep us safe and to protect us. For obvious reasons, as members of our security and intelligence agencies, many of them are unseen and unknown. We are grateful to them for the work they do, and we should publicly recognise their important role.
The right hon. Lady asked a number of questions covering a number of issues. On reviews, there is no suggestion, simply because a review was not mentioned in my statement, that we have in any way side-tracked it. David Anderson is doing his work. As far as I am aware, he is undertaking discussions with relevant parties about the issues that he is looking at. Alongside that, our own Intelligence and Security Committee is conducting its work on questions of privacy, civil liberties and security. I think that those key reviews will be brought before the House in time to enable it to take account of them when it does the necessary job of looking at least at the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, which is under a sunset clause to 2016. The House will obviously want to take account of all aspects of those two reviews.
The Government publish the number of people under TPIMs every quarter. On the question of whether somebody should be put on a TPIM, it is for the Security Service to initiate a request to me as Home Secretary. I of course look at the request, and if I agree to it, a court process is then gone through to ensure that such a decision is reasonable. As I say, it is for the Security Service to come forward with any such proposals.
The right hon. Lady asked about making Channel compulsory, and the Leader of the Opposition raised that during Prime Minister’s questions. We believe that Channel does important work, as does Prevent, which works with community groups. Decisions about whether individuals are put on a Channel programme should be taken case by case. We are very clear, as we have been in discussions on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill in relation to temporary exclusion orders—they will ensure that people return from Syria on our terms, where that is appropriate—that we may seek to take action of various sorts in relation to individuals in the UK, but that what is appropriate for the individual concerned has to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
On the question of firearms, it is for us to work with others in the European Union to consider the spread of firearms across European Union. As I said, the United Kingdom has some of the toughest gun laws, but major exercises have already been undertaken, primarily led by the National Crime Agency, to look at the availability of firearms in the UK. That process started before the terrible attacks took place in Paris.
On the draft Communications Data Bill, there is a difference of opinion among parties in the House about what powers should be taken by Government. We did in fact respond to the proposals from the Joint Committee, and we did in fact provide revised proposals in relation to the measures. I am clear, as is the Prime Minister, that we need to return to that issue. I believe that it is important to have the right powers available to deal with such matters.
Finally, the right hon. Lady asked whether we speak to those at the CST. Of course we do so regularly. I have had a number of meetings with them, and the police of course have meetings with them to discuss the whole question of what protective security is available. Protective security was stepped up when the threat level was raised, but it has now been stepped up further.
Various press reports have stated that the director general of MI5 called in his speech of
Secretary confirm that that is not correct? In the speech, which my right hon. Friend and I attended in person, the director general expressed his main concern:
“Changes in the technology that people are using to communicate are making it harder for the Agencies to maintain the capability to intercept the communications of terrorists.”
Is not the prime requirement at present to ensure that the agencies can continue to exercise the capability they have enjoyed for a number of years but which, because of new technology, is increasingly denied them?
My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely correct in his description of what the director general of MI5 said in the speech. It is unfortunate that people very often mix up some of the aspects of communications data and intercepts, and sometimes believe that the Government were trying, in the draft Communications Data Bill, to expand the powers of the agencies, which was not the case. Indeed, the director general of MI5 said:
“The ability to access communications data is likewise vital to our ability to protect our national security”, and that
“unless we maintain this capability, our ability to protect the country will be eroded.”
The Bill was about maintaining that capability, and we and others, as evidenced by the quote, see that as so important.
As there has been a revolution in communications in the 16 years since I introduced the proposals that became the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, it seems to me to be beyond argument that the legislation, including in respect of communications data, has to be revised. Does the Home Secretary agree that a serious debate about the extent of the powers is not remotely helped by the parody that states that the powers sought are “some kind of snoopers charter”? Since I believe that the distance between the two main parties in the House on this issue is actually very narrow, may we have the kind of close collaboration that my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary spoke in favour of so that we can resolve this issue as soon as possible, and ensure that the intelligence and security agencies and the police have the capabilities today and tomorrow that they had in the past under legislation freely agreed by this House?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that it is important, in the debate on this issue, that the facts and arguments are presented properly. Sadly, the terminology that has been used about the communications data Bill, such as its being a snoopers charter, has set all sorts of hares running that are not accurate and that do not reflect what was proposed. He is right that it is important for all of us in this House to look at this matter calmly and carefully, and to consider the powers that our agencies need if they are to maintain their capabilities. Otherwise, as those capabilities degrade, it makes it harder for our agencies to keep us safe.
The Prime Minister made a proposal not to allow any online communications that could not be intercepted. That would cause huge problems for anyone who relies on secure online transactions for banking, shopping or anything else, and would jeopardise Britain’s reputation as a good and safe place to do business. Is that genuinely what the Home Secretary wants to do? Does she really want to join the small group of countries that includes Iran, Belarus, Moldova and Kazakhstan in trying to ban encryption?
I say to my hon. Friend that we are determined that, as far as is possible, there should be no safe spaces for terrorists to communicate. The Prime Minister reiterated that principle in Prime Minister’s questions today. I would have hoped that that principle was held by everybody across all parties in the House of Commons. As far as I and the Conservative party are concerned, our manifesto will make it clear that we will introduce the legislation that is needed to restore our declining communications data capability, and that we will use all the legal powers that are available to ensure that, where appropriate, the police and the security and intelligence agencies have the maximum ability to intercept the communications of suspects, while ensuring that such intrusive techniques are, of course, properly overseen.
Of course the security services must have the necessary tools for the job. However, does the Home Secretary accept that the priority now is to speak up against, stand up against and, where necessary, confront Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism and the fascist groups, such as the British National party and its derivatives, that spread such poison, as well as the vile prejudices of far too many representatives and members of UKIP?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that everybody in this House needs to send a very clear message that we stand for freedom, including the freedom of the press, and democracy, and that we oppose the vile views that lead to the behaviour and incidents we saw in Paris. We must recognise that we have seen a number of terrorist attacks in this country over the years, the most recent of which was in 2013, when we saw not only Fusilier Lee Rigby’s murder, but the murder of Mohammed Saleem and the attempt to plant a number of bombs at mosques in the west midlands, which were undertaken by a far-right extremist. We must stand against terrorism and extremism in all their forms.
If one good thing has come out of the horrible events of recent days, it is the evidence of the British people’s affection for France in her hour of trial. Speaking as the chairman of the amitié group between the two Parliaments and on behalf of our Back Benchers, I would like to extend the warmest fraternal greetings to our French colleagues in the Assemblée Nationale, express our support for them and say that, as has been the case for the last 100 years, our two nations stand shoulder to shoulder against tyranny and terror.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend’s comments. We stand alongside France against terror and for freedom and democracy. It was a very moving experience to be part of the march in Paris on Sunday not only because it involved so many people—nearly
4 million people across France and an estimated 2 million in Paris—but because of the reaction of the people alongside the march, who constantly expressed their support for all those who were standing for freedom of the press and the freedoms of our democracy.
On behalf of the Scottish National party, I join the Home Secretary, the shadow Home Secretary and Members from all parts of the House in their condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Paris. I also want to put on the record our appreciation for those who work so hard on our behalf to keep our society safe.
The Home Secretary went into great detail in her statement about the co-operation with European Union partners and other countries, which was very welcome. She did not have the opportunity to update the House on the co-operation with the other jurisdictions within the United Kingdoms on policing and safety, which is very important for all of us. No doubt she has spoken to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, since last week. Will she update the House on what was discussed and on how the UK Government plan to co-operate with the Scottish Government, the Northern Irish Government and the Welsh Administration?
Discussions have taken place at official level with the devolved Administrations about the preparedness for an attack similar to that in Paris. Obviously we work very closely with the devolved Administrations. We worked particularly closely with the Scottish Government last year in preparation for the Commonwealth games, when we had some joint exercises. The co-operation and interaction between Police Scotland and the police forces in England and Wales is very good across a wide range of matters. Co-operation on the matters that we are discussing is obviously very important. We will continue to talk with the devolved Administrations at every level—ministerial and official—about these matters.
Is the Home Secretary aware that when the Prophet Mohammed moved from Mecca to Medina all those years ago to establish the first Islamic state, he did not set up a sectarian caliphate, such as that demanded by the Paris murderers, but rather, under the charter of Medina, he created a multi-faith society, where Jews and Christians had the right to worship and were able to proclaim their faiths?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for elucidating that fact for the House. It is very clear—everybody is very clear—that the attacks were not about Islam. The voices of Muslim communities and Muslim leaders in the United Kingdom, France and across the world have made it very clear that the attacks were not undertaken in their name. We should reiterate that very clear message.
Is the Home Secretary satisfied with the capacity of the London fire and rescue service to respond to any terrorist outrages that may occur, in view of the current fire station closure programme, which includes the fire station at Clerkenwell, which serves an area that includes major hospitals, major railway stations and major tourist attractions that may very well be the premier targets of terrorism?
A great deal of work has been undertaken in recent years to look at the operation of the emergency services in the event of a terrorist attack. Work has been done, as I indicated in my statement, to bring together specialist teams from fire services, ambulance services and the police across England and their equivalents in Scotland and Wales. We have also introduced the joint emergency services interoperability programme, or JESIP, which is about ensuring that it is easier for the three emergency services to work together in such circumstances. Obviously, we continue to update and revise, where necessary, the protocols and the way in which such operations are conducted to ensure that our emergency services are able to do the job we all want them to do, should an attack take place.
I sat on the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill three years ago, which lasted for six months. We heard extensive evidence from numerous sources that made it abundantly clear that having the communications data is crucial and will save lives. It will save those who threaten suicide, it will save children at risk and it will prevent other incidents, dramas, accidents and crimes, as well as helping us to catch terrorists. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has said that it will save lives. The director of Europol said at the Home Affairs Committee yesterday that there was a gap. Is the—
Order. I do not wish to be unkind to the hon. Gentleman, but he is a trained barrister. Come on, cut to the chase. A lot of colleagues want to get in and I want to accommodate everybody. Ask a short question and then sit down.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that a significant number of people who are in positions where they are aware of the impact of communications data have made the necessity of communications data well known and public. As I indicated earlier, I hope that everybody in the House understands and appreciates the importance of ensuring that, as far as is possible, there are no safe spaces for terrorists to communicate.
The Home Secretary will be aware that in the cases of the London bombings, the brutal murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby and, according to early reports, what happened in Paris last week, those involved were on the periphery of investigations that had already been undertaken. Will she give a commitment that she will have urgent talks with the Security Service and the leadership of counter-terrorism police about how we can get smarter in reviewing the previous investigations and cases in which those individuals and networks, who clearly pose a threat, have appeared on the periphery?
The right hon. Gentleman is correct about those who appear on the periphery of investigations. The Intelligence and Security Committee referred to that in its report on the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, and I have already had discussions about it with counter-terrorism police and the security services and continue to talk to them about it. We need to continue to look at a number of issues involving those who appear at the periphery of various groups, and at the links between potential terrorists and criminal activity of various sorts.
May I add my voice to those supporting the updating of our communications data capability merely to keep pace with changes in technology, so that we maintain the capabilities that we have? May I also invite the Home Secretary to use this latest incident as a case study to establish what the journey is that a good Islamic person may take that finishes with them being a terrorist—what is the psychological journey, what are the stimulants that create that terrorist, and how do we get inside that process to prevent it from happening?
It is of course important that in our work to prevent people from moving down the road to terrorist activity and from being radicalised we look at the factors in play when somebody becomes a terrorist or is radicalised. Those issues are already examined, and every opportunity is taken to learn lessons and identify what the journey is for individuals, so that we can better ensure that we are able to prevent radicalisation and prevent people from moving into terrorism. However, that will be complex, and many factors will be involved, which will vary from individual to individual.
In his evidence at Westminster yesterday, the director of Europol spoke of a security gap among police forces across Europe in trying to track down online terrorists. Terrorism has no national boundaries. Is the Home Secretary confident about the structures that currently exist for the sharing of information across Europe, and indeed across the Atlantic? What further action can the internet companies take? Should we not now consider having an organisation similar to the Internet Watch Foundation to deal specifically with counter-terrorism?
We discussed sharing intelligence and information between countries when it is appropriate to do so, and particularly across Europe, at the meeting convened by Monsieur Cazeneuve, the French Interior Minister, on Sunday. People have looked to Europol to play a role in that, and of course we will work not only with other countries but with organisations such as Europol to ensure that we get the maximum benefit from the information sharing that takes place. That will mean that we have the maximum possible ability to identify terrorists in advance and ensure that attacks do not take place.
Order. I am very keen to accommodate colleagues, but I remind the House that this is an Opposition day, with two well-subscribed debates to come, so what I am looking for now is Members who will ask a short question without preamble. I feel sure that the Home Secretary will provide us with her characteristically pithy replies.
The unwise response of previous Governments to outrages such as 9/11 and 7/7 led to the Iraq war and the introduction of the failed identity cards scheme. Does the Home Secretary agree that our response to this outrage must be one of sober wisdom, not a rush to squander British liberties because of those who wish so violently to take them away from us anyway?
It is entirely right that we should respond in a careful and sober way, and that is precisely what I and the Prime Minister have done in the comments that we have made.
I am sure the whole House was pleased to hear the Home Secretary say that real Islam had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Paris. Will she take the opportunity to decry the statement that Rupert Murdoch made at the weekend that all Muslims were to blame, and to ask him to get a grip of Fox News and its so-called terrorism experts, who set about insulting Birmingham, London and everywhere else with their silly comments?
I agree with the hon. Lady that it is important that we reiterate the message that this is not about Islam; it is about a perversion of Islam. There are Muslims in this country and other countries around the world who condemn these acts of violence and terrorism, and their voices are being heard in increasing numbers. As I said, they are sending a clear message that this is not in their name. I also say to the hon. Lady that freedom of the press means freedom of the press.
Purveyors of extremism find fertile ground in communities that are not properly assimilated into the mainstream of society. Bearing that in mind, will the Home Secretary consider supporting the introduction of parts on compulsory written and spoken English into the British citizenship test? I believe that shared values and a shared language underpin a strong society, and particularly that if women in such communities were emancipated, they would help pacify young men who might be tempted to copy the extremist behaviour seen so graphically in Paris last week.
The Government have of course increased the requirements for those coming into the United Kingdom to be able to speak and understand English. My hon. Friend mentions the role of women, and I share his view that it is important that we hear female voices from the Muslim community. I commend Sara Khan, who has once again stood up and spoken about that issue. In the latter part of last year I attended an inspirational event that she held as part of the #MakingAStand campaign that she was running with Muslim women around the country, saying that they wished to take a stand against those who were trying to radicalise young people in the Muslim community.
Will the Home Secretary join me in rejecting the new imperialism that we hear after incidents such as this, which seeks to condemn the killings but somehow excuse the actions by blaming ourselves—in this case by saying that the cartoons in
Charlie Hebdo were somehow unnecessarily provocative? Does she not agree that we cannot continue to absolve those engaged in terrorism of their responsibility, and that we must agree that responsibility for those actions lies squarely with those who kill innocent people?
The only people responsible for a terrorist attack are the terrorists themselves. They are criminals, and we should never let anybody forget that.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, particularly the words about tackling extreme ideology. May I ask her and the security services to be mindful of places of worship where mainstream, tolerant and open opinion can often be marginalised, creating a vacuum in which extremism thrives and creates the roots of so much poisonous ideology?
I share my hon. Friend’s concern to ensure that we deal with extremism in all its forms and wherever it appears, and we are mindful of the issue that he raises. Of course, the Government will in due course publish a new extremism strategy, which will go beyond the counter-terrorism strategy that we have already published.
The acts in Paris were carried out by terrorists, not in my name or that of the religion that I follow. I want to put the record straight on that. These people are totally and unreservedly condemned for the attacks.
After the Joint Committee on the draft Data Communications Bill objected to the original Bill, the Home Secretary said that she would make proposals. What are they, where are they, and when will we see them?
I commend the hon. Gentleman for his comments. It is important that someone such as him stands up in this Chamber and gives a clear message about terrorism, and says that none of us supports terrorism and that we condemn it absolutely. At the time we indicated the areas of the Communications Data Bill where we were willing to make changes in response to the views from the Joint Committee—indeed, we said that we were taking on board virtually all the comments made by that Committee.
Does the Home Secretary agree that if we are to be serious about our internal security and the safety and security of our borders, including at Dover, we must promote the unity of integration over the division of multiculturalism? It is important to ensure that our borders are properly strengthened and that security is maintained, including at Calais.
My hon. Friend is right, and as I indicated in my statement in immediate response to the attacks in Paris, the Border Force and others at our borders took appropriate steps to increase security and intensify the checks taking place. It is right that we maintain an appropriate level of security at our borders, both in the UK but also at juxtaposed controls elsewhere. It is also important to recognise that within the United Kingdom there are people of a variety of faiths and of no faith. We must all accept people of different faiths, and recognise that people have different beliefs. If we disagree with them, the way to deal with that is through discussion. It is important to allow people the freedom to worship as they wish and follow the faith they wish to follow.
The unjustifiable and horrific scenes in Paris were not just an attack on France, but an attack on peace, freedom and Islam. This is not a clash of civilisations: it is a straight fight between right and wrong, and between humanity and insanity. On that basis, I urge caution from the Home Secretary because the worst time to react is when things are raw, and we cannot defeat extremism with extreme reactions. Finally, the true Muslim on that day was the policeman, Ahmed, who lost his life protecting the freedom of a publication to ridicule his faith. In his tragic story we see the obvious truth: freedom is the right to be wrong; it is never the right to do wrong.
I commend the hon. Gentleman’s comments. As the shadow Home Secretary pointed out, the brother of the policeman who was murdered gave a very dignified response that we can all recognise and support. It is important to recognise that the people who carry out these attacks are criminals and terrorists, and are not acting in the name of any religion. We should be very clear about the message we give.
On intelligence data gaps, will the Home Secretary confirm that she will be inspired by the patriotism of Lord Evans and people such as the head of MI5, and avoid any consultation on such issues with the Deputy Prime Minister, who during his “Today” programme interview put party so disgracefully over national security?
It is no surprise to anyone in the House that the Deputy Prime Minister and I have a different opinion on communications data and the Communications Data Bill. I believe it is important that we maintain those capabilities, and I reiterate that the Bill is not a snoopers charter.
Does the Home Secretary agree that while there cannot be a scintilla of an excuse for the psychopathic slaughter that we saw in Paris last week, and that security measures must be paramount, in the long run one thing that will make us safe is to reach out to marginalised communities in this country that mirror those from which the killers came? We must ensure, whether by addressing education or employment, that those communities cannot become fishing grounds for people who pedal violence, hatred, and nihilism.
As I indicated earlier, the reasons why people become radicalised are various and often complex, and it is important that we try to understand those reasons. It is also important that in any community in our country we look at the issues that matter to people. For everybody around the country, those are things such as the availability of jobs and the education and public services they receive, and we consider those matters for everybody.
As well as a substantial Muslim community, which has been quick to condemn the atrocities in Paris, Worcester hosts the longest continuously running newspaper in the English language, and the tomb of King John, whose unwilling but lasting legacy of the Magna Carta will be commemorated this year. Does the Home Secretary agree that the survival of that charter over 800 years, and recent events, demonstrates that the pen, if properly defended, can be mightier than the sword?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, and to his constituency and its links with the Magna Carta. That was an important document, and it is right to celebrate its anniversary this year. We all recognise the importance of the words in that document, and the fact that it and its principles have survived over the centuries is testament to that. In response to the attacks and murders of the cartoonists and journalists at Charlie Hebdo, everybody must make clear that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Will the Secretary of State agree that the lessons of Paris are that our real strength is in unity and fraternity? We should keep together on this; there is no big political divide. We must keep together across the parties, and have a dialogue and conversation with the vast majority of Muslim people in this country who are law abiding and want to help us to defeat terrorism.
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the majority of Muslims living in this country want to defeat terrorism and ensure that they play their full part in our society, and it is right that we make every link we can with them in doing that.
News organisations must use their independent professional judgment as to whether they reprint the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. Although in their own eyes, many were avoiding the risk of offending some of their readers, in the eyes of the jihadis, some were undoubtedly viewed as being intimidated into censorship, which to me was reason enough to reprint. Does my right hon. Friend agree that true free speech, not just the illusion of it, includes the right to insult and offend? We do not defend free speech, if that is truly what we want to do, by casting aside those who push at its boundaries.
I absolutely agree. Freedom of the press means that the press should be free to publish what it chooses within the law. As the Prime Minister reiterated earlier, freedom of the press, which we all believe in, means that we should accept that it can publish what it wishes to publish within the law, and we should not set artificial boundaries on that.
Will the Home Secretary update the House on how well the Prevent strategy is working in reaching people at the grass roots who work with young people? Whatever the House does, quite rightly, to protect people’s primary civil liberty—that of life and limb—through new legislation, the security services cannot be everywhere and that network on the ground is most important.
I am happy to give the hon. Lady some figures on Prevent. Thirty local authority areas are currently classified as Prevent priority areas, and 14 more supported areas are eligible for funding for Prevent projects. Since early 2012, local projects have reached more than 45,000 people. This is an extensive piece of work, and we continually look at Prevent and consider how we can help it to do its job better, hence the statutory duty in the Counter-terrorism and Security Bill.
On Monday, the Leader of the House and I met parents and governors at the Mathilda Marks-Kennedy and Beit Shvidler schools in my constituency, and during our discussion the attacks in Paris were raised. Will the Home Secretary take the opportunity to allay the fears of some of those parents, and indeed many other people who were not at the meeting, about the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, and say how we can keep those children safe while in school?
This is very important. As I indicated earlier, I have met the CST and other Jewish community leaders on a number of occasions. My last meeting with them was shortly before the Christmas recess. We are committed to ensuring that the work of the trust and others, in keeping Jewish communities safe, is supported. As I also indicated earlier, the police talk with the CST and others, and indeed with individual institutions, about what protective security can be provided. As I understand it, they have been providing extra patrols in certain areas to ensure that greater support is given. I am very clear that nobody should feel that they are likely to be subject to the sort of anti-Semitic attacks that, sadly, we have seen too many of in the United Kingdom in the past year. It is very important that people are able to live in this country, follow their faith and live a life free from fear.
Last week, while gunmen were rampaging through the streets of Paris, a leading Muslim spokesman in Northern Ireland, Dr Al-Wazzan, was telling the BBC that the west had brought this on itself through its foreign policy. He later withdrew those remarks under pressure. Will the Home Secretary join me in calling for all those who have leadership in the Muslim community to say and do nothing that would give any justification for people to believe that terrorism in the name of their faith is ever justified, and to realise that such words only breed and create division?
It is absolutely right that it is important for those in leadership roles in the Muslim community to make it very clear, as many have been doing, that these terrorist attacks are not about their religion and their faith and are not in their name. It is very important to send a very clear message that the only people responsible for terrorist attacks are the terrorists themselves.
Interception of communications data is critical to successful counter-terrorism. If the Liberal Democrats will not support what is needed for the defence of our nation, will my right hon. Friend confirm that necessary legislation to fill capabilities gaps will feature in the Conservative manifesto and will be taken forward as soon as possible in the next Parliament?
There has been a significant rise in co-ordinated anti-Semitic attacks in London, Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff. Will the Home Secretary indicate what steps have been taken to co-ordinate action to stop attacks on Israeli and Jewish people and property across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
As I have indicated, I have had a number of meetings and the police have been meeting Jewish communities, representative groups and the CST, with the role it plays in providing protective security for synagogues, Jewish schools and so on. We have also looked at a number of other aspects. I had a meeting recently, involving the Director of Public Prosecutions and the chief executive of the College of Policing, to look at the advice and guidance available to ensure that the police and the prosecution service respond properly when anti-Semitic attacks are undertaken and that, where prosecution is possible, it is taken forward.
The Government’s taskforce on tackling radicalism and extremism, chaired by the Prime Minister, recommended in 2013 a new banning order for groups that fall short of being legally termed “terrorist” but which undermine democracy, and a new civil power to target those who radicalise others. Will the Home Secretary confirm whether those measures are excluded from the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill and whether that is because they have been blocked by the Liberal Democrats? If so, given the comments of the shadow Home Secretary and Mr Straw, and in the light of recent events in Paris, is there scope to revisit the recommendations made by the Prime Minister’s taskforce, as that would be most welcome?
My hon. Friend raises these issues. I have been very clear that it has not been possible to take those particular proposals forward on a Government basis, but I was also very clear—indeed, I said it in the speech I gave at our party conference last year—that it is the Conservative party’s intention to take them forward.
The Prevent strategy is key to preventing radicalisation. Given the new roles and responsibilities of schools, colleges and universities, will the Home Secretary state what proportion of the 2015-16 budget will be allocated to those organisations to implement that? What training and support is being provided to principals?
The Home Office funding for Prevent has increased in recent years, but further money will be made available, as part of the £130 million that the Prime Minister announced in November, in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The majority of that will be for agencies, but other funding will be for the Home Office, including funding for Prevent. It will also include funding for counter-terrorism policing. Discussions are taking place on how it will be most appropriately spent.
Like a couple of earlier speakers, in 2012 I was a member of the Joint Committee considering the draft Communications Data Bill. The Committee supported the need for new legislation, but proposed a number of safeguards that we thought would improve the Bill. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in any future legislation those safeguards would be considered and, hopefully, included?
I am very happy to confirm that. The Joint Committee came back with a very well-considered and detailed response, and the Government were clear that we would take on board most of its recommendations. That continues to be my view as Home Secretary and as a Conservative politician looking at the prospect of a Conservative Government introducing that legislation.
The Home Secretary referred to the capabilities of the people keeping us safe diminishing. In the context of the security of the people of the entirety of the United Kingdom, how central does she think the National Crime Agency is and how important it is that it is fully operational in all of the United Kingdom, particularly in Northern Ireland?
I believe that the NCA does play an important role. Obviously, its clear focus is on serious and organised crime, but it is also focused on economic crime, border crime, child exploitation and online protection. It is a valuable agency. In the operations it has undertaken, it has already shown the benefit of having set it up. I consider that it would be appropriate and beneficial if it were possible for the agency to operate in Northern Ireland, as it does in other parts of the United Kingdom.
Not only is the number of anti-Semitic incidents on the rise, but surveys demonstrate a greater public acceptance of anti-Semitic attitudes. What further reassurance can my right hon. Friend offer to the Jewish community in particular that we will have zero tolerance of anti-Semitism? We need to educate the public that such attitudes should not exist in this country.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We should be very clear that we will not tolerate anti-Semitism. We can deal with this in a number of ways. First, it is important that we provide support and advice on protective security for those who may be at threat of being subject to anti-Semitic incidents. It is also very important for us to give a clear message, as a Government and from this House, that we will not accept anti-Semitic incidents. The work led by the Department for Communities and Local Government in the taskforce it has brought together on anti-Semitism plays an important role in that.
I was previously on the civil libertarian side of these arguments, but given recent events—not just in France, but elsewhere—I have come to the conclusion that the Home Secretary is absolutely right.
Returning to the subject of the Jewish community, the Home Secretary will have seen the front page of The Independent today, which shows that a huge number of Jewish people have real apprehension of living in the United Kingdom. I welcome her words in response to other Members, but will she make a statement not just on anti-Semitism but about the positive contribution Jewish people bring to this country to ensure that they feel proud of living here?
I share my hon. Friend’s concerns. It should be a matter of deep concern to us all in this House when people from the Jewish community, as surveys suggest, are feeling that it is less easy to live in the United Kingdom. We have seen over the years people leaving other countries in the European Union as a result of anti-Semitic incidents. I never thought we would see the day when surveys showed this sort of feeling by Jewish people here in the United Kingdom. It is absolutely right not only that we are clear in our condemnation of anti-Semitism and that we give the protective security and other support I have referred to, but that we send a very clear message that members of the Jewish community play an important and significant role in our communities in their contributions to our society. We should welcome them here. We should applaud the contributions they make. We should ensure that they all feel able to stay living in the United Kingdom and make their important contribution to our society.