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International Terrorism

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary 3:37 pm, 24th March 2009

I have today published the revised version of the Government's strategy for countering international terrorism. Protecting the safety of everybody in Britain is the primary duty, and the abiding obligation, of Government. Recent events in Northern Ireland were a chilling reminder that the threat of terrorism has not left our shores, and they demonstrated the need to continue to adapt our approach so that we can deal with that threat wherever it emerges.

As we set out in our Contest strategy today, the greatest security threat that we face comes from al-Qaeda and related groups and individuals. Our aim is to reduce the risk to the UK and our interests overseas from international terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence. We know that the threat is severe and that an attack is highly likely and could happen without warning at any time. We know that this new form of terrorism is different in scale and nature from the terrorist threats that we have had to deal with in recent decades. This new form of terrorism is rooted in conflicts overseas and the fragility of some states and grounded in an extremist ideology that uses violence to further its ends. It exploits the opportunities created by modern technologies and seeks to radicalise young people into violent extremism.

The threat now comes from the al-Qaeda leadership and its immediate associates, located mainly on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, as well as from its affiliates and from others, including rogue individuals, who espouse similar views. As hon. Members throughout the House will know, not least my predecessors as Home Secretary, on whose important work this strategy builds, those groups have planned a succession of attacks against the UK with the aim of causing mass casualties.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of thousands of people, to whom I pay tribute, we have had considerable success in stopping terrorists in their tracks and bringing those responsible to justice. We have disrupted more than a dozen attempted terrorist plots in the UK and, since 2001, almost 200 people have been convicted of terrorist-related offences.

However, the threat remains and is always evolving. The strategy takes that into account, draws on what we have learned about how to counter it, and reflects the increased resources that we have rightly made available to keep Britain safe. In recent years, the number of police dedicated to counter-terrorism work has grown from 1,700 to 3,000. The Security Service has doubled in size.

We have trained tens of thousands of people throughout the country to prepare for and protect against a terrorist attack, and we are working with communities to prevent the spread of violent extremism. We currently spend £2.5 billion on countering terrorism. By 2011, that will rise to £3.5 billion—the majority will be spent on the main focus of work: pursuing terrorists wherever they are and stopping their attacks.

The Contest strategy remains centred on four key areas—Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare. We have updated each of them. Pursue will make use of the new resources and new legislation available to the intelligence agencies and police to investigate and disrupt terrorist networks here and overseas, and to prosecute those responsible.

Prevent will reach more people than ever, as we step up our efforts to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism. That reflects our better understanding of the causes of radicalisation and includes new programmes and new partnerships with communities here and overseas.

Protect aims to strengthen our defences against an attack through a strong border, improved resilience in our critical national infrastructure and greater protection for the crowded places where we all live, work, shop and play.

Prepare will limit the impact of any attacks that occur, with tens of thousands of emergency services workers, security guards, store managers and others trained and equipped to deal with an incident. Every region of the country now has plans to deal with an attack, improve our ability to recover and ensure a return to normal as soon as possible.

There is also dedicated cross-Government work on the specific threat posed by terrorist use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons and explosives.

The vital work to counter terrorism cannot be done by central Government, the police and agencies working alone. That is why the revised strategy is based on work right across central and devolved Government and local government, and with our international partners and local communities.

In addressing both the immediate threats and their longer-term causes—and how we will deliver action locally, nationally and internationally—our aim has been to publish as full and open an account of our work as possible. The strategy also draws close links with other Government policies that are essential to its delivery, including conflict reduction, our international aid programme, counter-proliferation, our work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and our support to communities here, building cohesion, empowerment and equality in this country. The strategy is also closely co-ordinated with the national security strategy, which was published for the first time last year.

The challenge that all of us in the House face is striking the right balance between measures to protect security and the right to life, and the impact on the other rights that we hold dear.

Contest is based on clear and unambiguous principles. My approach to protecting Britain's security in the face of the terrorist threat will always be underpinned by our core shared values, including the protection of human rights, the rule of law, and democratic and accountable government.

The Government have sought that balance at all times, but we remain uncompromising on several issues. We oppose the use of torture in all its forms. We have always condemned the practice of extraordinary rendition, and will continue to do so.

The strategy is comprehensive and wide ranging. In publishing it, our primary aim is to reassure the British public that we are doing all in our power to protect this country through our relentless pursuit of terrorists and our determination to prevent violent extremism.

I commend the statement to the House.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

May I thank the Home Secretary for providing an advance copy of her statement? Once again, however, may I express my annoyance on behalf of the House at the fact that the documents, which are published today, were released and distributed through the media long before they were released to MPs? That is completely unacceptable and goes against numerous rulings by you, Mr. Speaker. The Home Secretary should be ashamed of herself.

I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to the police and all the security services, both overseas and at home, for their work in protecting us against the terrorist threat, but we should do more than recognise that hard work—we should also recognise their personal courage in looking after us. We all share the same goal in respect of the issues we are discussing today. We want to do everything we can to combat terror, and we will be constructive critics of what the Government do as a result.

Furthermore, we face new kinds of threat. The events in Mumbai in November were truly shocking. Innocent people were gunned down in their hotel rooms or shot at random on a busy railway station. Armed men roaming the streets of cities looking for people to shoot indiscriminately is a new experience in the battle against terror. That is why we back the Government's aim of broadening knowledge of the terrorist threat to thousands of people who work in public places.

However, the Government have to do the job properly. It is depressing to discover that the programme described in last weekend's newspapers by the Prime Minister does not appear to be what we were promised. He described the programme as follows:

"Tens of thousands of men and women...from security guards to store managers...have now been trained and equipped to deal with an incident and know what to watch for as people go about their daily business".

Will the Home Secretary confirm that the training programme described by the Prime Minister amounts to no more than a voluntary three-hour seminar, and that includes the coffee break? I do not see how we can train people properly to deal with terrorism in less than half the time allocated to a cycling proficiency course.

Will the Home Secretary tell us how widely the training has been spread? When we contacted the management of two major shopping centres this morning, we were told that all that they knew about the plans was from newspaper reports this week. Why?

When it comes to new kinds of threat, the Home Secretary is right to highlight the need to be aware of the danger of an attack with chemical, biological or radiological weapons, but will she tell the House why police in London will not all have access to protective equipment ahead of the G20 summit?

The other big caveat is how we deal with the groups that foster both hatred and violence in our society and the extremism that underpins many aspects of the threat that we face. The meeting held in a school in London last week at which one of the most controversial of all the so-called preachers of hate, Omar Bakri, was able to preach over a phone line to a group of followers and call for attacks on British soldiers and civilians was a disgrace. Why was that allowed to happen?

We have to deal with extremism in all its guises. People have the right to campaign for radical change in our society. We should not seek to ban them from doing so, but the state has the right to protect its people and its institutions, and the principles of a democratic society. We should not be providing support to those who wish to undermine that society, so will the Home Secretary now stop funding groups that propagate extremism, and instead concentrate on funding projects that break down the community divide?

We will support the Government when they do the right thing to combat terrorism. There is much in the document that we welcome, but the Government's strategy is not perfect and we will continue to push for change where we believe that it is flawed. We will do so out of a desire that I believe is shared right across this House: to do everything we can to keep the terrorist threat at bay.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

In relation to the hon. Gentleman's first point, the Contest strategy has been available to hon. Members in the Vote Office since 10 o'clock this morning.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

No, the media did not have it last night. It was available to hon. Members at 10 o'clock this morning and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, I personally sent him a copy today as well.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman paid tribute to those involved in helping to keep this country safe. I welcome that tribute. I accept his point that we need to learn from terrible events such as those in Mumbai and Lahore—and we will—and to feed that into our ongoing work to protect from and to prepare for terrorist attacks.

The hon. Gentleman talks about the work we are taking forward through Project Argus. I am sorry that he was so dismissive of a wide-ranging programme that is placed on top of the work of police officers, police community support officers, the security and intelligence agencies and others who work to keep us safe, and that aims to provide training and preparation and to protect us where we shop, where we work and where we live. About 700 programmes have been implemented under Project Argus and more than 30,000 people have received training—and plans are in place for even more people to receive it. On top of that, separate training programmes for security guards are being conducted throughout the country to help ensure that they are vigilant. I hope that hon. Members will welcome and support that work in their local communities.

The hon. Gentleman welcomes our focus on the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threat. We are ensuring, once again, that all police officers receive basic information training in CBRN threats, with 8,000 police officers receiving specific training, and they all have access to protective equipment.

The hon. Gentleman rightly emphasises, as do we, the challenge to counteract violent extremism and those who want to support terrorism. In providing funding for groups and other elements of the work, we have ensured that we can measure the outcomes of what those groups do. We commissioned a review from Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary and the Audit Commission, which has already been published. I agree that our work to counter violent extremism and to support shared values needs to go even further, which is why we are clear in this document about the values that we share—the same values, incidentally, that are under attack by terrorists— and we will as a Government and more widely across the community challenge those who do not share those values. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that our emphasis on working—not just in communities, but more widely in prisons, schools, universities and internationally—to prevent people from turning to violent extremism is an important part of, and the correct long-term approach to, what I hope is our joint work to help keep this country safer.

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Excuse me, but how is spying on ordinary secret family court persecuted mothers on Facebook and fiddling about with their email ect supposed to prevent international terrorism?

You people already know where all the terrorists live, but you'd rather muck around persecuting and spying on ordinary families and making their lives hell!

Submitted by barbara richards

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I welcome the Home Secretary's statement and her commitment to continue to engage with communities. As events in Luton showed, it is extremely important to continue that process of engagement. She mentioned Mumbai, but security in major hotels and tourist places in such cities does not bear comparison with what is happening in London. Although I of course welcome everything the Government have done in training staff, it is vital that we continue to work with the private sector to ensure that it puts in place the necessary security arrangements in our major hotels and major tourist destinations, which will be targeted by terrorists, and we must prepare for that.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I think my right hon. Friend is right to draw attention, as I did, to the need to learn from events such as those in Mumbai. I am glad that he welcomes the fact that, through the security advisers we fund, we have ensured that hotel operators are trained. In addition, of course, we provide advice, and we are developing the way in which we provide it—for example, ensuring that buildings are designed and built to be as safe as possible from potential terrorist attack. We will continue to do that and build on that work. I am sure my right hon. Friend shares my view that terrorists want us to garner obvious, difficult and cumbersome forms of security that prevent us from going about our daily lives. Our task is to make sure that everybody is able to live their daily lives as freely, but as securely, as possible.

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Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Home Secretary

I thank the Home Secretary for giving me advance sight of the statement, although I should have liked more opportunity to look at the substantial purple document that accompanies it. Perhaps on the next occasion the Home Secretary could arrange to inform Members that it is available, as that certainly was not obvious to me.

Terrorism remains a grave threat to our society—on that, we are agreed. I too pay tribute to the work of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and, indeed, the police forces involved in counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism, who are so involved in this fight. We have faced it before in the form of republican Irish terrorism and have survived it, and I have no doubt that we shall do so again. Does the Home Secretary agree, however, that although the threat is severe, our response must always be measured and proportionate? We must never become what we are fighting, for therein lies a loss of the moral high ground and the esteem of the very people whom we need to provide intelligence and witnesses.

There is much to welcome in this document, but what further ongoing training, and indeed communication with those involved in counter-intelligence, will these 60,000 people have? What powers will they have, and what does she expect of them? Does she recognise that many innocent people going about their lawful business, from train-spotters to tourists and, in the latest incident, night fishermen, have been arrested by over-zealous police officers? What will she do to prevent that from happening again?

Our concern about the strategy is that it continues to sacrifice hard-won liberties in the name of security, and to trespass at the edge of what is acceptable to many British people. Ministers have repeatedly returned with proposals for longer periods of detention without charge, as if the whole fight against terrorism could be reduced to a number: 90 days, 42 days and, still, 28 days—more than double the next longest period in an English-speaking country.

Would it not be better if the Home Secretary made more hasty progress with the introduction of intercept evidence in courts? What progress is she making with that? Given the substantial success of criminal convictions for terrorist offences—at 92 per cent., the figure is far higher than those for other serious crimes, which is cause for real congratulation of the Home Secretary—will she now review the need for some of the more extreme measures that she introduced in relation to the very long period of detention without charge? Will she come back to the House with a reform of the regime for control orders?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I thank the hon. Gentleman for paying tribute to those involved in countering terrorism and keeping us safe. I agree that our response should be measured and proportionate, but I disagree with his assessment that it is not. I have made it completely clear in the strategy that our approach to countering terrorism must be grounded in basic human rights: that is at the heart of our approach.

The hon. Gentleman described the training that we provide through Project Argus, and other training, as being about giving powers to those involved, but it is not about giving them specific powers. It is about, for example, enabling security guards to be vigilant and aware of what is happening outside, perhaps outside the night club that they are guarding, and training people in shopping centres to be aware of what would happen in the event of a terrorist attack. Those people must learn how to lead others to safety, and where the safe places are. Pretty practical and, I think, sensible guidance and advice will be given to people who can play a role—although it will not be their primary role—in keeping others safe.

The hon. Gentleman returned once again—which I did not, in my statement—to detention periods, and to the fallacy that detention periods in this country are somehow out of step with those in other countries. We have presented our arguments time after time. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the arguments that we have presented about European countries—never mind other countries—where people are detained for longer periods, effectively pre-charge, than is the case in this country, and I remind him that in this country any detention for longer than 24 hours is subject to judicial oversight and review.

The hon. Gentleman asks about our progress with intercept evidence. As we have made clear, we are working through the proposition made in the Chilcot review that it is possible to design a legal system in which we could use intercept evidence, while fulfilling the Privy Council review's nine tests. As we spelt out in a recent written ministerial statement, we are now, having reviewed and designed a system, trying to test it with real cases.

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Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Labour, Makerfield

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. It is important that these reviews are ongoing, as terrorist movements across the world and in this country do not stand still in trying to ensure that on one occasion—it only takes one occasion—they get through, kill people and cause the destruction of life and property. For those who are maimed, life will never be the same again.

I welcome the statement but I would like my right hon. Friend to go back to her colleagues in Government on one part of it. In the past 10 years, 200 of our fellow citizens have been killed abroad in terrorist attacks, and 150 have been maimed for life, yet we still do not have a comprehensive compensation scheme for British citizens abroad. These are not combatants or volunteers; they are simply men, women and children who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and because it was not in the United Kingdom they are treated differently. That is indefensible. We are dealing with worldwide terrorism. Every British citizen is entitled to be treated the same and to be protected. Where something goes wrong, they and their families are entitled to be looked after by this country. I ask her to take that back to her colleagues and to give a clear indication, possibly as early as the Budget, about what we should do about it.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

My right hon. Friend is right to be impassioned about the safety of people both in this country and overseas. A specific part of the strategy is to protect our interests here and overseas, but I understand that he is making a specific point about compensation. We already provide considerable assistance, but I will reflect on his points about a compensation system for those harmed in terrorist attacks overseas, and discuss them with colleagues.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Shadow Minister (Defence)

Is there any particular reason why the Pursue strand in the document is being moved up ahead of the Prevent strand, which is normally the first named? Has the right hon. Lady made any progress in her dealings with university staff in reminding them that, while the preservation of academic freedom is absolutely vital, they also have duties as citizens of this country to report to the appropriate authorities any incipient criminal activities that they detect on campus?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I think that the order has always been Pursue and then Prevent. Of course the short-term task is to pursue those who are plotting terrorist attacks and to bring them to justice, and the long-term aim is to prevent people from turning to terrorism or violent extremism in the first place. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not read too much into the placing of those elements in the list. It is a wide-ranging and comprehensive strategy that requires all four Ps to be successful.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about higher education institutions. We have made considerable progress, not least through the work of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, in providing more guidance on what happens in higher education institutions. It is now recognised that while academic freedom and the right of discussion is absolutely fundamentally part of university life, so is the protection of young people from potential radicalisation, which may lead them to tragic consequences, and the right of everyone to have freedom to live on university campuses without being subject to some of the radicalising influences and violent extremism that there is a risk of being perpetrated in some of our higher education institutions.

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Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Labour, Sheffield, Brightside

I thank my right hon. Friend and all those who have worked with her on updating the Contest strategy, which we first put together in 2003. While it is understandable that she will be concentrating on the immediate physical risk to life and limb, demonstrated so tragically on 7 July 2005, and the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threat that exists, will she consider adding a further letter to CBRN—E for electronic or cyber attack?

There is a brief mention of it in the updated document, but as we saw from Estonia and can see what is happening across the world, there is a real danger that terrorists could launch such an attack in a devastating fashion that would not only undermine our already fragile economy, but put people at substantial risk.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

My right hon. Friend makes those comments from a position of considerable experience in terms of his contribution to the whole issue of how we counter the terrorist threat. He is right that cyber-security generally cuts across almost all the challenges highlighted last year in the national security strategy, including not only terrorism but matters such as organised crime and business crime. That is why a piece of work currently being undertaken by the Cabinet Office is extremely important; it is leading a cross-departmental project on cyber-security, and I hope my right hon. Friend is reassured to know that that work is going on in Government. He will also know, not least because he and I were in Washington at the same time, just over a week ago, that the way in which we can work with our international partners is also very important. During that trip, I was able to meet Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security, who is currently reviewing the role that that Department should play in cyber-security in the US, and we agreed to share experience, to work together, to tackle many of the problems posed in the area of cyber-security and to ensure we can be safe in the virtual world in the same way as we are in the real world.

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Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

The Home Secretary will be aware that one of the so-called preachers of hate is currently in a high-security prison awaiting deportation as a danger to the state. When he was on Special Immigration Appeals Commission bail, he was forbidden to use the internet, yet as we speak, he is broadcasting on the internet his litany of hate, trying to suborn young minds across the country and the world. That is happening from inside a high-security prison. How can that happen?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice was present in the Chamber until recently. I am sure he will be concerned to hear what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I will take that up with my right hon. Friend.

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Photo of John Reid John Reid Labour, Airdrie and Shotts

As you may know, Mr. Speaker, I have an interest in these matters, as declared in the register. First, may I congratulate the Home Secretary on what I consider the most important element of this strategy: its unparalleled openness? Does she agree that if we are truly to be able to face, respond to and—God forbid that we ever have the need—recover from a terrorist attack, the resilience that is needed will ultimately lie not in the agencies of the state, but in the resolve, spirit and understanding, and support for our aims, of the ordinary people of this country? Therefore, may I commend her training programmes, and ask whether she agrees that the litmus test of this strategy is how far it will embed that resilience not just in the political leadership here or the formal security agencies of the British state, but in the ordinary people of Britain, because it is ultimately through them and in the communities that we will defeat the terrorists?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I thank my right hon. Friend for those words, and also for his extremely important work in the Home Office, not least in setting up and reorganising the structure of government to ensure that, in the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, we have a strong strategic lead for taking this work forward across government, and his work in highlighting the evolving nature of the threat and the requirement for us to evolve how we dealt with it. I agree with him that while we depend on those in the police, the security and intelligence agencies and the armed forces to tackle terrorism, it is not enough to expect that they will enable us to mitigate that threat. Each of us has a role, and it is in recognition of that that we have—unprecedentedly, I think—made all these 170-plus pages unclassified and available to the public. It is why we have also ensured that we have a more digestible version that the public can read too. He rightly says that it is when everybody understands not that there is a lot to fear, but that there is a lot to be gained by being vigilant and by having a role to play in helping to counter terror, that we will truly be safer and more confident in this country about our security.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

May I say to the Home Secretary that a tragic reminder of the less than competent implementation of the strategy is the fact that she was unable to answer the question put by my hon. Friend Patrick Mercer?

To come back to the strategic issue, one of the most fundamental aspects of Contest is the Prevent strand—preventing a large number of young Muslims from becoming radicalised. Her own heads of MI5 successively have told us that there has been a massive 25 per cent. year-on-year increase in the number of those young Muslims. That demonstrates a failure of the Prevent strand, and it is made worse by the fact that her Government attempt, time and again, to implement excessively authoritarian measures such as 42 days, 90 days and so on. What is she going to do to make this strand work?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I have to say that I do not recognise the right hon. Gentleman's comment that there has been a 25 per cent. year-on-year increase. In fact, it is this Government who, over the past few years, have put a particular focus on the action, resources and partnerships that we have built up in order to prevent violent extremism not just in the communities, but more widely. He does not choose to listen, so I shall end my reply there.

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Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Labour, Edinburgh East

Many of us remember the Omagh bombing and some of us in this place remember Airey Neave. Surely the whole House must agree with my right hon. Friend that there are major differences between the past challenge of the Provisional IRA and the situation we face now. Not only is it international—that makes a crucial difference—but we know the scale of the threat following the attacks on the twin towers and the London underground transport system. Does she agree that one of the important things to recognise in her whole approach is the distinction between the short term, when we have to both disrupt these groups, many of which follow the leadership of al-Qaeda, and convict the people who are found guilty, and the medium to long term, when we have to win the hearts and minds for a society where we have freedom and justice for all?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

My right hon. Friend is exactly right; that is the reason why all four Ps that I have outlined today are fundamentally important and why, in the short term, we do need to take action to disrupt terrorist plots and to bring terrorists to justice. It is also why we have focused considerable effort and funding on the second P—Prevent—and why the way in which we prevent people from becoming violent extremists and from supporting terrorism, both in this country and abroad, will be the defining factor in whether we can help to reduce the risk in the longer term.

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Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister

In the Home Secretary's Prevent strategy, on page 84 of the document, she rightly says:

"Building community cohesion is about creating strong and positive relationships between people of different backgrounds, including those...from different faith communities."

Given that statement, does she recognise the potential for inconsistency in allowing schools, through religious discrimination, to segregate communities further, meaning that white-only schools can stay white-only by refusing admission to Muslims and Asian schools can remain Asian-only by excluding applications from non-Muslims? Will she pause to reconsider the policy of allowing that sort of segregation to get worse?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I have had experience in my previous jobs of the admissions criteria for schools, and I absolutely do not recognise the ability of schools to operate the sorts of admission criteria that the hon. Gentleman has just outlined.

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Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee

I welcome the Home Secretary's statement, but can she assure me that it will prevent a repetition of the situation where Daud Abdullah, the deputy president of the Muslim Council of Britain, was able to advise Ministers on social cohesion while he was, as he remains, a promoter of violent jihad?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

Certainly, we condemn not only the comments, but the statements supported by Daud Abdullah. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is in ongoing dialogue with the MCB about his role and the response to those particular circumstances.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Conservative, North Essex

I welcome the Home Secretary's statement, but while her responsibilities are inevitably focused primarily on her own Department, may I commend the cross-governmental approach that the document adopts? Does she share my concern that the pages on Pakistan and Afghanistan suggest that it is hardly possible to say that the Prevent strategy is working in those countries? In fact, what we have done in Afghanistan seems to have fed the forces of radicalisation rather than defeated them. What discussions is she having with her counterparts in the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence on revisiting the Afghan strategy to ensure that we start to provide a more stabilising influence in that part of the world and to devote a fairer proportion of our resources to Pakistan rather than just to military effort in Afghanistan?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

Of course, military effort is part of the approach that we need to take to making the world safer and ensuring that those states that have in the past undoubtedly been the basis of a terrorist threat are tackled, but so are diplomatic effort and international aid effort. In all those areas, we are working closely with the Government of Pakistan and other international partners—for example, the US—on setting clear objectives, especially with respect to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and on how we can carry those out with the widest range of international partners.

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Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

I have not been approached by my constituents saying that too many powers have been given to the police and security services. My constituents are interested in the fact that Islamic fundamentalists are appearing to get away with saying some extreme things about terrorism and the murder of British service personnel. That is what my real concern is, and will my right hon. Friend take some strong action on that? Clearly, the hearts and minds campaign is very important, but work on it should be based on some fundamental truths, including that the biggest killer of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why the vast majority of Muslims in this country condemn completely the actions of terrorists and want to join others in the community to promote the shared values that we spell out in this document and to work against those who want to promote violent extremism.

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Photo of Paul Goodman Paul Goodman Shadow Minister, Communities and Local Government

It has been confirmed in the past week that the Department for Communities and Local Government is only now compiling a central list of exactly where the £12 million of preventing violent extremism money has gone this year. That makes it very hard to see what due diligence has been exercised. Can the Home Secretary give the House an unequivocal guarantee that none of that money has gone astray, and that none of the £386 million spent overseas on preventing extremism projects has gone astray either?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I really do not think that that money has gone astray. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has already said that she will provide a report on that money at the end of this financial year. The domestic funding is going to groups from which we will expect evidence of the impact of the projects they are running. We have asked Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary and the Audit Commission to evaluate the work, and their report has been published. As for the overseas work, my colleagues in the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development track such work carefully to ensure that its impact is felt and seen, and that, internationally and domestically, it means we are safer.

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Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Labour, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

I welcome this new strategy and I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's staff and others across Whitehall who put so much effort into delivering this important document. Will she comment on the importance of capacity building in failed and weak states, especially in the policing and judicial processes? What plans do the Government have to build a truly comprehensive programme to deliver in those areas?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

My right hon. Friend is right. We have identified that failed states and countries where there is unresolved conflict provide strategic sources of support for the terrorist threat. That means that we need to take a broader approach to our support for those states, which would include providing support for law enforcement and law and order. Our wide-ranging support programme is provided through the Department for International Development and directly by police forces in this country, and it goes to places such as Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is an important element of ensuring that that strategic problem is tackled in the overall attempt to reduce the risk from terrorism.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The Home Secretary will be aware that, every so often, protests and marches are held at which people use language, both orally and on placards, that many would regard as inflammatory. The police do not seem to take any action, despite the popular belief that various laws have been broken. Not surprisingly, there is a perception that some people can get away with breaking the law, whereas the majority of the public would be prosecuted for committing the same breaches. Will the right hon. Lady kindly assure the House that no one is above the law and that, when it comes to this issue, anyone who breaches the law will be prosecuted?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman that commitment. That was why we changed the law to ensure that the glorification of terrorism was a criminal offence. People have been prosecuted for precisely the sort of activity that he outlined. Our argument is that we should use the law for people who overstep it, but that even when they do not overstep that line, the Government, Parliament and the community more widely should nevertheless provide a strong challenge. That is something that I hope and expect to see.

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Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall

Will the Home Secretary give the House an assurance that all measures to combat international terrorism will treat every British citizen in the UK in the same way? That is especially important for people in Northern Ireland. Will she assure the House that she will not require Northern Ireland citizens to have a passport to come over to mainland Britain, just because there is an open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

My hon. Friend knows that the work that we are taking forward on the common travel area is the subject of discussion as part of the Borders, Citizens and Immigration Bill. The matter has been the subject of in-depth discussion in the House of Lords, where some of the assurances that she seeks have been given already. This is an important matter: we need to safeguard the rights of UK citizens in the way that she outlined, but we must also put in place sensible provisions to mitigate the risks arising from the open borders and the forms of travel within the common travel area. We will do that in a way that I hope balances both requirements, and that is the subject of discussion at the moment as the legislation proceeds through the House.

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Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

Why does section 9 of the document propagate the fiction that the Government are tackling internet-based extremism, when an answer to my hon. Friend Patrick Mercer of 24 February confirmed that the Government have not closed down a single internet site under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006? Is that incompetence or complacency, or a combination of both?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

The answer is that sometimes, as police officers have outlined, the ability to threaten the use of section 3 has been sufficient to achieve those objectives. That has been what has happened.

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Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

I should like to add my thanks to another group of people who have helped to keep us safe—the moderate voices in the Muslim community who stand up to those who would preach violent extremism. I had the opportunity this summer to meet a visiting imam from South Africa, who seemed to be exactly one of those moderate voices. He recently applied to be a permanent imam in a mosque in Slough but has been refused, for reasons that I think are spurious. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that the policy adopted by her Department works in practice as well as on paper?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are many brave and important voices in the Muslim community speaking up for precisely the values that she outlined. I was not sure whether she was referring to an immigration decision that had been made—

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I will certainly undertake to review that particular case, given the circumstances that my hon. Friend outlined.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

It is almost six years to the day since the invasion of Iraq. I am sorry that the Home Secretary does not feel that the report should be accurate enough to recognise the mistakes that have been made because of that intervention. I quote from page 23, which says that

"in 2003, radical Islamist groups emerged in and travelled to Iraq to take part in what they regarded as a new jihad".

Further down the page, it says:

"After 2003 Iraq was used as a base for terrorist attacks".

Does she not recognise that our going there with a military campaign left a power vacuum, which allowed al-Qaeda—the very terrorist group that she spoke about—into Iraq, and allowed it to operate from that country? Will she not put her hand up and say, "Mistakes have been made, and lessons must be learned"? If there is any reason why there should be an inquiry into the war in Iraq, this is it, because exactly the same mistakes are now being made in Afghanistan.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is looking in detail at the nature of the developing threat that we have spelled out in the Contest strategy. I do not wholly agree with his analysis—

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

Well, of course the threat from al-Qaeda pre-dated the military action taken in Iraq. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head; it is a fact that the threat from al-Qaeda in the world pre-dated the action taken in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I would be very surprised if he did not understand that.

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Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour, Hendon

May I welcome my right hon. Friend's commitment to operating within the framework of human rights, which of course imposes positive obligations on the state to protect us from the consequences of terrorism? May I also particularly welcome her commitment to complete opposition to the use of torture? Does she agree that we have to make sure that our agents overseas, who are operating in one or two dubious countries, such as Pakistan, are properly trained, and are under proper instruction to make sure that they do nothing that could in any way, shape or form be seen as making them complicit in the use of torture?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I agree with my hon. Friend, which is precisely why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last week made it clear that we will publish, after a review by the Intelligence and Security Committee, the guidelines of the codes under which intelligence officers and armed forces question and deal with detainees overseas, to make it clear that the sort of provisions that my hon. Friend is talking about are in place. Furthermore, we will ask for that to be reviewed annually by Sir Peter Gibson, the intelligence services commissioner, and reported to the Prime Minister.

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But I take it she would rather there was no discussion as to whether UK agents broke the law in the past...

Submitted by mick angel

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

On Saturday, along with my hon. Friend Roger Berry, I took part in a discussion with members of the Youth Parliament about the Government's Prevent agenda. The young people expressed real concern, not so much about the powers that the police have been given to tackle terrorism, but about the somewhat arbitrary and over-zealous way in which some police officers use the powers. What reassurance can she give me that sufficient guidance has been given to the police to ensure that they use the powers only when they are engaged in serious investigation of terrorist offences, and not more widely?

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

Guidance is given. There is both a legal basis for the power, and guidance is given to police officers about how the powers are to be used. My hon. Friend's point identifies the need for the police to engage with communities, as happens effectively in many areas, to make sure that everybody can understand the nature of the powers, the nature of the threat, and what is, and is not, appropriate. That discussion should be had with the sort of young people with whom, I am pleased to hear, my hon. Friend and colleagues were engaging last week.

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