Today, the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee has published its report into the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. He was a British soldier who stood for our country and for our way of life, and he was killed in broad daylight on the streets of our capital city. It was an appalling, sickening act, and a stark reminder of the threat we face from home-grown terrorists and extremists plotting to murder our people. At the same time, we should be clear that it was also a betrayal of Islam, and of the Muslim communities in Britain who give so much to our country.
I am sure the thoughts of the whole House are with Lee Rigby’s friends and family at this time. When I spoke in the House in the aftermath of the attack, I said we would bring those responsible to justice, and learn the lessons of what happened in Woolwich. The two murderers, Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, have since been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Today, this report answers the questions we had about what our security services knew about these murderers, and the lessons we can learn to help to stop similar attacks in the future. I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Malcolm Rifkind and his Committee for their comprehensive report. It contains an unprecedented degree of detail on the current workings of MI5, the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ. I wanted us to get to the truth as quickly as possible, without a prolonged judicial process, and that is exactly what has been done with this exceptional report. Few countries in the world would publish this degree of detail about the activities of their security services. It reflects the way we have strengthened the Committee with new powers to hold our security services to account. For this report, the agencies have carried out the same searches they would for proceedings in the law courts.
Before I turn to the key findings, let me be clear that this is a very serious report, and there are significant areas of concern within it. I do not want anyone to be in any doubt that there are lessons to be learned and things that need to change. On the key findings, I am sure the House will welcome the fact that the Committee does
“not consider that, given what the Agencies knew at the time, they were in a position to prevent the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.”
Furthermore, the Committee says:
“It is greatly to the Agencies’ credit that they have protected the UK from a number of terrorist plots in recent years”.
As the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police says, at least four serious plots have been foiled this year alone. So much of what our agencies do necessarily goes unreported. They are Britain’s silent heroes, and the whole country owes them an enormous debt of gratitude.
There are four broad areas where things need to change: first, dealing with the delays in the process of investigating potential terrorists; secondly, dealing with low-priority cases and so-called self-starting terrorists; thirdly, the role and responsibilities of internet companies in helping to keep us safe; and, fourthly, tackling foreign fighters travelling abroad for terrorist purposes. I want to take each in turn.
First, the report identifies a number of serious delays and potential missed opportunities. The Committee expressed concern over the four-month delay in opening an investigation into Michael Adebolajo following his return from Kenya in 2010, and the eight-month delay before Michael Adebowale was first actively investigated in 2012. The report concludes that an application for intrusive surveillance on Michael Adebowale in 2013 took
“nearly twice as long as it should have”,
and that had the original target been met, these further intrusive
“techniques would have been in place during the week before, and on the day of, the attack”.
Crucially, the report goes on to say that
“there is no indication that this would have provided advance warning of the attack: retrospective analysis of all the information now available to the Agencies has not provided any such evidence.”
The report also finds that the two murderers were in contact 39 times between
“none of these text messages revealed any indication of attack planning or indeed anything of significance”.
However, although the Committee accepts that those delays and missed opportunities did not affect the outcome in this case, it is clear that processes need to be substantially improved.
MI5 is improving guidance and training for investigators for its online teams, and looking at new automated processes to act on extremist material online. The MI5 initial lessons learned document has been published in today’s report, and I have asked the Security Service to provide a further detailed report to the Home Secretary and to me in the new year, setting out progress on implementing each and every one of the lessons learned. In all of this we must remember the extreme pressure that our agencies are under. As the director general of MI5 put it in evidence to the Committee:
“We are not an army that has battalions waiting in barracks for deployment.”
Everyone it has is always out there working.
Secondly, one of the most challenging tasks facing our agencies is how to prioritise the many and various potential threats to our security. That is incredibly difficult and it is not an exact science. During the weeks prior to the Woolwich attack, MI5 was running several hundred counter-terrorism investigations, and as the Committee notes, at any one time it is monitoring several thousand subjects of interest. It is obviously essential to focus on the highest priority cases, especially those where there is specific intelligence that terrorists are planning an attack in the UK.
The report details how Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were both known to the security services for some time. Michael Adebolajo had featured in five separate Security Service investigations since 2008, and MI5 had put significant effort into investigating him as part of several of those investigations. Michael Adebowale featured in two lower priority investigations. Although none of those investigations revealed any intelligence of an attack, the Committee recommends improvements to the processes for dealing with recurring subjects of interest, low priority cases, and so-called “self-starting” terrorists.
This Government have protected budgets for counter-terrorism, and the security services have been clear with me that they have always had the resources they need. However, the increasing threat we face—including from so-called “self-starting” terrorists—means that we should now go further in strengthening our capabilities. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will therefore make an additional £130 million available over the next two years, including new funding to enhance our ability to monitor and disrupt those self-starting terrorists.
The report also makes clear the important role of all public bodies in dealing with the threat of self-starting terrorists and extremists. Our counter-terrorism and security Bill, which will be introduced tomorrow, will include for the first time a clear legal obligation on our universities, prisons, councils and schools to play their part in tackling this poisonous extremism. New funding being made available today will include additional resources for programmes to prevent radicalisation.
Thirdly, let me turn to the role of internet companies. The Committee is clear that it found
“one issue that could have been decisive”.
In December 2012, five months before the attack, Michael Adebowale had a crucial online exchange in which he wrote about his desire to kill a soldier, but the automated systems in the internet company concerned did not identify that exchange. When it automatically shut down other accounts used by Michael Adebowale on the grounds of terrorism, there was no mechanism to notify the authorities. This information came to light only several weeks after the attack as a result of a retrospective review by the company. The Committee concluded that
“this is the single issue which—had it been known at the time—might have enabled MI5 to prevent the attack.”
This is a very serious finding.
The report does not name the company, and it would not be appropriate for me to give a running commentary on the level of co-operation from different internet companies. However, the Committee is clear—and I agree—that it has serious concerns about the approach of a number of communications service providers based overseas. This summer, the Government introduced emergency legislation to put beyond doubt in UK law that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 applies to companies based overseas that deliver services in this country. I appointed Sir Nigel Sheinwald as a special envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing to address concerns that there could be a conflict between UK and US law in this area.
Since then, a number of companies have improved their co-operation, but, as I said in my speech to the Australian Parliament earlier this month, there is much further to go. We are already having detailed discussions with internet companies on the new steps they can take, and we expect the companies to report back on progress in the new year. The truth is this: terrorists are using the internet to communicate with each other. We must not accept that those communications are beyond the reach of the authorities or the internet companies themselves. We have taken action. We have passed emergency legislation and we will continue to do everything we can. Crucially, we expect the internet companies to do all they can, too. Their networks are being used to plot murder and mayhem. It is their social responsibility to act on this, and we expect them to live up to that responsibility.
Fourthly, the report raises a series of issues directly relevant to the increased threat in recent months from British citizens travelling to fight abroad—so-called foreign fighters. The Committee expresses concern about what they describe as a “deeply unsatisfactory” response to Michael Adebolajo’s arrest in Kenya. They highlight the importance of tackling British citizens travelling to fight with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. The report recommends further powers, including considering whether existing proscription powers should be amended to enable further prosecutions. Tackling foreign fighters is an absolute priority for our agencies. To be fair to the agencies and the police, in the case of Michael Adebolajo he was arrested on his return from Kenya to the UK. Their operational effort has been stepped up, with more than 120 arrests this year for Syria-related offences, compared to just 27 in the whole of 2013. The Committee is right, however, to ask whether we need to give our agencies stronger powers to tackle extremists. Our Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which will be introduced tomorrow, will include essential new powers to seize passports to prevent travel, to stop suspects returning unless they do so on our terms, and to relocate suspected terrorists to other parts of the country and away from their extremist networks. I very much hope we can take this Bill forward on a cross-party basis, so our agencies are able to start using these vital powers as soon as possible.
Finally, the Committee criticises the Secret Intelligence Service for the handling of allegations of Michael Adebolajo’s mistreatment in Kenya. This Government took the important step of publishing the consolidated guidance in 2010 on the obligations of our agencies and the Ministry of Defence in relation to detainees held overseas. But, of course, there are cases that fall outside the scope of this guidance, for instance when people are entirely dealt with by overseas agencies but where the Secret Intelligence Service still might have an operational interest. In those cases, the agencies are clear that they always seek assurances on the treatment of detainees and that, in future, they will record the outcome of their investigations and inform Ministers if mistreatment has in any way occurred.
It is of course right that there is vigorous oversight of this issue, so the Government will put the oversight role of the Intelligence Services Commissioner on a statutory footing. I will issue a direction under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in the coming days to formalise Sir Mark Waller’s role in overseeing the guidance on detainees. Sir Mark will have full access to all the material referred to in the report and will be able to examine the concerns raised by the Committee on the Government’s responsibilities in relation to partner counter-terrorism units overseas.
Today’s report contains a number of very detailed recommendations. We will publish a full response in the new year to all the points raised. We will not shrink from doing what is necessary to keep our people safe. The terrorist threat we face cannot be ignored or contained. We have to confront it. We have to equip our security services with the powers and the information they need to track down these terrorists and stop them attacking our people. We have to confront the extremist ideology that drives this terrorism by defeating the ideas that warp so many young minds. Of course, none of this will be easy. We will need stamina, patience and endurance, but we will in the end defeat this extremism and protect our people and our way of life for generations to come. I commend this statement to the House.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. Fusilier Lee Rigby served our country with huge courage. He was a brave soldier and his murder was an appalling act. For his family and friends, reading the report will mean painfully reliving his brutal killing. They should know that today, across this House, our thoughts are with them. It is welcome that his cowardly killers have been brought to justice. I also thank the members of the Intelligence and Security Committee for their investigation. It is right that it took place, and it is the most detailed account of the agencies’ work ever published.
The security services and the police play a vital role in keeping us safe, often in incredibly challenging circumstances, and do a difficult job in seeking to identify those who pose a risk to our country. However, while perpetrators of terror need to succeed only once to further or achieve their vile aims, our agencies and others need to be successful every time to keep us secure. Insofar as there are criticisms of the agencies in the ISC report, they need to be understood in that light.
As the Prime Minister said, the ISC report details how the two men who killed Lee Rigby, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, were under investigation at various times before the murder. I welcome his announcement today of additional resources, but what does he believe is required, beyond additional resources, to put in place a better strategy for dealing with those, such as Adebolajo, who are recurring subjects of interest on the periphery of several investigation, as the report chronicles in detail? In addition, the report points to a lack of co-ordination at times between the agencies and the police, so will he further outline the steps that will be put in place to strengthen the working relationship between the different agencies—MI5, the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ—and the police?
As the Prime Minister said, the report also highlights the issue of returning foreign fighters and the missed opportunities in relation to Michael Adebolajo. Of course, we will engage constructively with the Bill being published tomorrow, and we welcome the other decisions made, particularly on reinstating relocation powers. As he says, Michael Adebolajo was arrested, but the report states that his case was not then followed up, so this is not simply about the powers available; it is about how cases are then followed up. Will he assure us that there will be a more rigorous and systematic approach to dealing with returning foreign fighters in the future, as the report recommends, including on the issue, which we have raised before, of mandatory referrals to de-radicalisation programmes, which can play a role?
The report also highlights the fact that these two individuals, particularly Michael Adebowale, were radicalised over several years, including by accessing extremist material online. Precisely because of the risks posed once this has happened, the report compellingly makes the case for an expansion of the Prevent programme and states:
“The scale of the problem indicates that the Government’s counter-radicalisation programmes are not working.”
The amount of money being spent in communities on the Prevent programme has dropped alarmingly over the past few years, as we have mentioned before in the House. Will the Prime Minister explain how the welcome resources announced today will be allocated to the Prevent programme and on what scale? On another issue we have discussed before, will he also assure us that local community groups, organisations and others will be mobilised as part of the Prevent programme? They have an incredibly important role to play in countering the growth of extremism and stopping people being radicalised.
The Prime Minister rightly raises the issue of internet companies, as detailed in the report. There are two issues: first, about whether companies have a responsibility to draw authorities’ attention to potential terror threats; and, secondly, about whether major companies based outside the UK regard themselves as compelled to comply with UK warrants. On the first point, the report states that companies might sometimes
“decide to pass information to the authorities when they close accounts because of links to terrorism”,
but that in this case they did not. This suggests that part of the problem is the existence of different company practices and the absence of agreed procedures.
In cases of child abuse images, a procedure is in place for companies to take action and refer abuse to the authorities, and when it comes to terrorism, there should be much stronger procedures and obligations on companies as well. Does the Prime Minister agree? Is there scope to agree that with the companies? Will he update us on the work being done by Nigel Sheinwald to improve our ability to get information, with a warrant, from companies based overseas, particularly the US?
On detention, we welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that oversight will be strengthened, but we think we will eventually have to go further. We have said for some time that the framework of commissioners is not strong enough. Will he confirm that David Anderson’s review, which we agreed in the summer, will also cover the strengthening of oversight and the role of the commissioners?
To conclude, this report is a reminder of the threats we face in keeping our country safe. The murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby was an appalling act. We must learn the right lessons, and this is what the ISC report seeks to do. It does so thoroughly and with diligence, and in seeking to put those lessons into practice, the Government will have our full support.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks and for how he has approached this subject. He was right to praise the ISC—it has done a good job—and our agencies; and of course he was right that whereas the terrorist only has to get lucky once, our agencies need to succeed on every occasion.
I shall try to respond to the right hon. Gentleman’s questions. He said we were right to increase resources, and although these are modest additional resources, it is worth pointing out that funding for the security and intelligence services has increased by 5% in cash terms since 2010. Compared to other departments, therefore, it has had a very good settlement, as is right, and that has continued in the 2013 spending round.
The right hon. Gentleman said it was necessary to learn lessons on more rapid decision making and better triaging of cases, particularly when they appear on the fringes of more than one investigation. MI5 has said something about that already in its response today, but I think we will hear more next year. On co-ordination between the agencies and the police, MI5 is confident it now has better systems in place.
On the question about referrals to Prevent, which are considered on a case-by-case basis, the Committee rightly pointed out that referral should at least be considered in every case, but that it did not seem to have been in these two cases. On the issue of money, Lord Carlile’s review of Prevent in 2011 concluded that it should be split, with the money for integration going to the Department for Communities and Local Government, where it is now spent, and the remainder being spent on the Prevent programme, specifically to guide people away from extremism and terrorism; and the money for the latter has gone up from £35 million in 2012 to £40 million in 2014. Lord Carlile found cases of groups we would now consider to support an extremist ideology having received funding, and obviously we want to stop that happening again.
Crucially, on internet companies, the right hon. Gentleman made the sensible point that just as we are getting internet companies co-operate on the definition of unacceptable images of children and child abuse—the Government have done a lot of work on that—so exactly the same needs to happen on terrorist information. We are pushing them on that and will use today’s report to lead a debate about their social responsibility. All the action we have taken—passing legislation, employing Nigel Sheinwald to talk to the Americans and so on—is leading to better co-operation between internet companies and the agencies, but more needs to be done, although for obvious reasons I do not want to give a running commentary on each and every one.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman asked about David Anderson. His role is very broad—he can look at the threat, the response, the capability and the important safeguards—and I think he has done excellent work on all those grounds.
I thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for their welcome to the Committee’s report. I also draw attention to the unprecedented support and co-operation we have had from the intelligence agencies, particularly MI5, which have provided us with all the classified material. In the 190 pages of our report, we have been able to publish for the public more such material than ever before in the history of these matters. There are redactions, but none of them, even if they could be read, would affect the substance of our conclusions and recommendations.
We make some severe criticisms of the agencies, as can be seen in the report, but we have seen no evidence that, even had these errors not been made, the tragic murder of Fusilier Rigby could have been avoided. As the Prime Minister said, there was one online exchange, which came to knowledge some months after the murder of Fusilier Rigby, revealing that Michael Adebowale, months before the murder, had discussed his desire to kill a soldier and that he made various other comments that we refer to in the report. If that intelligence—the one piece of hard evidence that we have seen—had been available to the intelligence agencies at the time, it is at least possible that the murder of Fusilier Rigby could have been avoided.
The Prime Minister has indicated the problem with regard to United States communications providers—the internet companies—and I want to put one question to him. If these United States internet companies feel able to cancel the accounts of some of their clients when their systems demonstrate that either terrorist activity or serious criminal activity are being conducted through these internet exchanges, is there any basis on which they could have an ethical or privacy objection to sharing with the authorities evidence of terrorist intent when that also appears in these same exchanges?
My right hon. and learned Friend puts the matter into clear perspective. Once it has been discovered on someone’s e-mail account that they are planning or plotting a terrorist outrage, it is hard to think of any justification for not passing that on to the authorities. That is exactly what my right hon. and learned Friend’s Committee finds:
“the companies should accept they have a responsibility to notify the relevant authorities when an automatic trigger indicating terrorism is activated, and allow the authorities, whether US or UK, to take the next step.”
That is absolutely right and I hope that this will trigger a debate among the internet companies themselves about the action that needs to be taken.
First, I commend the Intelligence and Security Committee report, as the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have done. I also echo what the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have said about the extreme difficulties that the intelligence and police services face when there is an expectation of success in respect of every investigation. These agencies, and the police, have people who are very highly skilled and dedicated and who are working very long hours—but, with the best will in the world, they are human. There will be some cases where the terrorists escape detection and there will therefore be terrorist outrages, as there have been in previous terrorist campaigns.
Lastly, may I press the Prime Minister again on the issue of the United States-based internet companies and ask him to take it up with the US at the highest level? Is there not a cultural problem among the leadership of some of these companies, which have a distorted “libertarian” ideology and believe that somehow that allows them to be wholly detached from responsibility to Governments and to the peoples whom we democratically represent in this country and abroad?
I agree with everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said. First, on the work done by MI5 and our agencies, I will repeat the quote from the director general of MI5 that says it all:
“We are not an army that has battalions waiting in barracks for deployment. We are fully deployed all the time so the only way to go on high priority cases is to stop low ones.”
That gives a sense of the pressure that, inevitably, organisations such as this are under; they are trying all the time to think of how they best triage these cases and make sure that they have the maximum input into the most dangerous cases.
The second point that the right hon. Gentleman made was about taking up personally with the US the engagement on the importance of communications data. I can guarantee absolutely that that happens at every level, including with the President. It is a shared challenge for both of us to get this right. We are very clear: wherever these companies are headquartered, if they provide services in the UK they should be subject to UK law. The point he makes with respect to the companies is absolutely right. Of course they worry about their public image in terms of wanting to be in favour of data security, and one can understand that. But they also need to worry about their public image if they are being used by terrorists to plot attacks and they have information about those attacks that they do not pass on. We need to make that point tell in the conversations to come.
The intelligence services do a magnificent job but we spend on all three services in a year what we spend on the national health services every six days. The funding settlement has indeed been generous as the Prime Minister said, but is he satisfied that the problems set out in the report are problems of procedure and practice and not of funding priorities? In other words, are the intelligence services big enough to do the job we are asking them to do in this increasingly dangerous era?
My right hon. Friend asks a very good question. The fact is that we spend over £2 billion a year on our intelligence and security services. We have protected that spending, as we did for counter-terrorism policing. But the truth is that there is no upper limit on what we could spend if we wanted to do more and more activity. We have to make a judgement about what is right.
As I say, I meet the heads of our intelligence agencies regularly and talk to them about the pressures they are under. The reason for providing some extra money today is that there is a specific and growing challenge from these self-starting—they are sometimes called “lone wolf”—jihadis, who have been radicalised on the internet because of what has been happening in Syria but are not necessarily linked up with other terrorist networks. That puts extra pressure on and we need to respond to that. But it is a permanent judgement about how much to spend. We try to give the agencies a long-term perspective so they can plan and bring all their resources to bear.
Lee Rigby was a Middleton lad and his family live in my constituency. Will the Prime Minister give assurances to the family, who are bound to have questions about the statement, that he will arrange a meeting with them if necessary and that he will endeavour to ensure that all their questions are given full answers?
The hon. Lady raises an important point. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the pain that the family will feel on reading this report and reliving everything should be uppermost in our minds. A police liaison team is still working with the family, and they should know that whatever meetings they want, they can ask for and they will get.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will excuse me for returning to the issue of resources. My quick calculation is that a sum of £130 million over two years amounts to an increase of about 3%. We are facing an unprecedented set of challenges, a matter that is publicly acknowledged not only by the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary but by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police—and, indeed, the heads of the agencies themselves.
Can we really be satisfied that an increase of the kind that my right hon. Friend has mentioned—which is obviously welcome—will be adequate to deal with a problem that is not static and is almost certainly likely to increase in the years to come? Will he at least consider a review, at every possible stage, of the resources available to those who have the primary responsibility for guarding our security?
I say to my right hon. and learned Friend, for whom I have great respect, that this is under permanent review. This is a discussion that can be had at any time if there are particular pressures. In the spending review in 2013 we put up spending on the intelligence agencies by 3.4%, at a time when other Departments were, on average, being cut by 2.77% in real terms, on top of the 19% average departmental reduction over the previous four years. They have had a much more generous spending settlement and quite rightly so.
There is also the issue—we discussed this in the National Security Council—of how much to spend on counter-intelligence and how much to spend on counter-terrorism. The argument is often made that it is time to reduce the spend on counter-terrorism. My own view is that that is not the case and that the pressures on counter-terrorism are still very great. As the Home Secretary said yesterday, the threat is greater than for many years, so we need to keep the focus on that part of the work.
I join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in commending the report by the Intelligence and Security Committee and in welcoming the proposals that both he and the Home Secretary have made over the last few days, which I hope will be subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny.
On the issue of returning British citizens, the Prime Minister will know that tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of Adebolajo’s return from Kenya. The Kenyans were very clear that it was the British Government, or their associated agencies, who asked for the return of Adebolajo to the UK. That mirrored the return of Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed from Somalia. Is the Prime Minister now telling the House that from now on, when a British citizen commits an offence in another country, we will not seek their return until the criminal processes are completed?
Let me first guarantee to the right hon. Gentleman that there will be proper scrutiny of this legislation. It is fast-track legislation, we hope, rather than emergency legislation. It is not being rushed through in just a couple of days—in the other place, for instance. The time between the stages will be shortened, but the overall amount of time will not be.
Much of this legislation comes from ideas that I put forward back in September and some of it comes from the extremism taskforce, which I set up after the murder of Lee Rigby many months ago, so this is not emergency, knee-jerk legislation, but well thought through. It is not starting from scratch either, because we have very good counter-terrorism legislation in this country. This is about seeing where there are potential gaps and making sure they are filled in.
On the question about people returning from overseas, the power we are taking in the new legislation is to make sure that people can come back only if they do so on our terms. That is the key. We will make sure that if people are to be prosecuted, we are ready to prosecute them and that if they are going to be subject to a TPIM, they will be subject to a TPIM.
One thing not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement—and for good reason—was communications data. Whatever one thinks about the Communications Data Bill, our report did not focus on this matter at all significantly because it played no relevant part. Nevertheless, there was a serious leak at an early stage from the unredacted draft of the report, which was reported in a Sunday paper, saying that the report was going to concentrate on this area. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that if MI5 is going to continue to share so much secret material with the Intelligence and Security Committee, leaks of our drafts are absolutely to be deplored and might imperil our ability to do this sort of work in the future?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. All leaks are to be deplored, but leaks of this particular sort of material, when we have trusted the Committee with such important and delicate work, are particularly reprehensible. Communications data are vital not just in respect of terrorism, but when we are trying to find abducted children or solve rapes and murders. They are used in almost all serious crimes. What we did in the Bill was simply to stop the situation from getting worse. What we need now is to go forward with more full-throated legislation. I think we need an honest and open debate about that across the House.
This was a brutal murder of a young man who was serving his country, so all our thoughts today are with his family for the months to come. I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. Neither of the individuals involved was referred to the Prevent programme. I believe the Prevent programme has been under-resourced and not given the priority it should have had within the Contest strategy. If we can stop the pipeline of people being drawn into extremist behaviour, the money will be extremely well spent. I believe that because such activity has been viewed as something of a soft end to the counter-terrorism strategy, it has been seen as a cultural issue and has not had priority.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s commitment to new legal powers and I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to further resources, but we have to change the perspective. The threat we now face, with 500 people out in Syria and Iraq and 250 of them coming back—some of them radicalised and well trained—amounts to a different scenario. I think the Prevent programme must no longer be viewed as a soft and fluffy end of community engagement, but as a hard, targeted counter-ideological strategy and a counter-narrative that stops people from creating a climate for extremism.
I wholly agree with the right hon. Lady. What we did by separating the integration work from the Prevent work was to make sure that this is not seen as some soft and fluffy programme, but a tough and robust one. It will become more robust because additional funding has been secured; it will become more robust because we are putting it on a statutory footing; and it will become stronger because Channel will be put on a statutory footing, too.
I do not think anyone should underestimate the importance of putting this legal duty on all these organisations. When the right hon. Lady came to our extremism taskforce, I think she could see how the aim was to make sure that whether it be schools, prisons, universities, community centres or whatever, all have a legal duty to prevent extremism and terrorism. That is what we are aiming to do.
Adebolajo and Adebowale are both in prison for life, which should provide permanent security to the British public—from them, at least. However, three weeks ago it was made clear in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that the agencies have, at least since 2010, been breaking the absolute protection on privileged information between lawyers and suspects. If that happened during the course of a terrorism trial, we could find ourselves in a position where that has undermined or even fractured the conviction of proven terrorists, and we could end up having proven terrorists back on the streets. Have the Government considered that problem, and do they have any plans to deal with it?
I believe that our agencies have appropriate procedures for dealing with legal material. As my right hon. Friend says, it is very important that they do that because we want to make sure that justice is done and that these people remain behind bars.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and this Committee’s important report. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Lee Rigby today once again.
On the issue of new powers and the counter-terrorism and security Bill, the Prime Minister will be aware that as well as the threat from returning jihadists and Islamic terrorism, we still face a severe terrorist problem in Northern Ireland from dissident republicans, which could spread to the UK mainland. Can the Prime Minister assure the people of Northern Ireland that the increase in attacks from that quarter is still taken extremely seriously and that all the necessary resources will be put in? Can he outline the impact of the new powers in the Bill being brought forward tomorrow on countering that severe threat for UK citizens as well?
Let me first reassure the right hon. Gentleman and everyone in Northern Ireland that just because there is a growing terrorist threat from citizens of our own country and from people being radicalised in Iraq and Syria, that does not mean that we have taken our eye off the ball of Northern Ireland-related terrorism in any way. Yesterday we had a National Security Council meeting, which was attended by the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and we discussed in some detail what more could be done to enhance the excellent work it is doing. For every one attack made, it is stopping three or four. It is doing an excellent job, and we continue to keep anything else we can do to help under review—respecting, of course, that under this Government, policing and justice in Northern Ireland has been devolved.
Lee Rigby was killed wearing civilian clothes, and all soldiers are easily identifiable whether in civilian clothes or not. Seeing our armed forces in uniform on the streets gives me great pleasure and pride. People may think that wearing uniform incites or indeed attracts attention from these terrorists. It does not. These terrorists will identify our soldiers, sailors and airmen if they want to. I thus add my voice to those of people who say, “Keep our soldiers on the streets in uniform.”
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and no one is proposing anything different. The point he makes about the tragic murder of Lee Rigby is right, and we have no plans to change that.
The Prime Minister may recall that in May 2009, the Intelligence and Security Committee produced a report on the London bombings, in which we concluded that there were real problems with tracking those on the periphery of investigations or whose names popped up on a regular basis. The recommendation was that there needed to be a proper regular review process in place. The Prime Minister will be aware that a similar conclusion is drawn in this report. Does he not think it is about time that somebody took responsibility for ensuring that these cases are reviewed on a regular basis so that, where necessary, in cases such as those of Adebowale and Adebolajo, the level of surveillance can be increased?
The right hon. Gentleman, who is a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, makes an important point. It comes out very clearly in the report, which makes a recommendation about how to deal with these low-level suspects. The agencies’ view is that they are putting in place new measures to ensure that low-level subjects are picked up by the joint programme that they now run with the police, and it is important to see that through. We want to see their actions taken set out in the new year and followed through.
There is also the issue of where subjects of interest appear on the periphery of various investigations. Again, MI5’s view is that it is putting in place a strategy to address that, which it sees as a core part of its investigative process. As I said in my response to the report, no one should be in any doubt that, although the finding was that no specific information was available to get MI5 to stop the dreadful thing that happened, there were many lessons to learn. There is no way that anyone is going to shy away from that. All these points need to be followed through, and then we need to check up that action really has been taken.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that our intelligence services operate best in the shadows, and that we must be vey careful indeed not to undermine them when we shine the democratic spotlight on them and follow up cases such as this?
I do agree with my hon. Friend. The important thing about secret intelligence services is that they are secret. There is, however, a wider consideration. We now have a very good system in place. We have a scrutiny Committee in Parliament, and an Intelligence Services Commissioner. Any warrant to listen to someone’s telephone or intercept their e-mails must be signed personally by the Home Secretary. We have a system of which we can be proud. It is that democratic accountability and that system that enable us to say, whether to internet companies or to others, “You should be co-operating with us properly, because we do this in a proper and decent way.” I think that the safeguards that we put in place not only mean that we scrutinise our intelligence services, but should help to make us safer.
May I add a word of caution? The new measures to deal with this murderous threat to our people must not be counter-productive, as measures were from time to time when we were dealing with the IRA murder campaign. It was 40 years ago last week that 21 people were murdered in two Birmingham pubs. In the west midlands, certainly, we have not forgotten that. The IRA did not win, despite all the murders, and neither will these latest murderous fanatics.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we will never defeat terrorism if we undermine the freedoms that terrorists want to attack, but successive Governments have found that simply standing back and saying “We will just use the traditional criminal justice system of investigation, prosecution and imprisonment” is not enough. That is why there have been control orders, TPIMs and other such measures. Successive Governments have found that more is needed to face what is a really existential threat from a group of people who not only do not mind if they are killed in the act of carrying out their murderous intent, but positively welcome that. I do not think it would be responsible to stand here and say that there is never anything that we need to do. This is not a knee-jerk or emergency measure; it has been carefully thought through, and it adds to the weapons in our armoury.
This is an impressively detailed report on a brutal murder. It refers to a long list of mistakes: actions not carried out, failures to keep adequate records, delays, months of inaction, and insufficient co-ordination. One key failing is identified on page 108. Apparently, by
The reason I can be sure is that the Committee subsequently went through, in great detail, the content of the communications that were not being monitored, and found that nothing in them would have given information about an attack. However, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that there should not have been a delay in putting the intrusive measures in place. They should have been put in place more quickly, because that might have made a difference in another case. Nevertheless, it is very important to read those pages carefully.
As a new member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, I was not able to hear all the evidence that led to the conclusions in the report, but I have observed the extensive leaks about its conclusions. Those leaks concern me deeply, because I think that they undermine the impact of the report, and they seem to have been designed to lead people to a particular conclusion. How will the Prime Minister use his office to prevent such leaks from happening from within Government in future?
The hon. Lady has made an important point, and I shall be happy to discuss with the Chairman of the Committee whether he wants to take further action to try and find out how those leaks happened.
I really care about this, because I think that too often, when something terrible has happened, we in the House immediately reach for the judicial inquiry, or the inquiry that will take place outside the House. In this case, an institution of the House has proved what a good job it can do in garnering all the information, doing a huge amount of hard work, and coming up with very sensible but tough recommendations. I do not want that way of doing things to be undermined by leaks.
My regimental colleagues, whether serving or not, will greatly welcome the words of the Prime Minister and, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition about Fusilier Lee Rigby, and the assurances given by the Prime Minister in regard to his family. Does the Prime Minister accept, however, that with potentially hundreds of jihadists returning to this country, one of the key lessons of the report is that we must minimise the delay between the gathering of intelligence and the taking of appropriate action?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are some worrying instances in the report. Some delay is inevitable, because, as I have explained, when a huge range of cases is being covered, from the highest-priority cases to those that are given a less high priority, and more high-priority cases suddenly arise, people have to be removed from something, and that sometimes results in delays. However, I think the report shows that there are sometimes delays that are over and above what is normal in such cases, and that is clearly not acceptable.
Does the Prime Minister agree that we are facing a struggle with an ideology—the ideology of violent Islamist jihadism, which, although it is only a small minority ideology in the Muslim community, is linked to the phenomenon of the self-starting terrorist? Does he agree that we need not just our state institutions but the whole of our society to challenge, confront and defeat that ideology?
I agree with every word that the hon. Gentleman has said. I think we sometimes make the mistake of looking at a particular area of the world and thinking that that is where the problem is coming from when the problem is actually extremism itself, which manifests itself in the parts of the world with the greatest amount of civil war and trouble and so forth. The problem is the extremist ideology, and, as the hon. Gentleman has said, we do not defeat that just by military means. We defeat it by ensuring that we drive it out of universities, colleges, prisons, schools, community centres where appropriate, and mosques, because some of them have been taken over by extremists on occasion. That is why this public duty, and the funds that we are providing, are so important.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I think that that is what the “Not in my name” campaign is all about: it is about Muslims throughout our country saying that this very small minority fringe of people who have been radicalised and who buy this extremist ideology do not speak for Islam. It is very important for us to make that point. British Muslims want to see robust anti-terrorism and criminal justice powers as much as anyone else.
The Prime Minister will recall coming to Woolwich in the aftermath of the killing of Lee Rigby—to whose memory we all pay tribute—and he will recall the commitment of the local community to preventing this horrific incident from damaging community relations and opening the door to extremism. May I urge him to look again at the issue of Prevent, which has been highlighted by two of my colleagues? I remind him that the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report refers specifically to
“the relatively low priority (and funding) given to Prevent”,
and goes on to say:
“This misses the value that Prevent can offer: successfully diverting individuals from the radicalisation path”.
Let me reassure the right hon. Gentleman, who has spoken now, as he did then, for the people of Woolwich in standing up to this horrific murder. We definitely think that Prevent is important. That is why we are putting it on a statutory footing, why the funding is going up, why extra resources are being made available today, and why we are backing it with a duty that is being placed on all public bodies in the United Kingdom.
Does the Prime Minister agree that these vicious murderers who so barbarically took the life of an innocent young soldier have not only betrayed the Muslim community in my constituency, but betrayed Muslim communities throughout the United Kingdom—communities that contribute so, so much to our country?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that this has no place in the religion of Islam, which is a religion of peace. That is why so many British Muslims have come out so strongly to condemn what happened. One senses their incredible frustration that a small minority of people who have bought into the extremist mindset and rhetoric are causing so much damage. The more people can stand up and say that, the better.
Four years ago, I set up a working group with all the major internet companies and the Anti-Defamation League, and I have met most of the people who moderate content. Does the Prime Minister agree that a voluntary approach will not be sufficient because the internet companies do not have and will not have the expertise to make the decisions? What is needed is legislation or an intergovernmental agreement that ensures that we have the expertise in our police and our security services so that we can draw down the information we want, rather than relying on young, inexperienced moderators of content who will make the wrong call at some stage, to someone’s detriment.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. There is an element of this that is about having legal powers. That is about the ability to gather communications data or to intercept telephone calls, e-mails and other internet communications, which is vital—all done legally, on the basis of a signed warrant. There are also the practices that internet companies should themselves want to take up. Some people say, “You cannot change this and nothing can be done.” I do not accept that. In the case of child pornography, to start with, when we made suggestions about, for example, not returning search items on disgusting child pornography terms, we were told that that was impossible. Now the internet companies have put that in place. Therefore, there is a place for legislation but there is also a place for bringing people together and encouraging proper practice.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that our security services are this country’s unsung heroes? He knows—many others do not—that they are regularly responsible for tremendous successes, which we hear nothing about. Does he agree that the report shows that social media firms should take action immediately to ensure that their services do not become terrorist safe havens, from where terrorists can almost with impunity launch plots against this country? Internet companies must co-operate and not become some modern version of a mediaeval sanctuary.
My hon. Friend is right on both bases. We cannot always praise and point out what the security and intelligence services have done, but since I have been Prime Minister there has been at least one major plot every year and this year already at least four plots have been avoided by the work of the security services, so we should thank them for what they do.
On the issue of the internet, I would put it like this. Historically, Governments have always decided that, whether it is people sending each other letters, making fixed-line telephone calls, mobile telephone calls, or sending e-mails, in extremis, on the basis of a warrant signed by the Home Secretary, it is okay to intercept that call, letter or e-mail. The question we must ask is: are we prepared to have a means of communication—the internet and a number of modern methods—that we are not able to intercept? My answer is clear: we should not accept that. We should legislate to ensure that that is the case. I think that that is in the finest traditions of having law that is in favour of security but also in favour of liberty. However, the whole House at some stage will have to come to a view on that.
I associate myself with the comments of my right hon. Friend Mr Raynsford. Greenwich borough has a long association with the garrison at Woolwich and the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby was felt particularly powerfully by our local community. May I press the Prime Minister a little more on internet companies? It seems extraordinary that we do not have the co-operation of the companies that are overseas. It seems to me that we need to negotiate and take action at Government level. What is taking place at that level to ensure that, where such companies do not co-operate, regulations are put in place to compel them to do so?
The hon. Gentleman asks the key question. We are both updating—we did that over the summer—and applying our legislation on the basis that we believe that what matters is whether companies provide services in this country, not where they are based. On that basis, companies should comply with warrants and requests. Therefore, we are progressing that, but at the same time we are trying to deal with one of the sources of the problem, which is the interaction between UK law and American law, specifically the US Wiretap Act. Sir Nigel Sheinwald is holding conversations with America-based companies and the American Government to try to find a way through so we get higher levels of co-operation. However, the levels of co-operation have increased, not least because of the important legislation that this House passed in the summer.
Further to the last question, does not the Intelligence and Security Committee report indicate that social media companies need to do more to put in place systems to spot terrorist groups that are using their services to plan attacks?
My right hon. Friend is right. The companies have to do two things. They have to have systems in place to spot key words, key phrases and other key things that could be part of terrorist plotting. They also need to have a system in place, in our view and as my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Malcolm Rifkind said, to report that to the authorities. This is linked to the point that I made in response to my hon. Friend Richard Drax. Because we have such a robust system of safeguards in this country, I do not think that it should be a problem for any of these companies to do just that.
I associate myself with the comments of the Prime Minister and many other hon. Members about Fusilier Lee Rigby. The Prime Minister has repeatedly referred to the importance of schools and universities in tackling the threat from radicalisation, yet I have spoken to many young people who are concerned about the absence of, or lack of consistency in information provided to them about how to report and tackle extremism that they find online. I am concerned that it appears that there have been no inter-ministerial meetings about that issue between the devolved Administrations and UK Ministers with responsibility for education and universities. Will the Prime Minister commit to working with education and universities Ministers across the UK to ensure that consistent information is provided to our young people, teachers and youth workers?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. That is one of the reasons for having the public duty on public bodies, including universities, to combat extremism and terrorism. We will set out the guidance on that as the legislation goes through the House. It is important to ensure that this happens on a UK-wide basis. Combating terrorism is a reserved, UK-wide responsibility. We need to discuss with the devolved authorities exactly how they put that in place, but obviously whether it is done is a matter for the UK Government.
It is the job of the House to pass laws to require internet companies to help to prevent terror attacks, but does the Prime Minister agree that companies such as Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have a moral responsibility—they owe it to the memory of Lee Rigby—to introduce systems, similar to the ones we have introduced to deal with child pornography, to identify terror threats? When they do identify them, they should have a Rigby rule and pass them to the authorities.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Obviously, we can put down legal obligations in terms of complying with warrants from the Home Secretary and legal requirements on providing communications data that are vital in solving crime, but there is a moral responsibility, too. If companies know that terrorist acts are being plotted, they have a moral responsibility to act. I cannot think of any reason why they would not tell the authorities. The debate that will happen following the publication of the report will help to keep us safe.
The hon. Lady makes an important point, which we discussed in the extremism taskforce. It is a tragic fact that a number of people have gone to prison and become radicalised in prison because there have not been the appropriate services in prison or there has not been the right sort of religious instruction. Therefore, we have a programme going through all our prisons to ensure that that is in place. That is important.
I think the whole House will thank the Prime Minister for the speed with which he has come to the House and for fact that he does so regularly. In his statement he said, “But the automated systems in the internet company concerned did not identify this exchange.” Therefore, it does not appear that there was a deliberate attempt by the internet provider not to provide the information. It seems that its systems were wrong. Has he found out why those systems did not work? I also think that he could say which company it was.
I do not thing that saying which company it was would be right, because I do not want to give a running commentary on which companies are better than others at analysing this problem and reporting it to the Government, for what I would have thought were quite obvious reasons about the signal that that would send to people who want to do us harm. My understanding of what happened in this case is that the company discovered the exchange after the murder took place, when it was searching its systems, and it found out that one automatic shutdown of an account had not been, as it were, referred upwards. We think it is very important to discuss with that company what it is going to put in place to ensure that that does not happen again.
Further to the comments from my right hon. Friends the Members for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) and for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford), I very much welcome the development of the Prevent programme. Will the Prime Minister expound on the expectations that will be placed on schools, universities and community groups to deliver on the legal duty?
The concept is a simple one. This is linked to what Mike Gapes said, which is that the effort of combating extremism is a matter not just for the police and the security services but for everybody. So if schools, universities and colleges know that someone is promoting terrorism in their organisation, they have a duty to act. Some colleges and universities might have taken a very laissez-faire attitude towards this, but that is wrong. We will clearly need to set out in guidance more details of what we expect and how we define this problem.
High-quality Islamic scholarship is surely crucial as a tool to confront the extremist ideology that leads to terrorism. Do the Government recognise that it is extremely difficult to find the individuals who have the necessary breadth and depth of knowledge of Islamic theology to make that possible?
My hon. Friend raises an important point, which we have spent some time discussing. I do not think that we have yet found the right answer. Some other European countries insist on particular training programmes and language abilities for imams, so that they are able to connect with the young people in their mosques. This is an area in which we still need to do more to ensure that people who are in danger of going astray have more people in their community to help to keep them grounded.
The first British-born suicide bomber in the Syrian civil war was from my constituency. The incident occurred in February this year, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for putting in place a number of Prevent programmes in my constituency over the summer as a result of that. Given the concern about how internet companies and social media might be aiding terrorist activity, will the Prime Minister tell us how we can use those platforms to counter this poisonous ideology?
First, let me share with my hon. Friend the sense that it is absolutely dreadful that there are people from our own country—many of whom were born, brought up and schooled here—who have had their minds poisoned by this extremist ideology and gone to fight or, in some cases, tried to commit atrocities on our own soil against their fellow countrymen. That is deeply shocking, and it shows how much effort we need to make to combat those activities.
Social media can of course be a great force for good as well as a force for aiding terrorists to talk to each other, and we should be using social media to point out all the positive things that we are doing. For instance, when young people in Muslim communities or other communities are concerned about what is happening in Syria, it is important that they can see instantly that this country is one of the most generous in the world for getting aid to people and giving them shelter, food and a chance of life. We must use social media to communicate that message rather than just leaving it open to the radicals and the extremists.
There has been a pretty concerted campaign by The Guardian, which has been supported by some Members of this House, relating to the transparency and oversight of our security services. Does the Prime Minister agree that this incredibly detailed report will finally put paid to the myths that have been developing over the past few years?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is a balance here. What we have tried to do is improve the institutions that oversee our intelligence agencies. For instance, the Intelligence and Security Committee now has more power, resources and independence, and I have just said that we are going to make the Intelligence Services Commissioner put the role of the agencies on to a statutory basis. So we have updated and upgraded what we do, and I think we have now got to a pretty good place. We should always ask ourselves whether the next step we are going to take will really add to the democratic accountability and legitimacy of what we are doing, or whether it could hold us back.
The Prime Minister has often said that one of the purposes of overseas aid spending is that it contributes to our security. Given that finances are tight, to say the least, and given the extreme pressure that the Prime Minister admits the intelligence and security services are under, is it not time to divert some of that overseas aid spending to our security services at home? This is the elephant in the room, and to increase spending on the security services by £130 million at a time when overseas aid spending has gone up by about £5 billion is completely unacceptable. Will he put his dogma on overseas aid spending to one side and give the security services the funding that they need to keep us safe? That is what the public expect from him.
First, we have not only protected but recently increased spending on the security and intelligence services. I do not think that it is an either/or. We should be doing that as well as keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world, not only because we made that promise but because when it comes to dealing with problems in other countries so that they do not come and visit us here, overseas aid has a role.
My constituents were horrified by the murder of Lee Rigby. It is clear from the report that the security services were perhaps not as adept as they might have been at intercepting his killers before the murder took place, but my constituents will be reassured that those two individuals were known to the security services. They would have been more worried had they not been known to them. We have heard many questions to the Prime Minister today about electronic and digital surveillance, but no one has mentioned the “mark 1 eyeball” or the importance of human intelligence. My right hon. Friend sees more of these things than the rest of us. Is he satisfied that proper emphasis is being placed on the infiltration of these radical organisations at a human level, rather than an over-emphasis on electronic and digital surveillance?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. He is absolutely right to say that, without human intelligence and all of that kind of interaction, a lot of the digital surveillance to which he refers would come to nothing. One thing that has changed since 9/11 is that an enormous amount of effort and work has gone into building up our intelligence and security services in those ways as much as in others.