It is with great sadness that I have to tell the House that we now know of at least 18 British nationals who have been killed, with more injured. The death toll is likely to rise still further. These were innocent British holidaymakers, people who had saved up for a special time away with their friends and family, but who suddenly became the victims of the most brutal terrorist attack against British people for many years. I am sure the whole House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to the families and friends of all those who have lost loved ones.
I know the whole country will want to share in a moment of remembrance. Following the act of remembrance we have just held in this House, we will have a national minute’s silence on Friday at 12 noon, one week on from the moment of the attack. In due course, in consultation with the families, we will also announce plans for a fitting memorial to the victims of this horrific attack.
This morning, I chaired the fourth daily meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra Committee. Let me take the House through three things: first, the latest on what we believe happened in Tunisia, and also in the separate attacks in Kuwait and France; secondly, the immediate steps we have been taking to help the British victims and their families; and thirdly, how we will work with our allies to defeat this evil in our world.
The events of last Friday are horribly familiar to anyone following them in the media. A radicalised university student, armed with a Kalashnikov, began massacring innocent tourists on the beach at Port El Kantaoui. He continued his attack into the Imperial Marhaba hotel and on to the streets, where he was shot dead by Tunisian police. While we believe he was the sole gunman, it is thought that he may have been part of an ISIL-inspired network. The Tunisian security forces are investigating possible accomplices who may have supported this sickening attack.
On the same day in Kuwait, a suicide bomber killed 27 and injured more than 200 in an attack on the Imam Sadiq Mosque near Kuwait City. An ISIL-affiliated group based in Saudi Arabia has claimed it was behind the attack. In Syria, ISIL executed 120 people in their homes in Kobane. In south-eastern France, a man was murdered and two were injured in an explosion. While all these attacks were clearly driven by the same underlying perverted ideology, there is no evidence to date that they were directly co-ordinated.
Our first priority has been to help the British victims and their families. This has meant helping on site, assisting the wounded, bringing home those who have lost their lives, ensuring holidaymakers still in Tunisia who want to come home are helped to do so and gathering further evidence of what happened. A team of consular staff were on site in Sousse within hours and, by Saturday, were complemented by additional teams of consular staff, police and Red Cross experts. We now have over 50 people on the ground, helping British victims and their families. To help the wounded, we have already sent a team of military medical liaison officers to assist with medical evacuations, and a C-17 has just landed in Sousse to bring home some of the seriously injured.
It is right that we do everything we can to bring home as quickly as possible those who have lost their lives. We have been helping the Tunisians with what, in some cases, is a very difficult identification process. The Royal Air Force will arrange directly the repatriation of all deceased British nationals whose families wish us to do so, as soon as the identification processes are complete, while 60 family liaison officers back here in Britain continue to support the relatives of those killed and injured. We are also working with tour operators to ensure that those who want to come home can do so—more than 20 special flights have already brought hundreds home.
Since Friday evening, over 380 counter-terrorism and local officers have been at British airports to meet and support travellers returning home from Tunisia, including helping to gather evidence of what happened. As Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said yesterday, the national policing response is likely to be one of the largest counter-terrorism deployments in a decade.
Yesterday afternoon, I visited the Foreign Office crisis centre to see at first hand the work our teams are doing to co-ordinate our efforts at home and abroad, and as I speak, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood, are out in Sousse in person, doing everything they can to help the British victims and their families and talking to the Tunisian authorities about how we can help strengthen their security. Over the weekend, I spoke to President Essebsi, and I want to put on the record my thanks for the assistance of the Tunisian authorities throughout this horrific ordeal.
The Foreign Office has updated its travel advice, which continues to make clear the high threat from terrorism in the country, just as it did before Friday’s events, but it is not advising against all but essential travel to this part of Tunisia, so it is not advising against visiting the popular coastal resorts. This was agreed by the Cobra emergency committee and will be kept under close review.
These are difficult judgments. Nowhere is without risk from Islamist extremist terrorists, and of course we take into account the capability of the country in question and its ability to counter the threat. In the UK, the threat level remains “severe”, meaning that a terrorist attack is highly likely, but until we have defeated this threat, we as a country must resolve to carry on living our lives alongside it. Making those judgments means taking sensible precautions, and where there is a specific threat, we will always take action immediately, but we will not give up our way of life or cower in the face of terrorism.
These terrorists tried to strike at places of hope—in a country with a flourishing tourist industry on the road to democracy and in a mosque in Kuwait that dared to bring Sunnis and Shi’as together. The Tunisians and Kuwaitis will not have that hope taken away from them. They will not be cowed by terror, and we will stand with them.
Defeating this terrorist threat requires us to do three things. First, we must give our police and security services the tools they need to root out this poison. We have already increased funding for our police and intelligence services this year and legislated to give them stronger powers to seize passports and prevent travel. Over the next two days, our security forces and emergency services will conduct a major training exercise in London to test and refine the UK’s preparedness for dealing with a serious terrorist attack.
We must also do more to make sure that the powers we give our security services keep pace with changes in technology. ISIL’s methods of murder might be barbaric, but its methods of recruitment, propaganda and communication use the latest technology. We must therefore step up our own efforts to support our agencies in tracking vital online communications, and we will bring forward a draft Bill to achieve this.
We must also work with our international partners to improve our counter-terrorism co-operation. I spoke to President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Michel of Belgium over the weekend, and we agreed to work together to help Tunisia strengthen its security. Our ambassador met the Tunisian authorities yesterday to put that into action, including by strengthening the protective security arrangements at coastal resorts.
Secondly, we must deal with the security threat at source, whether ISIL in Iraq and Syria or other extremist groups around the world. British aircraft are already delivering the second-largest number of airstrikes over Iraq, and our airborne intelligence and surveillance assets are assisting other countries with their operations over Syria. We are working with our UN, EU and American partners to support the formation of a Government of national accord in Libya, and we will continue to do all we can to support national Governments in strengthening weak political institutions and dealing with the ungoverned spaces where terrorists thrive. As I have said here many times before, if we need to act to neutralise an imminent threat to the UK, we will always do so.
Thirdly, we must take on the radical narrative that is poisoning young minds. The people who do these things do it in the name of a twisted and perverted ideology, which hijacks the Islamic faith and holds that mass murder and terror are not only acceptable, but necessary. We must confront this evil with everything we have. We must be stronger at standing up for our values, and we must be more intolerant of intolerance, taking on anyone whose views condone the extremist narrative or create the conditions for it to flourish.
On Wednesday, a new statutory duty will come into force, requiring all public bodies—from schools, to prisons and local councils—to take steps to identify and tackle radicalisation. In the weeks ahead, we will go further. We will stand in solidarity with all those outraged by this event, not least the overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country and around the world. For this is not the war between Islam and the west in which ISIL wants people to believe; it is a generational struggle between a minority of extremists who want hatred to flourish and the rest of us who want freedom to prosper—and together, we will prevail.
Let me deal now with the European Council. It discussed three issues that strongly affect our national interest. On the situation in Greece, I chaired a contingency meeting in Downing Street earlier today, and the Chancellor will make a statement straight after this one. Let me deal briefly with the other two issues—the need for a comprehensive approach to the migration crisis and the beginning of the UK renegotiation process.
On migration, the right course of action is to combine saving lives with tackling the root causes of this problem. That means breaking the business model of the smugglers by breaking the link between getting in a boat and getting a chance to arrive and settle in Europe. It means gathering intelligence to disrupt the smuggling gangs and using our aid budget to help alleviate the poverty and failure of governance that so often drives these people from their homes in the first place.
Britain has already played a leading role in all this, by keeping its promises on aid and saving over 4,000 lives in the Mediterranean. By contrast, focusing primarily on setting up a relocation scheme for migrants who have already arrived in Europe could, we believe, be counter-productive. Instead of breaking the smugglers’ business model, it makes their offer more attractive. Others in the EU have decided to go ahead with this relocation scheme, but because of our opt-out from justice and home affairs matters, we will not be joining them. We will, however, enhance our plans to resettle the most vulnerable refugees from outside the EU, most notably from Syrian refugee camps, in line with the announcement I made in Bratislava earlier this month.
Finally, on the UK’s relationship with the European Union, we have a clear plan of reform, renegotiation and referendum. At this Council, I set out the case for substantive reform in four areas: sovereignty, fairness, immigration and competitiveness.
First, on sovereignty, Britain will not support being part of an ever-closer union or being dragged into a state called Europe—that may be for others, but it will never be for Britain, and it is time to recognise that specifically. We want national Parliaments to be able to work together to have more power, not less.
Secondly, on fairness, as the eurozone integrates further, the EU has to be flexible enough to make sure that the interests of those inside and outside the eurozone are fairly balanced. Put simply, the single currency is not for all, but the single market and the European Union as a whole must work for all.
Thirdly, on immigration, we need to tackle the welfare incentives that attract so many people from across the EU to seek work in Britain.
Finally, alongside all those, we need to make the EU a source of growth, jobs, innovation and success, rather than stagnation. That means signing trade deals and completing the single market, such as in digital, where the Council made progress towards a roaming agreement that could cut the cost of mobile phone bills for businesses and tourists alike.
At this meeting, my priority was to kick off the technical work on all these issues and the specific reforms we want in each area. The Council agreed that such a process will get under way, and we will return to the issue at our meeting in December. These talks will take tenacity and patience. Not all the issues will be easily resolved, but just as in the last Parliament, when we showed that change could happen by cutting the EU budget for the first time in history, so in this Parliament we will fix problems that have frustrated the British people for so long. We will put the Common Market back at the heart of our membership, get off the treadmill to ever-closer union, address the issue of migration to Britain from the rest of the EU and protect Britain’s place in the single market for the long term. It will not be the status quo; it will be a membership rooted in our national interest and a European Union that is better for Britain and better for Europe, too. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement.
The House meets today in dark times. At least 18 innocent Britons have been murdered and many more have been seriously injured in the biggest terrorist attack on our citizens since the horror of 7/7. Every one of us in this House extends our heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of those killed and injured. Our thoughts are with them at this terrible time. We cannot begin to understand what they must have been going through as they saw on the news pictures from the beach where their families were on holiday showing sun loungers being used as stretchers and bloodstained beach towels turned into makeshift shrouds.
The families of those killed now face the painful process of helping in the identification of their loved ones and bringing them home. The relatives of the injured will be worried sick and desperate to bring them home as soon as possible. Others are still searching for any information about what has happened to their relatives.
The Prime Minister was right to convene Cobra immediately, and I thank him for updating the House on all the work being co-ordinated through the daily Cobra meetings. I add our thanks to Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff, the British police teams, the Red Cross experts and other British officials who are working on this, as well as to all those—from hotel staff and local officials to the travel reps and other holidaymakers—who are supporting those who have been caught up in this.
As we know from 7/7, support will be needed for the bereaved and injured—not just in the immediate aftermath, but for months and years to come. Can I therefore ask the Prime Minister to establish a dedicated taskforce that reports to a Minister with responsibility for co-ordinating across Departments and agencies to provide that support? It is right that the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Ellwood, the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for the middle east, have travelled to Tunisia today. I make particular mention of the Minister, who has stepped into this immensely difficult situation highly effectively, clearly drawing on the experience of his own family loss and demonstrating great personal empathy with those who are suffering. We thank him for his work.
There are close ties, going back decades, between Tunisia and the UK. The Prime Minister will have our full support in helping Tunisia tackle the scale of the terrorist problem that now confronts it. We welcome the fact that the Prime Minister, the French President, the German Chancellor and the Belgian Prime Minister have agreed to work together to help Tunisia strengthen its security. Can the Prime Minister say more about what actions are being considered by our Government and internationally to help the Tunisians respond to the economic problems that this terrorist atrocity will inevitably cause, given the country’s reliance on tourism?
While we make preparations for commemorating the 10th anniversary of 7/7, the death toll in Syria and Iraq continues relentlessly to rise. This week alone, there have been deadly terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait, Syria and France, as the Prime Minister said. People are concerned about how difficult it is to combat this widespread threat. Can he tell us more about the international efforts to tackle the spread of terrorism? The issue is about sharing intelligence, the use of the internet and social media, cutting off finance, control of borders and co-ordinated military support to those fighting ISIL on the ground. Given the contribution that Britain’s armed forces are making in helping the efforts to fight ISIL in Iraq, has the international community been asked to provide further assistance?
The Prime Minister has rightly recognised that the violence stems from an extremist ideology, which hijacks the religion of Islam. He is right that we must be resolute in standing up for the values of peace, democracy, freedom of speech and equality for women, rejecting and confronting those who go along with these extremist narratives. Is he satisfied that the Government are doing everything they can to back up and empower those at the forefront of the challenge within their communities—particularly families, teachers, religious leaders and community groups?
The Prime Minister said that, in addition to the new statutory duty on public bodies to identify and tackle radicalism, he intends to go further in the weeks ahead. Will he outline what actions are under consideration and whether he is working with the Muslim communities on that?
Turning to last week’s European Council, obviously the biggest issue is Greece. It is in everyone’s interest that an agreement is reached. This matter is of huge importance to us even though we are not in the eurozone, because, whatever the cause, if Europe’s economy is hit, Britain will be hit too. Obviously, the Chancellor will say more about that shortly.
On migration, instability in north Africa and the middle east is a growing factor that is driving desperate migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe. I ask the Prime Minister to confirm that the capacity and mandate of our action in the Mediterranean will not be diminished with the replacement of HMS Bulwark by HMS Enterprise.
We back the action against people trafficking to which the Prime Minister referred. Does he agree that EU action is needed to help southern European countries cope with those who are arriving, including support for a swift and robust asylum assessment, and help from other countries for those who are certified as refugees? Does he agree that Britain ought to offer to help some of those who are certified as refugees, just as we have done for vulnerable refugees from Syria, and just as we have done over the decades and, indeed, centuries, when we have provided sanctuary to refugees who have fled persecution and allowed them to make their future here with us?
On Britain’s negotiations with Europe, will the Prime Minister confirm that there is no prospect of any treaty changes being ratified before people vote in our referendum? Of course the negotiations are sensitive, but it is evident that even the people he is negotiating with are not entirely clear what he is negotiating for, and nor are the British people he is negotiating on behalf of. He referred to the announcement at the summit that there will be technical negotiations until December. What steps will he take to keep Parliament and the British people informed? There is an expectation in this country of high levels of transparency. It is not feasible for the British people to feel that they are in the dark.
Finally, we are an island, but whether it is the terrorism in Tunisia, Syria, Kuwait or France, whether it is the refugees in the Mediterranean, whether it is the economy in Greece, or whether it is the radicalisation of young people here at home, this week’s terrible events remind us emphatically once again that we are all interconnected.
I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for her remarks and for the way in which she made them. She was generous and right to thank the FCO staff and all the others who have been working round the clock. These are difficult events to respond to, but I really do believe that the people who work so hard to co-ordinate the response in Britain do a very good job.
The right hon. and learned Lady was right to draw on the experience of 7/7. She spoke about the good work of people such as Tessa Jowell in thinking about how best to commemorate and mark such events, and that work needs to be repeated. She asked about a dedicated taskforce. At the moment, there is very much a Foreign Office taskforce, along with terrorism experts, the police and others. There will come a moment when we want to bring in Ministers from other Departments, perhaps including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to ensure that we get these things right.
I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for singling out the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood, with his experience of the Bali bomb. He is talking to victims and families as we speak, and I think that he should play a prominent role in making sure that, as a country, we get the response right.
The right hon. and learned Lady asked what we should do to strengthen security in Tunisia. The answer is that it covers the whole spectrum from the detailed work of making sure that hotels have the necessary security screening and capacity in place, all the way through to working with the Tunisian intelligence and security services to ensure that they have an intelligence-led model of policing, as we have in this country, so that they can work out where the next threat is coming from and try to get ahead of it.
It is absolutely right for us to help the economies of Tunisia and other countries in north Africa, which links to what the right hon. and learned Lady said about international efforts. Following the Arab spring, there was a partnership with north African countries. Some good progress was made in spending aid money to help those countries, but there is more that we need to do. Given the security threat and the risks that we face, not least the problems of the migration crisis, I think that there is a case for using our aid budget in a more co-ordinated way with others in Europe to drive change and economic success in north African countries.
The right hon. and learned Lady asked about international efforts. We also need to ensure at the European level that we pass measures such as the passenger name record directive, so that we can co-operate better in fighting terrorism.
I am grateful for what the right hon. and learned Lady said about the need to fight the ideology, as she put it, and to confront those who go along with the narrative.
I think that that is absolutely right. The more cross-party unity we can have on that message, the stronger I think it will be. We will certainly consider what more we can do to back up teachers, community leaders and others, and, as I said on the radio this morning, I am happy to co-operate and work with leaders across Muslim communities, but they should be people who want to back the basic values of tolerance and democracy that we hold dear in this country.
The right hon. and learned Lady mentioned Greece. I shall leave most of that to the Chancellor, who will make a statement immediately after this.
On migration, let me reassure the right hon. and learned Lady and the House that we will continue to have the capacity in the Mediterranean, with HMS Enterprise, to save lives. We will offer, and have already offered, to help southern European countries to process asylum seekers. I think that the only difference between us is this. We are drawing a distinction between resettling the most vulnerable refugees who are outside the European Union, for instance in Syrian refugee camps, for whom we think Britain can do more and—this is where I think the European Union is potentially heading down the wrong track—a relocation programme for migrants who are already within the European Union. I worry that such a programme would be counter-productive, and that, as I said earlier, it would reinforce the smugglers’ model of getting people here in the first place. There is a disagreement with others in Europe about that. They will be going ahead with their plans, but I think that what we should be doing is helping with the resettlement, and also pointing out that our asylum system has already given asylum to many people from the most vulnerable areas of the world, and continues to do so.
The right hon. and learned Lady asked about treaty changes and keeping Parliament informed. Yes, of course I will do that. What matters when it comes to changing the treaties is making sure that there is agreement on the substance of the changes that we seek, which, of course, will involve treaty change. That is what matters, and that is what we hope to achieve.
I very much agree with the right hon. and learned Lady’s final observation that we should work together with others in Europe and, indeed, around the world, because these challenges are shared challenges.
Following the awful events in Tunisia, which resulted in the dreadful and untimely death of one of my constituents, Scott Chalkley, may I ask what assurances my right hon. Friend can give me that he will do everything that he can to prevent such attacks from ever happening again?
First, let me send my sympathies and condolences to my hon. Friend’s constituents. There will be many tragic stories about what happened on that beach and in that hotel, and people will be coming to terms with it for years to come.
No country is the world is free of the risk of terrorism, but we must do everything that we can to combat this threat, along with our partners around the world. That may involve very technical measures that we should take at, for instance, hotels and police stations, or very high-profile, high-value work with Governments, but we should commit ourselves to doing all that we can. As I have said, this will be the struggle of our generation.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement on Tunisia, and for the measures he has taken so far and the measures he is proposing.
Three generations of one family from Tipton and Wednesbury have been killed in this atrocity. The impact on their relatives and the local community has been absolutely devastating, and, unfortunately, I am sure that that will be reflected in other families and other communities throughout the country. Will the Prime Minister assure me that he will take up the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition, and set up a dedicated taskforce to support not just the family liaison officers, who are doing great work, but local authorities and other public agencies, so that those families are given the specialist support that they will need now and for a long time in the future?
The case to which the hon. Gentleman has referred is absolutely heartbreaking. All of us have read about it in the newspapers, and we all know how the family and community will be affected, as he said, for many years to come.
As for helping the families, I think that the first thing to do is ensure that each of them has a family liaison officer from one of the police forces. Those liaison officers are now being put in place. They are experts—they are extremely good at the work that they do—and they should be the point of contact that ensures that families are given all the information, help, advice and support that they need.
The next step, as Ms Harman said, is to think about how we are going to mark and commemorate what has happened. That should be done in consultation with the families, so we should not rush that decision, but I think it is right that this Friday we have a national minute’s silence.
The thoughts of my constituents are with all the victims, especially the three from our local area. I spent yesterday afternoon with the family of Bruce Wilkinson, including his wife Rita, who survived the attack. They thank everybody who has assisted them—consular staff, their travel company, and my hon. Friend Stuart Andrew. They want Bruce to be remembered for his wit and compassion, and for his love of his family. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that every effort will be made to get the bodies of victims home as quickly as possible, so Bruce and the other victims can be given the dignity in burial they were denied in death?
I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. As well as tales of great tragedy and sadness, there have been stories of extraordinary heroism and bravery, as we would expect from British citizens confronted with such an event. On bringing people home, what we have said, and what I have said today, is that we are prepared to use RAF planes, chiefly C-17s and C-130s, to bring home the British dead if that is what families want. We are putting the arrangements in place now. It has taken time to identify all the victims and that identification has to be complete before a victim can be brought home, but we will work as hard as we can to make sure this happens as soon as possible.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. We on the SNP Benches share all the expressions of sympathy and condolence to all the families and friends of those so tragically killed in Tunisia. What occurred there and in so many other countries in recent days was horrific and not justified in any religion, especially in this Ramadan month of peace and reflection for Muslims.
The Prime Minister was right to highlight the longer-term challenge of extremism and radicalisation. He pointed out the importance of getting terminology right and not using the name “Islamic State”. Will he join parliamentarians across this House, the US Secretary of State and the French Foreign Minister in using the appropriate term? Does he agree that the time has come in the English-speaking world to stop using “Islamic State”, ISIS or ISIL and that instead we and our media should use “Daesh”, the commonly used term across the middle east?
On migration, I have asked the Prime Minister about the shameful position of the UK Government 80 years after this country brought in thousands of children in the Kindertransport when their lives were in danger. Will he confirm that at the EU Summit other states agreed to take in tens of thousands of refugees, and that the UK has still taken in fewer than 200 from the war in Syria?
First, I agree with the hon. Gentleman on the use of the term “Islamic State”. This is particularly offensive to many Muslims who see, as I do, not a state but a barbaric regime of terrorism and oppression that takes delight in murder, in oppressing women and in killing people because they are gay, so I raised this with the BBC this morning. I personally think using the term ISIL or “so-called” would be better than what it currently uses. I do not think we will move it all the way to “Daesh”, however, so I think saying ISIL is probably better than saying Islamic State, because in my view it is neither Islamic nor a state.
In terms of the numbers that other European countries have committed to relocate within the EU, these are people who have already arrived in Italy and Greece. They are planning to relocate about 40,000 people, although there was no agreement about who would take what numbers during what was a lengthy debate at the European Council. I would not, frankly, contrast that with the numbers we are offering to resettle from outside the EU. I would point to the very generous arrangements we have in place in Britain for giving people asylum. That includes many Syrians, many people from Iraq and many Kurds. That is what we have done and will continue to do, as a generous and tolerant nation.
The Prime Minister will be aware that jihadists talk about three types of jihad: jihad of the tongue; jihad of the purse and jihad of the sword. Does he agree that although we should address the threat militarily where we can, too few of the Arab countries are pulling their weight in dealing with a problem that is part of their region? Secondly, does he agree that we must cut off the financial flows to the organisation, and name and shame those individuals and states that are facilitating the further spread of fundamental Islam? Thirdly, during the cold war we understood the value of counter-propaganda. Is it not time to rediscover, not only across Government but among our allies, the need to speak with one voice in order to send out one message when dealing with the dangers and one message about the values and freedoms that have made us who we are?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course there are, in part, some military answers to what is happening. We need to crush ISIL in Iraq and Syria, but military action alone will not be enough. As he says, we have to go after terrorist finance and the terrorist narrative. That narrative is shared not only by the terrorists but, sadly, by too many who stop short of terrorism but who buy into the idea of a caliphate or the idea that Christians and Muslims cannot live together. Just as we had to confront the ideology in the cold war, we have to do so again now. In the end, I think that we will win because our values of democracy, tolerance, the rule of law, freedom and free enterprise are better values. They offer young people far more hope than going off and being part of a death cult that subjugates women, murders homosexuals and creates murder and mayhem across the world.
I should like to add my deep condolences to those of the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman to all those who have been affected by what has happened in Tunisia, many of whom were Welsh. Will the Prime Minister join me in expressing our admiration for my constituent Matthew James? People will have read in the newspapers how he threw himself in the way of a bullet to shield his fiancée, Saera Wilson, in an extraordinary act of selfless bravery. May I urge the Prime Minister to do all he can to ensure that all the victims receive all the support that they need?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We all read the moving story of what that brave and courageous young man did to save the life of his fiancée; I am sure that it will have moved the whole country. I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman the guarantee that we will do everything we can to help the victims and their families. There are people working round the clock in Tunisia and here in Britain to ensure that that happens, and we will keep that up.
Yesterday, I learned that two of my constituents had suffered in this callous attack. Cheryl Mellor and her husband, Stephen, from Bodmin in North Cornwall, went to Tunisia for a holiday, but only Mrs Mellor will be returning. I was moved to tears after reading her account of Friday’s tragic events in the local press. Stephen was gunned down next to his wife, trying to protect her as they fled from the chaos. Mrs Mellor is now in hospital in Sousse with life-changing injuries. My heart goes out to her and her family at this extremely difficult time. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that Mrs Mellor will receive the same level of devoted care and attention in Sousse that she would normally receive from the NHS in Cornwall?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that case, and for the way in which he did it. The assurance I can give him and all those who are wounded and being looked after in Tunisian hospitals is that our medical team is on the ground, and for those who can be repatriated as medical evacuations using a C-17, all the technology and medical brilliance that we brought to bear when bringing casualties back from Afghanistan is available to British citizens in Tunisia. If it is possible to move someone and bring them back to the QE2 in Birmingham, that is exactly what will be done.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. In the past two days, I have spoken to my constituent Holly Graham, whose parents Billy and Lisa Graham are still missing following the attack. There has been public concern about the time it is taking for the authorities to update families in the UK on their relatives in Tunisia, although I fully understand that the UK and Tunisian Governments are working hard to get good quality information to the families here as quickly as possible. Will the Prime Minister use this opportunity to set out the challenges that the authorities in Tunisia and here in the UK are facing when trying to trace UK citizens who have been caught up in these dreadful events?
I thank the hon. Lady for the way she put her question, because I share all the frustration of the families and the communities who want to get this information as fast as possible. Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, was in the Cobra conference by video-link to Scotland and raised some of those issues himself. Just to bring home the importance of not making an announcement before we have the information, I should say that two people who were down as missing and whom we were very concerned about turned up back in Britain today, having come home under means that we did not know about. The reason it is taking some time to identify the victims is twofold: people who were on the beach did not, quite understandably, have on them passports or means of identification; and, tragically, in some cases it is difficult to identify people after the horrific attacks that took place. In addition, the coroner in Tunisia, quite understandably, wants to make sure that no mistakes are made, so there is a full pathway from the moment of recognising the victim and all the coronial action that subsequently has to take place.
Tunisia’s transition to democracy is the one ray of political light coming out of the Arab spring, but it is as fragile as Tunisia’s economy and security. While welcoming measures to support the fledgling democracy’s economic and security aspirations, will my right hon. Friend ensure that its political aspirations also receive support? Does he also recognise that by some accounts more than 20,000 Tunisians have been intercepted trying to join Daesh, some of whom are bound to have reached Libya? Is there any evidence that this attack was co-ordinated from outside Tunisia?
First, I agree with my hon. Friend that helping Tunisia on its political journey is as important as helping Tunisia’s economy and civil society, and we will certainly do that—I met the Tunisian ambassador shortly before coming to the House today to discuss these issues. In terms of the linkages of this attack, I think it is too early to say. I am sure that more work is being done now, and if there is anything else to tell the House I will come back at a subsequent opportunity. Where there is no doubt is on the fact that Libya, with its failed state and lack of a Government, has become a place where Islamist terrorists have got a foothold. There can be no doubt about that and while that is the case, other countries in the region, and indeed in the world, are at greater risk.
One of the victims of this appalling act was my constituent Mrs Lisa Burbidge, a grandmother of four. She lived in the town of Whickham and, sadly, it is only six years since one of our own from the same town, Sapper David Watson, was killed in action in Afghanistan. I hope that today we can mourn both of them, Mr Speaker. I urge that Lisa’s family’s wishes are kept to and they are left to grieve in privacy.
Will the Prime Minister ensure that MPs and their staff are given as much help as is possible and practical, so that we can play our part in helping families get over this? I also urge him to go the extra mile and ensure that all Government agencies act with the utmost compassion, sensitivity and understanding in the coming weeks. I am thinking in particular about the Department for Work and Pensions, education and the health service, where these people might need that little bit extra help which is not always there when dealing with massive bureaucracies. That will help the families to come to terms with this situation as quickly as possible.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and for paying tribute to Lisa Burbidge. We will certainly give as much help to Members of Parliament as we can. If people want to know what more information is made public, they can speak to the Foreign Office help desk and team. He is right about showing compassion and sensitivity, and indeed common sense, in how we deal with these things. Sadly, there are lots of difficulties in informing relatives, not least that the next of kin should be first—the person named in the passport—and sometimes family structures and relationships can be quite complicated. That can be another reason for delays sometimes. I know that the staff at the Foreign Office and the family liaison officers are doing everything they can to cut through bureaucracy and to make the right decisions.
I represent a couple of constituents who were on holiday in Tunisia but mercifully escaped unscathed and have now, I believe, returned to King’s Lynn. The Prime Minister mentioned the power to track social media. Does he agree that the time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We are urging social media companies to work with us and help us deal with terrorism. Britain is not a state that is trying to search through everybody’s emails and invade their privacy. We just want to ensure that terrorists do not have a safe space in which to communicate. That is the challenge, and it is a challenge that will come in front of the House. We have always been able, on the authority of the Home Secretary, to sign a warrant and intercept a phone call, a mobile phone call or other media communications, but the question we must ask ourselves is whether, as technology develops, we are content to leave a safe space—a new means of communication—for terrorists to communicate with each other My answer is no, we should not be, which means that we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.
On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I echo the condolences and heartfelt sympathy that have been expressed by others in this debate about the outrage. Given the possible link between the Tunisian terrorists and Salafist ideology, will the Prime Minister commission and publish a report, similar to that on the Muslim Brotherhood, on the role of Salafist teachings in fuelling support for violent actions against non-Muslims and Muslims?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. If we are successfully to defeat this threat that faces us, we must work extremely hard to understand its true nature. That is why I commissioned the report into the Muslim Brotherhood. That organisation has an uncertain relationship—let me put it that way—with movements that condone violence. I think we see the same with some that have Salafist views. Anything that can be done to further our understanding of where the narrative of extremism is coming from is a good thing.
Does not the economic and social damage being done by the tragic conflict between Greek democracy and EU policies demonstrate that Britain is right to seek to bring back powers, so that we have the things that matter to UK prosperity and security under democratic control?
My right hon. Friend always puts his case very powerfully. In many ways, what this shows is that it is possible to have different sorts of membership of the European Union. We are not a member of the euro or of Schengen, but when it comes to co-operation over foreign and security policy, it is often Britain that is in the lead—whether it is arguing for sanctions against Iran, sanctions against Russia or a better co-ordination of counter-terrorism policies within the EU. We should not be frightened of different forms of membership. As I have put it, Europe should have the flexibility of a network rather than the rigidity of a bloc.
May I join others in expressing my shock and sadness at the horrific events in Sousse? Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones. I welcome the steps that the Government are taking to offer support and assistance to the families at this time.
The Prime Minister has been speaking about the challenge of confronting ISIL— Daesh—and its ideology, and I agree that that is the task ahead of us, but how we do it is a matter for debate. The thrust of the Prime Minister’s comments today and last week are that, as part of dealing with symptoms and causes, British Muslims must step up and call out those who are silently condoning extremist ideologies, but does he agree that most ordinary British Muslims, among whom I count myself, have no more knowledge and ability to step up to the plate and call out in that way than any other ordinary British person? Furthermore, does he agree that it will be from an acceptance of our combined lack of understanding of where we need to step up to the plate that we can better work together to find a solution?
I thank the hon. Lady for the thoughtful way in which she put her question. My answer is that British Muslims, Imams, mosques, community centres and Muslims in our communities are stepping up and saying that they condemn utterly what ISIL does and saying that it is not in their name. Indeed #NotInMyName was praised by President Obama in his speech at the UN. My argument is, I am afraid, that we all have to go on doing that—British Muslims included—for as long as this poisonous ideology exists. I say to British Muslims that, the fact is, these people are taking their religion of peace and perverting it. That is the reason for standing up and saying, “You must not do this. This is not what we believe in or what we are about.” The British Government, who include Muslims in their number, will back all Muslims who do that.
My second point is that we would be making a mistake if we said that we need just to confront those who support violence. Some people and some organisations—frankly, we know which organisations—go along with some of the narrative, think that a caliphate might not be such a bad idea, that Christians and Muslims cannot really live together and that democracy is inferior to another sort of system, and do not believe in equality. Those are people that we must call out, too. I want us to appeal to young British Muslims about what this country can be for them. This is a great multiracial democracy and a country of opportunity and we must also raise our game, as it were, and make this a society into which people want to integrate. It is time to speak out on both fronts. There is a need for integration, but also the need to confront a narrative of extremism, even if it stops short of violence.
I join the Prime Minister in expressing strong words in condemnation of the evil slaughter of British citizens and others in Tunisia and in condolence for the bereaved.
At the European Council meeting, today and recently my right hon. Friend rightly reaffirmed the Common Market, British courts for British laws, the sovereignty and accountability of our national Parliament and the fundamental change in our relationship with the EU and the eurozone to which many will say yes, yes, yes. He has been buffeted by criticism from other European leaders, who are clearly not listening and who are demanding more integration rather than less. Hope springs eternal, but given his firm objectives in our vital national interests and the EU leaders’ constant criticism of them, what would it take for my right hon. Friend to recommend a no vote?
I go to these negotiations as an optimist and a believer that we can get a good deal for Britain. I have now had meetings with all 27 Presidents and Prime Ministers in Europe, in what has been dubbed something of an eating tour around the European Union.
I am not saying that they instantly all agreed to the points that Britain is raising, but they are open to the sorts of reforms that I believe are necessary.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. The sympathies of my right hon. and hon. Friends and, indeed, of all the people of Northern Ireland, are with those who have suffered so terribly as a result of this atrocity. The Prime Minister rightly talked about peace, tolerance and democracy. What is he doing to ensure that the peoples across the middle east who, like the people of the United Kingdom, want to see those values defended and stood up for are united with the Governments of their nations to ensure that we never, ever surrender to activity such as that we have seen?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We are backing those Governments who want to see an active and positive civil society and encouraging democracies such as Tunisia. We are saying to other countries that are not yet democratic that they should be putting in place the building blocks to become democratic countries. As we look at how we best confront terrorism, I am convinced that giving young people in those Arab societies greater hope of participation, democracy and rights is part of defeating the narrative about which I have been speaking.
I know that all other members of the British-Tunisia all-party parliamentary group will wish to endorse the sentiments expressed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, by Ms Harman and by Members on both sides of the House who have lost constituents. It would be of no service to the memory of those who have lost their lives if we were to allow an emerging democracy in Tunisia to fail and the terrorists to succeed. When my right hon. Friend receives requests from the Tunisian Government, as I understand from the ambassador that he will, will he seek to ensure that not only the United Kingdom but the European Union gives every possible support in terms of security and the training of security forces? Will he also seek to ensure that the European Union pays the money that it promised but so far has not delivered?
First of all, we will help, and the offer is there. Also, because today not only the Home Secretary but a German Interior Minister and a French Interior Minister travelled together to Tunisia, I hope we can co-ordinate the assistance that we are offering, because otherwise I fear that the Tunisians will be overwhelmed with offers of help and may struggle to put them into place.
I want to stress this: when we set the risk ratings and the travel advice for countries, we must take into account their capacity to militate against these threats, so the work that we are urging the Tunisians to do with us is very urgent.
Like everybody in our community, I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear that Jim and Ann McQuire, a much loved couple from Abronhill in Cumbernauld had lost their lives during the mindless violence in Tunisia. By all accounts they were an extremely kind and considerate couple and were due to attend the Holyrood Palace garden party this Wednesday in recognition of lifetime service to the Church of Scotland and Jim’s many years as a local Boys’ Brigade captain. I know that the deepest sympathies of this House and the whole community of Cumbernauld will be with the friends and family of the McQuires. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his statement. Understandably perhaps, however, given the earlier attack on the Bardo national museum, there will be members of the public who have questions about the reliability of Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice. As the Prime Minister said, there are fine judgments involved, but what further reassurance can he provide that such information is based on the most robust and up-to-date evidence available?
Let me add my condolences concerning the couple from Cumbernauld who have been lost in this terrible attack. The hon. Gentleman asks the absolutely correct question about travel advice. As I have said, there is no perfect way. We base our travel advice on the threat picture and the intelligence that we have at the time. Before the Bardo attack, the travel advice did say that there was a high threat from terrorism in the country, and after the Bardo attack we added a factual update on the Foreign Office website, explaining that further attacks were possible. But the key decision, both post-Bardo and now, is whether to move the advice to a level recommending nothing but essential travel to the country as a whole. Currently we are saying only essential travel to some parts of the country. We are not proposing to change the advice about the coastal region, and I think that is the right decision, based on the evidence we have today.
Were that evidence to change, we could and would change the travel advice and, as I have said, the travel advice also depends on the capacity of the Tunisian system. That is the same for all countries. As I have said, these are difficult decisions. We must not be cowed by the terrorists. They want us to wipe out the Tunisian tourist industry, which accounts for 15% of its economy. The decision we take puts the safety of British people first and foremost. If the evidence and the information changes, we will change our advice.
Understandably, we have centred on one young Tunisian man who carried out this massacre, and possibly some other Tunisians who supported him, but should we not also put it on record that dozens of Tunisians who worked at that hotel risked their lives protecting and helping our tourists? That should be the beacon that supports the Tunisian tourist industry and encourages people to visit Tunisia.
My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. There were some extraordinary stories of courage and heroism by local Tunisian people who were appalled by what this man was doing, and that is a great credit to their country.
All decent people have in their thoughts or prayers the victims in Tunisia and their families. Everybody should criticise the actions in Tunisia. There can be no justification for what happened in Tunisia, just as there cannot be any justification for what happened in London 10 years ago. The Prime Minister talks about promoting and defending British values. These values are intrinsic to being a British Muslim, and I welcome his comments unequivocally distancing Islam from the perverted ideology. What more will he and his Government do to work with communities to promote and defend these British values?
I am very grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman says. What more we can do is make sure that the new Prevent duty is carried out and that institutions work with us to put that in place to combat radicalisation. There is more we can do to discuss with British Muslims how we confront the poisonous ideology. That means making sure that we are talking to people directly and not always going through some self-appointed leaders, who do not always represent British mainstream Muslim opinion. Sometimes that will mean that we will be criticised for not engaging. I do not accept that criticism. I will engage with anyone who buys into the basic standards of British tolerance and decency, but it is important that we have some ground rules.
There can be no greater agony than that being experienced by the people whose friends and relations have been missing and unaccounted for since Friday, such as my constituents John Welch and Eileen Swannack. Despite what the Prime Minister said about the difficulty of identifying the victims, which I quite understand, is there no more consular activity that could be undertaken to try to finalise the list of those who have tragically been killed so that we can set their families and friends’ minds at rest?
My hon. Friend asks an entirely fair question. I can assure him that at the Cobra meetings that is one of the most important issues we focus on: what more can be done; are more resources needed; are more people needed? My understanding is that we have police officers, victim identification experts and consular officials on the ground, working hand in glove with the Tunisians. We are going as fast as we can to get that vital work done.
A family from Airdrie who were desperate to get home from Sousse were told by their airline, Thomas Cook, that it would cost them £800 per person to get home early as they had booked through Teletext. The chief executive of Thomas Cook confirmed to me last night that they would get home free of charge, and they arrived home this afternoon after much stress. What advice can the Prime Minister offer to those still trying to get home without sufficient access to holiday reps, or indeed to FCO staff, as in this case?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question, because I think that it tells a real story, which is that sometimes there is confusion and a lack of clarity to begin with, but then there is a good and clear answer, as with that family who returned home. My advice to anyone in that situation is to talk to their travel company first, but they can also ring the Foreign Office line and get assistance. The Foreign Office immediately looks into any case it sees coming up in the media or on social media to see whether it can help directly, and it will continue to do so.
The Prime Minister will want to extend his condolences to the family of young Carly Lovett, my constituent, a 24-year-old girl who was brutally shot down in front of her fiancé. She travelled from the small, quiet Lincolnshire town of Gainsborough, and she did not deserve this—nobody deserved this. The question is what do we do now. What worries the British people is the fact that the threat is not just there; it is everywhere, and it is here. Will my right hon. Friend resist the principled siren voices trying to prevent him from giving the security services all the powers they need over the internet? Also, if he will allow me to make one further point, many British people view mass illegal migration as a kind of dangerous Trojan horse, so I will support him in his efforts to enforce the Dublin convention so that we return illegal migrants from where they enter the EU and we deal with this problem?
First, may I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to Carly Lovett? We have all heard the heartbreaking story about that young woman gunned down in the prime of life. He is right to say that the threat is everywhere. The difference between this type of threat and the al-Qaeda threat that we faced for many years, and which we still face, is that in the latter case we were often dealing with centrally co-ordinated plots, so if we could get on to them we could try to work out how to mitigate them. Here we are dealing with a lot of self-radicalised so-called Jihadis who have been radicalised through the internet, often by people in Syria or Iraq. Hopefully in many cases we will get advance warning and be able to stop them, but in some cases we will not. That can happen in Britain, as it can around the world. That underlines the social responsibility of social media companies, as I said earlier, but also the need for us to have the most modern capabilities to deal with the treat. As for migration, we are signatories to the Dublin convention and we want to ensure that it continues to work.
Two and a half years ago, in his first speech of the UK’s presidency of the G8, the Prime Minister warned about the terrorist threat in the Maghreb because of the disintegration of Libya. I welcome the Home Secretary’s presence in Sousse to reassure not only the British citizens there, but the Tunisian Government and people, but the Prime Minister is having bilateral discussions with Heads of Government. What is the international way, and what platform can we use, to defeat those who wish to act in this horrific way?
The right hon. Gentleman asks a very direct question. There are several platforms that can work. The G7 wants to have a clearing house for assisting countries like Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt to make sure that, when not all the countries are offering the same sort of help and assistance, we have more of a working out of who should be working with which country. I hope that that can be put into place and work soon, because it makes sense for Britain, for instance, to partner a country like Nigeria and possibly Libya. Other countries, with their historical links, may be better placed to partner other countries. That is one network. The other is using the EU’s neighbourhood programme to make sure that we give better assistance and support, and building up the civil societies and economies of the countries in north Africa.
Co-operation, such as it has been, in combating Daesh has focused on the military situation. However, in recognising that we have failed significantly to disrupt its financial flows from Arab-friendly countries and powerful organisations and individuals from within them, failed to disrupt its prominence on social media, and failed to disrupt its business activities, what more can the Prime Minister tell the House about concrete steps that are going to be taken to combat ISIL—or Daesh, I should say—in these other areas?
I would not entirely agree with my hon. Friend’s description of this. Looking at what allied air action has done in Iraq, together with the Kurds, we have shrunk the territory that ISIL holds in that country. There have been some very great successes in taking down ISIL social media sites—taking pages off the web—and in the past few months a number of prominent plots in this country, perhaps as many as four or five, have been prevented. It is very important that we talk up our capabilities, strength and resolve in this way, but he is right to say that more needs to be done. The finance needs to be attacked. We need to bring to bear more pressure against ISIL both in Iraq and in Syria. As I said on the radio this morning, we are going to have to demonstrate some real long-term resolve. If we are not going to invade these countries directly, but we are going to build up their Governments and their militaries, we have to settle in for the long haul knowing that this is the right answer but it will take time.
Order. Literally dozens of colleagues are still seeking to catch my eye, and I am keen to accommodate as many as time reasonably allows, for which purpose brevity will greatly assist me.
First, I would like to take this opportunity to agree with the sentiments of this House in condemning the barbaric attacks in Tunisia—sentiments that are shared across the country in all communities. What we need at home are strong communities, not divided communities. To this end, will the Prime Minister agree to engage in solidarity with all communities? Will he recognise that Prevent is failing in its attempt to engage? Will he today commit in this House to a systematic review of the Prevent strategy?
First of all, of course I commit to engage with all communities, and we will continue to do that. I do not agree with what the hon. Lady says about Prevent. We took the advice of an independent review to separate the community engagement work that should be done by the Department for Communities and Local Government from the Prevent work, which obviously has more of a Home Office feel to it, and I think that is the right decision.
I echo the Prime Minister’s tribute to the victims of Sousse, including my constituent, Sue Davey, who, with her partner, Scott Chalkley, lost their lives last week. Will my right hon. Friend provide special and personal commendation to the individual brave Tunisians, from those who tried to warn against the attack on the beach, to the building workers who tried to stop the terrorist, to the doctors and nurses in the hospitals who treated the injured, because, as we know but must always be reminded, it was not done in their name?
I also pay tribute to Sue and Scott, as my hon. Friend has done. He is right to commend the local Tunisians, whether doctors and nurses, people who turned those sun loungers into stretchers, or people who confronted the terrorist. They are a credit to themselves and a credit to their nation.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. This appalling act of terror against defenceless holidaymakers highlights the need for us to fight extremism both at home and abroad. These terrorists seek to drive a wedge between the majority of the world’s Muslims, who have no truck with what they represent, and everyone else. We must all work harder to make sure that they do not succeed. What steps will the Prime Minister take to make sure that any international response includes action to help stabilise and rebuild post-conflict states such as Libya and others to prevent them from continuing to be a breeding ground for, and exporters, of violent extremism? Will he reconsider my call earlier this year for an inquiry?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but that reinforces the point that, because we are not necessarily dealing with a network, anybody who has information and is worried about someone who is going wrong—who is getting radicalised and is either visiting extremist preachers or looking at extremism online—needs to act. Otherwise, it could end the way it has in the past few days.
Obviously, what happened is appalling, tragic and terrible and has to be condemned in every way, and we should support those people in Tunisia who are doing their best to build a free, democratic and secular society with less unemployment and more youth engagement.
I want to take the Prime Minister back to the point made by the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee about the situation in Libya. Does not he think that the destruction of so much of Government and society in Libya has caused, and provided an opportunity for, the problem to get worse?
If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether I regret the action we took to stop Colonel Gaddafi massacring his own people in Benghazi, then no, I do not. The cause of terrorism is people choosing to take up terror. At the same time, should we try to build these countries and governance? Yes, of course we should, but we should never forget where responsibility lies.
A powerful antidote to the ISIL poison would be if young British Muslims could see Arab Sunnis who are playing host in Iraq and Syria rejecting ISIL and ejecting it from their midst. Will my right hon. Friend redouble his efforts to find a political solution to reject ISIL and eject it from Iraq and Syria?
May I press the Prime Minister on a question I asked him a couple of weeks ago about the Sunnis and Sunni tribes in Iraq? The fact is that the Iraqi Government are not reaching out to them or arming them. Without that, we are not going to see the Sunni tribes and the Sunnis taking on ISIL. What is the Prime Minister, along with European partners, doing to ensure we put pressure on the Iraqi Government to do that and ensure that the Sunnis are involved?
The hon. Gentleman asks absolutely the right question. I have personally raised this issue with President Abadi, including at the G7 summit in southern Germany, and will continue to do so. We have to encourage him to be brave in reaching out from his Shi’a base. We should also work with Sunni regimes in the area that themselves can work with the Sunni tribes to encourage them to accept the offer of an inclusive Iraqi Government and to reject ISIL.
Every year the EU is a smaller and smaller part of the world’s economy, its currency is a basket case, it is undemocratic and its free movement of people makes it easier for terrorists and other criminals to enter the UK from other parts of the EU. Rather than faffing about with a renegotiation when we know the Prime Minister is going to get next to nothing but dress it up as a great triumph, may I suggest that he would be better employed negotiating the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union?
I sometimes wish that my hon. Friend would not speak in riddles, but be clear about what he really wants. I hope to prove him wrong by bringing home a substantial package that will make a difference and address the concerns of the British people, but in the end they will be the judge.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and his words of condolence for the families who have so tragically lost family members. I also welcome his recognition of the need for a counter-narrative to violent extremism, but will he accept that there are many pathways into violent extremism and that any counter-narrative must be based on a proper understanding of those various pathways? Will he undertake to set up an audit of what we know both in the intelligence and security services and through open sources, so that any counter-narrative can be more firmly based?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The Home Office has now set up an organisation to better identity and understand not just violent extremists, but the various extremist groups and organisations out there. I accept and agree that we have to look at pathways into extremism, but we cannot ignore the fact that young people who have been to good schools, have strong family backgrounds and are not suffering material deprivation have none the less chosen a violent extremist path. That says to me that, while we must of course go on attacking deprivation, making sure we are a more inclusive country and tackling inequalities at home, what we are really looking for is the cause of the ideological linkages that people are making, and it is those we need to go after.
Order. A single, short sentence question could now represent a parliamentary triumph. I call Mr Bernard Jenkin.
Will the Prime Minister explain how a mere promise of treaty change can be made legally binding?
In very much the same way, when Ireland had a treaty change and a protocol addressing that treaty change, the referendum took place in Ireland before all the other countries’ Parliaments had passed the treaty change, so this has happened on previous occasions across the European Union.
I want to join the Prime Minister, my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman and Members from across the House in paying our condolences to the families of the people caught up in the barbaric attack on the holiday resort in Tunisia.
I want very quickly to mention to two issues. The first is about recognising as Muslims those in the Daesh group. These people are not Muslims; they are what is known as Khawarijite. This has gone on in Islam for a long time—they were responsible for killing two of our Khalifas at the start of the religion—and it is continuing. Where I agree with the Prime Minister is that we have to take responsibility for our young people not being edged along in Islam towards them, because these people are not Muslims. We must take responsibility for dealing with that across the whole community—the Muslim community and all other communities and institutions as well.
The hon. Gentleman speaks with great knowledge about this, and I have admired what he has said about this over the years. He is right that these people are bastardising and perverting a religion, but we cannot ignore the fact that they are self-identifying as Muslims. That makes it even more important that we reject what they are saying and prove to young people, including young Muslims, that they have nothing to do with what the true religion is about.
I am sure the Prime Minister can imagine the sadness in Blackpool given that two of my constituents sadly died in this attack, having wanted nothing more than to go on a summer holiday. Does he share my view that one thing that could be done is for the EU to restart urgently its initiative with all of the nations on the southern Mediterranean coast, which seemed to die away with the Arab spring and the crisis in the eurozone? We need to start again on that.
My hon. Friend is right. Money is being spent in countries such as Tunisia, but I suspect it is not enough and that it is not focused on enough things that make a real difference to the Tunisian economy and the Tunisian people.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, and I ask that we all join in sending our condolences to the family of my constituent Claire Windass, who tragically lost her life on Friday in Tunisia. Her family have issued a statement saying that Claire
“was a warm, kind-hearted woman who made friends easily and was loved by everyone who knew her. She will be deeply missed.”
The family have called for privacy, but will the Prime Minister assure me that lessons have been learned from families who have very tragically been in similar circumstances in the past about the kind of effective support that will best meet their needs and requirements over the weeks and months to come?
Let me join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to Claire Windass and mourning her loss. Lessons have been learned from previous tragedies. That is why it is so important that my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East, who lost a relative in the Bali bombing, is involved. As a country, we have developed better ways of making sure families are kept in touch with developments. There is still more to be done, but lessons will be learned and we will be as sensitive as we can.
I can certainly give that assurance to my hon. Friend. With him, I mourn the loss of his constituent Stuart Cullen. It is very important that we speak with families in the coming days and weeks to think of the best way to have a fitting memorial to their suffering and to what this has meant: one of the largest losses of life in a terrorist incident that Britain has suffered in many years.
I add my condolences to everybody affected by this tragedy. What discussions are the Government having with travel insurance companies to ensure that all those who are in Tunisia and who wish to come home may do so free of charge?
The hon. Lady raises an important point. My understanding is that the companies have offered travel back to the United Kingdom. A lot of planes have been laid on. We believe that system is working. Where it is not working, we are getting on to the company concerned and trying to make sure the problem is fixed. On the issue of where people have been injured or returning the bodies of those who tragically have been killed, we are stepping in directly with transport via the RAF to try to help.
Will the Prime Minister please pass on my thanks to his fellow European Union leaders? Every time one of them refuses to agree to one of his very modest requests in the renegotiation process, they make the task of those of us who argue this country would be better off outside the EU just that very little bit easier.
I do not want to disappoint my hon. Friend too much, but actually the reception I have had from my fellow European Prime Ministers and Presidents has been rather more positive than he suggests.
My thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in the horrific events in Tunisia, including those from Cardiff. What consideration has the Prime Minister given to reviewing and, if necessary, upgrading our support and training security forces in other countries where British civilians and interests may be under threat from Daesh? Will he put those considerations at the heart of the upcoming strategic defence and security review?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. The SDSR should be about these issues, as well as the more traditional issues of protecting and defending Britain herself. We are a country where our people work, travel and live in all sorts of different countries. Making sure we work with those countries to enhance their security is an important part of what we do.
Naomi and Carol Wearing, two of my constituents from Darwen, were injured in the attacks last Friday. Naomi was reportedly injured by the use of a hand grenade during the attack. They have now returned to the UK and are being treated in Blackburn hospital. I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend assured me that Blackburn hospital and all our other NHS hospitals will receive all the support they need, including the use of extended counselling for victims.
Let me join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to his constituents who were caught up in this terrible attack. I am sure assistance will be made available for counselling. What happened was a deeply traumatic event that will affect people for many months and years to come.
With my constituent John Metcalf recovering from his wounds in Tunisia, together with his uninjured girlfriend, Jo Coles, may I strongly associate myself with my right hon. Friend’s remarks? May I also strongly welcome the direction of travel he has set out for European reform? How have our European friends justified political integration for non-eurozone member states, to achieve free trade?
Different European countries have different views about integration—some sign up absolutely to the idea of ever closer union and want every country to take every step pretty much at the same time—but there is a growing awareness in Europe that actually we can have a Europe with different forms of membership. As I said, some countries are in the euro and some are out, and some are in Schengen and some are out, and when we sit round the table discussing issues such as Libyan security, some countries will be leading members of NATO and some will be neutral and not members of NATO. I think we should be relaxed about this flexibility and encourage it still further.
This atrocity awakens and provokes many hideous memories of atrocities of mass murder in my own country—Ballykelly, La Mon, Warrenpoint or any of the other countless atrocities that have taken place. I therefore welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, the grief he has publicly put on record and the fact that on Friday we will be able, as a nation, to pay tribute with a minute of respect. How much of the aid currently given to Tunisia is being directed towards the education of people there away from fundamentalist beliefs?
Not enough. The aid and assistance has been much more focused on building up Tunisian democracy and the institutions of this fledgling democracy. Given the scale of the threat, however, we will have to look again at these partnership programmes, and obviously education should be part of that, bearing in mind the danger of radicalisation, which the Tunisians are looking at themselves. In addition, these countries often have parts that are quite wealthy and successful and parts that are falling behind, and we need to address that challenge, too.
I will not comment on a specific report, but my hon. Friend is right that the threat level in Britain is “severe”. It is set independently by the joint terrorism analysis centre, and “severe” means that an attack is highly likely. He also makes the important point that we should continue to do everything we can to keep the trade in weapons, including replica weapons, out of Britain. A lot of action has been taken, and the National Crime Agency is doing very good work, but we need to keep up the pressure.
I am ashamed to think that this summer many of us will swim in a sea where people have drowned simply because they were fleeing war, violence and poverty. Is the reason the UK is failing to take its fair share of refugees that the Government find human suffering easier to bear if it is made someone else’s problem?
I just do not agree with the hon. Lady. Britain is fulfilling its moral obligations by picking up people in the Mediterranean—4,000 so far, I think—rescued by the Royal Navy, and is one of the only rich countries in the world to have kept its promise on its aid budget, which is being used to help those countries. Do I think it right, however, to be part of a relocation scheme for people who have already arrived in the EU? No, I do not, because it would add to the business models of the smugglers. The idea that we can only take a moral, upright position if we take part in a European scheme that I believe is misguided is just wrong.
I am delighted to report that my constituent, Macauley Arnold, his girlfriend and her family were on that fateful beech and at the time of the shooting were offered shelter by a local Tunisian in his house. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this shows the innate kindness and courage of the Tunisian people?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. There are many examples of this sort of courage and kindness, and it is good to see them; these people are a credit to the Tunisian nation.
I associate myself with the comments of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on the terrible events in Tunisia. On the issue of migration at the European Council, did the Prime Minister take the opportunity to discuss with other European leaders the situation at Calais, and does he think that the EU proposals for relocation systems will help or hinder the efforts there?
The short answer is that they will not make any short-term impact, but they might, in my view, make it worse in the long term by encouraging more people to make the journey. I did have a brief discussion with François Hollande about the situation in Calais, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is meeting the French Interior Minister later this week. There is more we are going to do—in spending money, providing fencing and other actions such as sniffer dog teams and the like—to try to help the French and work together with them to reduce the problems in Calais.
As part of our Prevent strategy, we rightly ban hate preachers from coming to the UK. Sadly, their message and their perverted ideology is beamed directly to our young people by social media, but also by satellite directed and communicated to certain mosques. What further action can my right hon. Friend take to prevent this from happening?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We can ban the preachers, but we must also look at their use of media—not just social media, but some individual television channels—and make sure that where messages endorse extremism and violence, we have a way of stopping them. This is a very important issue.
On the day before this terrible incident, a neo-Nazi was convicted of a machete attack on a random individual in a supermarket in Mold in my constituency—in broad daylight on the streets of north Wales. He had been radicalised by internet content, which is equally as bad as internet radicalisation that leads to the Islamic attacks such as happened this week. I welcome what the Prime Minister said, but will he genuinely look, with the internet providers, at how we can stop that type of information being brought into people’s bedrooms from where lone wolves can use it to warp their approach to life?
I will certainly do that. We have acted together with the Internet Watch Foundation to take down many pages of extremism. The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The arguments about violent and non-violent extremism also apply to the extreme right. This House would never condone the idea that we should tolerate the National Front but go after Combat 18. We would never do that when it comes to fascism, so we should not do it when it comes to Islamist fascism either.
Ms Harman rightly highlighted the appalling treatment of gay people and women by those who subscribe to this evil belief. Is there not something powerfully symbolic, particularly to young Muslim women, in the fact that it is a female Home Secretary who, in the aftermath of this attack, is standing in solidarity with them in Tunisia today?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Indeed, the role of women was an important one in Tunisian democracy, moving the country towards the democratic future that we hope it will continue.
I give my best wishes to Matthew James, a gas engineer in Swansea who took three bullets in protecting his fiancée; he is now recovering in Cardiff hospital. In talking in Swansea to both Shi’ite and Sunni imams from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iraq, I have found that they are as one in saying that the Daesh are impostors, gangsters, murderers and blasphemers. Will the Prime Minister work side by side with the mainstream Muslim community and give them the resources they need to combat radicalisation, rather than saying that it is their fault and their problem? It is our problem, and we must solve it together.
I think that the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in how he puts it. They have a role to play, and we should help them play it. One of the challenges has sometimes been the relevance of the mosque to young Muslims when it can sometimes seem less relevant to their lives. That is why we need to address the whole issue of ensuring that imams have good English when they are dealing with potentially alienated and radicalised young British people.
Today, the Prime Minister has said that he will put the common market at the heart of our EU membership. I am sure that the British people—and myself—will be shoulder to shoulder with him on that. Why do the British media say that he cannot do this, when I know that he will not accept anything less than fundamental reform and a common market?
In Leicester, we all hope and pray for the safe return of Ray and Angela Fisher. I am grateful for the commitments that the Prime Minister has made with respect to the embassy and Foreign Office staff. Does the Prime Minister agree that Daesh thrives on divisions in the region, whether those involve Kurds or Arabs, Sunni or Shi’a? What is he doing to build an effective united front against Daesh?
I join the hon. Gentleman in wishing his constituents well. On building a united front, there is now an enormous international coalition that includes many Arab and Gulf countries. We need to keep that coalition together because all of us bring different things. Some of those countries, as Sunni Arab states, will bring the ability to talk to Sunni Muslims in Iraq and bring them away from Daesh and towards a belief in an integrated Iraqi Government.
Order. I am afraid that we have no time for questions with preambles, but if colleagues are willing to imitate the admirable example of Mr Jenkin—the hon. Gentleman is beaming at his recognition—I shall do my best to accommodate them.
I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. Victim identification specialists and police officers are out in Sousse working with the Tunisian authorities on exactly that sort of issue.
I certainly will. I was delighted to join the Armed Forces Day parade in Guildford. There was an enormous turnout. People who might have read about potential plans to disrupt it were not being put off—and that is the British way.
I welcome the Foreign Office’s sensible and measured advice, which my right hon. Friend has explained a bit further this afternoon. What conversations has he had with the Tunisian authorities about the domestic security response that people travelling to the coastal region can expect? Many people will be making decisions in the next few days and will really want to know more.
I assure my hon. Friend that we are talking to the Tunisian authorities right now; the Home Secretary is in Tunisia talking to her opposite number, to make sure that our offer of help with security is taken on board. I think it very important that it is.
Does the Prime Minister agree that, just as we need to do all we can to disrupt vile propaganda from ISIL on social media, it is time for our mainstream broadcast and print media to review their editorial policies and stop publishing stills from snuff videos and blasting us with the faces of smirking terrorists? Instead, let us see the faces of those Tunisians who stood arm in arm to protect innocent tourists.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. The media have to exercise their own view about social responsibility and what they should and should not publish. I really hope that the BBC can look again at calling the organisation “Islamic State”. It is not Islamic and it is not a state. It is a terrorist organisation. Call it ISIL, call it Daesh, but do not give it the dignity that it is asking for.
As somebody from the Muslim faith, whose father and grandfather were imams and whose uncle is an imam, I see British and Islamic values going hand in hand. Does the Prime Minister agree that each and every one of us has a duty to challenge non-violent extremism wherever it occurs in our society and community?
My hon. Friend speaks with great knowledge on this issue. The short answer is yes— Members of Parliament can all play a role in shifting the debate on this vital issue.
I join the Prime Minister in praising our brave Royal Air Force for the role that it is playing in the skies over northern Iraq. Meanwhile, on the ground, the brave Kurdish peshmerga forces are taking on Daesh. Does he agree that now is the time for the peshmerga forces to be properly armed and to receive the funding from Baghdad that was promised?
I will look into the funding from Baghdad. All that I can say is that we are helping the Kurdish forces with ammunition, training and support.
Although I welcome the extension of the resettlement programme for Syrian refugees, are we not open to the criticism that it is too little, too late, particularly when compared with the more generous resettlement and refuge programmes that other countries have for those fleeing persecution?
If one takes a five to 10-year view of the number of people we have given asylum to, we are consistently in the top five European countries. On that basis, I think we can say that we play our part.
It is important to have strong border control, but the situation in Calais demonstrates the importance, in the age of ferries, the Eurotunnel and all the rest of it, of working with our partners to deliver the security that we need.
What steps are being taken to ensure that intelligence is properly shared by national security organisations in middle eastern countries that should be allied in tackling terrorist atrocities?
We are sharing intelligence. Obviously, we have different relations with different countries, but the more we can build up trust, the more we are able to do that.
I absolutely agree. One reason why we want to alter the arrangements in the Human Rights Act is that they can sometimes get in the way of doing that.
I share the Prime Minister’s sentiments about the families who have been bereaved.
Given the people trafficking in the region, the people coming across the water and the terrorism that exists there, will the Prime Minister consider beefing up the resources that are given to Gibraltar to help combat terrorism and to move people around when necessary?
I will certainly look at that point. Enormous pressure is being put on places such as Malta, and if there are issues in Gibraltar, I will look at them.
My constituent Miss Richardson was due to travel this Wednesday to the beach resort where this heartbreaking massacre took place. Her tour operator, Low Cost Holidays Ltd, has agreed to waive the seven-day cancellation fee but is still applying administration charges for alternative bookings. What can the Government can do to encourage tour operators to act with compassion in relation to alternative bookings?
We have encouraged the tour operators to treat people properly. To be fair to them, they have offered people cancellations without penalties and their money back. I will ask the Foreign Office team to take up the specific points that my hon. Friend has made.
I would like to add my tribute to Bruce Wilkinson, who lost his life on Friday. His daughter is a constituent of mine. The dignity of that family is a credit to Mr Wilkinson and is in stark contrast to the depravity of those who committed this crime. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the bereavement support will go on for many months? The effects of losing somebody in such circumstances often last many years. I join Angus Robertson in saying that we need to change what we call these terrorists—they are not an Islamic state.
Let me join in the tributes to Bruce Wilkinson and the way that his family have handled this terrible tragedy. My hon. Friend’s point about Islamic State is well made. He spoke about making sure that we continue with the help and counselling. Part of that will be in how we commemorate and remember these dreadful events. We are just coming up to the anniversary of 7/7, which is a reminder of how important it is that we mark these things properly, because relatives go on mourning for years and decades into the future.
I have not forgotten the voice of Kettering, whose patience is now rewarded.
With regard to the desperate and growing wave of human misery that is taking to the Mediterranean in leaky boats from the north African shore, what advice have Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union taken from the Australian Government about the successful way to tackle large-scale, organised, seaborne human trafficking?
We have looked at what the Australians have done, and we have also looked at what the Spanish did in respect of migration from west Africa to the Canary islands. In one year they received 36,000 migrants, but just a few years later that was down to zero. They broke the business model of the smugglers and found a way of returning people to the African states and working with those states. That, I think, is the model that we need to adopt. It is obviously more complicated in this case, but that is the long-term answer.
Points of order come after statements. We are saving the hon. Gentleman up, if I can put it that way.